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BGMEA election: Forum pledges a sustainable garment industry

  • Published at 10:39 pm March 30th, 2021
The new BGMEA headquarters in Uttara <strong>Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune</strong>
The new BGMEA headquarters in Uttara Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

In the next two years, the garment industry will face numerous problems and obstacles

Forum, one of the two parties contesting in the 2021-23 polls of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), has pledged to build a sustainable garment industry. 

The coalition, which currently leads the BGMEA, made the announcement on Tuesday while unveiling its manifesto at a press conference held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon in Dhaka. 

During the tenure, with the assistance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the board protected the Bangladeshi garment industry from disaster, speakers said at the event, where BGMEA President Rubana Huq and ABM Shamsuddin, Forum panel leader, were present along with leaders of the garment industry.

In the next two years, the garment industry will face numerous problems and obstacles. 

During this time, the BGMEA requires an effective board composed of trustworthy, dutiful, hardworking, and experienced individuals, the panel representatives said. 

Forum is committed to presenting this council, which, if elected, will seek to create a sustainable industry, said a press release.

The core manifesto of the panel focuses on improving 13 aspects of the industry: image; reducing operational cost and business facilitation; facilitating small- and medium-sized enterprises; exit policy for sick industries; price and buyer’s accountability; protection and efficiency; market expansion; technological efficiency; LDC graduation; skills and innovation; sustainability and SDGs; labour welfare; and a cleaner and efficient BGMEA. 

If elected, Forum vowed to review the director's performance every three months as part of its effort to promote a cleaner and efficient association. 

The panel would also consider reorganising the BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT) trustee council.

The BGMEA has had many achievements in the last two years and many more in the progress, Forum members said. 

If elected, the panel would work to increase cash incentive for SMEs to 10 per cent from the existing 5 per cent, according to the election pledges. 

Forum also plans to formulate a guideline to ensure payment of shipped goods and jointly set up a cell between the BGMEA, the Bangladesh Bank and foreign missions to bring non-repatriated export proceeds back to the country.

The BGMEA would also arrange physical, virtual or hybrid roadshows for embassies to heighten the image of the Bangladeshi apparel industry.

Two panels -- the Sammilita Parishad and Forum -- will contest the poll for the 2021-23 period to lead the garment sector for two years.

This time, the biennial election to select the BGMEA’s new committee for 2021-23 has taken on added significance.

Bangladesh’s apparel sector has been amongst the worst-hit for the pandemic.

In 2020, garment, which brings home the lion’s share of export earnings, posted a 17 per cent drop in receipts to $27.5 billion. And the trend continued into the new year: in January, apparel export receipts contracted 4.7 per cent and in February 5.4 per cent.

Even if shipments pick up, Vietnam and India are biting at Bangladesh’s heels for the number two spot in the global apparel trade.

These suggest that the road ahead is bumpy, and an assured leadership at the sector’s apex trade body is needed to steer the uncharted territory.

Sammilita Parishad, led by Faruque Hassan, managing director of Giant Group, has announced its election manifesto on March 17. 

The panel will prioritise increasing locally-made garment exports, its share on the global market, branding the industry abroad, and diversifying both the markets and the products.

It will also work closely with the government and the EU to retain duty-free market access in the region till 2031 after the LDC graduation.

The apparel leader will focus on apparel diplomacy to this end, said Hassan, also a former BGMEA vice-president.

"I have close relationships with foreign diplomats and government officials and ambassadors abroad, who are also close friends of mine. I will use these relationships as a tool to improve business connectivity.” 

For an effective negotiation with the global trade partners and buyers, the exporters’ platform will also form a special task force with the government to deal with challenges.  It also promised to appoint lobbyists in the US to gain duty-free market access for Bangladeshi apparel products.

If elected, the Sammilita Parishad will appeal to the government to increase cash incentives for the sector from 4 per cent to 5 per cent against exports in non-traditional markets for diversification.

Regaining the market share lost due to the pandemic would be a great challenge for the sector, which needs to be addressed, Hassan said.

Bangladesh’s share in the global export market is below 7 per cent, but there are opportunities to grow further.

“To this end, we have to focus on branding Bangladesh and improving the image of the sector.”

In the last 30 years, the dominance of cotton products in the fashion industry declined sharply and about 70 per cent of the market is occupied by manmade fibre.

“We have only 25 per cent products made of cotton. So, there is a huge opportunity to grow, but this needs technological upgradation and skills, where we will focus.” 

In coping with changing trends and to be prepared for the fourth industrial revolution, the leader will focus on training and skills development.

On the other hand, the platform will also work to introduce cash incentives for e-commerce-based entrepreneurs as the online marketplace is becoming more prominent, especially during the pandemic, Hassan said.

The panel will also focus on sustainable and recycled product development as the demand for these items is on the rise.   

It also assured its members of removing the trade barriers by working with government agencies and bringing amendments to customs and tax-related policies.