Not just for e-commerce firms, obtaining unique business identification numbers will gradually become mandatory for all types of businesses operating even at union levels.
In this way, the commerce ministry believes, the government will be able to easily monitor all types of businesses.
The ministry in a report has recently informed the Cabinet Division of such a plan that was initially taken up only for the e-commerce sector following a spate of scams in a number of such companies.
It suggested building a central database and bringing all types of businesses under it to regulate them from a single platform.
For securing a unique business ID, a business will be required to receive a Business Identification Number (BIN) issued by the National Board of Revenue (NBR). The BIN and Tax Identification Number (TIN) will be attached with the unique IDs, thus making it easier to collect revenue from business establishments even in remote areas.
Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary of Commerce Ministry, told The Business Standard that in addition to centrally monitoring all businesses, they have recommended bringing them under all kinds of financial benefits, such as subsidies, and including them in a unique business identification programme by creating a central business profile for all kinds of individual businesses.
In the first phase, work will start on bringing only e-commerce companies under registration of unique ID numbers in December this year, according to the report.
Businesses that run through social media, including Facebook, must also register. This step has to be completed within a maximum of one year.
In the light of the experience in the first stage, the system with a correction if necessary will be expanded to include business entities registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC). The registration of such companies will have to be completed within a maximum of six months.
According to the RJSC, 2,59,114 companies have registered with it till June this year. Of them, 1,86,825 are private limited companies, 974 foreign firms, 51,332 joint ventures, 1,143 trade organisations, 15,253 societies and 3,588 public limited companies.
In the third phase, all businesses operating with trade licences from city corporations, municipalities and union councils will be brought under the unique business IDs. The report says this work will be completed within the next one year.
At present, micro, small, cottage and medium enterprises are running with such trade licences and there is no system to monitor them although they are under the Local Government Division, according to the commerce ministry report.
The ministry has outlined a plan to integrate BIN and TIN with the unique IDs in the fourth phase. It also calls for the use of a national identity card database to identify individuals in the case of issuing unique business ID certificates. All such certificates and business information will be stored in the central database.
The Central Digital Commerce Cell under the commerce ministry will be primarily responsible for monitoring registered businesses regularly to ensure that they are operating in accordance with the law.
The Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection, the Bangladesh Bank, the home ministry and NBR may be linked to unique business ID numbers for overall monitoring, the report said.
Noting that all business entities in the country do not know about getting unique business IDs, Md Jashim, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), told TBS, "In a meeting with us, the commerce ministry informed us that only e-commerce companies will be brought under the unique business ID programme."
"We support the move. But the ministry has not consulted us about bringing companies registered with RJSC or businesses operating with trade licences at remote areas under the system. So, it is not right to comment on it right now," he said.
In the report sent to the Cabinet Division, the commerce ministry said to make it mandatory for getting unique business identification numbers for all types of business entities, a specific legislation will be required and an authority will have to be made. However, registration and monitoring can be continued by formulating a policy at an early stage.
The commerce ministry says those who are new entrepreneurs or those living in remote areas, online and e-commerce traders, financial institutions, private companies, SMEs, and others are unregistered and have no identity.
These small and medium entrepreneurs contribute to the economy, but they are being deprived of various financial benefits provided by the government for not having business registration. Besides, customers are at risk of being deceived by them.
Bangladesh has made great strides in good governance, but it still lacks a system to bring all kinds of businesses under a right platform, which can facilitate the process of obtaining trade licences and registering businesses. And, unique business registration can be the solution to this problem, the ministry said.
While applying for a unique business ID certificate, an applicant will be required to obtain a trade licence, TIN, BIN or a personal retail account directly. Registration can be done through mobile phones and other devices.