The Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Center of University of Dhaka organized a virtual webinar session on “CMSMEs in Bangladesh: Journey, Challenges and Future Direction” on Saturday as part of the REVIVE Project, its joint collaboration with UNDP Bangladesh
Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Advisor to the Hon’ble Prime Minister on International Relation Affairs was the chief guest of the session while AKM Sajedur Rahman, Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank and Barrister Nihad Kabir, President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) were the distinguished guests. The session was also attended by Dr. Momtaz Uddin Ahmed, Honorary Professor, University of Dhaka and Mr. Khurshid Alam, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh.
Dr. Rizvi began his speech by congratulating ICE Center for its project REVIVE initiative that targets the CMSMEs of our nation. He said that linkage of our entrepreneurs with an international supply chain has now come to be a pressing demand of the time to maintain the rally of growth. From his experience of working with the indigenous community, Mr. Rizvi said that although training and skills development activities that are being undertaken for indigenous and marginal people are appropriate but the main problem lies in creating linkage for them with the market. Historically, entrepreneurs are inclined towards sole proprietorship of their business but in case of the indigenous tribes they think and function like a community and that is how businesses are developed amongst them. To attain the vision of 2030, it is important to bring forward the underprivileged class of citizens in the community and he hopes ICE Center would play a pivotal role. He further advised the youth to be on their toes to tackle another global pandemic if it ever does come again.
Nihad Kabir stated that it is important to address cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises individually while developing policies on different issues such as dealing with the issue like internationalization of CMSMEs sectors or bank policies in providing financial support. By applauding Project REVIVE for its district mapping initiative of the 64 districts, she emphasized on its outcome to be useful for the development and industrialization of the districts.
AKM Sajedur Rahman, the Deputy Governor of Bangladesh bank, in his speech emphasized that for the continued economic growth of Bangladesh, CMSMEs sector needs to be developed giving priority.
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Executive Director of ICE Center Rashedur Rahman in his speech shared the journey of Project REVIVE and its activities so far. He also notified the present audience of a research paper in the works that targets the topic of why CMSMES from Bangladesh are not internationalized in a larger scale and how to facilitate their internationalization.
Professor Muhammad Shariat Ullah pointed out that this project had made it possible to run a nationwide survey addressing the struggles of CMSMEs regarding different important issues. He presented some findings from the working paper focusing on the internationalization of CMSMEs sector and the extent to which their mindset is affected by various factors. He has high hopes from the resulting working papers that will help shape the future policies of the nation regarding key policy matters.
Dr. Momtaz Uddin Ahmed discussed about the necessity of cluster-based development regarding widening the window of opportunity for the CMSMEs to enter the global market. He agreed with Barrister Nihad Kabir on the topic of treating C-M-S-M as separate entities. Mr. Khurshid Alam said that for the development journey of Bangladesh, the growth and expansion of the CMSME sector is absolutely vital. Besides, he emphasized on the inclusion of youth in this project to learn the nature of the economy of Bangladesh and to fight future disasters.
The session was Presided by Dr. Khondoker Bazlul Haque, Vice-Chairman of ICE Center and moderated by Rashedur Rahman.
Speakers at a webinar on Saturday said partnership and collaboration between governments of sourcing and supplying countries, as well as brands, suppliers and workers is essential to ensuring the recovery of the apparel sector following the Coronavirus pandemic.
The global apparel value chain has experienced an unprecedented disruption in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike earlier crises, all kinds of activities across the value chain collapsed due to the pandemic, which adversely affected the up-and-down stream including apparel suppliers, workers, raw material suppliers, brands, and consumers, they also said.
The experts added that despite various initiatives at the national level, the process of recovery in the medium term in major supplying countries, including Bangladesh, is rather slow.
More importantly, existing national-level measures have a limited role anyway in ensuring smooth recovery of the apparels enterprises. Addressing medium-term challenges requires innovative strategies and tools to tackle a prolonged period of demand slump.
These observations emerged at a virtual dialogue on “Recovery of the Apparels Sectors from the COVID-19 Crisis: Is a Value Chain based Solution Possible?”, organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in partnership with Southern Voice.
Dr Golam Moazzem, Research Director of CPD, delivered the keynote in which he said the lack of initiatives from major market players has kept the suppliers and workers in a state of uncertainty to address the medium-term challenges.
“Major market players, including brands, buyers and governments of sourcing countries, will have to undertake responsible business practices (RBPs) for sustainable recovery. Framework of a value chain based distributive approach is needed to ensure the earliest recovery,” he added.
Dr Rubana Huq, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), talked about the challenges they faced due to supply chain disruption.
“We have to have a regional collaboration to overcome our challenges. Many people claimed that many workers have been sacked and laid off but why? Our exports drop around 16.94 percent in 2020 compared to previous year. Around 4.82 percent price dropped in September to November in 2020,” Rubana said.
She requested not to be criticized for now as it’s a very challenging time for the industry. They need more financial support to repair the industry.
“Bangladesh can focus on local demand, as there is a lack of global demand. The small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are financially challenged during this pandemic, and the credit programmes are not reaching these firms,” she added.
The Secretary of Labour and Employment ministry K. M. Abdus Salam opined that sudden retrenchment of workers could be prevented through stronger employment policies. The government is undertaking various social safety programmes like the workers’ welfare fund.
Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, Specialist on Worker Activities at the International Labour Organization (ILO), ACTRAV-South Asia emphasised that focus should also be given to the well-being of workers who are not members of any workers' associations.
Sultan suggested forming a central security fund as a long-term solution for the labours.
Ziaur Rahman, Regional Country Manager of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ethiopia for Swedish retailer H&M remarked that buyers are committed towards a higher minimum wage of the labours and even contribute to insurance of the labours. “Focus should be given on research and human resource development of the manufacturers,” he added.
Moderating the session, Distinguished Fellow of CPD Professor Mustafizur Rahman stated that there is a wide group of stakeholders involved in the value chain process. “To sustain the initiatives by the buyers and avoid market failure, a collaborative approach is vital” he suggested taking such collaborative approaches through initiatives like the global entrepreneur compact."
A suggestion of regional response for assisting the supplier and the supply chain came from Chairman of CPD Professor Sobhan. He also proposed a micro-insurance sxheme to ensure the security of the labours. Such social insurance programmes would also require a collaborative approach from the buyers, manufacturers and the government.
Harry Verweij, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands agreed to the findings of the study presented and expressed interest in working collaboratively with CPD further in the future.
Commerce minister Tipu Munshi, MP, suggested Bangladesh should look for new markets through product diversification. He also called for a collective effort from the brands, buyers, manufacturers and the government.
Bangladeshi open web platform Dataful was inaugurated in a virtual programme on Saturday.
Dataful aims to ease people's access to information about services for all sectors, said a press release.
Planning Minister MA Mannan inaugurated the web platform as the chief guest which will provide information of government and private sectors.
After the launching Mannan said “Trusts should be developed to ensure open use of information and Dataful will contribute to this.”
Proper presentation of information eradicates confusions and doubts, he said adding that “So we need to ensure appropriate use of information.”
Noted educationalist and former Dhaka University vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique who was special guest of the event, said “I was with Dataful from the beginning as information access is necessary for creativity and intellectual developments.”
Dr Krishna Gayen, Ex-Director General of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, who presided over the programme, said that the aim of Dataful will be perceived by reducing confusion among people by providing accurate information.
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Speakers at a webinar on Saturday observed that people in the country’s north are still not getting the full benefit of electricity generation due to inadequate transmission facilities.
They urged the government to take prompt measures to improve the transmission system in that part of the country to allow its residents to avail the full benefit of adequate power generation.
“Even if a small storm goes across the region, electricity system trips due to weak transmission system,” said Khairuzzaman Liton, Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) while addressing the webinar titled: “Quality Power Supply to North Bengal & Challenges for NESCO” organized by Energy and Power.
Liton said the power generation has improved a lot, but work still remains before the people start reaping all the advantages of electricity.
The webinar was also addressed, among others, by Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) Chairman Belayet Hossain, NESCO (Northern Electricity Supply Company Ltd) Chairman and additional secretary at Power Division Humayun Kabir, managing director of the company Zakiul Islam, and Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) executive director Yakub Elahi Chowdhury.
Belayet Hossain said the electricity supply situation will improve further in the northern region when the under-construction Thakurgaon power plant will come to operation.
He said the government has taken up a number of projects for improvement of power supply situation in the northern districts including Rajshahi city area.
Humayun Kabir said the government is trying to improve the transmission system.
But it will take two to three years to address the transmission and distribution problems as the ongoing projects need this period to be implemented, he added.
Yakub Elahi Chowdhury said projects for contractions of a number of transmission lines were undertaken for the northern region which include a 400 kV line as well.
“Once these projects are implemented, they will play a vital role to improve the situation,” he added.
Zakiul Islam said NESCO is committed to improve the power distribution at its command area, where people have eagerly waited to get electricity for many years.
A special team of Detective Branch (DB) under Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) have arrested six alleged members of an extortionist gang from different areas of the capital.
A special team of Cyber and Special Crime Division of the DB conducted simultaneous drives at Jatrabarti, Motijheel, Turagh and Paltan areas and arrested the members of “Seven Star Group”.
The arrestes are Bellal Khan, Rakib Khan Titul, Md. A H Hannan, Md. Delwar Hossain, Md. Sohag and Md. Khorshed Alam.
Mobile phone sets, SIM cards and documents used in extortion were also recovered from their possessions, said DMP’s Deputy Commissioner (Media) Md Walid Hossain on Saturday.
The arrested gang members used to work dividing into three groups, he said.
Members of their first group used to collect phone numbers targeting celebrities and established businessmen from different sources.
The members of the 2nd group used to call the targeted people for extortion introducing them as members of top terrorist gang ‘Seven Star Group’ in Dhaka and the 3rd group received money through bkash and Nagad, said Walid Hossain.
A victim lodged a complaint to the DB’s Cyber and Special Crimes division saying that an unidentified person introducing him as Jisan Mahmud of Malibagh, a member of the so called Seven Star Group, phoned him and demanded Tk 5 lakh for running the gang.
The group members also threatened to abduct and kill him.
Based on the allegation, the detectives conducted the drives and arrested the six gang members.
A case has been filed against the arrestees with Jatrabari police station.