They also urged the manufacturers to produce valued-added products and diversify products within the RMG for future growth.
They came up with the call at a discussion on “Business Policy and Environment: Towards a Better Bangladesh” at Dhaka Apparel Summit 2017 held in the capital on Saturday.
FBCCI first vice-president Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin moderated the session.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in association with Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) organised the single day summit.
“Frequent changes in policies hurt the viability of business. We need a long-term policy with a period of 10-12 years for making investment plan,” said BGMEA vice-president Mohammed Nasir.
In short-term policy, it consumes time and expenses more to get service from the government, he said, urging the government to allow factory owners to transfer gas connection to new factories, if relocated to new places.
“RMG sector is the driver for growth of Bangladesh’s economy. It contributes 13% to GDP. To achieve the $50 billion export target Bangladesh will have to earn $22 billion in the next five year with a 12% growth, said Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in his keynote presentation.
Bangladesh RMG sector needs policy support, technological upgradation, skilled labour, market and product diversification, Nazneen added.
Talking on the challenges, manufacturers have to pay better wages, while they have to negotiate with the buyers for better price. Remediation financing, exchange rate, uninterrupted supply of gas and increased price hike are barriers to growth.
In her address, Shwapna Bhowmick, country head of Marks and Spencer in Bangladesh and Myanmer, said: “Marks & Spencer started business here in Bangladesh in 2004 with basic polo shirt and other basic products, but now we are sourcing value-added products from Bangladesh.”
Product diversification and shorter lead time to ship products to the export desalination is one of the keys to grow in Bangladesh. The manufacturers have to come out of their traditional thinking, said Shwapna.
Bangladesh has a lot of young and enthusiastic workers, who are very keen to learn. Workers are developing day by day, added the official.
Calling for more value addition, she said: “Make visitors feel comfortable here.”
“The rise of bileteralism in trade is a threat. To remain competitive in the global market, the government has to ensure uninterrupted gas supply and involve private sector in gas exploration to reduce dependance on foreign company,” said former Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Syed Nasim Manzur.
Whatever the policy, it should be long term with durability, said Nasim.
For future growth of export-oriented sector, he suggested tax rationalisation and establishing direct port link with Europe.
“Manufacturers will pay more wages, but what about the prices of products?” Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed psoed a question while talking on the recent labour unrest, centering the wage hike in Ashulia.
The minister also said a lot of money had been invested in improving safety standards in the RMG sector to ensure safe workplace, but the buyers did not increase the price, even they cut it.
Calling for new mechanism to resolve workers unrest or dispute, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat said:
“There is real success story in the RMG sector in Bangladesh, but as partner, we think there is a couple of issues including workers rights that could may impede the successes in future.”
“We do not want to see slow progress or time barriers to continue our effort jointly along with the brand.”
The ambassador said the US is disappointed with the Ashulia issues.
There will be strike or unrest, but is there any mechanism to resolve this? asked Bernicat.
“We do not think that there has to be union but there has also to be mechanism. There is social dialogue going on with the ILO, which would be a very striking breakthrough,” she added.