The Rana Plaza collapse was an outcome of the governance failure in the society, an economist said yesterday.
It is bad politics, injustice to workers, global competitive pressure and unfair working conditions that led to the deadliest factory accident that claimed 1,132 lives, said Prof Rehman Sobhan, chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue.
Bad governance prevailed from the very beginning, as the building was constructed on illegal lands and clearance to the construction was gained in a slipshod way, he said.
“It is not only the failure of governance, it is also the failure of responsibility,” Sobhan said.
He said Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the garment makers’ platform, had not taken the oversight responsibilities seriously.
Sobhan spoke on “lessons from the Rana Plaza tragedy” at the regular monthly meeting of American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka as the chief guest.
The economist said a politician’s role was also responsible for the building collapse. Some local politicians helped construct the building bypassing rules, he added.
Garment workers get poor wages, he said, adding that the retailers like Wal-Mart or the agents of the retailers gobble 63 percent of the total margin in the business, which adds to the global competitive pressure. Of the remaining percentage of the value chain, Sobhan said, 15-16 percent is spent on fabrics, 5 percent on wages and only 8 percent goes to the garment makers.
The subcontractors enjoy 1 percent or less in the entire value chain, he said, adding that the profit margin for the manufacturers have to be raised from the 8 percent level.
Sobhan also said good governance and a strong regulatory system are the preconditions to stop recurrence of the disasters like the Rana Plaza collapse.
He suggested the BGMEA take measures to make the garment factory owners more accountable.
The factories should have collective bargaining agents and the owners should share 5 percent of their profit with the workers to improve their living standards, Sobhan said.
Eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain called for setting up a ‘garment palli’ as soon as possible to better manage the factories and ensure compliance.
Fazlul Hoque, the immediate past president of Bangladesh Employers’ Federation, also spoke at the programme chaired by Aftab ul Islam, the AmCham president.