Bangladesh ranked poorly in the latest iterations of Ease of Doing Business and Corruption Perception indices, indicating that the country possesses a difficult environment for foreign private investors, said British High Commissioner in Dhaka Robert Chatterton Dickson.
But despite the difficulties, Bangladesh has many success stories such as Pathao and Food Panda – which began through private investments in the IT sector, he added while speaking at a webinar organised by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) on Sunday.
Addressing the event titled "Bangladesh-UK Trade and Investment Cooperation: Service Sector Perspective" as chief guest, Dickson continued, "Foreign investors have fantastic opportunities in this country, if it improves in the ease of doing business and corruption indices.
"The British High Commission will facilitate British venture capitalists looking at financial opportunities for the startups in Bangladesh."
In the most recent iteration of World Bank's Ease of Doing Business index, Bangladesh ranked near the bottom – 168th out of 190 nations. Meanwhile, the country ranked 146th among 180 nations in the latest Corruption Perception Index, published by the Transparency International.
Moderating the programme, DCCI President Rizwan Rahman said, "Bangladesh has had a bilateral business relationship with the UK since our independence. At the end of FY21, bilateral trade value between the two countries stood at $4.2 billion.
"During that period, Bangladesh's export value was $3.75 billion, which was 8.36% higher than the previous year. Foreign direct investment inflow from the UK was $2.75 billion in FY20, while the service sector received 6.5% of total investment from that country."
He added that Bangladesh's service sector, such as IT-based businesses, have a huge potential as the government launched several facility and infrastructure projects across the country. "UK-based investors may invest in this sector to grab the opportunity."
President of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) Syed Almas Kabir said, "The IT sector is enjoying 100% tax exemption and receiving 10% incentive for exporting goods.
"The sector also gets one stop service from the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA). Bangladesh also has 29 Hi-Tech Parks, which are export-oriented. Foreign investors have no obstacles for investing here in the form of joint ventures with other local entities or by forming a company.
He continued, "In the last five years, exports of IT related products and services have jumped by 86% to $1.3 billion. At present, 400 companies are exporting their products to 80 countries, where the major destinations are the markets in the USA, Japan and Europe.
"Thirteen percent of the IT products from Bangladesh are exported to the UK."
Managing Director of the Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority Bikarna Kumar Ghosh said, "Within 2025, consumer electronics market growth will be 6.35% in the country. The government is working on this target.
"Conglomerates such as Samsung, Nokia, Oppo, and Walton have already invested in this sector."
Adding that the government made IT Parks across the country to facilitate private investment, Ghosh said, "The government has already invested Tk1,000 crore and 160 companies invested Tk560 crore. The proposal for an additional Tk460 crore investment is currently in the pipeline."
At the event, Genex Infosys Managing Director Adnan Imam, SBK Tech Venture's founder Sonia Bashir Kabir and others detailed their success stories.