Bangladesh should focus on expanding exports of agro-based products and service sectors to revive the growth in foreign trade, said the economists.
The export sector is now recovering from the setbacks of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB, the country earned $38.75 billion in FY 2020-21 against the $40 billion target.
Of the total export, on an average of over 80 percent contribution is coming from the country’s largest readymade garment industry.
“We should focus on agro-processed products as well as diversified products from jutes and other local items. China, Japan and Vietnam can be potential markets for the Bangladeshi agro-products,” said Dr. Mohammed Farashuddin, an economist and a former governor of Bangladesh Bank.
“The contributions of SMEs should also need to be increased in exports,” he said.
Dr. Farashuddin, however, praised the government’s efforts including stimulus packages to revitalize the economy.
The government has announced stimulus packages to revive the economy and achieve the export target of $51 billion in the current fiscal year 2021-22. The economists said the service sectors, including transportation, tourism and construction have little chance to recover from the pandemic shocks within a year.
Regarding the service sector export, Dr. Farashuddin suggested widening skill development programmes for the outbound skilled and semi-skilled workforces.
“There is no point to continue sending unskilled domestic workers to the Middle-Eastern countries. This has brought a lot of bad names and pains for the country,” he said.
“Instead, I would suggest launching massive skill training. We should train up 50 million young people within the age group of 15 to 30 years to send them abroad skilled workers,” former central bank boss said.
He said the businesses should focus on leather, footwear and jute goods for increasing contribution of the non-RMG sector in the export earnings. Dr Farashuddin thinks the RMG sector, major contributor to the Bangladesh export basket, should focus on producing new products including upper-end garment with own design and innovations to attract the global buyerss.
Dr Mirza Azizul Islam, an economist and former finance adviser to caretaker government, said the crisis in export earnings could not be resolved with internal policies only as the global economy is also going through a setback due to the pandemic. “The demand of products in global market has fallen. Many buyers have become bankrupt. Many are struggling to survive. At this point, Bangladesh should run the country-based campaign to boost its export growth,” he said. Dr. Islam said the business leaders should widen negotiations to attract the buyers with competitive prices and services.
Policy Research Institute (PRI) executive chairman Dr Ahsan H Mansur appreciated the contribution of RMG sector to export earnings keeping the wheel of economy turn.
“However, there is no hope of reopening of the service sector until the pandemic restrictions ease,” he said.
Dr Ahsan H Mansur said, “We know that transportation and tourism are major contributors in the service sector. But most of the travel destinations are now closed.”