Business leaders on Thursday demanded that the government improve ease of doing business situation in the country and cut bank interest rate immediately to maintain the current pace of investment and economic development.
At a meeting with finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal and prime minister’s private industry and investment adviser Salman F Rahman, they also expressed frustration over the government’s failure in fulfilling the promises it previously made to them on various issues.
Kamal assured the business leaders of meeting the demands but asked them to help the government achieve its revenue collection target of Tk 2.96 lakh crore for the current fiscal year (2018-2019).
The meeting was arranged at the National Economic Council conference room at the planning ministry to evaluate the existing business environment and identify the actions required to improve the ease of doing business and relevant issues.
After the meeting, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin told reporters that they demanded the government ensure proper and hassle-free business climate in the country and take steps to lower interest rate on bank loans.
‘It’s time for act to bring down the interest rate immediately, otherwise it will not be possible to maintain the momentum investment and overall economy are enjoying now,’ he said.
Mohiuddin said the finance minister assured them that the businesses’ demands would be met but he sought their cooperation in achieving the revenue collection target.
‘We want to keep faith and confidence in the assurance and will observe at least a quarter [three months] to see progress [in terms of meeting the demands],’ he said.
At a press briefing after the meeting, Kamal said that they had attentively listened to the businesspeople and took responsibility to solve the problems raised by them.
He said that the key concerns of businesses were high interest rate, corporate tax rate and overall business climate in the country.
The finance minister said that interest rate was high as spread was high due to high non-performing loans in the country’s banking sector.
‘We have given them our word that we will address their problems in a way they want, provided that they help the government achieve the revenue collection target of the government,’ he said, adding that it would create a win-win situation for both sides.
Replying to a question, he said that Bangladesh Bank amended the write-off policy as part of its continuous process of solving the problems in the sector.
The government is meeting all the demands it assured the bankers of addressing, he said, adding that write-off was a part of system itself.
The government, however, will not allow writing off bad loans of delinquent and wilful defaulters, he said.
Special audit on banks will be carried out to see the financial health of banks as part of reducing interest rate, he said.
Auditors will see whether there is any mismatch in balance sheet and examine the amount of loans, NPLs and deposits.
He also termed the high interest rate for savings certificates as a problem for higher interest rate in bank loans.
Kamal said that the prime minister had bestowed the responsibility of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, which looks after the ease of doing business matters, on Salman F Rahman and you would see progress in the area within two or three months.
Regarding expansion of the tax net, he said that the government had plans to establish income tax office at all 492 upazilas and make mandatory installing of ECR machines at all shops having electricity connections for collecting value-added tax.
Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nihad Kabir, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Osama Tasir, former Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rupali Chowdhury, former Bangladesh Textile Mills Association president Tapan Chowdhury, Bangladesh Insurance Association president Sheikh Kabir Hossain, Dhaka Stock Exchange chairman Abul Hashem, and business leaders from other sectors attended the meeting.
Bangladesh Bank governor Fazle Kabir, National Board of Revenue chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, BIDA executive chairman Kazi Aminul Islam, Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission chairman M Khairul Hossain were also present, among others.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Trade & Commerce