Higher exports call for improved competitiveness | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 24, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 24, 2019

Higher exports call for improved competitiveness

Entrepreneurs say

Improved competitiveness of Bangladesh will support footwear, plastic goods, ceramic, furniture, jute processing, electronics, and ICT sectors to emerge as major foreign currency earners, according to a leading business chamber yesterday.

“We need to work hard to improve the competitiveness,” said Osama Taseer, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).

He said Bangladesh should improve its position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum.

Bangladesh stands at the 105th position in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019 out of 141 countries, whereas the country’s ranking rose to 168th in the Ease of Doing Business Index 2020, up from 176th in the previous year.

“The government’s fast-track infrastructure projects will enable competitiveness of Bangladesh,” Taseer said in a statement.

Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said apart from the readymade garment sector, the country needs to focus on the diversification of other sectors to compete in the international market.

She called for inter-ministerial coordination for smooth decision-making processes as well as innovation and research and development in the garment sector for its sustainability.

They spoke at a seminar on “Country Competitiveness of Bangladesh: Challenges and Way Forward” at the Six Seasons Hotel in Dhaka. The chamber organised the event.

Osama Taseer also highlighted the challenges the country faces.

“We have some challenges like energy price hike, unplanned urbanisation, unemployment, limited skills diversity, slow reforms, climate change, limited capacity in adopting fourth industrial revolution technologies, and industrial infrastructure.”

Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem), said Bangladesh is witnessing sluggish private sector investment.

“In recent years, we also saw a falling trend in the export-to-GDP, remittance-to-GDP, and FDI-to-GDP ratios.”

Although the foreign direct investment (FDI) to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio was lower, the country is doing better in attracting FDI, he said.

He suggested undertaking reforms in critical economic domains and called for faster and cost-effective implementation of mega projects and skill development.

“To attract large scale FDI and diversify exports, the special economic zones (SEZs) can be the game changer,” he said.

Salman F Rahman, adviser to the prime minister on private industry and investment, said, “We need to work hard to improve the investment climate.”

He hoped that by 2021, Bangladesh would be able to improve its position to double digit in the Ease of Doing Business Index.

The adviser said Bangladesh has achieved tremendous success, especially in the agriculture sector. He emphasised diversification of agro-products to boost exports from the sector.  He said access to finance is still a challenge for entrepreneurs.

Anir Chowdhury, policy adviser of the Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the ICT Division, said the country has to modernise and update its existing education system to create a skilled workforce which will take up the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

He said as part of skill development, the government has started to train the youth on the Internet of Things.

Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and CEO of Pran-RFL Group, said Bangladesh needs to identify the problems of each sector and find out the appropriate measures to solve them.

“In order to improve the competitiveness, Bangladesh has to improve the port facilities on priority basis.” 

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