Experts on Thursday recommended the government to make intensive preparation and to formulate a comprehensive strategy to make graduation from the least developed country status sustainable and inclusive.
Bangladesh should aspire to be not just a developing country after graduation but a developing country with high economic growth, social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Vision 2041, they said.
It requires an all-out approach involving the government, businesses and entrepreneurs, non-state actors, effective institutions and good governance, they said.
They made the remarks at a dialogue on ‘Moving Out from the LDC Group: Strategies for Graduation with Momentum’ organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue held at the BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka.
CPD distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman presented the key-note paper at the dialogue.
He said that addressing the graduation-related challenges on the domestic, regional and global front was a must for sustainable graduation with momentum.
He said that the impact of loss of preferential access would be significant for Bangladesh as 70 per cent of the country’s global exporters were covered by preferential access.
The country is going to face the highest rise in tariffs after the graduation, he said.
Citing estimates of the World Trade Organisation, he said that almost 90 per cent of all export losses of 12 graduating LDCs would be on account of Bangladesh, whose export loss would be equivalent to about 14.3 per cent or $5.37 billion of the country’s global export.
Raising price competitiveness through reduction in costs of production, export and market diversification, attracting foreign direct investment, aggressively pursuing comprehensive economic partnership agreements with trade partners and negotiating with countries like Canada, Japan, China and India for extension of the existing preferential market access may be the best elements of the strategy, he said.
The country should also actively pursue negotiations at the TRIPS Council for extension of the TRIPS flexibility for pharmaceutical industries of graduated LDCs till 2032, he added.
Bangladesh should also try to make the best use of the additional time allowed by the UN Committee for Development Policy for graduation, he said.
CPD chairman Rehman Sobhan said that there would be many challenges in the real world after the graduation as sectors like readymade garment and pharmaceuticals would have to compete with countries like China, India and Vietnam.
The success of the graduation will depend on the sectors’ competitiveness with respect to these countries, he said.
He also criticised the slow implementation progress of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) Industrial Park which has not been completed in more than 12 years.
State minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam said that the Bangladesh economy was prepared to absorb the short-term pressures from the graduation.
‘We have to utilise the five-year preparatory time efficiently through increasing productivity, competitiveness, skills development, technology enhancement, export diversification, domestic resource mobilisation and signing of more free trade agreements to make the graduation sustainable,’ he said.
He said that the government was working seriously to utilise the opportunities that would come with the graduation.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Rubana Huq said that the government should approach the European Union and other countries to extend the duty-free and quota-free market accesses beyond the graduation considering the negative impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and the Rohingya influx on Bangladesh’s economy.
Sustainable sourcing and purchasing practices among global buyers and consumers should also be an important element in global negotiation, she said.
Questions should be raised on why a t-shirt from Bangladesh gets half of what it fetches from Vietnam, she added.
The foreign ministry should lead and coordinate the efforts there, she added.
Former Bangladesh Textile Mills Association president A Matin Chowdhury recommended opening up foreign direct investment into the apparel sector.
Standard Chartered Bank chief executive officer Naser Ezaz Bijoy said that there should be a LDC transition plan and the country should also consider joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be integrated with the huge market.
Member of parliamentary standing committee on foreign ministry Kazi Nabil Ahmed, CPD executive director Fahmida Khatun and International Labour Organisation country director Tuomo Poutiainen, among others, spoke at the programme.
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