Policymakers, business leaders and top officials of multinational companies on Sunday demanded long-term tax policy, cut in discretionary power of government officials and predictability in regulations to attract both local and foreign investments.
Bangladesh should also quickly roll out policy actions and reforms of long-standing issues that are holding back private investment to effectively address the fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak, they said at a virtual dialogue on ‘private investment in uncertain times: COVID-19 impacts and policy implications for Bangladesh’.
Resurgent Bangladesh, a platform of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chittagong Stock Exchange, Business Initiative Leading Development and Policy Exchange, arranged the dialogue.
Bangladesh Investment Development Authority executive chairman Mohammad Sirazul Islam said that discretionary power of government officials at the implementation level should be checked to overcome the challenges related to business climate and ease of doing business.
Policymakers and top officials have positive a mindset but troubles are created at the implementation level, he said.
‘Problems will remain in place if government officials at relevant agencies, including the National Board of Revenue, are given discretionary power to implement the rules and regulations,’ he said, adding that a clear-cut policy could minimise the discretionary power of the officials.
He said that the NBR should have stable policy regime at least for five years as unpredictability in policy discouraged investors to come to Bangladesh.
Policy should not be changed overnight, he added.
MCCI president Nihad Kabir recommended fundamental changes in VAT and customs policies and tax administration to ensure predictability and transparency of regulatory regimes, not only for attracting foreign direct investment but also for facilitating local investment, trade and business.
Policymakers should come forward with actions as the issues have been being discussed for decades without any significant improvement in the areas, she said.
Grameenphone chief executive officer Yasir Azman said that potential investors mostly talked about regulatory and business environment of a country instead of tax rate while they considered investing in the country.
So, the government should ensure predictability in the regulatory regime to bring investment, he said.
He recommended that Bangladesh should showcase its strong talent pool of workforce globally as a strategy to attract FDI.
Unilever Bangladesh chief executive officer Kedar Lele said that Bangladesh required foreign direct investment for economic growth, technology transfer, professional growth and global exposure.
A predictable tax regime is a must for attracting FDI, he said.
‘We don’t want reduction in tax rates rather simplification and unambiguity in tax regime is required,’ he said.
Apex Footwear Ltd managing director Syed Nasim Manzur recommended the upgradation of the forex exchange regulations to facilitate movement of capital abroad to promote local entrepreneurs.
The country also needs to sign free trade agreements with potential trade blocs to prevent erosion of export potential to its competing countries.
Former NBR chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said that laws and regulations were congenial to businesses but officials’ misinterpretation caused problems including harassment and hassle to investors.
Multinational companies are usually not against the country’s regulations but they always complain against officials, he said.
Former NBR chairman Nasiruddin Ahmed said that policies should not be changed with the change of leaderships in government organisations like NBR.
Tax rates and policies should not be changed every year on an ad hoc basis through the finance acts rather the NBR should have a tax policy at least for five years, he said.
He also criticised civil servants for their mindsets impedimental to trade and investment.
Member of parliament Nahim Razzaq also stressed the necessity of reforms in the NBR and increasing coordination among the government agencies.
Member of parliament Waseqa Ayesha Khan, Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority executive chairman Major General SM Salahuddin Islam, CSE chairman Asif Ibrahim, BUILD chairman Abul Kasem Khan, DCCI president Shams Mahmud, Policy Exchange chairman M Masrur Reaz, FICCI secretary general Nurul Kabir, Spain Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nuria Lopez, among others, spoke at the dialogue.
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