Coming from behind, it is not an easy task by anyway to overtake others, or to even up. It is yet harder to make that fit if the racer's feet are fettered, iron balls jingle from his sides and he wears the cheapest quality running shoes.
But that is the feat that our Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are doing. The latest Ease of Doing Business (EDB) index by the World Bank makes it all clear. So, let us applaud for our entrepreneurs who are making the impossible possible.
They, in every way, are our real heroes.
After all, it is not easy competing with Vietnam in garments exports which ranks 70 on the index while Bangladesh languishes at 168. Or say with Sri Lanka (99 on the index) or Cambodia (144 in rank).
But the mere ranking tells only half the story because Bangladesh has improved slightly by 8 ranks by reducing some costs related to regulatory or utility services. And that cost saving is very small in nature to be of any real meaning for an entrepreneur. For example, how much does it matter if name clearance and registration fee is reduced by Tk400, or digital certification cost of Tk1,000 is abolished? Not much.
Is such reduction of official fees is matched by reduction of 'unofficial fees'?
Very recently, we have heard the story of an entrepreneur who said he has been waiting for months for his trade licence to be renewed, and without the renewal he cannot open Letter of Credit for imports. Just imagine the loss he has been suffering.
Much like this, if one segregates the index, it is found Bangladesh lags far behind from its overall ranking in the vital areas of concern such as enforcing contracts (189 rank), registering property (184) or getting electricity (176).
So, the vital areas have not improved and Bangladesh got its slight higher ranking through some surface improvements. Bangladesh also needs to have sustained progress as other nations of better rankings have achieved.
The analysis of the latest index shows how our entrepreneurs are functioning in a highly uncompetitive environment. The paradox then is how could they do whatever they are doing?
Certainly through some loopholes. And through speed money. They must be short-circuiting the lengthy process in exchange for money. They might be cutting corners. There must be huge bleeding in the economy because of such practices essential for their survival. No wonder that Bangladesh has one of the lowest tax-GDP ratio.
So, the Ease of Doing Business leaves much for introspection and chart the reforms we need.
The answer is simple, only the actions are not. Rather than flaunting the improvement in index, it is time to get back to board and start the reform programmes.