Putting emphasis on adopting short-, medium- and long-term plans for boosting demand for Bangladeshi readymade garment products in the world market, prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday called upon brands and buyers to help garment industry owners overhauling their factories.
‘A huge fund is required for the factories being overhauled. So, various brands and buyers can come forward to assist Bangladeshi factory owners ... the government would continue to provide its support in this regard,’ she said while inaugurating Dhaka Apparel Summit 2017 at the Sonargaon Hotel in the capital Dhaka.
‘We have to work on how to increase our share in the world market ... we have to formulate short-, medium- and long-term plans in this regard,’ she added.
As a sequel to the success of first Dhaka Apparel Summit (DAS) taken place in 2014, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association organised the daylong second edition of DAS with the theme ‘Together for a better tomorrow’.
The main aim of the summit is to explore priority areas for turning Bangladeshi readymade garments into a sustainable sector.
The summit will feature discussions on how to establish a more sustainable apparel supply chain as well as also focus to set the next course of action plan on achieving $50-billion export goal by 2021.
Highlighting her government’s various steps for the development of the RMG sector, Sheikh Hasina said a number of measures have been taken up at the international level to make the RMG sector safe.
‘Under the initiative, 3,869 factories have been inspected. Among those, faults have been found in only with 39 factories and they were closed down.
The remaining factories are being renovated to improve their safety,’ she said.
The premier also laid stress on diversifying products and expanding markets to boost export earnings.
‘Alongside, we have to learn how to add value to our products. Our export-list is not long rather it is heavily RMG-dependant. Again, our export is also limited to a few countries of North America and West Europe,’ she said, adding such a situation in export market is not healthy.
Sheikh Hasina said there are many opportunities to increase our export basket and also to expand our export market. ‘I would like to draw the attention of our exporters in this regard ... the government will extend all out support to boost export earnings,’ she said.
Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali, state minister for labour and employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu and European Union ambassador to Bangladesh Pierre Mayaudon spoke at the function as the special guests.
BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman delivered the welcome address, while BGMEA first vice-president Mainuddin Ahmed gave the vote of thanks.
Describing the RMG as the main driving wheel of economic development of the country, the premier said nearly 80 per cent of our export income comes from the sector.
‘It employs more than 4 million workers of whom 80 per cent are women. Indirectly, nearly 40 million people are dependent on this sector,’ she said.
The premier said after the Rana Plaza accident, building a risk-free and compliant RMG sector had become a great challenge for the government. ‘We have overcome the challenge with the help of all,’ she said.
In this connection, she said the BGMEA, government, domestic and international organisations and development partners — all together are working towards building a safe and sustainable RMG sector.
Sheikh Hasina said her government has been working to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country by the year 2021.
‘The RMG sector can play a vital role in achieving the goal. Although Bangladesh stands at the second position in the RMG export market, the reality is that Bangladesh’s share is only 5.1 per cent in the sector,’ she said.
In this connection, the PM pointed out that she materialised the rights of the duty-free and quota-free access of Bangladeshi products from the European Union in 1996 under the policy ‘Everything But Arms’.
‘The USA didn’t give such facilities to Bangladesh. But as a least developed country, we have the rights to get it from them ... despite that we are paying tax to them,’ she said, adding Bangladesh exports products worth three billion dollars to the USA annually and pay tax of $850 million to them.
Sheikh Hasina called upon the entrepreneurs to take steps so that the purchasing capacity of the people is increased and the local market is expanded.
‘You should not confine yourselves to the specific market, rather you should explore new markets for boosting exports,’ she said.
The prime minister underscored the need for massive industrialisation and creating employment opportunities to further cut the poverty rate to materialise the Vision 2021.
According to the Vision, she said, the poverty rate would be brought down to below 15 per cent by 2021 and Bangladesh would turn into a middle-income country by then.
‘And for achieving this goal, massive industrialisation would have to be done and employment opportunities created,’ she said.
The prime minister said the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishment is working for improving the environment of factories and ensuring their safety.
‘Measures have also been taken to strengthen the Minimum Wage Commission apart from granting right to do union at Export Processing Zones, amendment of labour laws and issuance of labour rules for protecting workers rights,’ she said.
She said the BGMEA has been playing a pioneering role in the development and expansion of RMG, especially expansion of its global market. ‘Alongside, our government has also been providing necessary policy support and incentives,’ she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the government has already increased the power generation capacity to 15,300 megawatts and is going to produce 24,000 MW of electricity by 2021, while initiatives have been taken to set up LNG terminals to meet increasing demand for gas.
‘Work is underway to establish special economic zones across the country and two such economic zones — one in Dhaka and other in Chittagong — will be earmarked for the BGMEA,’ she said.
Wishing the success of the Dhaka Apparel Summit 2017, she said that a number of sessions would be held during the summit. ‘I hope that the recommendations of the dialogue will help us build a developed Bangladesh,’ she said.
In the summit, three sessions titled ‘Business Policy and Environment: Towards a Better Bangladesh’, ‘Collaborative and Responsible Sourcing for Sustainable Growth’ and ‘Bangladesh Apparel Industry: Transformation and the road Ahead’ were held.
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