Enabling Investment for Growth and Change

The US Roadshow is about showcasing how the investment environment has improved in Bangladesh. COLORS Business Rehnuma Karim Ph.D. catches up with the Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Sirazul Islam for his thoughts on the recently held US Roadshow organized by BSEC.

Md. Sirazul Islam Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA). Photographer: Kazi Mukul.

The very informative conversation validated the sentiments of all the other IPA executives who in unison believe Bangladesh is in the right phase of development to welcome partner investors from the leading developed nations now more than ever. He emphasized how Bangladesh is becoming a success story and one of the fastest-growing economies of the world but the story is still not known to potential investors. This is why Sirazul Islam believes that these Road Shows are great opportunities to communicate the accurate story of Bangladesh that has been thriving due to the strong leadership, massive domestic market, strategic location, and talented workforce. As communication is the key—the best aspect of the Road Show was to get to meet many interested investors at these programs that can help everyone to work together for making the business climate better. Observing the energy of the program, the Executive Chairperson felt that these events had to take place more frequently to attract and inspire investors to choose Bangladesh as their investment destination.

He said, “We believe that the businesses that have already invested in Bangladesh are our best ambassadors and their confidence is well reflected by their substantial reinvestment earning which was over 60% in 2020.” He highlighted that Bangladesh is the land of high corporate profitability. According to a report by Bloomberg in the February 2021 issue, the number of Japanese firms in Bangladesh tripled in 10 years and this statement was echoed by Sirazul Islam stating that a report recently found more than 70% of the Japanese companies are looking to expand their businesses in Bangladesh in the coming years. This is why BIDA along with the other Investment Promotion Agencies are focusing on their promotional initiatives on Bangladesh’s competitiveness, location, diverse sectoral opportunities, liberal incentives, and facilities.

“Our main responsibility is to create an enabling environment for all private investors both foreign and local.  We support the investors from giving pre-investment information, counselling, registration, getting work permit and so many other investment related legal and other services”

The Executive Chairperson further mentioned how the agency representatives along with him took time to communicate with many potential investors during and after the main sessions and events in the four cities of the USA. Some of them raised their concerns about not having the complete picture of Bangladesh’s investment climate and IPA representatives also talked with the potential investors or already existing investors with solutions as well. He strongly said, “BIDA will always standby to support the investors’ needs. We are already in contact with a few interested investors who came to the Road Show events. One of the NRBs who was kin to invest in Bangladesh by building a ‘health city’ focused on investing in Hospitals with State of Art facilities, health-related education institutions, nursing training centers is already being pursued and supported by BIDA to take the venture forward.” He further added that not only health but Bangladesh is ready to support different sectors and also investment that brings in new R&D options into the country. Investors that are interested in Green investment are also encouraged with the promise of all types of investment-related support by BIDA.

While replying to the question on what is the core responsibility of BIDA, Sirazul Islam said, “In a nutshell, our main responsibility is to create an enabling environment for all private investors both foreign and local. We support the investors from giving pre-investment information, counseling, registration, getting a work permit and so many other investment-related legal and other services.” But he believes that in order to better engage with foreign investors, BIDA and other agencies need to further define our target segments so that our target segments can be more effective and easily comprehended. Thus BIDA’s aim is to build long-term relationships with foreign investors who are looking to create more sustainable values over sales, especially in a high growth market like Bangladesh. BIDA is also acting as a coordinating agency and working to boost cooperation between the five core investment promotion agencies to fastidiously promote investment in Bangladesh.

“We believe that the businesses that have already invested in Bangladesh are our best ambassadors and their confidence is well reflected by their substantial reinvestment earning which was over 60% in 2020.”

Although BIDA mainly works with private investment Sirazul Islam feels that Bangladesh needs investment in the public sector also. He said, “At this juncture of our development. The private-public partnership is necessary and unless the government creates the basic foundation for investment, especially the infrastructure, the investors will not get attracted.” A positive sign now is that the present government has acknowledged this need and is undertaking initiatives for infrastructure development.

Under future coordinated programs and initiatives, the Executive Chairperson was happy to announce that BIDA is organizing the biggest Bangladesh International Investment Summit on November 28-29th in 2021. Although BIDA is arranging this summit, all IPAs will be our associates. He also talked about another significant advancement – the “One Stop Service” that will be supporting the investors in the process of investing in Bangladesh. Even before the pandemic, the BIDA One-Stop Service (OSS) along with others was planning to work through a coordinated effort to bring all the independent OSSs together by creating a back-office linkage. This would be one platform connecting all OSS of IPAs. The interested investors than through the back office coordination will enter only one OSS that will bring them to the desired OSS based on their particular interest in investment areas. The BIDA chairperson felt proud to acknowledge the efficient OSS service. He said, even in the beginning of COVID times the BIDA OSS stayed open 24/7 to serve the investors with diligence even when all the other government offices were closed. BIDA provided twenty-five thousand services in one year during the peak of COVID times. Last month there were more than 2500 different services through the OSS. People were applying for services during nighttime in Bangladesh and some of our officers didn’t drop the ball and responded at any odd hours with commitments and dedication.

Sirazul Islam wants to ensure investor experience is positive throughout

Sirazul Islam ended the conversation with an optimistic tone stating that such collective efforts from all agencies and support from private and public sectors will be playing an important role to remove much negative and inaccurate perception about the investment eco-system of Bangladesh. He concluded by mentioning a recent story of a New York-based NRB who approached to invest in Bangladesh through BIDA and did not have to spend a single dollar out of the way. He even registered his office with BIDA OSS directly from NY. In the near future, BIDA is also planning to visit China, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, and Singapore reminding the continuing possibilities for investing with rising Bangladesh.

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