Bangladesh undoubtedly is moving fast on the course of development. After the benchmark grand celebration of fifty years of independence, the list of achievements is surely long. Recently the country has achieved the milestone of gaining almost eight per cent GDP surpassing the neighbouring countries. The term development implies a broader concept which encompasses the domains of advancements concerning people’s inclusiveness, their grand-wellbeing, employment opportunities, and community interest in a proportionate manner.
Our motherland is largely dependent on the readymade garments industry which brings the major portion (almost 80 per cent) of the total export earnings. Nearly four million men and women are directly reliant on this sector. A huge number of manual workers work in the sector for earning their livelihood making quality garment wear for the western world’s brand outlets, and thus contribute to the flow of national income by securing foreign currency. In other words, we have gained a global reputation for producing export quality wears. Though this industry is surviving with various issues that need to be addressed befittingly urgently.
In contrast, we have comparatively a cheap labour force. By and large, we have to undergo unrest, chaos and conflict of interest between workers and owners. We have to deal with substandard compliances and employee welfare policies. Sometimes lack of a secured factory environment matters greatly regarding affording optimal productivity for the workers. Yet, we are making quality garments beating our front contestant-Vietnam. This is to be noted that shortly this tech-giant Vietnam might be the leading country in this sector within its augmented capacity and resources. The country has been working relentlessly for a long time to design its garment sector quality-bound, compliant, and competitive.
To promote a healthy working environment of the garment industry, our country necessarily has to establish a national wage policy, competitive fringe benefits, factory safety, and wholesome compliances for the workers as well as create a congenial environment to be the market-dominating country in the arena of exporting garments.
We have also noticed the whimsical and sudden layoff incidents early in 2020 in this sector in the name of shrinkage of foreign work orders and production. Consequently, many workers demonstrated to have their job back and to be well-paid by blocking the roads. In addition to this backdrop, several incidents like—fire and collapsing factory buildings have manifested over the last decade. Henceforth, owners have to work for the worker’s safety, and total betterment as workers are an integral part of this industry. After all, our long-hour bound garment workers have been keeping the industry still competitive and export-oriented. This is because of their toilsome efforts and that is why they should remain at the center of attention.
A lion’s share of the garment’s raw materials and accessories is sourced from China. Our country has no appropriate alternatives to source those inside the country. But still, if we continue to source raw materials, accessories, machinery from China, we might not be able to compete with our closer contestants anymore. Therefore, rather than being dependent on China concerning garment items, the authorities concerned and owner bodies have to think of becoming self-sufficient in the field of quality raw materials and accessories within the country’s border. If it happens, the industry will be able to subsist with maximum earnings in the years to come, and we will dominate in this industrial sector to a greater extent.
Another contributing sector to the country’s national income is foreign remittance which is generated by the hardship of our expatriate workers. It is known to many that there is a huge requirement for migrant workers in the middle-eastern countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, Greece, Austria, South Korea, and South Africa. This is to say that our expatriate workers are mostly manual labourers. Enduring physical and mental agony they send their hard-earned money to the country. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the life of the expatriate workers has been found to be miserable as many had faced discontinuance by their recruiting authorities, and some of them experienced a ban. As the overseas recruitment policies of the respective countries fairly change, so complying with the reformed as well as newly adopted policies our migrant workers hardly draw a moderate salary for their bread and butter. Therefore, in the face of multiple adversities and challenges, many of the migrant workers remain engaged with backbreaking jobs, and sometimes the dreams to make handsome money for many of them are shattered.
Bangladesh has to think of creating substitute economic sectors alongside the existing wings like —migrant workers and the garment industry. At least the country should possess five other robust economic sectors except the prior two to keep consistency with the flow of the national earnings and keep pace with the global economic trend.
Since Bangladesh has graduated from the status of least developed country (LDC), it has numerous challenging issues ahead. In this circumstance, policymakers and economic think tanks must take steps forward to address and determine the other core wings for generating gross income rigorously and strengthen the country’s national capacity. The sectors receiving foreign currency should be reshaped and reshuffled to come under specific guidelines and pragmatic policies to sustain balanced economic growth and promote total national income.
Bangladesh is approaching fast towards the fourth industrial revolution which highly requires a set of market-driven unique criteria to face the multifarious challenges in a bid to cope with the global competition, and forthcoming trade war. To embrace the inevitable perception of a middle-income country, and keep tempo with planned development, the building of national capacity is substantial. So, comprehensive and integrated changes in the policies might be brought to make humans a worthy capital and ensure optimal utilisation of natural resources.
By the way, structuring economic capacity by introducing substitutional sectors on the ground of intense necessity should be the country’s top priority as well as the prime concern.
Wares Ali Khan, a teacher