The country also needs to reform the existing taxation system, they say
Bangladesh should tap the foreign direct investment (FDI) potential in agro-processing, light engineering, non-cotton apparel, home textile, blue economy, and education to ensure export diversification and smooth LDC graduation, speakers said at a webinar yesterday.
The country also needs to reform the existing taxation system, they said.
Extending the scope for whitening undisclosed money in the health infrastructure, economic zones, and in other infrastructure sectors alongside the existing sectors will create more employment opportunities, the speakers added.
Stakeholders need to extend their all-out cooperation to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) to attract more FDI in the country, the participants further said.
The webinar was organized as part of the Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) Webinar Series in partnership with the Asia Foundation and Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID).
Planning Minister MA Mannan spoke as the chief guest at the webinar titled "FDI for Export Diversification and Smooth LDC Graduation," which was chaired by ERF Vice President Shafiqul Alam.
It is a fact that the country does not receive the level of FDI that it needs, the minister said, adding that relevant agencies need to accomplish their tasks in due time to attract more foreign investment.
Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Md Sirazul Islam spoke as the special guest at the session.
BIDA needs to be fully empowered as it still needs to depend on others to facilitate the private sector, Sirazul said.
Noting that there is no deficiency from BIDA in creating an enabling environment for attracting more FDI, he said that the authorities have made the One-Stop Service (OSS) platform effective to ensure transparent and hassle-free service delivery.
As of now, 47 services have so far been brought under online while the services of some 16 organizations including BIDA have already come under the OSS platform, he said.
"We will try our best to face the challenges emerging before us. But for that, the public and the private sector need to work together," he said, adding that the door of BIDA would always remain open for the private sector.
The BIDA executive chairman also said that if local Investment could be promoted further, there would be more FDI inflow.
President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Barrister Nihad Kabir, President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) Rizwan Rahman, and Managing Director of Apex Footwear Syed Nasim Manzur spoke as the panellists.
The now-defunct Board of Investment (BOI) was earlier regarded as the "Dead Stop Service" or "Full Stop Service," but now, BIDA has somehow managed to overcome that bad name, said Nihad Kabir.
But there is still a lot more to do, she added.
If businessmen are not treated with respect in the country, then foreign investors will not come, she said.
The MCCI president also suggested targeting the potential sectors, adopting a coherent policy strategy by BIDA, signing more Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs), and extending all-out support to BIDA to attract more FDI.
DCCI President Rizwan Rahman underscored the need for reforming the tax rate as it is still high compared to the global and Asian average.
He also suggested extending the provision for whitening undisclosed money in the health infrastructure, tourism, and economic zones alongside the real estate and capital market, otherwise, there would be bubbles in the economy.
Rizwan said that there is the scope of attracting more FDI in the blue economy and education sectors of the country.
If non-RMG sectors could be nurtured properly, then the country would be able to realize billions of dollars of export earnings, he added.
Bangladeshi exports earn $1,089 by exporting 1,000kg of t-shirts, whereas the Vietnamese exporters earn $2,157 by exporting the same volume, said Syed Nasim Manzur.
Bargaining power makes the difference here, which needs to be addressed, he added.
It is high time to recapture Japanese investment from Myanmar to Bangladesh, he said.
The country's leading entrepreneur in the footwear sector said the taxation system in the country is taxpayer-unfriendly. He added that new entrepreneurs will not come and existing businesses will not flourish unless the system is reformed.
He also suggested ensuring duty-free and quota-free access in markets like Japan, EU, India, and China by not looking only to the market of the US.
Nasim Manzur cited huge FDI and investment potentials in the country's agro-processed food, light engineering, non-cotton apparel, and home textile sectors for which there is a need for necessary tax reforms.
Executive Director of RAPID and Dhaka University Professor of Development Studies Dr M Abu Yusuf and Country Representative of the Asia Foundation Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj gave the welcome addresses.
Chairman of RAPID and Director of Policy Research Institute (PRI) Dr Mohammad Abdur Razzaque made the key-note presentation while ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam moderated the event.