Economists from home and abroad at a conference in Dhaka listed Saturday political instability, underdeveloped infrastructure, corruption and poorly educated workforce as major concerns in doing business in Bangladesh.
They spoke of urgency for addressing these issues to advance the potential economy, unlocking it from the 6.0 per cent growth cycle.
To switch over to a status of a Middle Income Country (MIC) by the year 2021, the country needs to remove the obstacles with appropriate social and economic policies alongside continued investment in human capital, including education and public health.
Former caretaker government adviser Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, who attended the programme as a panel discussant, said political uncertainty is a major reason behind private investment having stagnated.
"After a series of political turmoil, political stability retuned to the country. But the stability is still accompanied by some sort of political uncertainty," said the former adviser.
And this hangover of uncertainty drives away the investors, he told the cutting-edge function arranged by SANEM (South Asian Network on Economic Modeling) at the BRAC Centre In.
"The political stability that prevails in the country is not inclusive," said the economist, adding: "Investors still keep their money under the pillow."
He, however, acknowledged the country's resilient economic growth and macroeconomic stability, but, at the same time, questioned the growth rate that appears to have been stuck at 6.0 per cent. It's also a sort of stagnancy, he said.
Resilience of the country's economy is proved, said Rahman, but acceleration of growth rate from the present rate of 6.0 per cent is currently a major challenge for the country's economy.
Prof Mushtaq Khan of SOAS, University of London, presented a paper on 'Governance Challenges for Inclusive Growth' where he identified governance as an important constraint on resource mobilisation in developing countries, like Bangladesh.
"Domestic resource mobilisation is constrained by institutional weaknesses and political weaknesses," said the professor, stressing the need for more rule-based social systems.
Eminent economist Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud also highlighted the urgency of concentrating more on developing human resources as the foreign nationals employed in the country remit as much as US$ 5.0 billion every year.
"The country fails to take advantage of its demographic dividend because of serious shortage of skilled workforce, which emerged as a major constraint to realisation of the country's true growth potential," said Prof Mahmud, also a former caretaker government adviser.
He stressed the need for more investments in education and health to ensure a healthy, skilled and productive workforce.
The economist noted that Bangladesh is going through a demographic transition and urged all to develop and utilise the dividend successfully as the benefit will not exist for long.
Terming garments, export of manpower and small enterprises as three drivers of growth, he said growth potential in all the areas--both in terms of productivity and production of high-end products--might be increased several times if the workers are skilled.
"Workers' productivity in RMG can be increased substantially if there is a little training. But they are not being trained rather encouraged for overtime," said the Economics professor.
He told the conference that, at present, about 20,000 foreign nationals, mainly from India and Sri Lanka, work in Bangladesh's RMG sector in various managerial posts, ranging from mid-level management to top executives.
A non-profit research organisation, SANEM organised the SANEM Annual Economists' Conference 2016. A large audience consisting of economists, researchers and academics from home and abroad attended the meet.
About 20 keynote papers on various economic and development issues were presented at the seminar split into seven sessions. Noted economists, academics and professors from various universalities at home and abroad presented the keynotes.
The inaugural session was addressed, among others, by DFID senior economic adviser Dr Stuart Davies, Christian Tardif from Canadian High Commission and SANEM Executive Director Dr. Selim Raihan. SANEM Chairman Dr. Bazlul Haque Khondker presided over the meeting while World Bank South Asian Chief Economist Martin Rama attended it through videoconferencing.
PRI Vice Chairman Dr Sadiq Ahmed presided over the first breakout session on Economic Growth while Bangladesh Bank Chief Economist Dr. Biru Paksha Paul was the chief guest.
Four papers were presented at the first working session. The papers are: 'Governance Challenges for Inclusive Growth', by Prof. Mushtaq Khan of the University of London, 'Relationship between Inflation and Economic Growth: Determining the Threshold Level of Inflation in Bangladesh', by Mr. Bishnu Pada Biswas of Bangladesh Bank, 'Consequence of Interactive Effect of Exchange Rate Volatility and Trade on GDP Growth', by Mr. S.M. Abdullah of DU and 'Economic Growth Forecast in 2021' presented by Mr. Md. Abdul Khaleque of DU.