Bangladesh set to become middle-income country-Says former FICCI president

Bangladesh will become a middle income country by 2021 provided public and private investments increased, good governance ensured, existing infrastructure and energy supply improved, corruption reduced, development of human resources, updating the old law and long term appropriate policy for investments need to be implemented. Syed Ershad Ahmed, chief executive officer of a leading multinational company operating in Bangladesh for last 20 years, expressed this view while talking to The News Today to share his views on the incoming budget recently. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a political commitment to the national of making Bangladesh into the middle-income country by 2021. During the period of the present government, Bangladesh has become a lower middle income country, according to a World Bank report. He said implementation of ADP projects, tax collection, improving energy supply and infrastructure, ensuring good governance, development of human resource and updating the old laws to become competitive in the global market are major challenges to the country. Syed Ershad Ahmed said tax net of Bangladesh should be increased to boost revenue collection and attain higher income growth. He said the present number of income taxpayers is only 11 lakh that should be at least 40 lakh in the Dhaka city only. He expressed surprise that the number of tax payers in Bangladesh is even less than one of the total population, 160 million. Syed Ershad Ahmed, also former president of American Chamber of Commerce, and Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), also expressed views that National Board of Revenue (NBR) in collaboration with Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation should conduct a survey on the posh areas of the city like Dhanmondi, Lalmatia, Banani, Gulshan, Baridhara, Basundhara, Uttara, Basundhara DOHS, Mohakhali DOHS and Mohammadpur to find new tax payers. He suggested that NBR should be digitalized and capacity and skill of the taxmen should be increased with a view to increasing revenue collection. To increase revenue collection, he also expressed views that NBR can accept income tax up to taka 60,000 per year without questions to explore new tax payers. Further, NBR can motivate the people by providing a certificate as bona-fide citizens those will pay more than one lakh annual tax. Poor infrastructure, shortage in energy supply, prompt decision making capacity, corruption, harassment at government offices, lack of good governance stand in the way of luring foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh. Bangladesh attracted some 2 billion US dollars in 2015, according to available sources. He said after successfully holding parliament election in Myanmar, western countries are now showing deep interest in investing in Myanmar that already attracted 8.00 billion US dollars. He demanded relaxation of Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1947 should relaxed to encourage FDI, discourage Hundi, ease overseas travelling and expedite export and import. He views that a traveler should be allowed to bear 10,000 US dollars every time before his or her visit. Laying emphasis on improving higher education, Ershad Ahmed the education system should designed to cater to job market. Ershad said understand from different source that a large number of foreigners are working in Bangladesh who are taking away significant amount of money out of the country. He also expressed views University Grants Commission (UGC) should monitor the quality of imparting teaching the country has witnessed mushroom growth of universities in Bangladesh with poor teaching capacity, classroom and sub-standard environment. He said new industries are not getting connection of gas while load of the existing pipeline is not increased. The tax collection of the NBR during the July-March period of the current fiscal year 2015-16 stood at 105,432 crore as against target of 120,578 crore taka , showing shortfall of 15,146 crore taka. However, the revenue collection was taka 90,959 crore taka during the July-March period of the previous 2014-15. On higher ADP implementation in country, he said regular monitoring and midterm evaluation can improve the situation. He said the government should put stress on nursing and medical technology in a bid to improve heath services in Bangladesh, adding that country lacks qualified nurses and medical technologists. He also expressed views that nurses and technologists should have better understanding on English and Arabic languages that will also help them in middle and other countries. Expressing concern at high level of classified loans and poor governance at the public banks, the former FICCI president said public banks should be privatized to improve health of the banking sector. Ershad also views that state-owned industries should be privatized to reduce burden on the state exchequer. To a question of coming out of 6.00-6.50 per cent growth trap, he said the economy of Bangladesh can attain 7.00-7.5 per cent growth provided rate of ADP implementation increased, revenue collection boosted, good governance ensured and public and private investment raised. The economy of Bangladesh has been growing at 6.00-6.50 per cent over the 10 -15 years. Expressing concern at high level of classified loans at the public banks, the former FICCI president said public banks should be privatized to improve the health of the banking sector. He also views that state-owned industries should be privatized to reduce burden on the state exchequer. On interest rate, he said that spread between deposit and borrowing rates should be 2-3 per cent. Poor governance, lack of skilled and efficient manpower, rampant corruption and lack of timely decision have made SOEs losing concern. On recession in real estate sector and high property price in the Dhaka city, Ershad said that the property price should be lowered by 50 per cent from the present level. Citing example of the state-owned Bangladesh Biman, he argued that the organization can be made profitable through improving management system. Political interference, lack of skilled and efficient manpower, rampant corruption and lack of timely decision have made SOEs losing concern. He said during 2007-08 period, Biman made profit in ground handling. On law and order situation in the country, he said higher training, updated technology and proper incentives should be given to the members of law enforcing agencies. He suggested facilities for the law enforcing agencies should be increased at the lower that will help increase devotion. He also viewed that decentralization process should be geared up to ease pressure on major cities like Dhaka and Chittagong.