The Hands That Built Bangladesh

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Achieving normalcy in a war-torn nation is always an uphill battle. While hoping that it becomes one of the fastest-growing economies in the world can be considered to be wishful thinking – Bangladesh has achieved both in under 5 decades. And the country owes this to the steadfast support of the private sector which has positioned the country for hyper-growth and long term success.

The private sector is the part of a country’s economic system that is run by individuals and companies, rather than the government, for profit. In fact, the private sector in every country is simply the community at work and, as a part of that community, business today comprehends its impacts better than ever before. Its influence on economic and social development, respect for the environment, and efficiently and effectively managing resources represents an important contribution to the well-being of its communities.

In Bangladesh, the sector has employed close to four million women across the 4,000 garments factories or through providing basic banking services through microcredit and mobile financial services, the private sector in Bangladesh has played a significant role.

Over the coming years, this role must become more prominent as the world has been going through an unprecedented change over the last few years powered by digital interconnectedness with the rise of new technologies such as Blockchain, AI and so on. This fourth industrial revolution is altering countries, industries, organizations, and even individuals, in unprecedented ways.
The advent of platform business models like Uber and Ubereats led to the evolution of similar models globally including Pathao in Bangladesh or HungryNaki. There is a rising entrepreneurship movement riding on easy access to capital along with low capital requirements that enable companies to be created by any talented individual. Moreover, this rising entrepreneurship spirit, helped by the rising digital interconnectedness, has become more prominent.

However, the private sector cannot act alone. Governments have the main responsibility for providing the legislative and regulatory environment that enables businesses to play their part. Vital issues such as open trade policy, sound and stable governance, infrastructure investment, economic and monetary policy, tax and social protection structures, and the costs of doing business must be balanced by governments in a way that gives the private sector the ability and incentive to act.

Take job creation, one of the biggest development challenges anywhere in the world. To meet this challenge, more employers are needed. Existing enterprises cannot absorb the market entrants of today, let alone those in the future. This means that more entrepreneurs are required – people with ideas, drive and a willingness to take risks. How helpful is the business and regulatory environment in your country when people take the decision to start a new business? How helpful is the legal process in registering and sustaining a business? How adapted is your education system in providing would-be entrepreneurs with the skill-set needed to be enterprising and employment creators?

I suppose we can flip that argument to say, the public sector alone cannot help the case for Bangladesh at a global level. It needs the help and support of the private sector. The country grew 7.86 percent in the last fiscal year and is projected to grow at 8.13 percent for FY 2019-20. As a result, this will be the eighth year in a row that its GDP has exceeded six percent. The private sector played a crucial role in this growth and to transcend to the next level of growth, the private sector needs to move beyond their organizations and help to catalyze systemic change.

In reality, few countries do those things well. Moreover, if any of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are going to have any kind of chance to deliver for our populations beyond 2019, the area of private-sector development and enterprise growth must also be supported by governments. Jobs are the best way out of poverty. We need good jobs – formal-sector jobs through formal sector enterprises, jobs that fit the needs of the modern economy, jobs that through their taxes contribute to the means of development in any country.

Companies such as Rahimafrooz, United Group of Industries, BSRM, DBL, and many others have continued to pave the way for help meet the country’s development goals.

If one stands back and looks at the goals we set for our societies, the private sector is the main engine of economic growth. It is the base upon which social development, education, health care, and social-security systems rely. Let the private sector do its job!

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