The Government of Bangladesh in a big forward leap has promulgated the One Stop Service Act 2018(“OSS” hereinafter) in order to make it easy for investors to setup and start running businesses in Bangladesh.
What is one stop service :
According to the definition of One Stop Service in Section 2 (2) of the Act, some 37-38 services are listed in the Schedule-B of the said act. The services are to be provided by Central or Regional OSS centres. The law further provides that there are four recognised bodies that shall be able to provide the services defined in the act as one stop services.
Who provides it :
The Central or Regional one stop services centres provide the service. According to the definition of Central One Stop Service Centre there are four organisations that qualify to provide all the OSS services listed in the Schedule- B. The four organisations are : Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA); Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA); Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA); and Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority.
Each of the Central and Regional OSS shall have a designated officer responsible for the OSS. The law calls this individual the ‘focal point’.
At least two OSS centres have been established already; one at BIDA and the other at BEZA.
Central and Regional OSS :
The Central OSS consists of four organisations mentioned above. The Regional OSS are those that shall be established under the aegis of the four organisations around Bangladesh mostly at strategic locations and only where the four organisations already have their offices. For example BEZA may have its offices across Bangladesh where it has its economic zones. The Four organisations shall propose to the government for the establishment of a Regional OSS which the government shall do after consideration of the proposal through a published official gazette.
Standard Operating Procedures :
Under the OSS Act 2018 the Government has further issued a set of Rules titled : One Stop Service (Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority) Rules 2018. These rules shall be applicable to applications to BEZA and for investors who are investing in any of the many economic zones that Bangladesh Government has established and those that BEZA has permitted to operate in the private sector.
The Rules provide that any services under the OSS shall be provided as per the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Section 9 of the Rules very categorically provides that the Focal Point shall only follow the SOPs and must complete tasks and provide services within the time frame mandated by the rules and as contained in the schedule with respect to each service.
This is a huge step forward in the right direction. This will ensure systematic handling of application, with minimal human intervention or discretion and most importantly permits, clearances and the like shall be made available to he investor in a timely manner. This will significantly impact the ease of doing business index and push Bangladesh above its peers and will act a great reprieve for investors.
Apart from BEZA other organisations shall also have SOPs in order to eliminate any human discretion along the way, that is key to achieving the environment required to attract foreign investment.
Establishment of an Online Portal for OSS :
The Rules provide that an OSS portal shall have to be made in due time by BEZA in order to facilitate automation. Once the website has been established, any investor would be able to apply for the listed services through the portal and on submission of relevant documents directly on to the OSS portal. However BIDA already has an online portal that is in operation.
Applying for OSS:
Investors have to apply to any one of the Central OSS in order to seek the OSS as per Section 6 of the act. The application will be considered in a committee meeting and thereafter if approved, OSS has to be provided in a timely manner. The law further provides that except for Central and Regional OSS the investor need not apply to any other department for the all the permits, licences, clearances and like service.
The law provides an entire mechanism of overseeing the system of OSS. A committee is mandated under the law, headed by the Minister. The Central and Regional OSS are under an obligation to provide quarterly reports on progress.
Section 9 further provides that any Focal Point (authorised person) who fails to provide any service in a time bound manner shall be referred back to the organisation he is employed under. According to the particular organisations rules prompt action shall be taken against that official.
Prior to this act each of the four organisations were only providing liaison services between the many various government departments that are responsible in issuing permits, licences and clearances for an international investor. This law brings in a paradigm shift in the manner in which business looking to enter Bangladesh will be able to in a time bound manner and with an element of foreseeability to initiate business in Bangladesh with ease and by seeking out to only one of the four organisations be it Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA), Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) or Bangladesh Hi Tech Part Authority (BHPA). This will push Bangladesh in the ease of doing business ranking as well.