PM urges brands, buyers to help modernise RMG factories

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Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday called upon brands and buyers to help garment industry owners overhaul 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 Hotel Sonargaon in the city this morning. নিউজটি বাংলায় পড়ুন এখানে ক্লিক করুনঃ

পোশাক কারখানা সংস্কারে ব্র্যান্ড ও ক্রেতাদের প্রতি আহ্বান প্রধানমন্ত্রীর

She also put emphasis on adopting short, medium and long-term plans for boosting demands for Bangladeshi readymade garment (RMG) products in the world market,

“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,” Hasina added.

Following the success of first Dhaka Apparel Summit (DAS) taken place in 2014, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has 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 (EU) 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 organizations and development partners — all together are working towards building a safe and sustainable RMG sector.

“As a result, the RMG sector has now been turned into a role model in the world,” she said.

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% 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 Reunion 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 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 industrialization 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 percent by 2021 and Bangladesh would turn into a middle-income country by then.

“And for achieving this goal, massive industrialization would have to be done and employment opportunities created,” she said.

After assuming the office in 2014 for the third time, Sheikh Hasina said her government has taken a number of measures for a healthy growth of the RMG sector. “We reduced the advance income tax to 0.70% from 1.50% and corporate tax rate has been lowered to 20% from 35%,” she said.

The premier said import tax on fire-fighting equipment and raw materials of pre-fabricated buildings of export-oriented readymade garments has totally been withdrawn.

Sheikh Hasina said the government has taken massive steps to improve employers-workers relations. “Steps are underway to build a congenial relationship between employers and workers, ensuring legal rights of the workers and workers’ welfare-oriented programmes like formation of Labour Welfare Foundation and Welfare Fund for the workers in the export-oriented industries,” 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.

Sheikh Hasina said Industrial Police unit has been constituted to help ensure safety of industries, including RMG factories. “We have also taken required steps so that the RMG entrepreneurs can build dormitories for the workers taking loan at a minimal 2% interest rate,” she said.

The premier 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 fulfilled the BGMEA’s long-standing demand of issuing C.O and given final approval to establish BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology in the interest of RMG sector. “We have also constituted a Ministerial Committee on RGM to look after its affairs,” she said.

The premier said she is happy to learn that a target has been set for earning $50 billion from the RMG sector marking the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence. “The government will provide necessary cooperation to achieve the target,” 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 will be held during the summit. “I hope that the recommendations of the dialogue will help us build a developed Bangladesh,” she said.

BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman told a press conference on February 19 that “The DAS has aimed to create a platform where the stakeholders would share their opinion and fix priority areas for ensuring sustainable growth in country’s apparel sector.”

He said the summit will also showcase the progress of initiatives taken to improve the safety standard and condition of the workers in the RMG sector following the factory disaster in 2013.

Representatives from buyers, brands, university scholars and workers’ representatives are participating in the summit to find out the priority areas to achieve the $50 billion export target.

The daylong summit would have nine interactive sessions where over 85 speakers from home and abroad would participate. In addition, top representatives of over 25 brands and over 15 globally renowned academics would also attend the DAS.

There would be three main sessions in the summit. The first session titled “Business Policy and Environment: Towards a Better Bangladesh” while the second session titled “Collaborative and Responsible Sourcing for Sustainable Growth” and third session is concentrated on “Bangladesh Apparel Industry: Transformation and the road Ahead”.

Nearly 4,000 persons have registered their names to participate in the DAS.

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