Stop harassment to avail govt services for investment-friendly country

Bangladesh has been seeing the emergence of one industrial zone after another. All kinds of facilities have been set up there to attract domestic and foreign investors. But investors face all sorts of harassment to avail those facilities. They are thwarted by bureaucratic complications, bribes demanded by government officials and employees, and political pressure.

Although domestic investors have become accustomed to such sufferings, foreign investors face trouble. They have to approach the embassies of their countries after failing to get any solution from the concerned authorities of the government. The issue is undoubtedly sending a negative message about the investment environment in Bangladesh.

According to a Prothom Alo report, foreign companies have to face more harassment to avail utilities like gas, electricity and water connections. Government officials and employees create delays providing license at the right time. This has to be settled through bribes. Apart from delay in getting land registration and bank loans, they are also facing complications with customs duty at the port.

Every day four or five complaints are being lodged with the post-investment service of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA). These objections are being filed due to lack of sincerity of the government departments. Some of the victims are getting remedy from BIDA while many others are not aware of the existence of BIDA. BIDA itself has admitted that their publicity is inadequate. This is disturbing.

The vicious cycle of corruption prevailing in the country is nothing new. Due to corruption and irregularities, many development projects are not benefiting people.

The major victims of this corruption are domestic and foreign investors. According to a recent survey by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a non-governmental research organisation, businessmen see corruption as a major barrier to doing business in the country.

They have put corruption at number one among 16 key problems in carrying out business in the country. According to them, the third problem is administrative inefficiency and limited access to finance. Earlier, CPD had conducted a survey on business environment in 2020 as well. They mentioned the similar problem at the time as well.

Bangladesh's transition to developing country status will take place in 2026. Then Bangladesh will lose many benefits including duty free facilities. So from now on the government is trying its best to increase foreign investment. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has advanced eight steps in the World Bank's Business Enabling Environment Index.

This means that the business environment here is improving. Meanwhile, the government is establishing 100 economic zones across the country. Several economic zones, including Bangabandhu Industrial City, in Mirserai, Chattogram are now visible.

We often hear about the prospects and promises of huge foreign investment in those economic zones and industrial cities. But in order to ensure a conducive environment for investment, it is necessary to ensure easy access to government facilities, eliminate bureaucratic complexities, and prevent corruption and political malpractice. If business is disrupted or costs increase, foreign investors will naturally turn their away from Bangladesh.

Coping with the crisis arisen due to the Covid situation is now a big challenge. We have already seen the negative impact of the pandemic on foreign investment. In such a situation, there is no alternative to building an investment-friendly Bangladesh. Instead of empty promises, this must be implemented in real.