According to a report published in this paper on Saturday the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) has taken steps to increase the number of its online services to 19 from its One Stop Service (OSS) Centre for investors within this month. The new services are providing Clearance and Certificate of Incorporation from the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms, Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the National Board of Revenue and Building Occupancy Certificate. Although the forthcoming expansion of services has a laudable ring, still it comprises only 15 per cent of the 125 types of services the OSS is envisaged to offer to investors. It does not sound adequate after years of working in the field. Also, if seen vis-à-vis the various steps that the government has taken in the field of digitisation, BEZA's latest initiative appears to be fringe-touching. Knowing that the government has always been forthcoming and positive about things that help in digitisation, BEZA could have been more forthcoming in benefiting from technology. Anything that ushers in more online service has been welcome both by the government and the public at large. Only last Sunday, the Finance Minister Mr AHM Mustafa Kamal declared that the government would facilitate foreign ICT companies in establishing manufacturing units in the country, a big stride in the offing to be sure. The Bangladesh Bank has also come up with steps in the very recent past that should enthuse the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services in its work.
Apart from the ICT ministry concerned, every ministry has its digitisation plank that is meant to usher in more online services. However, there is another side to the scenario. People with long experience in service of the government tend to point to a certain bureaucratic lethargy and sluggishness on the part of a section of officials in their approach to and handling of the digitisation process. If that is to be taken seriously as it should be, the problem seems to lie inside the BEZA and not outside it. If a part of the officialdom fails to go along with the declared policies of the upper echelons of the government, no wonder meagre results will surface. Consequently BEZA's main purpose might be fulfilled only in truncated forms.
BEZA is no ordinary part of the government; it is indeed a very crucial organ responsible for drawing in FDIs. In the recent past special attention has been given to it by the government -- its leadership has also been upgraded. Foreign development partners like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have been helping it to gather momentum. While every part of the government needs a fast and smooth working condition based on the latest technology like ICT, the need is more urgent for BEZA where crucial number of jobs and amounts of earning are involved. If indeed more attention has been given to BEZA recently, it is time for it to start delivering results. The OSS of BEZA must increase the number of its online services to the maximum possible extent beyond the paltry 15 per cent and that too in terms of actual delivery of services, and not rest content with paper-bound existence.
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