First BIDA Executive Chairman Kazi Aminul Islam, who oversees massive reforms, retires

  • Senior Correspondent
    Published: 2019-09-03 21:01:12 BdST

Kazi M Aminul Islam, the outgoing executive chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, speaks at a news conference at his office in Dhaka on Tuesday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

It was extraordinary when top bureaucrats of different ministries sat outside Dhaka in a resort in the north-east Habiganj district in Jan 2017 and discussed how to make Bangladesh investment-friendly.

Kazi M Aminul Islam, the man who gathered them, retired on Tuesday ending his three-year stint as the first Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA).

When he took charge on Sept 4, 2016 of the state entity which was formed through the merger of the Privatisation Commission and the Board of Investment on Aug 31, 2016, there had been little talk on the ‘ease of doing’ business at the policy level.

The World Bank had placed Bangladesh in the 176th position among 190 countries in their doing business report 2017.

Investors used to face tardy process in starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across borders, and so on.

He made the secretaries to all relevant ministries promise to ease the process.

Now, after three years, the time to start a business has reduced to 44 percent, and costs down 60 percent.

The time to get construction permit was reduced to 73 percent while costs cut to 89 percent. Getting electricity is much easier now than before with the 28 percent reduction of time and 22 percent costs.

Bangladesh witnessed record foreign direct investments in its history last year with 68 percent growth when globally it fell 13 percent.

The ‘ease of doing’ business is now a buzzword in the media.

“I can say we have been able to create awareness about investments among the general people. And also we could earn policy commitment,” Kazi Aminul said at his farewell media call on Tuesday.

One-stop service is also launched in BIDA. In the next one year, 128 services of 30 agencies will be included in that service.

“Our guiding principle was the election manifesto of the prime minister that stresses investments using the youth power,” he said, adding that the prime minister had brought investment issue to the forefront. “It’s one of her top 10 priority agendas,” added the BIDA boss.

One of the innovative ways of encouraging youths to be an entrepreneur was his campaign across Bangladesh.

At least 24,000 new entrepreneurs will receive month-long extensive training to become an entrepreneur under the Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Project or ESDP.

It is an initiative to implement the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s special drive to make Bangladesh a nation of entrepreneurs and innovation, said Kazi Aminul, who was a former secretary to the prime minister and a former alternate executive director to The World Bank Group before joining BIDA.

“We’ll need entrepreneurs who will create jobs.” He said the campaign is aimed at bringing out potential entrepreneurs for fostering investments and generating jobs.

As the government wants to diversify the export basket, he gave a slogan of ‘one village, one product’.

“We want to make our economy diverse. Each village should have one product to sell in the market.” With that in mind, he said, they had expanded the BIDA offices across Bangladesh.

“Now you will see investment service centre in each district.”

He also sent a draft of the first-ever automobile policy to the commerce ministry as leading car makers showed interest in investing in Bangladesh.

The biggest-ever merger and acquisition also took place during his time with Japan tobacco’s investment.

The number of foreign projects has risen to 23 percent after BIDA came into being, compared with the preceding six years from 2009 to 2016. Investments have increased 131 percent and employment 46 percent.

Foreign and joint investments have gone up by 389 percent from the 2009-2016 period.

“The big challenge was to merge the two separate entities,” he said, as BIDA was formed merging two different bodies of the government with different types of work and staffing.

“Now it’s (the challenge) over. We have already made a ‘corporate plan’ to make BIDA an international-standard institution,” Kazi Aminul said.

BIDA would now be able to recruit competent manpower from the private sector also, according to him.

“Our focus was to make plans in a way so that one day Bangladesh will become a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators. And our youths have that potential,” he said, adding that the future will be “knowledge-based and technology-based”.

“We want to be a tech-nation. And for that we need to nurture our youths,” the BIDA chief advised.