Considering that apparel sector is the mainstay of Bangladesh’s economy, Sheikh Hasina undertakes numerous steps to keep the growth going.
It’s not without a reason that industrialists and entrepreneurs, especially those in the business of garment manufacturing, are all praise for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It is under her strong leadership and her pro-industry policies that the RMG sector of the country has flourished and developed into what it is today.
Coming back to power with convincing majority in the last general election, the first thing Hasina did was to hand over the baton of the all-important commerce portfolio to someone who is not only an industrialist but also a garment manufacturer and ex-BGMEA chief, to give a fresh impetus to the industry, which is raring to touch new heights.
“I am humbled by the confidence that our honourable Prime Minister has shown in me by giving me responsibility of such an important portfolio. Coming from a business background my approach is to touch upon issues that impact business…,” maintained Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi speaking exclusively to Apparel Online in an earlier interview, adding, “My nearly 50 years of business experience, a majority of which is in the garment manufacturing industry, has given me a very deep understanding of the potential and challenges that the industry faces. I am very proud of the entrepreneurial skills of the people involved in the business and the way they have responded to innumerable challenges. This gives me confidence that the industry still has the hunger to grow…”
Hasina’s focus on taking the industry to the next level has, however, not been restricted to just selecting Munshi to head the business and commerce. Her vision for the industry has been evidenced in a number of steps that she has undertaken ever since coming back to power.
The most important perhaps is the renewed thrust towards economic diplomacy to widen Bangladesh’s reach in the global arena. As a part of this unique approach, Bangladesh missions abroad have reportedly been asked to scout for new markets.
“We have already held detailed discussions with officials of Bangladesh missions calling them in Dhaka and directed them to find out which products have high demand in which countries,” stated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at an event in Dhaka recently.
Having identified the potential markets, Hasina plans to help the industry diversify its product offerings. “After that discussion, we also put emphasis on producing and exporting those products…,” added the Prime Minister.
In this direction Bangladesh has already identified in its neighbour India a potential apparel export destination, and is working to exploit the opportunities to the fullest.
“I truly believe that India is an important market for Bangladesh garment manufacturers… Also, proximity is very critical. However, we need to also take a prudent view of the fact that the official data of exports to India, which is about US $ 300 million, does not reflect the true volume of business that is happening in this segment, as a lot of garments do not cross the border through a proper channel. This business can be channelised properly and brought into the mainstream,” explained Munshi on India as an export destination.
With non-traditional markets coming up strongly, Bangladesh Government has also increased incentive for RMG export to 4 per cent from earlier 3 per cent, to motivate garment makers to go for the new destinations.
However, it is not only in the market front that Hasina is concentrating. Her approach percolates to the grassroots to ensure that the workforce, which is at the core of the industry, is well looked-after. Describing various welfare-oriented steps for the garment workers, the Prime Minister underlined that minimum wages have been hiked to Taka 8,000 from Taka 1,600 in 10 years.
“Besides, the Government has constructed a number of dormitories for the female workers and is providing financial assistance to them in the case of accidents,” Prime Minister Hasina underlined, adding, “We don’t want any obstruction be made in the trade and commerce… Our garment industry has already earned name and fame across the world. This sector is making huge contributions to our economy. We’ll have to sustain the garment industry as employments for a huge number of women have been created in the sector… Its impact has reached up to the villages, improving the socio-economic condition of the rural people.”