Stronger private sector critical for Bangladesh to realize its economic potential: IFC report

Publish: 8:10 PM, June 23, 2021 | Update: 8:10:PM, June 23, 2021

DHAKA,  – Bangladesh needs to embark on a new round of reforms to strengthen and modernize the private sector in a bid to unleash the country’s potential to drive diversified, export-led growth and create jobs, according to a new World Bank Group report.

The Bangladesh Country Private Sector Diagnostic (CPSD) report, prepared by IFC and the World Bank, said while Bangladesh has been one of the biggest development success stories in recent decades, it’s now time to switch gears to meet ambitions to transform into an upper middle-income country in the next decade.

The report titled “Unleashing the Private Sector to Sustain Development Success” was launched virtually today.

Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman,

Alfonso Garcia Mora, IFC’s Vice President for Asia and Pacific, IFC and Yulia Mironova, IFC’s Regional Economist and CPSD co-author, South Asia spoke on the occasion.

Md. Tofazzel Hossain Miah, Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Mamun Rashid, Managing Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers Bangladesh Private Limited and Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, Chairman & CEO, PRAN-RFL Group spoke as panel discussants.

“Bangladesh had a positive GDP growth rate last year despite the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and it was the only country in South Asia which did not experience a recession. We have prepared the Eighth Five Year Plan keeping all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in mind,” said Salman F Rahman, Private Sector Industry and Investment Adviser to the Prime Minister today.

“The CPSD recommendations are well aligned with the priorities of the government’s Eighth Five Year plan for setting a trajectory towards a prosperous Bangladesh by 2041,” he added.

Mentioning that the government has been putting due emphasis to flourish further the private sector, Salman said that the tax structure alongside other policy areas are being simplified so that the private sector could expand further in a speedy manner.

The PM’s Adviser also informed that foreign exchange policy is being moderated to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI).

Apart from RMG, Salman said other exportable items are now getting due attention of the government while efforts are on to add new exportable items.

“The pandemic has hit Bangladesh hard and as the country recovers from COVID-19, the need for reforms will become even more compelling. Finding new sources of income and growth will be an urgent priority,” said Alfonso Garcia Mora, IFC’s Vice President Asia and Pacific.

“The private sector, which already accounts for more than 70 percent of all investment in Bangladesh, supported by a strong financial sector, will need to play an important role in spurring the recovery so the country can grow, export and create quality jobs,” added the IFC Vice President.

PMO Secretary Md Tofazzel Hossain Miah said the government is working sincerely to flourish further the private sector.

The report said the successful development of the ready-made garment (RMG) sector, which alone created more than 4 million jobs, along with the strong inflow of remittances, supported by prudent government policy choices, have been the key growth engines of Bangladesh’s strong and resilient growth, even during the pandemic outbreak.

“As the world’s second largest exporter, readymade garments have contributed significantly to Bangladesh’s economic growth. For a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth, Bangladesh will need to diversify its export basket and develop a robust and sophisticated private sector, relevant in the post–COVID-19 recovery phase when public resources will be needed most in the social sectors,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank’s Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.

The report said key priority areas for the reform agenda include creating a favorable trade and investment environment for domestic and foreign investors, modernizing and expanding the financial sector and removing impediments for developing infrastructure.

Transport and logistics, energy, financial services, light manufacturing, agribusiness, healthcare and pharmaceuticals sectors are among those with the strongest potential for private investment that could play a significant role in boosting economic growth.

“It’s clear the private sector has an important role to play to meet the rising demand for quality healthcare and improving the efficiency of delivering health services, as health financing in the country is low compared to others at a similar level of development,” said Wendy Werner, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal.

“Bangladesh could also target high-end markets and introduce new technology in the ready-made garment sector, and seize opportunities in footwear, leather electrical goods, and agribusiness exports.” added Werner.

The government of Bangladesh’s Perspective Plan 2021–41 sets the objective of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2031, along with full employment and the elimination of extreme poverty.

The private sector is responsible for 90 percent of jobs in the developing world. It is therefore critical to boost development of a broad-based private sector.

The findings of the report will be used to craft IFC’s strategic inputs for the World Bank Group’s (WBG) new Country Partnership Framework with the government of Bangladesh, paving the way for joint programming to create markets and unlock private sector potential.