Policy, law friendly to foreign investors: analysts

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=208460

Policy, law friendly to foreign investors: analysts

Gowher Rizvi, middle, the prime minister's adviser on international affairs, speaks at a discussion on law and business, on the sidelines of the German Trade Show at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka yesterday. Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised the three-day show that ended yesterday.Photo: STAR

Star Business report

Bangladesh’s policies and laws are favourable to foreign investors, and government institutions have shown signs of improvement in delivering services, analysts said yesterday.

But more steps are needed to help attract investment from abroad, they said at a discussion on “law and business” on the sidelines of the German Trade Show that ended at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka yesterday.

Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised the programme. Gowher Rizvi, the prime minister’s adviser on international affairs, was present.

“If you want to attract investment, many urgent things are needed to address,” said Omar Sadat, a lawyer of the Supreme Court, citing complex bureaucratic procedures.

Although the Board of Investment has a one-stop service desk, people have to move from one desk to another to get their files cleared, said the lawyer.

“One of my foreign clients went to the one-stop centre, and he came back telling me that it was a ‘full-stop’ desk,” Sadat said.

Two BoI officials, who were present at the programme, rejected the perception and said the investment promotion office rather clears files of investors within hours if papers are okay.

Discussants said Bangladesh has liberal investment policies for foreign investors compared with many other countries.

The facilities include tax exemption from 5-7 years, support to import capital machinery, scope to invest in manufacturing, infrastructure to other services sectors, opportunity to take profit and investment out of the country and repatriate dividends by paying taxes.

Bangladesh also promises a big market for investors. Its geographical location is another advantage for foreign investors, who can get all types of workers and professionals at cheaper rates, said Omar H Khan, another Supreme Court lawyer.

Khan said registering a new firm and opening branch or liaison offices are also easier. “If you have all papers ready, you can get registration in 15 days,” he said.

Khan said now many tasks can be done online.

Talking on the issue of law and order, Rizvi said despite concerns, nothing bad happens to foreign investors and their investment.

“I think Bangladesh as a country is like a dog with a bad name,” said Rizvi, referring to the negative image of the country. He said the bad image has probably been formed in the past three to four decades due to military intervention and assassination.

Although Bangladesh suffers from weaknesses in infrastructure, the field for investment is wider, Rizvi said. Investors can pour money in infrastructure under public private partnership, he said.

“When you think of Bangladesh you should not be thinking of just Bangladesh as a market. It is also a gateway to India,” he said, citing the recent trade arrangement and duty-free export opportunity of a number of apparel items.

Borhan Uddin Khan, an ex-dean of Dhaka University, said it is true that courts have many cases pending and there is a lack of judges.

But the DU teacher said laws related to businesses have been changed to make business friendly.

Ahmad Nasiruddin Mahmood, a member of the BoI, said it does not take so long for registration of a business. “If papers are okay, you submit in the morning and get it in the afternoon.”

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