Speakers at a webinar on Saturday stressed the need for reforming the taxation system alongside tapping the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) potentials in a wide range of sectors like agro processing, light engineering, non-cotton apparel, home textile, blue economy and education in Bangladesh to ensure export diversification and smooth LDC graduation.
They also suggested extending the scope for whitening undisclosed money in the health infrastructure, economic zones, and in other infrastructure sectors alongside the existing sectors to create more employment opportunities.
The participants also opined that all the concerned stakeholders need to extend their all-out cooperation to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) to attract more FDI in the country.
The webinar was organized as part of the Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) Webinar Series in partnership with the Asia Foundation and Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID).
As the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan spoke at the Webinar titled-“FDI for Export Diversification and Smooth LDC Graduation” while ERF Vice President Shafiqul Alam was chair.
Chairman of RAPID and Director of Policy Research Institute (PRI) Dr Mohammad Abdur Razzaque made the key-note presentation and ERF general secretary SM Rashidul Islam moderated the function.
MA Mannan said it is a fact that the country does not receive that level of FDI that it needs. “In this regard, all the concerned agencies need to accomplish their tasks in due time to attract more FDI,” he also said, suggesting overcoming the “cultural context” and thus move forward together with modern attitude.
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BIDA Executive Chairman Md Sirazul Islam said BIDA needs to be empowered fully as it still needs to depend on others to facilitate the private sector.
Noting that there is no lacking from BIDA to create enabling environment for attracting more FDI, he added that the Authority has made effective the One Stop Service (OSS) platform to ensure transparent and hassle free service delivery.
Sirazul informed that some 47 services have so far been brought under online while the services of some 16 organizations including BIDA have already come under OSS platform.
Listing various steps of the BIDA to further ease the doing business index, he informed that separate courts would be lunched in Dhaka and Chattogram to speedily resolve the commercial disputes.
“We'll definitely try our best to face the challenges emerging before us. But for that the public and the private sector need to work together,” he said adding that the door of BIDA would always remain open for the private sector.
Sirazul also opined that if the local Investment could be promoted further, there would be more FDI inflow.
He suggested for providing COVID-19 vaccination facility to the legally employed foreigners in Bangladesh to show that Bangladesh values all lives equally and also to send a good signal to the outside world.
President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Barrister Nihad Kabir said the now defunct Board of Investment (BOI) was earlier regarded as the “Dead Stop Service” or ‘Full Stop Service’, but now BIDA has somehow managed to overcome that bad name, but still there is a lot to do.
Expressing her resentment over the treatment of the businessmen in the country, Nihad said if the businessmen are not treated with respect in the country, then the foreign investors would not come to a big extent.
She said although Bangladesh has an extremely courageous leader to run the country, but others are not moving ahead with the same pace that the Prime Minister has.
Nihad also suggested for targeting the potential sectors, adopting a coherent policy strategy by BIDA, signing more Preferential Trade Agreements with potential countries, and thus extending all-out support to BIDA to attract more FDI.
The President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) Rizwan Rahman underscored the need for reforming the tax rate as it is still high compared to the global and Asian average.
He also suggested extending the provision for whitening undisclosed money in the health infrastructure, tourism and in economic zones alongside the real estate and capital market, otherwise there would be bubbles in the economy.
Rizwan said that there is much more scope for attracting more FDI in the Blue Economy and education sectors of the country.
He said that if the non-RMG sectors could be nurtured properly apart from the RMG sector, then the country would be able to realize billions of dollars of export earnings.
Citing an example that the Bangladeshi exports earn $1,089 by exporting 1000KGs of tea shirts, whereas the Vietnamese exporters earn $2,157 by exporting the same volume, Syed Nasim Manzur, Managing Director of Apex Footwear Ltd, said “bargaining power’ makes the difference here which needs to be addressed.
He said it is the high time to recapture the Japanese Investment from Myanmar to Bangladesh adding, “This is the chance we must not lose,”
About the taxation system, the country's leading entrepreneur in the footwear sector alleged that taxation system in the country is totally taxpayer unfriendly adding that new entrepreneurs would not come while the existing businesses would not flourish unless the taxation system is reformed.
He also suggested ensuring duty free and quota free access in markets like Japan, EU, India and China by not looking forward only to the market of USA.
Manzur cited huge FDI and Investment potentials in the country's agro processed food, light engineering, non-cotton apparel and home textile sectors for which there is a need for necessary tax reforms.
In his key-note address, Dr Abdur Razzaque said the tax-GDP ratio needs to be revamped in Bangladesh while FDI can create modern job opportunities and bring in new technology and management practices for Bangladesh.
Mentioning that public health expenditure is one of the lowest in Bangladesh, he said this budget needs to be increased while more investment is needed in the education sector.
Mentioning that countries like Vietnam and Indonesia are greatly benefitting from FDI, Razzaque said their good practices can be applied in Bangladesh.
Executive Director of RAPID and Dhaka University Professor of Development Studies Dr M Abu Yusuf and Country Representative of the Asia Foundation Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj gave the welcome addresses.