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Experts, businesses moot policy on tech, innovation [ FIRST PAGE ] 06/04/2018
Experts, businesses moot policy on tech, innovation
MCCI demands revising tax structure
Bangladesh needs to formulate a specific policy on technology and innovation as well as to revise the current tax structure to reap available blessings of the \'4th industrial revolution\', businesses and academicians opined on Thursday.

They suggested complete transformation of the country\'s decade-old education system and linking it with the demands of industries as well as using technology to turn data into asset to successfully cope with the challenges in the time of digital revolution.

At the same time, the speakers also emphasised enhancing investment on research and innovation to find out new knowledge-based and technological solutions that will give the much-needed sustainable impetus to national economy in the post-LDC (least developing country) regime.

The demands and suggestions came at a discussion - \'Technology, Innovation and Policy: How to Proceed?\' - organised by Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI) at its conference room.

Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar was present in the programme as the chief guest.

Moderating the event, MCCI President Nihad Kabir said Bangladesh has been ranked 114 out of 127 countries in Global Innovation Index 2017, and the situation needs to be changed.

Talking about the existing tax burden, she said research and development (R&D) activities along with import of technology and knowhow needs to be freed from the shackle of taxation.

About foreign exchange regulations, she said if the royalty payment goes over 6.0 per cent turnover, it will require permission of Bangladesh Bank to remit the amount, which often takes place a year.

"We need policy support to turn Bangladesh into a knowledge-based economy," she said.

Speaking as the special guest, Professor Jamilur Reza Chowdhury said the educational institutions should tie up with the industries for conducting research, and disclose the findings to the research sponsors only, considering their advantage in the competition.

Sharing his experience regarding Kaliakoir High-Tech Park, in whose initial stage he was involved, he said their team, after visiting various such parks in India, suggested the government only to provide land and allow private sector to develop it.

But the government itself developed infrastructure of the technology park (without adequate technical know-how). Subsequently, the park has not yet been operationalised even in 17 years, he said.

"I think, time has come to formulate a technology and innovation policy followed by time-bound action plan," Mr. Chowdhury said.

Former MCCI president and managing director of Apex Footwear Ltd Syed Nasim Manzur termed technology an important tool that could enhance competitiveness of Bangladeshi brands in the global market.

He said technology is not discriminatory, like policy measures in the country. If the government imposes high tax on specialised software for industry, which is not available in the local market, it will not be sustainable for the businesses.

"Why would you (the government) do this? Innovation will not take place by imposing tax burden. What would we do now? It would force us to go abroad for obtaining required service," he added.

Managing Director of Microsoft Bangladesh Ltd Sonia Bashir Kabir said Bangladesh is a large market of 160 million people, but the country is awarding various business opportunities to the foreign companies.

"Why are we not in sourcing? Our weakness is our strength. Data is a new currency and we\'ve 160 million people. We have two advantages - data and young people, who are increasingly embracing new technology. We need to think how we can convert them into business force," she added.

M Anis Ud Dowla, Chairman of ACI Group, said the businesses can identify the areas where they need to conduct more research in order to make further improvement.

"We\'re making investment, required to take the country to an innovative stage. But we don\'t get any recognition for that expenditure, as it is not directly related to production. So, the taxation method has to be changed."

"We should be allowed to show R&D investment in our operational expenses, and I think the government should provide matching fund (for R&D) to encourage us," he added.

Mustafa Jabbar, in his speech, opined that the country\'s existing education system is still in the stage of the first industrial revolution, which has to be changed drastically to match with the demand of the present time.

He also said the developed countries adopt technology from others, and develop those in line with their own purposes by making some modifications.

"I hope we will be able to export various digital devices within two years after meeting our local demands."

About the intellectual property (IP), he said the importance of IP has not yet been realised in the country.

"Even in the country\'s banking system, there is no machine to evaluate IP. We need to bring a change here. We, at the same time, need to create an ecosystem for our young generation for facilitating innovation."

Managing Director of ACI Ltd Arif Dowla, Policy Adviser of a2i Programme under PMO (Prime Minister\'s Office) Anir Chowdhury, MCCI Committee Member Habibullah N Karim, and North South University Professor M Rokonuzzaman, among others, also spoke on the occasion.
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