The proposal from a meeting of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) last Wednesday for a task force to help business and investment couldn't have been timelier. It would also seem to have hit the nail on its head. When entrepreneurs and economic practitioners in a body push for a task force, as stakeholders they are only urging the government to help remove obstacles on the way. Despite the country's acclaimed increasing size of economy and its remarkably fast pace of development, issues remain with cost of capital and ease of doing business. The dichotomy is unfortunate, to say the least. It is little solace that Bangladesh ranked slightly better at 176 among 190 major economies in terms of ease of doing business as per the latest World Bank ratings. Vietnam and Cambodia are doing well. Thus, there is a sense of urgency for a committed service delivery by the agencies charged with facilitation of business, trade and investment in the country. Of paramount importance are quick and time-bound decision making and prompt delivery of services. The clearance of files hurtles along bureaucratic rigmarole where 'one agency clears things while another holds it up'. The present crop of bureaucracy however came through a more intense selection process than its predecessors in the early years after independence and as such expected to be more dedicated and efficient in the discharge of the responsibility. But their interface with the private sector leaves room for a qualitative improvement.
The MCCI meeting attended by Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Md Sirazul Islam called for more interaction between the government and investors, both local and foreign, so that bottlenecks could be identified and addressed promptly in their relationship. A whole lot of suggestions were put up at the meeting of which formation of a task force consisting, among others, of local as well as foreign investors was the centre-piece. A suggestion was also made for more representatives in the governing body of BIDA from the business associations. All these would facilitate interactions through regular periodic meetings with the government agencies aimed at smothering the angularities in relevant emerging issues before the business community. Online on-arrival visa facility for foreign investors was also proposed. Other recommendations included removing hassles for foreign investors at the airports, doing away with the difficulties that investors face while going for the facilities promised by the government. One key demand was continuity of government policies.
It was good to note that the BIDA executive chairman promised to extend full backing to see to it that the points raised in the meeting got due consideration of the government. The formation of a composite task force, formulation of its terms of reference and modalities are the immediate tasks fulfilment of which will beam the right signal. Given that the proposed task force is brought into full operation after its initiation, its interaction with government agencies would lay the groundwork for a better business and investment climate. That is what we need in these challenging times of growth with the clarion call being: "Seize the hour, seize the opportunity".