It requires around $250 in various charges on an average to ship a container from the Shenzhen port in China, while it costs $800 at the Chattogram port in Bangladesh.
Despite several initiatives taken up to reduce congestion at the Chattogram port, Bangladeshi traders have to pay almost triple the amount that ports in other countries charge, experts said at a webinar on Monday.
They also said it costs roughly Tk72,000 for each mutation in Bangladesh although the fixed rate is only around Tk1,100.
In the case of some businesses, it requires acquiring 28 licences from several government institutions, which is very time-consuming, they pointed out.
Bangladesh lags behind other countries in several indicators of ease of doing business index because of failure of the government's initiatives, a lack of pace in implementing reforms initiatives, bribery of government officials, said experts and representatives of private-sector entrepreneurs.
Admitting to bribery of government officials, Md Sirazul Islam, executive chairman at the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida), said Bangladesh will not able to rank below 100 in the World Bank's ease of doing business ranking in 2021 as predefined by the government.
The International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB) and the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) jointly organised the virtual discussion titled "Ease of doing business: Status of 2021", while Jibon Krishna Saha Roy, director of Bida, presented a keynote paper.
Major General Md Nazrul Islam, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza), and Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, chairman of the Chattogram Port Authority, was also present at the webinar.
Sirazul said only reforms are not enough to ensure an improvement in the ease of doing business index as the World Bank will conduct a survey on business entrepreneurs before preparing its report.
Most entrepreneurs have no idea about indicators of the World Bank's ease of doing business, he added.
Mentioning that bribes are also demanded from foreign businesses, the Bida executive chairman said, "If anyone makes an illegal demand to you, come to us. We will take action," he added.
While presenting the keynote paper, Jibon said the World Bank reviews the score annually based on 11 indicators such as starting a business, employing workers, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.
He said there were several successes in reforms last year and the reflection of these reforms will help upgrade the country's position.
The government is yet to ensure legal reforms in the field like allowing and popularising businesses to open a bank account through the One-Stop Service centre and amending "Imarat Nirman Bidhimala 2008".
Dr Md Abdul Mazid, former secretary and former chairman of the National Board of Revenue, said Bida was established to facilitate private investment in the country. So, they do not need to work only for foreign investment, rather they should work for all kinds of local and foreign investments.
Bida also needs to conduct a survey on how many files are pending in deputy commissioner offices and registrar of joint-stock offices to find out problems in the offices and solve those.
Humayun Kabir, former ambassador and vice-president of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, said, "The country needs to enhance its ability to absorb investment from local and abroad. In the competitive environment, it is a big challenge for us and we have to think about how we are taking the challenge."
MS Siddiqui, vice-president of IBFB, said Bangladesh needs to sign the World Trade Organization's trade facilitation agreement to make cross-border trade paperless, contactless and faceless. It is linked with the World Bank's two indicators stipulated earlier like paying taxes, trading across borders under the broader aspect of dealing with day-to-day operations.
Hosne Ara Begum, executive director of the Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha, said ease of doing business is like a golden deer for the grassroots businessmen. So, the government and big industries need to think about small and micro entrepreneurs.
Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, chairman of the Chattogram Port Authority, said, "It [Chattogram port] is the cheapest in South Asia. It also ranked 58th in the world in 2020. It was placed 98th in 2019. The rank reflects what we are doing. So, it is not true that our port service is costlier."
Major General Nazrul Islam, executive chairman of Bepza, said there are a few businessmen, who do illegal dealings with government officers for quicker delivery of their goods. But they do not come to top executives with their problems.