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In: Business and Management

Submitted By bahar111
Words 939
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Addressing problems of RMG sector→ Anu Mahmud
Bangladesh is now exporting readymade garment (RMG) products worth around 20 billion dollars per annum to different countries of the world. The RMG sector is one of the main sources of our foreign exchange earnings. Recently, an opportunity to expand this sector has been created. China has emerged as a big importer of Bangladeshi apparel products. Though the market for garment products was limited at the beginning, now it is expanding gradually. If Bangladesh can export RMG products to China, then it can easily double the amount of the present export earnings. So, alongside the existing markets, Bangladesh should give more attention to the China’s RMG market. As the European and American apparel markets have become competitive, the earnings from this sector have remained below the expected level. So, there is an urgent need for exploring new markets for our RMG products.

The door of this possibility has opened further after the recent visit of some topmost RMG industry delegations of China to Bangladesh. China’s interest has been aroused due to lower labour costs in Bangladesh. But if we fail to maintain a production-friendly atmosphere, we will not be able to attract more foreign direct investment. In this regard, it is necessary to improve the existing infrastructure. The issue of electricity and gas supply will come to the fore, so Bangladesh should address the issue. At the same time, if we fail to provide corruption-free services to China, we will not be able to seize the opportunity to boost our export earnings from RMG products.

This opportunity will help reduce the trade imbalance between Bangladesh and China and play a significant role in maintaining good economic relations between the two countries. Bangladesh will get tax-free access to the China’s RMG market. China has a vast market for apparel products. If Chinese investors are given adequate facilities to invest in Bangladesh, our export earnings from garment products will increase. If they are allowed to invest more, more employment possibilities will be created in Bangladesh. As the RMG market is very competitive, many developing countries try to catch the China’s market.

European countries and the USA are the main market for Bangladeshi garment products. Garment products once were produced in the USA and Europe. But the living standard in the USA and European countries became very high during 1970s and 1980s. As the salaries of garment labourers increased, then it become unprofitable for the garment owners to continue the production.

Thus garment industry took its position in the developing countries. The journey of garment industry in Bangladesh started in the 1980s. Today Bangladesh has emerged as one of the topmost exporters of garment products. But there has been constant conspiracy against the booming garment industry. Unrest in the garment industry and the killing of labour leader Aminul Haque got widespread publicity in the media, which has damaged the goodwill of Bangladesh’s garment industry. But time has come to take necessary steps to solve the problems facing our garment industry.

A recent Reuters report focused on the reasonable wages for the garment workers in Bangladesh. There has been dissatisfaction among RMG workers with the low wages. After the formation of labour organisations, RMG workers have been pressing home their demand for salary hike. This dissatisfaction led to unrest in the garment industry in June 2012. Following the unrest, more than 300 garments industries were shut down for two weeks at Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka. Closure of garment factories due to labour unrest is a matter of concern, because if such situation continues for two weeks, the amount of loss will stand up to 9 billion dollars. Now about 80 percent of our total export earnings come from garments products. It is expected that within 10 years, the amount of export earnings form RMG products will be doubled.

So, the authorities concerned should take necessary steps to address the existing problem of our garment sector. Garment traders and owners may be able to find out alternative businesses. But what about the millions of garment workers? The BGMEA should assess the current situation of the garment industry. BGMEA leaders should fix the salaries of RMG workers considering the living cost at present. The government and the garment owners should sit together to fix the salaries of the garment workers.

Though there is a great opportunity for exporting apparel products from Bangladesh, the current unstable situation in this sector poses a threat to this industry. Recent media reports indicate that the international market for Bangladeshi RMG products is expanding. Many big oranigations of the world have become the buyers of our garment products. Bangladesh has now reached the second position of RMG exporters in the world. At present, branded products of many well-known companies are produced in Bangladesh. According to a Reuters report, during the last six months, around 1.9 billion dollars has been earned from this sector. According to an estimation of consultant organisation Mackinsey & Company, the earnings from Bangladesh’s garment export will be doubled within the next ten years.

But if we fail to take necessary steps to solve all the problems of our garment sector, both the traders and labourers will be sufferers. Therefore, the government, the owners of garment factories and RMG workers should work together to foil the conspiracy against our garment industry. It’s time to take bold steps to save the multibillion-dollar industry.

The writer is an economist, author and a columnist.
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