IFC to invest $5b in Bangladesh in 5 years

The International Finance Corporation will invest $1 billion annually over the next five years under the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund (BICF) programme.

“We are committed to supporting Bangladesh’s continued sustainable development and hope to be able to invest $1 billion each year over the next five years,” said Martin Holtmann, country manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, at the World Bank Group’s private sector lending arm.

He was addressing a programme styled “Investment climate reform in Bangladesh — findings from the end-term evaluation of BICF programme”, which was jointly organised by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida), the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the IFC at the intercontinental Dhaka yesterday.

Referring to the IFC’s country diagnostics report, Holtmann said policy reform can unlock $2.6 billion in potential investment from the IFC in Bangladesh by 2026.

The BICF programme is supporting reforms to help the private sector grow.

“The BICF programme has been important not only for this country but also for the IFC as it’s the largest single-country advisory programme for private sector development to date at the IFC,” Holtmann said.

The IFC supported the enactment of the economic zones policy and regulatory framework and helped establish the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza).

It piloted environmental and social programmes with the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) and the lessons learned have been incorporated into the Beza’s environmental compliance standards.

The BICF programme pioneered in supporting ICT-led reforms in government-to-business services through the automation of company registration, the introduction of online tax registration and regulatory framework for e-payment.

The programme also initiated the automation of investor service at the Bida and helped establish Business Initiative Leading Development, a public-private dialogue platform, according to Holtmann.

The second phase of the programme has focused on three core areas: improving the investment climate, thus improving Bangladesh’s investment competitiveness; facilitating private investment in industrial infrastructure such as economic zones and logistics; and diversifying exports beyond readymade garments.

The IFC helped establish the award-winning One Stop Service (OSS) of the Bida, which has reduced the time taken to register a business and deepened reforms in established institutions to improve the investment climate.

OSS is an end-to-end automated system and is currently providing 58 services of 18 agencies. It has significantly improved the government’s efficiency in delivering services to businesses.

In order to attract investments, the programme addressed a critical challenge faced by the private sector – the unavailability of serviced industrial land – together with a World Bank lending programme.

According to Holtmann, 13 private economic zones received investment proposals worth $4.3 billion.

“Moreover, technical support from us through the development of master plans, feasibility studies and investment promotion strategy helped five government-owned economic zones receive investment proposals worth more than $22 billion for 177 projects. The numbers speak for themselves.”

Lokman Hossain Miah, executive chairman of the Bida, Selma Rasavac, manager for regional advisory services at the IFC, Robert Chatterton Dickson, British high commissioner to Bangladesh, Mohsina Yasmin, executive member for international investment promotion at the Bida, Duncan Overfield, deputy development director of the FCDO in Bangladesh, also spoke at the event.