Investment Policy Review of Bangladesh unveiled and efforts to improve infrastructure recommended

26 March 2013

An UNCTAD Investment Policy Review (IPR) for Bangladesh that recommends improvements to infrastructure and the adoption of a modern law on investment has been presented to government officials.

Dilip Barua, the country's Minister of Industries, said that the Government will incorporate the review's recommendations in its future policymaking.

"The final report on the Investment Policy Review of Bangladesh will be an effective tool for sustainable development through attracting more foreign direct investments. It will certainly help us in bringing about necessary reforms and changes to our existing rules, laws and regulations in line with the demands of the time," the Minister said.

Kalman Kalotay, the UNCTAD expert who introduced the report, said that the IPR's intent is to help Bangladesh attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) that is in line with its development objectives. The IPR gives special attention to the formulation of an investment strategy to attract FDI to infrastructure via public-private partnerships.

The presentation of the report was followed by an in-depth discussion of regulatory reforms and the role that FDI can play in infrastructure.

The IPR also recommends that Bangladesh consolidate sectoral regulations affecting investment into a modern investment law, give a strengthened client-oriented focus to the national investment promotion agency, reform taxation, ease access to land, and take steps to improve the skills of its labour force, among other issues.

The review identifies a number of areas where regulatory and administrative reforms are needed to enhance the country's competitiveness and increase its investment attractiveness. It also notes that the pharmaceutical industry has been selected as a case study on how FDI could contribute to increasing the ability of the national economy to produce goods of greater complexity and value. Bangladesh has become a leading manufacturer of low-cost generic drugs, but the IPR says that in order to become a major exporter and developer of more advanced drugs, the country needs to upgrade its productive capacities in an environment of greater exposure to international competition and collaboration with foreign enterprises. Among the possibilities for achieving that goal are joint ventures with foreign firms, the study says.

Bangladesh has already achieved progress in infrastructure development through public-private partnerships (PPPs) in electricity generation, the IPR notes. It says that the country should continue to explore this approach to enhancing infrastructure. Given the strong socio-economic returns and heavy traffic volumes of the country's rapidly growing economy, attempts should be made to use PPPs for greater development of roads and bridges, it says. Although a PPP policy for ports is still being set up, UNCTAD sees possibilities there for using global specialists to help with the development of new ports.

UNCTAD has now carried out more than 35 IPRs at the request of developing-country governments. The IPR for Bangladesh is the first step in a programme of technical assistance being developed by UNCTAD to help the country use FDI in ways that contribute to inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. The organization will provide additional support to the country in its efforts to implement the recommendations of the IPR.