Bangladesh needs to prepare for reaping benefits from digital trade in services alongside exploring how it can benefit from them, speakers said at a dialogue on Monday.
In the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) era, trade in digital services has become crucial for Bangladesh's economic growth, they said.The view came at a virtual dialogue on ‘Trade in Services in the Digital Age’ organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh Office.
The global economy is undergoing digitalisation which has been accelerated during the pandemic. The expanding cross-border tradability of services is indeed opening new opportunities for national economies and individuals.
Sharing a study report, MD Kamruzzaman, a former Senior Research Associate of CPD, Strategic development and promotion of services trade are among the key approaches needed for Bangladesh to break into new markets.
Eliminating barriers to trade in services is vital to ensure market openness in the digital age, he said.
Kamruzzaman added that the volume of trade in Digitally Deliverable Service (DDS) has jumped manifold in Bangladesh and the pandemic has also encouraged the consumers in Bangladesh to avail goods and services through online platforms.
But poor business environment impedes expansion of trade in services in our country, especially in terms of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).Strategic development and promotion of services trade are among the key approaches needed for Bangladesh to break into new markets. Eliminating barriers to trade in services is therefore vital to ensure market openness in the digital age.
For moving forward, the policy gaps related to trade in digital services need to be addressed urgently to ensure digital exclusivity, suggests CPD.
More importance should be given to creating awareness and enhancing skills to prepare the future workforce. Access to information for all the stakeholders at the district and sub-district levels has to be ensured.
Additionally, identifying and easing financial constraints are essential. The policymakers may strengthen their monitoring mechanisms in order to avoid any malpractices in the process.
Moreover, to incentives female participation in ICT related education and employment is a need of the hour.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD said in order to reap the benefits of the 4IR, the expanding cross-border tradability of services is opening new opportunities for national economies and individuals.
Felix Kolbitz, Resident Representative, FES Bangladesh said their study discusses how Bangladesh can take advantage of the fast-evolving digital trade in services and what it will take for Bangladesh to adapt to the new trade regime in the digital age.
CPD’s distinguished fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman stressed the need of getting engaged in global discourse since it is also about competing in the domestic market with foreign goods.
He also recommended that Bangladesh should have a comprehensive trade and industrial policy that reflect all the important issues regarding digital services and e-commerce.
A panelist at the dialogue, Dr Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), World Trade Organization (WTO) highlighted the issue of inclusivity in digital trade due to the accessibility, affordability and application challenges.
Noted economist Dr Selim Raihan questioned the regulatory framework in Bangladesh for digital trade and highlighted how exploitation of loopholes in the regulations by existing businesses leads to sufferings for both the customers and the new businesses. He added that, technological development has led to a fall in labour’s share of national income.
Syed Almas Kabir, president, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) thinks that digital payment needs to be flourished in Bangladesh to ensure a complete process of digital trade.
He also called for mass awareness among netizens about digital platform usages. He focused on the issues of data privacy and security.