Centre for Policy Dialogue
Emphasizing the issue of market distortion, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun has recommended market monitoring by the government and claimed that a significant group of people manipulates the market. She pinpointed the ongoing economic instability globally and locally, addressing the issues of outrageous price rise of commodities, banking health, fiscal policies and external factors affecting the local economy. Dr Fahmida, while speaking at a roundtable on Saturday, also discussed the dependence of Bangladesh on fuel imports and fuel price hikes affecting the production level. The Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) hosted the monthly roundtable titled, ‘War, Famine and Turbulence: Global Trends 2023’ featuring three speakers - Dr Fahmida Khatun, former Ambassador Air Vice Marshal (Retired) Mahmud Hussain and security analyst Shafqat Munir. Also read: CPD's Fahmida made member of UNCTAD’s advisory board The roundtable was moderated by BIPSS President Major General (Retd) ANM Muniruzzaman. The moderator initially highlighted the post-Covid issues being faced by the current world today, such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict, possibilities of an accidental escalation, economic downturns, food security, geo-political competition, climate security, elections in South Asia, disruptive technology, metaverse and the brand new front of artificial intelligence (AI). Mahmud Hussain mentioned that the current Ukraine-Russia war would empty Europe’s energy storage if further escalation occurred. The former ambassador and expert recommended institutional developments for Bangladesh to ensure sustainable preparedness in the future. He stated that further worsening of the war would lead to a global price rise of fuel, putting a strain on Bangladesh's energy security. Security analyst Shafqat Munir tapped into the untapped aspects of global affairs like geo-political competitions and confrontations. He stated that further studies are required on geo-political competition and confrontations nearby, which may directly impact Bangladesh due to its geographical location. Furthermore, he said, the interconnection between technology and security was discussed, along with the importance and vitality of disruptive technology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and metaverse. According to the security analyst, these technologies, if they land in the wrong hand, could create new security challenges for the country. Munir opined on the question of national security that all Bangladeshis should speak in one voice. He mentioned the possible accidental escalations in the global arena.
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a think-tank, has raised questions about the necessity of power tariff enhancement against the backdrop of the concerned ministry’s reported proposal for an allocation of Tk 56,860 crore as subsidy. “We don’t understand why the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources wants to raise power tariff at the retail level when it seeks such a huge amount as subsidy,” said CPD research director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem while making a presentation on the interim report on the proposed “Integrated Power and Energy Master Plan (IEPMP) on Thursday at CPD office. Referring to the report, he said that of the total proposed amount, Tk 32,500 crore was sought for state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) for power sector, Tk 19,360 crore for Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation(BPC) for petroleum import and Tk 5,000 crore for Petrobangla for LNG import. Read more: BERC now to consult with govt before any move on retail power tariff hike proposals “We don’t agree with a proposal of reducing subsidy by raising power tariff,” he said adding, Rather, the government should go for a phase out plan to retire the costly rental and quick rental power plants to reduce the cost of power generation. The CPD research director said state-owned BPC is now making huge profit instead of incurring loss in its petroleum business after enhancement in fuel prices as the global fuel price is showing a declining trend. He claimed that the BPC is now making a profit of over Tk 30 per litre in selling the diesel. Responding to a question, he said the ministry sought such a huge amount as subsidy might be due to an inflated calculation. CPD executive director Dr Fahmida Khatun also spoke on the occasion. Appreciating the government’s initiative for adopting the Integrated Power and Energy Master Plan (IEPMP) , Dr Golam Moazzem said this has some positive and negative aspects. Read more: Raising retail power tariff: 3 more distribution companies submit proposals "But despite that we appreciate the move as it has much more focus on renewable energy promotion than before,” he said. He, however, said that the government is now shifting from its original target of generating 40 percent of electricity from renewable energy by 2041. “We see a major change in the statements as they now say the target is “up to 40 percent” by inclusion of word “Clean Energy” instead of renewable energy,” he added. He also observed the government was trying to shift from the coal-fired power’s phase out plan by introducing “Carbon Capture Technology”. The developed world is now coming away from this technology because it is not environment-friendly as such technology is used to capture carbon from the coal-fired power plants. He said the cost of solar and other renewable energy (RE) options is coming down globally and generation of 16,000 MW of electricity, which is the targeted 40 percent of total planned power generation, is very much possible. Many local and foreign investors are ready to invest in the RE sector. “The RE technologies are getting cheaper day by day. The government should go for proven technology in this regard instead of unproven ones,” he said. He also observed that the government ultimately wants to promote import of LNG (liquefied natural gas) through the proposed master plan while the RE did not get proper attention in it. “RE has not been avoided in the proposed master plan, but it was ignored,” he said.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at seminar on power and energy sector budget has said that the capacity payment to private sector power plants, including rental and quick rental plants, has gone up to Tk 26,505 crore in FY2022 from Tk 5,600 crore in FY2018. “This capacity payment obligation has forced the government to move for increasing power tariff”, said CPD research director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, while making his keynote presentation titled: “Energy and Power Sector in the National Budget for 2022-23” at a hotel in the city on Sunday. According to the CPD, the amount of capacity payment could reach Tk 31,600 crore in FY2023. Also read: Proposed budget’s social safety allocation not enough, speakers say at CPD dialogue With CPD executive director Dr Famida Khatun in the chair, the function was also addressed by Power Cell director general Mohammad Hossain, eminent energy experts Dr M Tamim, Dr Badrul Imam, advisor of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Dr M Shamsul Alam, president of the Bangladesh Independent Power Producers Association (BIPPA) Imran Kabir, former chairman of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission Shafiqul Islam, Prof Dr Kader and social worker Khushi Kabir. Moazzem said that the country’s surplus electricity which was termed as the over generation capacity of electricity has increased to 10,764 MW in 2021-2022 from 8231 MW in 2020-21 with a jump to 42.12 per cent from 37.37 per cent. The current total electricity generation is 25,556 MW. He observed that the government’s access to electricity target has been achieved, but people are not getting the full benefit because of the lack of transmission and distribution facilities. He said the budgetary allocation for the FY2022-23 also shows that the two segments of electricity are not receiving the due attention from the government as the generation segment is dominating in the allocation. Mohammad Hossain disagreed with figures about the over generation capacity and said that it is not logical to show the capacity payment separately as such cost is calculated as production cost. Dr Tamim said the country aggressively needs to pay attention to the development of the primary energy sector. Also read: Budget offers no good news for lower, middle income groups: CPD “But there is no such initiative from Petrobangla to move for local gas exploration”, he said, blaming a leadership crisis in the organisation. He said it is not clear why Petrobagla failed to prevent the fall in production at its existing gas fields while the foreign company Chevron successfully kept its production at higher level at its Bibiyana field. “This might be that the government is emphasising on meeting the gas crisis through import”, he said. He also observed that the Titas Gas’s system loss is 7 per cent which means 150 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) of gas is being stolen everyday while the country has to import a huge amount of gas from abroad. Dr Imam said the government has no success story in the energy sector although energy is the primary supplier of fuel to the power sector. He said the gas production is decreasing day by day and it will be fully depleted in the next few years. “But no initiative is visible from the government to drill for gas exploration”, he said in the last 26 years only 26 wells were drilled while there are huge prospects for gas and oil in the country as it is the biggest delta in the world. Most of the oil and gas reserves were discovered in the deltas in the world, he added, saying the US Geological Survey study shows the country has a prospect of 42 trillion cubic feet gas reserves. He said the government has to annually spend Tk 44,000 crore to import gas from abroad to meet the local demand. Dr Shamsul Alam said the government is giving huge benefits to the private sector power producers through “predatory cost” which plays a major role in increasing power tariff. He alleged that the government is paying Tk 92 per litre of furnace oil for power generation at private plants while the state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) is costing this furnace oil at Tk 72 per its own plant. He said 95 percent of furnace oil based power plants are being operated by the private sector and for this way the government is paying Tk 8,100 crore to the private power plant operators. He said the power sector has been a good ground for looting of state wealth. Without preventing this theft, the crisis in the power and energy sector will not be resolved. Imran Karim said the country’s actual power generation capacity is 16,000 MW while the daily production is 13,500 MW as many plants are not being operated due to the gas crisis. Defending the private sector’s role in power generation, he said electricity generation cost will be lesser if furnace oil is used for power generation instead of imported LNG as the price of furnace oil has decreased in recent days.
Increased collaboration between ministries and data-based monitoring of expenditures are required for a better implementation of gender budget, said discussants at a pre-budget dialogue on Monday. Ahead of the national budget, Plan International Bangladesh and Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised the dialogue titled “National Budget Addressing Gender Based Violence” at Pragati Insurance Building, Karwanbazar in Dhaka. The discussants said, women’s development is at the core of the overall development plan of Bangladesh. In the national budget, the gender budget is allocated for a number of ministries. Collective data on the specific expenditure of the ministries preventing child marriage and violence and proper monitoring will play an effective role in reducing gender-based violence through further planning. Also read: Fiscal policy support needed for economy to tackle inflation: CPD Nadia Nawrin, Programme Associate, CPD made an introductory presentation at the programme on “Budget Framework Analysis on Challenging Fear of Violence”, a recent report produced by Plan International Bangladesh and CPD. While presenting the analysis, she said that Bangladesh has made significant progress on several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This progress is also evident in SDG 5 on gender equality and women's empowerment. Despite Bangladesh's remarkable economic progress, violence against women is still widespread and unstoppable, said the paper. In addition, other factors remain: lack of adequacy, monitoring and reporting mechanism and lastly, the relevant budget does not address fear of violence. The analysis recommends that in order to address and eliminate the fear of violence among girls and women, the current gender budget framework has to be redesigned. Awami League MP Aroma Dutta said, the government prioritises gender budget. There are 36 ministries under which gender budget is allocated. But, for monitoring its proper implementation, “we must ensure collective data on the expenditure. This will also support addressing the challenges of the existing laws and acts against gender-based violence.” Also read: CPD, ILO bring together stake holders to develop national industrial safety framework The MP also urged a greater campaign against gender-based violence. Girls’ Rights Director of Plan International Bangladesh, Kashfia Feroz, said, the fear of violence exists everywhere- from home to public space. In a recent survey of Plan International Bangladesh, we have found that, 35% of the survey participants believe sexual harassment is one main reason behind child marriage, while 25.6% believe parents marry their daughter off at a young age due to fear of violence. 62% parents shared that they fear to send their daughters to school picnic while 54.1% fathers fear sending their daughters to private tutors due to the same fear. Executive Director of CPD, Fahmida Khatun, said, fear is an intangible thing which makes it difficult to reflect in the budget. Fear is increasing everywhere in the world. This impacts not only the individuals but the entire society and the state affecting the economy. She also called for ensuring budget allocation to ensure strengthened implementation of existing laws and acts preventing gender-based violence. Among others, Shima Moslem, General Joint General Secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Dr. Tania Haque. (Professor). Department of Women and Gender Studies of the University of Dhaka, Nobonita Chowdhury Director of Gender, Justice and Diversity (GJD) at BRAC, Sharmind Neelormi, Associate Professor of Economics Department of Jahangirnagar University were present as discussants.
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a private research organization, in a study revealed that prices of different types of rice are much higher in Bangladesh than in Vietnam, Thailand and other countries. Similarly, prices of flour, sugar, edible oil, onion, powdered milk, eggs and meat are much higher than the international market, the study said. “Prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed in Bangladesh. But inflation in the international market is not the only reason for price hikes,” said Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director of CPD. Also read: Dishonest traders raising prices of essentials: Food Minister She came up with the remarks while addressing CPD’s media briefing titled 'Bangladesh Economy in the changed global context', held at its office in Dhanmondi, Dhaka on Sunday. Dr Fahmida presented two research papers on 'Skyrocketing prices amid stable inflation?’ and 'Changing global scenario and Bangladesh Economy: what should be the policy stance?’ on the occasion. Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguish fellow CPD, Dr Zahid Hossain, former lead economist, World Bank, Dr Shah Mohammad Ahsan Habib, BIBM, Professor M. Tamim, Dr Tawfiqul Islam Khan, CPD’s senior fellow, among others, spoke in the program. The speakers focused on the essential commodity prices' situation, external sector, energy and power, banking sector and budget management. Presenting a research paper, Fahmida Khatun said that the prices of essential commodities are skyrocketing. But food inflation is controlled in government accounts, which is not matching with economic theory. From October 2021 to January 2022, the government entity calculates inflation constant at 5.3 percent. At this time inflation of some particular products was between 6 percent to 30 percent during that time while the inflation of food remained constant at 5.3 percent. Dr Fahmida questioned how that is possible. Professor Mustafizur Rahman said the export volume has not grown compared with the huge import; resulting in a trade deficit of $ 10 billion. Dr Zahid Hossain said the government budget expenditure is not growing despite surplus money. He urged a policy to fix up energy prices in the country for sustainable investment. For curbing inflation CPD suggested policy attentions at the government policy makers considering its more adverse impact on the vulnerable and marginalized groups. “All available policy tools should be utilized to control food inflation, including exempting duties and taxes on essential commodities both at domestic and import levels, extending social safety net programmes and raising income tax exemption level,” the CPD said. Stability of exchange rate must be ensured as the value of taka against major currencies should be stabilised in view of its inflationary implications. An independent banking commission should be formed on an immediate basis to mitigate the disarrays within the sector and loan recovery should receive the highest attention. Despite huge imports, the export did not grow. But this is not an accurate picture compared to reality. The pressure on low-income people is mounting. Non-food inflation has also risen sharply, the CPD suggestion urged to change the situation. The need for strong market intelligence is critical as unscrupulous market players have always been active to take advantage of difficult periods, by stockpiling and creating artificial crises in the market, CPD study said. Efficient market management through close monitoring and supervision will be critical to keep the commodity prices under control during Ramadan and beyond. Also read: LGRD minister blames soaring prices of essentials on pandemic & war The volume of sale of essential commodities through the open market system (OMS) should be increased. Distribution of these commodities must be managed effectively and without any corruption, so that the eligible people have access to these items at low prices. The government should provide direct cash support to the poor, enhance social protection for low-income families, and extend stimulus to the small businesses for their survival during difficult times, said CPD.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a think tank, begins a four-day international virtual conference on Monday to mark the 50 years of Bangladesh's independence and 100 birth anniversary of Bangabandhu’s Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The conference will illustrate the socio-economic changes along with the challenges of Bangladesh through 20 papers in 8 sessions. Scholars, researchers, university teachers, development workers from the UK, Norway and other European countries will join the Bangladeshi scholar conference and present papers. Also read: CPD for reinstating previous fuel prices CPD’s executive director Dr. Fahmida Khatun in press briefing disclosed the program schedule. CPD’s distinguished fellow Professor Dr. Rounaq Jahan also spoke in the virtual briefing. The South Asia Programme of Cornell University will co-sponsor the virtual conference titled "Fifty Years of Bangladesh: Retrospect and Prospect." Also read: Demographic data very important in vaccination efforts: CPD
The outcome of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is crucial for climate-vulnerable countries like Bangladesh, said Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD). In less than two weeks, world leaders, government officials, negotiators, and representatives of the private sector and civil society organisations are going to attend the COP26 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). CPD and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) jointly organised the virtual dialogue "Bangladesh's Expectations from COP26" Sunday to shed light on the expectations from the Conference. Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD, and Professor Mizanur Rahman Khan, deputy director of ICCCAD, made presentations at the dialogue. The study pointed out that the least developed countries (LDCs) are the worst victims of climate change vulnerability. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic has put enormous pressure on climate-vulnerable countries. In Bangladesh, annual average temperatures increased by 0.64 per cent in 2018, which was 10.20 times faster than the annual average temperature increase of 0.06 per cent in 1961. Due to floods, Bangladesh is expected to incur losses equivalent to 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Given these critical consequences, Bangladesh has an active interest in the outcome of COP26. Five specific agendas are critically important for Bangladesh. First, ensuring the commitments of major carbon-emitting countries to limit carbon emission; second, scaling up climate funds urgently to support climate-vulnerable countries; third, ensuring the bigger share of climate fund towards adaptation; fourth, finalising the Paris Rulebook to ensure accountability; and fifth, establishing the mechanism for loss and damage. Read: Hasina’s climate leadership lauded at CVF-COP26 dialogue
The 5.3 per cent inflation target, set by Bangladesh Bank’s new monetary policy, is not realist as it has been estimated on the basis of a consumption basket developed 16 years ago since when the cost of living has jumped much higher. This observation was made by leading think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at a virtual media briefing on the newly announced monetary policy statement (MPS) on Tuesday. CPD said that the consumption basket used for calculating overall general inflation was created in 2005 and so it does not reflect the current reality and actual prices in the market. Also read: Inflation declines to 5.26 in May “The poor and low income groups are increasingly finding it difficult to meet their requirements in the face of dual blows from—erosion in purchasing and income”, said Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD in the presentation on the MPS 2021-22. She said that data shows that the 12-month average food and non-food inflation rates have fluctuated in a cyclical pattern over the past several years. “So, the inflation rate has lost its relevance to the real world”, she said, adding that the consumer price index (CPI) of medical care and health expenses increased from 156.1 in July 2012 to 251.9 in June 2021. She noted that the inflation rate of medical care and health expenses increased from 0.18% in April 2020 to 2.42% in May 2020, due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Also read: BB unveils monetary policy for Jan-Jun period Dr Fahmida also said the share of transport in actual consumption expenditure was 15% higher than the weight in CPI. CPD distinguished fellow Prof Dr Mustafizur Rahman, director research Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem and senior research fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan also spoke on the occasion. The CPD also said that the target for private sector credit growth at 14.8% is unlikely to be achieved as “it is very high compared to the trend in the recent past”. Indeed credit to the private sector has been largely on a declining trend since Mar 2018 – and is below 10% since November 2019. The Bangladesh Bank on July 29 announced the MPS 2021-22 setting up its different monetary targets with continuing its ongoing expansionary monetary policy amid a cautious stance for the current fiscal year (FY) to help boost recovery of the pandemic-hit economy. The CPD said the poor and low income group people should be provided with direct cash support to create demands in order to make the economic recovery from the shock of the Covid-19. It also suggested easing the conditions for the non-formal sector to ensure bank loans under the stimulus package, saying that the big businesses are taking the full advantage of the government’s financial support while micro and small businesses are far behind in the race. About the lower private investment inflow, Dr Mustafizur said setting up a special economic zone alone cannot play an effective role to attract private investment. “There are so many factors like ease of doing business, regulatory support, supportive infrastructure, one-stop service and also skilled manpower which need to be addressed to attract private investment”, he said. Responding to a question on the remittance management, he said the government can issue bonds in foreign currency for mega infrastructure for which it takes foreign loans. “That requirement could be met with these bonds ensuring the investment is safe and return is secured”, he added. About excess bank liquidity of about Tk 2.5 lakh crore, Dr Golam Moazzem said the Bangladesh Bank can take measures through bringing change in different mechanisms of cash reserve ratio CRR and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR). He said a joint monitoring of Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) is essential to ensure that the money provided by the government’s stimulus package is not invested in stock market.
Bangladesh should improve internet quality and accessibility to reap the benefit of digitalisation in trade and services, said experts at a virtual dialogue on Monday. They said Bangladesh should increase internet affordability, ensure quality internet and ICT skills development, reduce digital divide and urgently address policy gaps related to trade in digital services. Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Bangladesh jointly arranged the dialogue on ‘’Trade in Services in the Digital Age.” “Not only accessibility to the internet, but also the quality of internet is extremely important for the delivery of digital services,” said Dr Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director for Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Talking about the internet affordability, he said the internet price is relatively high in Bangladesh. According to the Affordability Drivers Index by Alliance for Affordable Internet, Bangladesh ranks relatively better among LDCs, but the countries like Senegal, Cambodia, Rwanda and Nepal are ahead of Bangladesh in terms of affordability, said Dr Adhikari. READ: 170,000 schools to be connected with high speed internet by 2030: Palak Dr Selim Raihan, Executive Director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) questioned the regulatory framework in Bangladesh for digital trade. He highlighted how exploitation of loopholes in the regulations by existing businesses leads to sufferings for both the customers and the new businesses. Syed Almas Kabir, President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) said digital payment needs to be flourished in Bangladesh to ensure a complete process of digital trade. He said some 95-96 per cent internet users now have to depend on mobile operators, while only 4-5 per cent on broadband internet. “If we want to provide services digitally, they (the people) actually need a high speed network or broadband network…… The transmission cost is very high and that is actually creating a digital divide between the rural and urban areas,” he said. He, however, said amid the internet affordability problem, the digital payment has increased from only 15 per cent to 32-35 per cent during the Covid-19 pandemic. “So, that is a good sign. That is why I want to propose to the government to incentivize the digital transaction,” he said. In order to promote the digital transaction, Almas Kabir proposed to provide cash back incentive to all kinds of digital transactions for the next 3-5 years, keep all kinds of digital transactions out the purview of VAT and make the digital payment mandatory for all government fees. About ICT skills development, he said there is a gap between academia and the industry. “We need to minimize the gap.” He said some 22,000 students graduate every year from the computer science and engineering subjects, but they have to go through a training process for the next 3-6 months to become employable. “If we want to reduce this gap, we need to incorporate the skill development training in their four-year academic curriculum,” said the BASIS President. CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun, who moderated the dialogue, said the expanding cross-border tradability of services is opening new opportunities for national economies and individuals in the 4IR revolution era. CPD Distinguished Fellow Professor Mustafizur Rahman focused on the need of getting engaged in global discourse since it is also about competing in the domestic market with foreign goods. He recommended that Bangladesh should have a comprehensive trade and industrial policy that reflect all the important issues regarding digital services and e-commerce. READ: Brief, global internet outages blamed on software bug General Manager of Payment Systems Department at Bangladesh Bank Md. Mezbaul Haque said the E-commerce sector of Bangladesh is dominated by F-commerce. Such businesses are not under the formal banking system causing a major barrier to digital payments. He said there is interoperability from a bank to another bank and bank to MFS but not between one MFS to another MFS. “We’re working on it. We are confident that we'll be able to bring this interoperability within a few months.” Besides, Executive Director of Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) Dr Dushni Weerakoon, Executive Director of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) Dr Puspa Sharma, Senior Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Dr Rashmi Banga, Chief Executive Officer of the HSBC Bangladesh Md Mahbub Ur Rahman, Associate Professor of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) Dr Priyadarshi Dash, FES Resident Representative for Bangladesh Felix Kolbitz delivered the introductory remarks, while CPD’s former research associate Md Kamruzzaman made the keynote presentation. In the keynote presentation, Kamruzzaman said innovative technology is seeping into the mechanisms of economic sectors worldwide. Professional services are expected to be heavily disrupted by artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, machine learning and digital platforms, he said. READ: Bangladesh’s road to digitalisation: 59 hill unions to get broadband internet He said Bangladesh’s exports have been heavily concentrated in the textiles and garments sector. Strategic development and promotion of services trade are among the key approaches needed for Bangladesh to break into new markets. Eliminating barriers to trade in services is therefore vital to ensure market openness in the digital age, he added.
A total of 222 garment factories across the country, of which 66 per cent are export oriented—have confronted fire incidents during 2020. Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a social think-tank, found this in its latest study that also revealed that the number of injured workers in factory related accidents increased by almost 24 per cent in 2020 compared to that of in 2019. CPD Research Director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem disclosed the findings on Sunday while presenting the study report at a virtual dialogue on “Challenges of Industrial Safety in the Post-Accord-Alliance Era: Is the Institutionalisation Process Slowing Down?” Also read: ILO saddened by Rupganj factory fire, urges proper safety measures in factories The virtual seminar, jointly organised the CPD and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh, was also addressed by CPD Chairman Dr Rehman Siobhan, organisation’s distinguished fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan, President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporter Association (BKMEA) Vice President Mohammad Hatem, Inspector General of Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment (DIFE) Md Nasir Uddin, Chief Technical Advisor of International Labour Organisation (ILO) George Faller, garment labour leaders Babul Aktar, China Rahman and Executive Director of Karmajibi Nabi Sanjida Sultana, and Brac official Jenefa Jabber. Treasurer of CPD Board of Trustee and Apex Group CE0 Syed Monzur Elahi moderated the function. Dr Moazzem said the issue of workplace safety in the RMG sector has come to public attention in recent times with the rise in industrial accidents in garment and allied factories. Also read:Locked inside a factory without fire exit, 52 lives go up in flames He said the rising number of accidents raises question about the effectiveness of the institutional process followed for maintaining industrial safety in the post-Accord-Alliance period. He also claimed that the number of incidences increased by 100 per cent in FY2020 compared to that in FY2019 followed by a decline of 20 per cent in FY2021 (up to April, 2021). “Accidents took place for different reasons such as fire, short circuit, structural collapse, boiler explosion and so on”, he said adding the incidences of fire and electrical (short-circuit) were the main reasons (35% of total incidences). Citing the example of latest fires incident at Sezan Juice Industries at Rupganj, this has been an eye opener for the all concerned stakeholders that it puts an extra importance to look at the working environment at other industrial sectors beside the garment industries. Dr Rehman Sobhan said now time has come to pay attention to improvement of the working environment in other industries as well for the sake ensuring workers’ safety. Speakers from garment workers’ leaders blamed the lack of the government’s proper monitoring for growing incidents of fire and other accidents for which the workers are being the main victims. “We’ve been hearing the same statement from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment (DIFE) in last eight years since the Rana Plaza Disaster in 2013 that it has no adequate manpower to monitor industries“, said China Rahman. Citing the fire incident at Sezan Juice Factory in Rupganj that killed 52 workers, she said during the incident, gates were locked up although there was strict directive that no gate of factory can be locked during working hour. Babul Aktar said the primary responsibility of any industry should go to the factory owners first and then to the government. He said always the DIFE shows the lame excuse of manpower shortage for its failure to do its duty. Inspector General of DIFE said the department has a sanctioned post of 993 while inspectors’ post is 575 and now only 314 inspectors are working against those post to oversee over registered 90,000 factories and 440,000 non-registered factories.