A number of fiscal measures adopted by the government this year appear unsympathetic towards taxpayers and the revenue target is inconsistent with current business realities, said discussants at a Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) web talk series on Saturday.
The government should focus more on external sources instead of burdening local businesses – which are struggling to survive the pandemic shocks – with too much tax, they said.
The session named "Following the Covid-19 Pandemic: Challenges and Opportunities for Entrepreneurship" also called for minimising red-tapism to attract investments.
Citing a recent Goldman Sachs survey where 50 percent of business owners expressed their fear that they cannot continue business operations for more than three months in the challenging context the pandemic has brought about, BMCCI President Raquib Mohammad Fakhrul said, "Our current situation is deeply unsettling."
Entrepreneurs are facing many challenges, which include making sure that the businesses they have put their blood, sweat, and tears into continue to stay afloat. On top of that, many of them have employees that they are trying to protect and reassure—a monumental task while they themselves are struggling with burnout, he said.
Businesses are desperately trying to cope with the challenges posed by a weeks-long shutdown, supply chain disruptions and fallen demand.
Manwar Hossain, group managing director of Anwar Group of Industries and chairman of Bangladesh Steel Manufacturers' Association (BSMA) said his large industrial units are running at a poor capacity and incurring losses because of employee retention and fixed costs.
"The financial losses businesses have already incurred would take six to seven years to make up for and the government should come up with a long-term rescheduling of their loans," said Hossain who moderated the session.
In the question and answer session he responded to points raised by discussants on businesses' challenges, government's responses and the need for attracting far more investments.
"Bangladesh's economic achievements in the last decade surpassed the aggregate of that over the previous four decades. However, the country is responding late to attract foreign investors who have already learned about the strength of local workers, entrepreneurs and the economy. What is needed now is just to see red-tapism reduced," he said.
Amir Farid Dato' Abu Hasan, acting high commissioner of Malaysia in Bangladesh said Bangladeshi workers are talented, his country has a focus on Bangladesh and – if there is sufficient progress – a free trade agreement between the two nations is possible.
BMCCI's past president Syed Moazzam Hossain, Vice President Anwar Shahid, Secretary General Mahbubul Alam, Directors Motaher Hossain Khan and Mahbubul Alam Shah, alongside other BMCCI members, presidents of many leading chambers and associations, bankers and journalists, took part in the programme.