Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday said it was a shame for the country after it lagged behind war-torn Afghanistan in the latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business index.
“It is a matter of shame that Afghan is much ahead of us,” he told reporters at his secretariat office.
Bangladesh ranked 176th out of 190 countries in the index this year, the lowest ranking for a South Asian nation, as per the Washington-based multilateral lender's report published on Wednesday.
Last year, among the eight South Asian countries, Bangladesh was only ahead of Afghanistan. But this year, Afghanistan came in at 167th in contrast to 183rd last year.
“Our bureaucracy is very powerful; this is the problem,” said Muhith, adding that there has not been any change in the bureaucracy.
Those attempting to do business in the private sector also have problems for they at the outset assume that a sizeable amount of money and time has to be spent behind official processes, he said.
Moreover, after getting credit, they do not want to repay the money, he said, adding the problems lie on both sides.
The minister, however, expressed hope that the business environment would improve in the future as the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority has recently taken a good number of steps.
In a statement yesterday, the WB said economies in South Asia region made further gains to improve the ease of doing business for domestic small and medium enterprises.
A total of 19 business reforms were carried out in the region during the past year, the second highest ever, compared with the previous year's revised record of 21 reforms.
The WB said, in a first for South Asia, two of the region's economies, India and Afghanistan, earned coveted spots in this year's global top improvers.
India is now the region's top-ranked economy and a top improver for a second consecutive year, implementing six reforms in the past year and advancing to 77th place in the global ranking. Afghanistan, a top improver for the first time, carried out a record five reforms, the WB said.
The WB said Bangladesh continued to invest in the electricity grid over the past 12 months. Since 2015, Bangladesh has increased the network capacity in Chittagong and Dhaka.
As a result, the distribution utilities in both cities are now able to accommodate more connection requests, reducing the time required for businesses to obtain a new electricity connection, from more than 400 days in 2014 to less than 150 days in 2018.
The statement said the marginal change in position indicates that while Bangladesh has taken some initiatives to make doing business easier, the pace of reforms needs to be accelerated significantly. The WB said Afghanistan enacted a new insolvency law, which strengthened access to credit and made resolving insolvency easier.
Protections for minority investors were strengthened by increasing shareholders' rights and role in major corporate decisions, clarifying ownership and control structures and requiring greater corporate transparency. Afghanistan also made it easier to pay taxes and start a business.