Separate ministry for RMG demanded
To bring dynamism in the industry, apparel leaders once again raised their demand for setting up a separate dedicated ministry for the ready-made garment sector.
They made the demand at a roundtable organised by the Dhaka Tribune at the Cirdap Auditorium in the capital on 15 November.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed attended the roundtable on “RMG Sector: Challenges and Way Forward” where RMG leaders, makers and exporters, leaders of workers and representatives from ILO, Accord and Alliance were present.
Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan conducted the roundtable.
“Poor infrastructure is the main challenge for export growth. It takes about one day to transport goods from Gazipur or Narayanganj to the Chittagong port,” said Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Md. Atiqul Islam in his keynote presentation.
He said: “We eye on taking Bangladesh’s apparel export to $50bn by 2021, but we have some challenges on our road to achieving the export target.”
He also said the country had been having to spend Tk400 crore every year as fees to around 19,000 foreigners working at the mid-management level or higher positions in the sector because of a weak forward linkage industry and shortage of skilled manpower.
For speeding up and achieving sustainable growth in the sector, Bangladesh needed to address issues such as forward linkage, skilled human resources, bureaucratic hurdles, gas and power shortage, high bank interest rates, Mr. Atiqul said.
Reinforcing their longstanding demand for a separate RMG ministry, he said that day was not too far way when there would be no east, no west, but Bangladesh would the best.
In his speech, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said despite being competent in compliance, the sector has failed to achieve the expected growth because of propaganda spread by some workers who do not work in the factories.
“According to Accord and Alliance reports, only 1.8% or 30 out of the 2,021 factories are faulty…But 2% is acceptable as per international law.”
In the view of Tipu Munshi, a former BGMEA president and now a parliament member, the first and foremast problem was infrastructure. “Once we have sufficient infrastructural support, we can give rise to miracles,” he said.
Former BGMEA president Anwar-ul- Alam Chowdhury emphasised on concerted efforts to address the difficulties that the RMG industry had been facing right now.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, former BGMEA president and managing director of the Envoy Group, said: “Our products have become less competitive after we ensured safety and compliance in line with the labour law and raised workers’ wages. This is now our main challenge.
Dr. Towfique Ali, chief executive of the Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre, said: “Along with the micro perspective, we have to focus on larger perspective as well. We are facing challenges from Vietnam and Cambodia. We have to make sure that we maintain the minimum standard and at the same time be able to compete from within our limits.”
Rob Wayss, Accord executive director in Bangladesh, said: “It is true that 2% of the factories that we inspected are critical and most of the factories have some problems which have to be fixed. It is important for all of us to fixing those and fixing in a timely manner. And that is the best way to show the buyers, show the world that Bangladesh is improving and will dominate the industry.”
Alliance Managing Director Mezbah Robin said: “The entrepreneurs rely upon others when they are asked to fix something. Fixing my house is my obligation. Nobody else will do that for me.”
ILO Country Director for Bangladesh Srinivas B. Reddy, President of Karmojibi Nari Shirin Akhter, Director of Desh Group Vidiya Amrit Khan, General Secretary of Bangladesh Trade Union Kendra Dr. Wajedul Islam Khan, and Labour leader Sirajul Islam Rony also spoke at the roundtable.