That corruption is the main obstacle to a country's overall development does not perhaps need any research to discover. As it is with many other developing economies, so is it with that of Bangladesh. Even so, studies are done from time to time to know how far this social malaise is afflicting, especially the administration at a particular point of time. In this context, the findings of a recent survey on the business environment of the country conducted by a local economic think tank, the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in partnership with a famed international NGO, the World Economic Forum (WEF) cannot be said to be encouraging. In fact, two-thirds of the business executives who were the respondents of the study viewed that corruption was still the biggest barrier to doing business followed by inadequate infrastructure, inefficient government bureaucracy and limited access to finance. However, the severity of corruption varied depending on the category of service provider being approached for service.
About 75 per cent of the respondents in the said study carried out between April and July last year, for instance, viewed that those in export-import business found graft as the biggest barrier to doing business. Some 54 per of the respondents, on the other hand, believed that the way trade licence is issued is a considerable drag on doing business in the country. Also, access to utility service-gas, electricity and water connections-is yet another hindrance to starting and running a business smoothly, thought 49 per cent the business executives participating in the study. Tax-paying is another problem area, according to 48 per cent of the respondents. Overall, compared to the year before, the business environment in 2022 deteriorated rather than improved, so was the perception of the business community representing the sample survey.
Other issues like high inflation, volatility in the foreign exchange market and the resulting policy instability did no doubt play their part in vitiating the business environment. It has also to be admitted that those problems are not entirely home-grown. For example, inflation and volatility in the foreign-exchange market have mostly to do with high energy prices in the international market and recessionary trend in the global economy. Even so, it is exactly at such trying times that a government is required to demonstrate its wisdom and adopt the right course of action to ride out the challenges facing the economy, avoiding any ad hoc-ism on policy matters.
But the factors arising from corruption did not also affect the different segments of the business community equally. The small and micro-scale enterprises, for instance, faced greater hurdles in obtaining various administrative services including bank loans, etc, than the larger ones. So, the perceptions of the different categories of businesses about the impact of administrative corruption also differed for obvious reasons.
However, administrative corruption in the form of graft is not the whole story about the worsening of the business environment. Other factors including organised crime also affect business environment in no small measure. But the onus, in this regard, lies on the law-enforcement agencies to create an environment that is conducive to doing business without fear. However, the environment is not at the expected level, as could be gleaned from the findings of the survey in question. As business is the driver of the economy, it deserves to operate in an environment that is free from encumbrances like corruption. So, it is upon the government to create such a condition.