Foreign investments worth $11 billion came through the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida) in four years until last March, according to Bida Executive Chairman Md Sirazul Islam.
"Foreign investment worth $2.45 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year increased to $3.9 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year," he told a press conference in Dhaka on Tuesday to mark the fourth founding anniversary of Bida.
The executive chairman said Bida's target is to improve on the upcoming 'Ease of Doing Business Index' by bringing the country's position in a two-digit ranking.
Bangladesh scored 168 out of 190 in the World Bank's 2020 Ease of Doing Business report after notching up eight steps. Despite the improvement, the country still remains just ahead of war-torn Afghanistan in South Asia. Higher ranking (a low numerical value) indicates a better business environment.
Sirazul Islam said Bida launched the first ever inter operable one stop service to provide both local and foreign investors with services online. The online platform will be featured with 154 services from 35 service providers.
Bida is already offering 21 services online and the digital platform will soon add 16 more facilities to the one stop service, he added.
The executive chairman believes some laws would need to be amended to score better in the Ease of Doing Business Index. He said, "Bringing in changes to existing laws is tough in Bangladesh, but the policymakers have responded in a positive manner in this regard."
Referring to the Bankruptcy Act, he said the existing legal framework does not offer solutions to business issues surfacing with economic developments.
"The enforcing contracts indicator of the doing business index appears as another barrier for Bangladesh. In this indicator, the country ranked 189th among the 190 countries. A few initiatives will help Bangladesh to improve in this regard," he commented.
The Bida executive chairman said that if separate courts could be set up to resolve commercial disputes, it would save the country both time and money. And if the legal arrangement could be automated, the country's ranking in this indicator would possibly improve to only 89 from 189.
"This is certainly possible," said the Bida chief. He claimed Bangladesh has already improved in other indicators and businessmen are enjoying the output.
"Improving to a two-digit ranking will not be impossible for Bangladesh. We are getting support at the political level," said Sirazul Islam.
Replying to a query, he said the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) is allocating industrial plots to foreign investors with many charges waived. Discussions are on to trim more charges.
The Bida chief said foreign investors do not want frequent policy changes. Policy changes from the government should include the sentiments of investors so that they do not become upset.
Sirazul Islam said Bida proposed 84 recommendations to improve on the upcoming 'Ease of Doing Business Index', and 53 suggestions have already been implemented. A number of proposals are expected to be implemented this year.
At the press conference, it was made known that a policy guideline on Bangladeshi private investments in other countries was being formulated.
"I see no issues over permitting Bangladeshi entrepreneurs to invest abroad if they could make more profit because at the end of the day, the money will come to the country,"said Sirazul Islam.
He said only 65 percent of investments come from local businessmen against their total registration. Lowering the bank loan interest to 9 percent has been a boon for them.
The Bida executive chairman said Japan and the USA are withdrawing investments from China owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. The world still depends on China for raw material supplies. The investments are shifting away due to the coronavirus pandemic as questions have been raised over excessive dependence on a single country.
Both Bida and BEZA are working to attract shifting Japanese investments to Bangladesh from China. Bangladesh had interacted with Japanese investors through the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).
Bida said not only old investments, but also new Japanese investors were urged to choose Bangladesh as their investment destination. Besides, Bida has also talked to American investors.
The Bida chief said the pandemic has been shrinking foreign investments globally. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), foreign direct investments might fall 40-50 percent in 2020-21 worldwide. But Bangladesh is trying to counteract the fallout as the pandemic has given it the scope to rethink shifting foreign investments.