Bangladesh needs to reform the Arbitration Act to improve the ease of doing business and attract more foreign direct investment (FDI), representatives from the business community, and legal experts said at a seminar yesterday.
They also stressed the need for a stable business environment with an efficient dispute resolution system for attracting FDI into the country.
Speaking at the event – “Revisiting Arbitration Act for Promoting FDI in Bangladesh” organised by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) at its Auditorium – as chief guest, Law Minister Anisul Huq said alternative dispute resolution mechanisms could provide faster access to justice.
“The Arbitration Act 2001 may be revised,” he said and urged the business community to use ADR.
He added that the government was committed to making business-friendly rules and regulations.
British High Commissioner in Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson, who attended the seminar as a special guest, praised Bangladesh’s progress over the past two decades and highlighted the need for reforms of the Arbitration Act to improve the ease of doing business and attract more FDI overcoming the challenges the country will face after graduation from the LDC status in 2026.
He emphasised that foreign investors need investment protection and faster dispute resolution processes and that reforms of commercial laws, as seen in India, could be a good example for Bangladesh to follow.
Enforcement of contracts remained the key challenge in improving the business climate in Bangladesh, he said, adding that once the country will work closely with international investors, regulatory and policy reforms with systematic improvement need to continue on this business climate improvement trajectory.
DCCI President Barrister Md Sameer Sattar stressed that a stable business environment with an efficient dispute resolution system is necessary for attracting FDI.
He called for the establishment of a legal framework that enables swift and efficient contract enforcement, particularly in the context of cross-border commercial disputes.
Barrister Ashraful Hadi, an advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, presented the keynote paper at the seminar and recommended that the arbitral tribunal should have the same power as the court.
He also called for the definition of “court” under the Arbitration Act 2001 to include the High Court in respect of international commercial arbitration, as well as the digitalisation of payment methods for stamp duty and the establishment of a central database for arbitration proceedings.
Zaved Akhtar, CEO of Unilever Bangladesh Ltd, said that arbitration needs specialised resources and an understanding of different aspects as well.
He also proposed a smart arbitration model with a digitised mechanism. Moreover, awareness is very crucial to make it more familiar among the business community, he said.
Yasir Azman, CEO of Grameenphone Ltd, highlighted the importance of predictability, certainty, and protection of investment in arbitration.
He called for reforms to the Arbitration Act 2001 and emphasised the need for digitalisation and technology to expedite the arbitration process.
Promod Nair, an advocate from India, shared how India has made amendments to their Arbitration Act, resulting in an improvement in their position in the ease of doing business index.
He explained that India has separate commercial courts to deal with business disputes and has identified specific time limits and fees for each arbitration proceeding.
He also mentioned India’s online dispute resolution mechanism, which reduces costs and time.