Apparel Diplomacy is in Demand

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The Bausia garments village in Chittagong is in its final stage and will become an economic zone for the sector. I truly belive this will show that Bangladesh is following an innovative plan, which will open a new chapter for attracting investments and creating new possibilities for the apparel industry in the global market. 

Md. Atiqul Islam Director, Islam Group Immediate Past-President of BGMEA
Md. Atiqul Islam
Director, Islam Group
Immediate Past-President of BGMEA

In the light of the tragic Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen fire, 2013 was deemed an unfortunate year. However, with leadership and hard work of Islam and his team at BGMEA, turned 2014 into a profitable year for the apparel industry, the flag bearer of Bangladesh’s export activities. Their dedication is a testament that Bangladesh can overcome any obstacle; he elaborates upon his story of teamwork and success against the odds.

As an association, we have set a target of $50 billion in export for the 50th anniversary, which will be a milestone in Bangladesh. The sector has immense potential that has been proven by the workers and entrepreneurs. We have distinguished ourselves against the previous tragedies: locals had postulated that the industry has no standards and lacks compliance, though the statement was contradicted by the engineers of ILA, according to whom only 2% of the industry required correction. The Bausia garments village in Chittagong is in its final stage and will become an economic zone for the sector. I truly belive this will show that Bangladesh is following an innovative plan, which will open a new chapter for attracting investments and creating new possibilities for the apparel industry in the global market.
I would like to outline the contribution of the apparel industry. The RMG has had a profound impact on both the country and its GDP. If we consider the growth in the last five months, it has increased by 9.52%. Given that sales will continue to flourish, we can attain the target that we have set. We are currently bringing in $26 billion and additional manpower is required to reach $50 billion. The unemployment rate in our country is rather high. The textile industry can provide many jobs particularly with our backward linkages in fabrics, yarn, dyes, embroidery and washing. Sadly, the proposed four-lane road from Chittagong to Dhaka that has been in the works for such a long time has not materialized. The decrease in traffic congestion and improvement in transport efficiency would help elevate profits further.
The numerous obstacles that we are facing in terms of infrastructure and necessary resources can be overcome if we work with the respective government agencies. For example, we are obtaining fertilizers from various companies who are using gas during their production activities. If this fertilizer was imported, the gas being used for it can be utilized in more productive areas. A report from the Standard Chartered Bank indicates that 256 jobs will be created for every $1 million invested in the textile sector. The implementation of this practice would be a labor incentive for the industry. The use of fabrics and transportation cost would double to $30 billion and $300 million, respectively. This will increase the salary of labors, banks and the source of taxes.
I strongly encourage entrepreneurs to diversify their products, expanding to suits, lingerie, jackets and swimming costumes. Incorporation of high value products will change our market by appealing to new regions such as Eastern Europe and Latin America. These markets are still buying their products from China and India so our embassy officials and foreign ministries must collaborate in the effort to promote apparel diplomacy.
I would like our industry to contemplate upon our capacity to meet the demands in fashion trends in Europe. The continent is in the forefront of fashion trends but still highly dependent on other countries for apparel production. There is a necessity to incorporate a more globalized knowledge and use the manpower within our country.
I have come to the conclusion that skill development is one of the major challenges for Bangladesh. The productivity of the work force is 70%, where as the competitors’ productivity starts at 90%. This gap requires minimization because dismal skills are decreasing the buyer’s bid for various products on a daily basis. There is a necessity to prioritize the numerous skills required from a worker and their compliance towards these responsibilities with an emphasis on production engineering, refinement of skills, and acquired efficiency.
There is a need for increased public-private partnerships. In addition, the Embassies and High Commissions must take immediate steps for apparel diplomacy in order to instill confidence in the quality with LEAD certified factories. Upon his visit, Harvard Professor, Jack Arnold stated that the factories of Bangladesh are unique to South Asia. This is a fact because we are leading the way into more environmentally friendly factories against global warming. Our tag line should be “Made in Bangladesh with pride.”

 

 

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