It is often said in the arena of investment promotion that Bangladesh is one of its best-kept secrets. The story of Bangladesh – its amazing progress and resilience, is yet to be fully told. However, this scenario is changing very fast.
Under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has emerged as a new nation brimming with confidence. From apparel to robotics, Bangladeshis are putting their country on the map by showcasing their unique talents.
In order to realise our full productive potential, the Prime Minister has set investment promotion as one of her Special Initiatives. Making this a reality is one of our most important tasks as we work to ensure a smooth LDC graduation and become an upper-middle-income country by 2031 and a developed country by 2041.
Bangladesh is set to become the 9th largest consumer market globally by 2030, leaving behind the United Kingdom and Germany. We have grown faster than our Asian peers and our dynamic private sector will fuel our emergence as a trillion-dollar economy by 2040. Over 65% of the population is within working age. Bangladesh is also young, with 28% of the population between the ages of 15 and 29.
Our landmass is a natural hub connecting China, India and the ASEAN countries. Bangladesh is also uniquely stable with a progressive approach towards foreign policy, which actively promotes regional peace and integration for higher cross-border economic opportunities.
Bangladesh has proven its resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic, being one of the few countries to achieve positive growth. We became first in Asia and fifth in the world in Covid-19 management. More than 73% of the population is fully vaccinated. We are the only country in the world to vaccinate 12.5 million people in one day. This is an indicator of our agility and management efficiency.
At this moment, when the world is going through another crisis, we are taking every precaution to safeguard our people and productivity.
The Prime Minister already laid the foundation for a future Bangladesh, ensuring 100% electricity coverage, building the country's first deep-sea ports, adding a state-of-the-art third terminal to Dhaka airport, as well as building 100 special economic zones, 39 software and hi-tech parks, three more export processing zones and improving connectivity across Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has one of the most liberal investment regimes in the region. Based on this trajectory, Bangladesh is on the way to achieving its fullest potential because of its leadership.
Investment Promotion Agency (IPAs) play a key role in economic development by attracting foreign and domestic investment to boost productivity, diversify industries and export sectors and create employment.
As Bangladesh's apex investment promotion agency, the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) promotes and facilitates private investment and advocates for business-friendly policies. BIDA has been working relentlessly to achieve 'Biniyog Bikash'.
We interact with businesses across the world to tell the story of Bangladesh. On a daily basis, we facilitate the entry and growth of new businesses, whether domestic or foreign. We are very encouraged to find and support the amazing enthusiasm investors have for Bangladesh.
So, I believe this is the right time for us to listen to our existing and potential investors, and provide the most competitive facilities for them.
I was appointed to the role of the Executive Chairman of BIDA on 4 September 2022. Since that time, I have had the pleasure of inserting another $3.6 billion of proposed investment into the pipeline through proactive facilitation. These investments are for various sectors, including power, renewable energy, steel and engineering, mould production, and food processing, seafood processing, oxygen production, footwear manufacturing, etc.
BIDA prioritises high-level advocacy for the implementation of specific policy reforms for the sectors of leather goods, agro-processing, furniture, bicycle, jute, logistics and medical equipment and devices. It continues to provide end-to-end support to investors by working closely with our many stakeholders.
Improving investor experience through BIDA online One Stop Service (OSS) portal
Enhancing the regulatory environment for delivering investor services in Bangladesh is one of BIDA's core mandates. BIDA launched the online One Stop Service (OSS) portal on 28 February 2019 as per the One Stop Service (Bangladesh Investment Development Authority) Act, 2018. BIDA OSS is the country's first interoperable platform, which delivers speedy, transparent and time-bound investor services.
As per the instruction of the Honourable Prime Minister, BIDA will work with the ICT Division to accelerate the end-to-end digitisation and simplification of all investor services in Bangladesh to integrate them with BIDA OSS. BIDA's proposal to link the one-stop service portals of all IPAs into a common interface is also in the process of being implemented.
BIDA is also achieving 100% efficiency in time-bound service delivery. BIDA provides nearly all its regulatory services through BIDA OSS. As per OSS Rules 2020, BIDA has ensured time-bound delivery for investors. All of BIDA's services are provided in two steps and delivered between 1-16 days.
BIDA's work to enhance the investor experience through the OSS portal has been recognised at the Strengthening Advocacy Award 2021 organised by the World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), in which the BIDA OSS was given an Honorary Mention.
We have also showcased BIDA's digital transformation journey and our strategies to further improve investors' experience using the BIDA OSS with member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in a seminar titled 'Digitalisation of Services in Investment Promotion of OIC Member Countries' organised at Morocco's Casablanca from 19-20 December 2022.
Coordinating holistic reforms
BIDA is the government's lead agency for coordinating business climate reforms. The Bangladesh Investment Climate Improvement (BICI) Programme initiated by BIDA is implementing holistic and countrywide business climate reforms by being consistent with the socio-economic context of Bangladesh.
BIDA developed the programme by working closely with stakeholders following the suspension of the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) programme in September 2021.
During the 9th meeting of the National Committee for Monitoring Implementation of Doing Business (NCMID), the Cabinet Secretary, who chairs the Committee, instructed BIDA to design a reform programme that will take into account the specific context and requirements of Bangladesh.
As per the instruction, BIDA designed the BICI programme, aligning it with Vision-2041, and the seven pillars which are Business Entry, Exit, and Technology Adoption, Industrial Infrastructure and Logistics, Cross Border Trade and Business, Commercial Dispute Resolution and Labor Regulations, Tax Regime, Financial and Non-financial incentives and Access to Finance.
The reforms under BICI will not be based on generic assumptions but will be identified through the national and international business climate index and structured private sector feedback. A total of 97 reforms have been proposed for FY 2022-23.
Ensuring safer factories
As per the instruction of the Prime Minister, BIDA has been leading the government's factory inspections initiative. The 22-member National Committee aimed at preventing fire accidents and ensuring a safe working environment is headed by Salman Fazlur Rahman, MP, Private Industry and Investment Adviser to the Prime Minister.
The Central Coordinating Committee, consisting of different government and private bodies and led by BIDA, has developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) checklist, a list of priority factories and an outline of inspection for factories.
Since the nationwide inspection programme began in Chattogram on 11 November 2021, a total of 5,206 inspections have been carried out in the first phase that included 34 sectors. As many as 108 combined inspection teams have been formed and 11 training programmes were conducted in eight divisions for the inspection teams. The software necessary to store inspection data has also been developed.
In the second phase, another 10,000 factories and institutions will be inspected. After reviewing the information obtained through these inspections, recommendations for the sector/component/term-wise implementation process for the National Committee have already been formulated.
Operationalising the Investor Relationship Management System (IRMS)
As per BIDA's Strategic Roadmap 2020-24, it has developed an Investor Relationship Management System (IRMS) to digitally coordinate across all branches and effectively communicate with investors.
Through the IRMS which is set to fully launch soon, BIDA aims to develop an investment lead database, deliver matchmaking services, manage and track investors' interaction, digitise 65,000 paper-based files and conduct e-monitoring and surveys.
Supporting the growth of women entrepreneurs
On 23-24 November 2022, BIDA and Bangladesh-India Business Council (BIBC) organised a two-day International Women's Entrepreneurship Summit to promote and facilitate the growth of women-led businesses.
The Honourable Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury inaugurated the Summit. Ministers and secretaries of various investment-related ministries also participated in the various sessions. BIDA has been able to create a huge response among women entrepreneurs through this summit as over 4,000 participants attended and many have provided valuable insights into their activities and plans.
Leveraging the strength of the global IPA community as a WAIPA Steering Committee member
BIDA was elected to the South Asia regional directorship of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) on 28 March 28 2022. BIDA has been leveraging this leadership position at the WAIPA's Steering Committee to ensure greater regional cooperation, especially for exchanging information between IPA members and for capacity building.
BIDA also proposed initiatives for strong and structured networking and match-making between the private sectors of WAIPA member countries in South Asia and beyond. As the global reference for FDI, deeper integration with the activities of WAIPA will strengthen BIDA's capacity and enhance our access to global investor communities.
Lokman Hossain Miah is the Executive Chairman (Senior Secretary) of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.