BGMEA polls today

Saving the industry from pandemic fallouts main challenge for new leadership

More than 2,300 garment business entrepreneurs in Bangladesh will choose their leaders for the next two years today with an expectation that they will pull the pandemic-hit industry out of the coronavirus-induced crisis and secure higher prices from international buyers.

The biennial election of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) will take place in Dhaka and Chattogram for 2021-23.

Polling will start at 9:00am and will continue until 7:00pm without any break, according to a notice of the election board of the association.

Some 1,852 voters will cast their votes in the Dhaka zone and 461 voters in the Chattogram zone.

The voting in the Dhaka zone will be held at Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden. The voters of the Chattogram zone will exercise their voting rights at the regional office of the BGMEA in the port city.

Despite the countrywide lockdown starting from Monday, the schedule of the BGMEA election will not change, said Syed Ferhat Anwar, chairman of the election board.

Two panels – Forum and Sammilita Parishad—are contesting in the polls. The Swadhinata Parishad, another panel, had announced a manifesto but later decided not to take part in the election independently. It is backing the Sammilita Parishad.

The voters will elect 35 directors. A president and seven vice-presidents will be picked from the elected directors.

ABM Shamsuddin, chairman of Hannan Group, which exported about $92 million worth of garments last year and employs more than 10,000 workers, is leading the Forum panel.

Faruque Hassan, managing director of Giant Group, having annual exports of more than $30 million and employing 6,000 workers, is the leader of the Sammilito Parishad.

Voters and candidates have been instructed to put on masks and maintain social distancing in the polling areas to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The BGMEA election is an important event as the industry is the single largest export earning sector and employs 4.2 million workers directly. Millions of people are involved in the industry indirectly.

In fiscal 2018-19, Bangladesh exported garment items worth more than $34.13 billion. The earnings declined to $27.94 billion last fiscal year as sales collapsed in Western markets because of the fallouts of the pandemic.

The sector's contribution to the gross domestic product stands at 15 per cent.

The leaders of the association have to negotiate with the government, local and international communities and buyers.

The new leaders will have to work hard to secure higher prices from international buyers, brighten the image of the industry and expand markets.

A number of entrepreneurs say local exporters do not get proper prices from global retailers and brands because of the image crisis. Bangladeshi exporters receive about half of the prices compared to their Vietnamese peers despite shipping the same products to the same markets.

The leaders of both platforms have vowed to brighten the image of the sector and try to increase the prices of the items. They also committed to negotiating with the government and local and international stakeholders to help the industry overcome the impacts of the pandemic.

In Bangladesh, the apparel industry started its journey in the 1980s. Late Nurool Quader pioneered readymade garment business, leading to the rise of the industry. In 1978, he sent 130 trainees to South Korea, where they learned how to produce readymade garments, according to the BGMEA.

With the trainees, Quader set up the country's first export-oriented factory, Desh Garments.

Later, Akhter Mohammad Musa of Bond Garments, Mohammad Reazuddin of Reaz Garments, Md Humayun of Paris Garments, Engineer Mohammad Fazlul Azim of Azim Group, Abdul Mannan of Sunman Group, M Shamsur Rahman of Stylecraft, and AM Subid Ali of Aristocrat came forward and set up garment factories.

Following their footsteps, other prudent and hardworking entrepreneurs made foray into the industry.

The BGMEA was founded in 1983 with a vision to facilitate the industry to grow further.

In 1983-84, the earnings from apparel exports were $31.57 million, accounting for 3.89 per cent of the total national shipment of $811 million. Now, the share of the garment sector in the national exports is about 85 per cent.

Today, Bangladesh is the second-largest apparel exporter worldwide after China, with more than 6.8 per cent market share. 



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