Both local and foreign investors on Wednesday said that Bangladesh’s image abroad and attitude of government officials towards investors were the biggest challenges for attracting foreign direct investment to the country.
At a seminar titled ‘Bangladesh as preferred FDI destination: can one-stop service (OSS) and enhanced ease of doing business help’, the investors also said that the government should make the OSS initiative effective fast to serve potential investors in an expedited, simplified and easier manner to achieve the country’s FDI goals.
Canada Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CanCham) and Bangladesh Investment Development Authority jointly organised the seminar as part of the CanCham 4th joint chamber luncheon at the Hotel Four Points by Sheraton in Dhaka.
Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Shehzad Munim said that Bangladesh was one of the lowest FDI recipient country compared with its competitors like Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia despite its remarkable achievement in GDP growth and many human development indices.
Lack of improvement in ease of doing business is one of the barriers, he said.
‘But, image as a nation abroad as FDI destination and attitude of implementation-level government officials [towards the investors] are the biggest challenges,’ he said.
He said that Bangladesh was an attractive destination for FDI but how warmth a potential investor felt once he or she entered in the country was also important.
Implementation-level officials do not receive investors with warmth, he alleged.
‘Fix the image and change the attitude to attract FDI as the foreign investors will come once attitude is changed and warmth is felt,’ he urged the authorities and officials concerned.
Grameenphone chief executive officer Michael Foley said that Bangladesh as investment opportunity could be termed as ‘the glass is far behind to be considered half full’.
Weak governance, corruption, regulatory instability, unpredictable taxation policy, over regulation, and weak infrastructure are not new problems, he said, adding that the country was trying to improve the situation but not doing fast to make a difference.
‘But, development of democratic institutions is a very critical criterion the foreign investors now look for,’ he said.
‘This is a new concern as global analysts raise the issue,’ he said.
Standard Chartered Bank chief executive officer Naser Ezaz Bijoy also emphasised image building activities in the international arena and change in bureaucratic mindset for materialising potential FDI.
He also recommended effective implementation of OSS system with expedited service, proper mechanism of addressing grievances of investors, online platform to respond investors’ queries and a high-powered body within BIDA to faster dispute resolution.
HSBC chief executive officer Francois de Maricourt said that Bangladesh could make very large difference in its image by addressing some small issues like giving a very welcome reception to potential investors at airports and removing visa procedural problems at airports.
The country has attractive incentives, good regulations and scope for making profits but the missing point is the feelings among foreign investors that they are very welcome in Bangladesh, he said.
CanCham president Masud Rahman said that so far the country’s efforts to make it an FDI destination were yet to be optimum.
The main reasons are lack of infrastructure, bureaucratic bottlenecks, lacks of industrial energy, weak institutional framework and delay in completing paperwork for starting a business, he said.
Lack of skilled manpower and lack of innovation are also the constraints, he added.
BIDA executive chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam said that the future of Bangladesh economy would depend on technology, innovation and skilled manpower.
The government is trying to improve the situation related to ease of doing business but there is no room for complacency, he said, adding that everyone in the country should do the right things at home to build a positive image abroad.
Canadian high commissioner to Bangladesh Benoit Prefontaine, business leaders of different joint chambers of commerce and industry spoke, among others, at the seminar.
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