FE: Please describe the situation of the business sector in the country now.
Shahriar Jahan Rahat: The recent development that happened in Bangladesh's infrastructure like roads and highways, railways and port facilities is creating opportunities to develop the business sector all over the country. Capacity expansion in the power and energy sectors also helps the businesses grow. The newly-constructed economic zones are also playing a vital role in the industrialisation of the country. Low-cost labour in Bangladesh always attracts foreign investors to start their business here. If we can groom a generation of educated, trained and skilled manpower, Bangladesh's business sector will run more efficiently than at any other time. But now we are facing different challenges like the global economic situation arising from the COVID-19, the war, dollar crisis, L/C opening hurdle, energy crisis, etc. If we can handle the current situation tactfully, nothing will stop the onward march of Bangladesh.
FE: How is political tension hampering the business sector now?
SJ Rahat: Political tension is always harmful for the business sector. It cuts the connectivity of the supply chain. Even it hampers the regular function of the businesses. Political unrest kills not only valuable time, but also minimises security of the businesses. That's why any business requires a stable political situation in the country to move forward.
FE: How can the elevated expressway, Chattogram Ring Road, Ctg-Cox's Bazar railway line and also the Bangabandhu tunnel change the communication or improve the trade and commerce environment?
SJ Rahat: Time is a very important factor for business, and all these pieces of infrastructures are going to make our communication faster. These developments will also reduce our cost of transportation around the Chattogram division. Improved road and rail connectivity will attract more local and foreign investors to establish their businesses in Chattogram. I think this improved connectivity will boost the total economy of Chattogram and in the near future Chattogram is going to dominate the trade scene of not only Bangladesh but also the whole Southeast Asian region. Even Chattogram has the potential to be the gateway for global business.
FE: What is, you think, the main problem of Chattogram?
SJ Rahat: Chattogram is blessed with a beautiful natural and geographical location. For this reason, Chattogram was declared as the commercial capital of Bangladesh, but we are yet to use its full potential. Improved connectivity and the port facility are opening the door for industrialisation and economic development. I think all these advantages are remaining untapped due to a bureaucratic system and corruption. Most of the government offices and agencies relating to business are operated from the capital, which sometimes causes long delays, higher costs, and uncountable torment for the businesses in Chattogram. Uninterrupted power, gas, and water supplies are required for businesses to run consistently. It still tops the chart of our demand in Chattogram.
FE: Is the increase of the dollar rate hampering business here in Bangladesh? If 'yes', how can we control it?
SJ Rahat: Of course, the dollar rate is hampering business here. Our import and export payments are mostly done in US dollars and a stable dollar rate is very much important for any business in Bangladesh.
To control the increase of the dollar rate the government needs to be strict on prevention of money laundering. We need to build an export-based economy to prevent the fall in our national forex reserve. A proper market-based dollar rate should be identified and we need to control the manipulation of the market. We need to seek more foreign direct investment (FDI) in all business sectors. Foreign remittances should be encouraged by offering various incentives and rewards.
FE: Presently what problem are you facing with your trade and commerce?
SJ Rahat: As our business is extremely dependent on imported raw materials, the dollar crisis is affecting us directly. Opening letters of credit (L/Cs) has now become more difficult than any other time and it is hampering our regular supply chain and production. Political unrest is becoming another concern for us in running our business uninterruptedly. Availability of energy consistently is very important which we need to ensure. Our policy needs to be business-friendly, because the current policy sometimes comes as an obstacle to opening and running a business.
FE: How will the deep-sea port of the CPA make Chattogram a hub of the region?
SJ Rahat: In Bangladesh we have a huge coastline along the Bay of Bengal, but unfortunately, no big mother vessel can enter directly our coast because of the lack of a proper deep-sea port facility. Most of the mother vessels heading to Bangladesh use deep-sea ports of our neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, or India. A deep-sea port is a must for Bangladesh now to facilitate our growing exports and imports. Our geographical location places it in a vital position to be a hub of the region, if we can open our deep-sea port. We have landlocked countries around us including Nepal, Bhutan, the northeastern region of Myanmar and China, and the seven-sister states of India. These surrounding countries and areas require a nearby deep-sea port for their trade and business, and Chattogram is the best option for them. If we can ensure the deep-sea port facility with proper connectivity with those areas, nothing can stop us to be the business hub of this region.
FE: How can the government help businesses and industries?
SJ Rahat: The government can help businesses and industries by ensuring the infrastructure needed for it, making the policy easy for businesses, and minimizing corruption and bureaucratic complications. Interest rate, tax rate, and other fees for running a business in Bangladesh should be reasonable. The government needs to ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to run any industry. To encourage businesses and industries the government can declare incentives and rewards, and special benefits for the exporters.
FE: How will economic zones help industrialisation here in Bangladesh?
SJ Rahat: Economic zones are aiding industrialization and they are making land available with proper water and energy supplies, connectivity and other one-stop services like permission, licensing, tax benefit, etc. I hope very soon all the economic zones, once commissioned, will play a vital role in spurring our economy.
FE: If you have any suggestions for the future generations and policy makers about how to increase trade and business, please mention.
SJ Rahat: Considering the importance and potential growth of Bangladesh's economy the following suggestions I can mention:
a) Easier business policy should be introduced for new entrepreneurs.
b) Regular incentives and rewards should be declared for diversified businesses.
c) New business ideas should be encouraged and facilitated to grow.
d) Massive road, railway and waterway connectivity and proper port facility should be established.
e) Mandatory power, gas, oil and water supplies should be confirmed.
f) Interest rate, tax rate and forex exchange rate should be monitored properly to facilitate business.
g) Bureaucratic complications and corruption should come down to zero.
h) Export should be prioritised to boost the economy.
i) We need to think global and we have to build a number of global companies in Bangladesh to become a developed country.
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