Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has said there is no alternative to increasing exports to maintain a strong foundation for the country's economy.
The Government of Bangladesh has therefore set an ambitious target of hitting $80 billion in exports by 2024, and $100 billion by 2026 and is working accordingly, he disclosed.
This would effectively require exports to double in just four years, given that the country's earnings in this sector breached the $50 billion mark for the first time in the recently concluded 2021-22 fiscal.
It can be instructive to note that the doubling from $25 billion to $50 billion took some 11 years - the country earned $25 billion in exports for the first time in 2010-11 fiscal.
Tipu Munshi was speaking as the chief guest at a ‘Meet the Press’ program organised by the Overseas Correspondents Association of Bangladesh (OCAB), held at the Akram Khan Auditorium of the National Press Club on Saturday.
The commerce minister said that Bangladesh will get the currently available facilities and preferences as an LDC till 2029, i.e. for three years after graduation in 2026.
“We have to survive in trade competition with the developed countries then, so the government is working to develop the capacity of different sectors along with export diversification,” the minister said. At present, the readymade garments sector alone contributes about 82 percent of total exports.
"So special initiatives have been taken to increase the exports of about 10 sectors including ICT, leather, plastic, light engineering, and jute to achieve the target," he said.
“We have more potential to increase export of readymade garments as Myanmar’s garment sector almost closed and China's garment industry is relocating,” he added.
As a result, opportunities have been created for Bangladesh with its huge reserve of 'skilled' - for the RMG sector at least - manpower and low cost of production, mainly due to the cheapest labour money can buy anywhere in the world.
On the other hand, the new generation of factories in the thriving sector has given Bangladesh the highest number of environmentally-friendly 'green factories' in the world, which also keeps the country ahead in trade competition, Tipu said.
“Our trade gap with China and India is highest due to import of industrial machinery and raw materials. China has granted duty-free facilities to 99 percent of its exports to reduce trade barriers. Bangladesh is working towards a SEPA agreement with India to reduce the trade gap," the minister also said.
In response to a query, Tipu Munshi said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's recent visit to India was successful. India has agreed to provide free transit facilities by road with Bhutan and Nepal.
"There are increasing opportunities for trade and commerce with India by road, sea, and air, communications is improving a lot, 7 agreements have been signed in this tour. By which both Bangladesh and India will benefit a lot.” He added.
Convener of Overseas Correspondents Kadir Kallol, Member-Secretary Nazrul Islam Mithu, and UNB editor senior journalists Farid Hossain were present at the function.