Reassess the protection afforded to domestic industries
Bangladesh should reassess the protection afforded to domestic industries to help them develop and accelerate the growth of non-garment export sectors, experts said.
Zaidi Sattar, president of the Bangladesh Policy Research Institute, said the protective structure prevented the country from taking advantage of non-clothing exports.
“We have some of the highest tariffs to protect domestic industries. There has been protection decades after decades. But if you try to support a teenager for too long, he will no longer be an adult.”
“Tariff protection and structures hinder the emergence of non-apparel exports because the profitability of sales in the domestic market is higher than in export markets.”
“We need to have the right kind of trade policies in order to continue the progress we are making in trade.”
He spoke at a panel discussion at the final session of the BIDS three-day annual Development Conference: Celebrating 50 Years of Bangladesh at the Lakeshore Hotel in Dhaka on Friday.
The Bangladesh Institute for Development Studies hosted the event.
Mashiur Rahman, Economic Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister, also raised the question of whether Bangladesh can operate in a protected market and, at the same time, expand its exports.
He agreed that if infants were supported beyond the time they should have grown up, then it should be concluded that they were undernourished and malnourished and that there may be other issues.
Ahmad Kaikaus, principal secretary to the prime minister, said garment factories employ fewer workers than the real estate sector.
“How much protection have we given to the real estate industry during the coronavirus pandemic? Zero. Are they asking for money? Not at all.”
“We have to understand the huge internal benefits that we have to cherish and nurture,” Kaikaus said.
He said it was sometimes true that “we promote inefficiency when we provide protection. But without markets, businesses don’t exist.”
“So we have to understand it and give it proper attention. “
Nihad Kabir, president of the Dhaka Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, highlighted the lack of quality data as a major challenge.
She said the last labor survey was carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in 2016-2017.
“It’s been really five years. It’s really outdated. If you want to keep making progress, we need our research units, universities and chambers of commerce to have access to up-to-date information.”
Even though data is available, Bangladesh does not yet have the analytical capacity to use the data, she said.
“We need to collect data in a timely manner. Bangladesh also needs to analyze regulatory frameworks to align them with its aspirations in manufacturing, trade and commerce.”
Sultan Hafeez Rahman, director of the BIDS Graduate School of Economics, who chaired the session, said diversification of manufacturing and exports is important and should continue to be on the agenda.
“There are huge constraints to this on the policy, regulatory and enforcement sides. We also need to create a level playing field. There should be further trade policy reforms.”
He urged state-run commercial banks to act like banks and make a profit. “They don’t need to be continually recapitalized every few years. It’s a huge public policy problem.”
Abdur Rouf Talukder, senior secretary of the finance division, said the government is implementing one of the largest skills development programs in Bangladesh. This is purely market driven support.
The government has partnered with 14 industry associations. “Associations have designed their own programs, outlining the skills they need. We fund the programs.
The government is working on developing a higher level of skills, Talukder said.
He said more than 200,000 foreigners were working in Bangladesh. And the government didn’t know how much money it was sending back to its home country because it mostly transferred the money through illegal channels.
“We are trying to develop local managers so that in three to five years we can replace these foreign workers.”
Shamsul Alam, Minister of State for Planning, said Bangladesh is on a high growth path and will achieve double-digit growth by 2030. Bangladesh will be freed from poverty by 2030 and from poverty. unemployment by 2041.
He said that export-led growth is the country’s only end goal as Bangladesh does not have huge natural resources.
“For this, all the necessary political support must be given.”