The information revealed in the survey of two research institutes on the business environment of Bangladesh on Sunday is very alarming. The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has conducted one of the surveys under the title 'Bangladesh: Business Environment 2022'. And the Center for Governance Studies (CGS) has done the other on corruption in the private sector and small and medium enterprises.
In addition to corruption, CPD's research has highlighted a number of persistent issues. Among these are poor infrastructure, inadequate bank credit, inefficient administration, inflation, fluctuating foreign exchange rates, lack of policy consistency, complex taxation system and high tax rates, weak morale among workers, lack of educated workers, poor health care, poor capacity to innovate. Nearly 64 per cent of entrepreneurs and top executives surveyed identified corruption as a major problem. Besides, 44.6 per cent mentioned weak infrastructure while 43.1 per cent inefficiency of administration as the reason. Apart from this, 35.4 and 24.6 per cent blamed complex and high tax rates respectively.
On the other hand, according to CGS’s survey on small and medium enterprise, 78 per cent of entrepreneurs have to pay bribes to get business license, legal assistance. They use political influence in 60 per cent of cases. This means that it has become impossible to do business without paying bribes or using political influence. Economist and CPD special fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya made a valuable observation in the CGS discussion. He said, as government officials are responsible for corruption in business, the role of businessmen is also questionable. Some of them use political influence and bribe to earn unethical advantage.
In that case, in order to ensure a favorable environment for business, in addition to increasing infrastructure facilities and reducing weaknesses and corruptions in the administration, businessmen must also have the mindset to run the business with honesty. They must avoid using political influence. If the businessmen do not come out of the mentality of appeasing every government in power, a favorable business environment cannot be created.
Some of the speakers in the discussion of CGS underscored radical changes in the state system. But we cannot sit idle waiting for that change. Let alone in the past, how could the current government avoid responsibility when they could not ensure favorable business environment in 14 years? The CPD survey shows that the business environment in 2021 has deteriorated in 2022. It is also necessary to find out who is responsible for this deterioration, who is exerting political and unethical influence in business.
If the government takes remedial measures by taking the surveys of CPD and CGS the situation of business environment can be expected to improve somewhat, if not completely. After investing billions in the development of infrastructure sector, if any sector suffers from poor infrastructure evidently there might be something fishy. If the infrastructure is not built where it’s needed, what is the point of it.?
And if the government continues to deny the fact as usual, business opportunities will shrink even further. The government must prove its commitment of being business-friendly by action, not just in words.