A recent insight report published by the World Economic Forum stated the top five risks of doing business in Bangladesh.
The World Economic Forum has found energy price shock, failure of national governance, unemployment or underemployment, failure of financial mechanism or institution and failure of urban planning as the top business risks in Bangladesh.
The report also found pollution to be a major hindrance to doing business in Bangladesh. In this regard, The Business Standard spoke with urban planning specialist Iqbal Habib and energy specialist Dr Shamsul Alam.
Architect and Environmental Activist
Environmental cost of industrial pollution should be mentioned in GDP
We will celebrate 50 years of our independence in a few years, but we have not become successful in developing well-planned capital yet.
In spite of being one of the most populated cities in the world, Dhaka failed to emerge as a well-planned city, in the absence of a sustainable plan.
The last plan for urbanization was devised in 1959, and the capital had been developing based on that old plan till 1997.
During this period, Dhaka witnessed many eventful changes, including the independence of Bangladesh and it emerged as the capital of an independent country.
Years after independence, in 1997, the skeleton of a plan was prepared which was supposed to materialise into a detailed area plan within a few years.
But it took 13 years to materialize the Detailed Area Plan, which came into being in 2010. But it was never implemented.
The Detailed Area Plan was followed by another plan in 2015, which has also been struggling to materialise, four years since it was drafted.
It has been speculated that the plan may be implemented this year or the next. If that plan finally comes into being, for the first time ever, we will have a planned city.
Even though much Dhaka has already developed in an unplanned manner, this city requires restructuring and redevelopment – which is tough, but not impossible, because of two reasons.
Firstly, around 72% of the city's buildings are two and three-storied buildings. These buildings can be brought into a detailed area plan and redeveloped to materialise a well-planned city.
Secondly, the buildings in Old Dhaka are in a dilapidated condition, almost to the extent that everybody agrees that these buildings need to be redeveloped.
We proved our efficiency of developing a well-planned city with the Hatirjheel Project, defying all odds to prove that if there is political will, we can do anything.
Each year, Bangladesh loses $6.5 billion due to pollution. But unfortunately, many people do not believe these figures and statistics.
We subsidise the garments and other industrial sectors so that they bring us profit. But if we count the environmental cost in terms of the pollution they create, it is understandable that we need to rethink our policies.
The impact of pollution is being shared by the general population collectively, even though they do not avail any of the profit these businessmen are making, thanks to government subsidies and assistance. But the public carries the environmental cost of the pollution this industry leaves behind.
As long as the state is not taking serious action and taking these figures of loss while measuring the GDP, this situation will not change.
IQBAL HABIB IS AMONG THE MOST KNOWN ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS AND ARCHITECTS OF BANGLADESH. HE IS AN ACTIVE ORGANISER AND A PUBLIC VOICE OF SOME OF THE PRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL AND URBAN ISSUES.
Professor Dr M Shamsul Alam, Dean & Professor
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Daffodil University
Crisis in the energy sector is real
What the World Economic Forum reported about the energy price shock being the top business risk in Bangladesh in the next ten years is real.
The shortage that has been created in our electricity and LNG sector, lately, will have a grim impact in the near future and cost us great damage. I fear we will begin to feel its consequences within 2021.
To turn this sector more business-friendly, the government has been providing business communities with various subsidies and financial assistance.
A system of valid competition through the double envelope system – technical and financial – to find out the worthiest candidate, has been ruined.
Instead, by having sub-standard candidates in the competition and in the final process, the system has been arranged in a way that allows sub-standard candidates through various irregularities.
Along with spoiling the proper competition, loads of money has been given to less qualified candidates which ultimately creates a state of corruption and failure of good governance.
The result of this chaos is revealed in the illogical rise in energy prices. From the gas sector to electricity, the whole energy sector has been engulfed in chaos and anarchy.
To get rid of this situation, all forms of corruption must be eliminated and a state of fair competition among the business communities should be given a shot.
If appropriate steps are not taken, the progress of the country will be badly hampered in the near future.
PROFESSOR DR M SHAMSUL ALAM IS A LEADING ENERGY EXPERT. HE IS CURRENTLY THE DEAN AND PROFESSOR OF ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT IN DAFFODIL INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY.