Bangladesh has made significant progress in the investment arena by offering quicker services at cheaper rates, according to a recent World Bank Group survey, which highlights the fact that business registration has undergone a drastic change, reducing the time from 56.5 days in 2009 to just 2 days in 2020.
The survey report, "Investment Climate Reforms in Bangladesh: Findings from the End-Term Evaluation of Investment Climate Fund (BICF) Program", revealed that in 2009, a whopping 25.5% of per capita income was spent on starting a business, but it dropped to a mere 8.7% in 2020.
The findings of the survey, conducted by Nathan Economic Consulting India Private Limited, were revealed at a programme in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Organised by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida), the UK Government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the event shared other investment data and disseminated the survey findings.
While it is true that all businesses are now registered online at the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms, the latest World Bank Group enterprise survey disclosed that only 0.8% of applicants use e-payment gateways for the fees.
In addition, the survey revealed that informality is still rife in Bangladesh, as only 61.4% of firms were formally registered when they started operations in the country. Comparatively, the figures are 82.8% in South Asia and 85.5% in lower-middle-income countries, according to the report.
The BICF program was implemented in two phases: phase one in 2007 to 2015, and phase two from 2016 to 2022. The report notes that both phases were implemented during a period of rapid change with Bangladesh being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Property registration for companies in Dhaka and Chattogram during the period became 50% cheaper and faster – from 180 days to 7 days, states the report.
Stamp duty and local government and registration fees were halved from 3% to 1.5% and from 2% to 1% of the property value respectively, according to the survey.
Martin Holtmann, country manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, International Finance Corporation (IFC), said, "Bangladesh has been one of the star performers in terms of economic growth in the region and also worldwide. Improvement in the business environment will be critical to staying on that growth trajectory."
At the event, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson said British investors are keen to invest in the aviation, education and financial sectors in Bangladesh.
"We have a direct bilateral trade dialogue now with the Bangladesh government," he said.
Dickson said that the UK will be providing more capital to Bangladesh. "The Commonwealth Development Corporation has been reorganised and rebranded. They have increased the amount of capital they're providing to the country."
"This is part of a wider offering which is also backed up by the UK Export Finance; they too have increased the amount of interest in the capital they're providing in Bangladesh," he added.
"We are receiving more private sector interest in Bangladesh that will ultimately deliver economic growth.
"The country has great potential to have a much bigger aviation sector than it does now. Airbus UK is keen to become a partner of Bangladesh to develop the aerospace sector here," he said.
In the opening remarks, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, Martin Holtmann said increasing FDI in Bangladesh is a key priority as the IFC has a number of programmes to improve the business environment here.
"My KPI [key performance indicator] is to bring at least $1 billion FDI in a year by the next three years," he added.
Bida Executive Chairman Lokman Hossain Miah said Bangladesh is the best place to invest for investors. He also said Bangladesh is a huge market, and the country has a large young population.
He said Bida's online One-Stop-Service (OSS) portal – the country's first inter-operable platform – currently offers 63 services of 23 agencies under a single umbrella.