Bangladeshi businessmen have become more confident over the past one decade and, therefore, no longer need a protective domestic market for their survival.
Rather, they are now able to compete with foreign products that will enter the country when its domestic market will be opened after free trade agreements with other countries.
Also, an open market competition with foreign goods will increase the ability of local companies.
Salman F Rahman, the private industry and investment adviser to the prime minister, placed these views at a webinar titled "Covid-19 Pandemic: Impact on Investment in Bangladesh and the Way Forward" on Wednesday.
The Bangladesh Association of Publicly Listed Companies (BAPLC) and the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) jointly organised the seminar on the occasion of World Investor Week 2020.
Salman F Rahman was present at the webinar as the chief guest.
The prime minister's adviser said, "A decade ago, we had not sufficient electricity and fuel to run factories. So, our products' prices were higher than that of imported products. To ensure a level playing field, we had to impose custom duty on imported products to protect domestic companies."
"Now, Bangladesh will graduate from a least developed country (LDC) by 2024. So, we need sustainable growth in business. But we will not be able to achieve sustainable growth in a protective domestic market," he added.
To focus on that goal, Bangladesh needs free trade agreements (FTA) with other countries. The prime minister also agreed to that matter, he further said.
"FTAs will increase the import of duty-free goods to our domestic market. We have gained the ability to compete with them."
Nihad Kabir, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "We need to remove contradictory laws and should follow a long-term policy as early as possible to establish a level-playing field for boosting foreign and domestic investments."
Sheikh Fazle Fahim, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said, "To recover the business losses caused by the pandemic, we have discussed various issues with the government and resolved them. As businessmen, we have a goal – gaining competitiveness in the global market."
While presenting the keynote paper, Tanjeem Chowdhury, director of East Coast Group, said only pharmaceuticals, e-commerce and mobile financial services are doing well amid the pandemic. But the readymade garment sector has been worst affected due to order cancellations.
Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, said they have taken many steps to enhance foreign and domestic investments.
Professor Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam, chairman of the BSEC, said digitalisation is needed more for doing business. Besides, the capital market can play a vital role in increasing domestic investments.
"But, it is sorry to say we could not play an essential role yet."
The seminar was chaired by Azam J Chowdhury, president of the BAPLC, and moderated by Riad Mahmud, vice president of the same organisation.