Driving digital Bangladesh forward

Driving digital Bangladesh forward

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on July 16, 2018

One achievement of the government is more visible i.e. expansion of digital technology and its uses in day to day activities of mass people. Making digital Bangladesh was the election manifesto of Bangladesh Awami League in 2009 general election. With different limitations digitization took place in many sectors and different government services became peoples reach due to introduction of online processes. But till now people are not getting full benefit of digital Bangladesh due to lack of commitments from the corrupt bureaucracy and lack of monitoring and evaluation by the responsible higher authority. Corrupt official are not allowing full digitization of the processes to remain unofficial earning line alive. Therefore respective Secretaries and Ministers should be careful to make the processes fully digital to ensure hassle free delivery of government services to the mass people and make digital Bangladesh truly functional. At the same time government has to move further with its Digital Bangladesh concept into Digital Economy concept.

Digital economy refers to an economy that is based on digital computing technologies. The digital economy is also sometimes called the Internet Economy, the New Economy, or Web Economy. Digital economy is related to various areas in the development of ICT infrastructures, equipment, services and applications across industries like mobile network, fixed broadband access network, transmission network, ICT application and services, ICT infrastructure, equipment and in semiconductor industry etc. According to the Oxford Dictionary “digital economy is an economy which functions primarily by means of digital technology, especially electronic transactions made using the internet”. Bangladesh entered into the Fourth Generation (4 G) age of telecommunication. High speed internet connectivity is available in the country but till now its cost is comparatively higher for the general people. Cost of internet uses has to bring into general peoples reach and other processes have to be cleared to make digitization functional, effective and fruitful. For example receiving foreign currency earnings through outsourcing is still out of mass peoples reach. Only members of a certain association can open such accounts in selective banks and receive PayPal account’s earnings here in Bangladesh. Making instant online inter-bank transactions, purchasing goods from online portals, receiving online payment is still impossible. Bangladesh has enormous potentials in outsourcing business but producing trade based qualified manpower is yet to be added in formal learning. Whereas digital economy risen about USD 3 trillion during last twenty years globally.

According to Forbes magazine about 1,25, 000 large organizations are launching digital business initiatives with estimated digital revenue increase by more than 80per cent by 2020. There is evidence that the companies that are adapting digital technologies are 26per cent more profitable than their industry peers. Bangladeshi SMEs are yet sleeping to adopt digital means of business i.e. e-commerce and e-business due to absence of digital infrastructure. Paying or receiving online is not possible till now. Even instant online interbank transaction is out of peoples reach. Online trading of shares by mass people is not started as a result share market did not expand as it should be. Company registration, trade license, tax payment, passport renewal and many other government services is supposed to get online but to remain corrupt practices alive relevant officials are not providing those digital processes to be fully functional.

According to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report “Digital globalization: The new era of global flows”, “soaring flows of data and information now generate more economic value than the global goods trade” making “possible for companies to reach international markets with less capital-intensive business models”. Digital economy is contributing in increasing economic growth, expanding business opportunities, creating new jobs, improving public services delivery etc. with all these benefits digitization has few challenges like cyber security, cyber crimes, cyber war etc. to be careful about.

Now come to the point what initiatives could be taken to move from digital Bangladesh into digital economy. First initiative in this regard is to adopting relevant ICT skills in the curriculum of different levels to ensure demands of the proficiencies from the applied business sectors. Increasing use of digital technologies at work and adopting new skills in national curriculum. Adopting occupation specific generic ICT skills at worker level curriculum to make them able to use such technologies in their daily work like access information online or use software for a specific purpose.  Adopting curriculum relevant to the production of ICT products and services like software, web pages, e-commerce, cloud and big data etc. specialist skills to programs, applications and manage networks. Adopting ICT-complementary skills like capability to process complex information, communicate with co-workers and clients, solve problems, plan in advance and adjust quickly. At the same time attainment of sound levels of foundation skills constitutes a prerequisite for the proficient development of ICT generic, specific and complementary skills could make the curriculum digital economy friendly.

Secondly; government or donor funded development projects could be driven into establishment of digital infrastructures to make relevant business processes functional, secured, transparent and accountable. Without making the processes functional, or establishment of required infrastructures digital Bangladesh will not move into digital economy. Digitalization of enterprises and their functions is the prerequisite of digital economy. Globally its expansion speed is much higher than that of the product based economy. Services sectors especially government services delivery system digitization may be a good initiation of the digital economy movement.

Finally; spreading out of digital benefits throughout the country is still a major challenge of digital Bangladesh. Internet speed in the village level is remaining a major obstacle to start any productive venture. Therefore people’s congestion is rising in the major cities. Spread out of digital infrastructure into village level could reduce peoples flow to the cities too. Digitization of economy and entering into digital movement could offer quicker development of Bangladesh economy and achieving vision 2021, SDG 2030 and finally vision 2041 in time. Thus digital Bangladesh could be transformed into Digital Developed Economy of Bangladesh.

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Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

 

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on June 11, 2018

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning emphasized on quality education and skills development. This goals highlighted on inclusiveness of education i.e. government is to ensure quality education for rich, poor, urban, rural, tribal or other ethnic children. Accommodating all ethnic groups, all races, all classes, and all geographical territories under the umbrella of quality education is inclusiveness here. At the same time this goal also emphasizing on lifelong learning, it could be described in two dimensions. These are recognizing learning of the dropout students from work experience and certifying them under a unique platform, promoting skills elopement in all levels of professional life. These are the short training courses to acquire targeted competencies through on-the-job trainings (OJT) or part-time training sessions. To understand SDG Goal – 4 we have to go through the targets set under this goal.

There are ten (10) targets of this goal. These are by the year 2030 (1) Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes, (2) Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education, (3) Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university, (4) Substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship, (5) Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations, (6) Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy, (7) Ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development, (8) Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all, (9) Substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries, and (10) Substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states.

Prominent terminologies in the above mentioned targets are (1) Girls and boys both has to be equally emphasized, (2) Free equitable and quality primary & secondary education, in Bangladesh, primary and secondary education is tuition free for the girls but secondary level boys have to pay, this goals emphasized on free education for the boys too in both primary and secondary levels, (3) Equal access for women and men in the quality vocational, technical and tertiary education in affordable cost. But in Bangladesh quality education is expensive whereas we have limitations in technical and vocational education ground. Qualified teachers, required laboratory and equipment have scarcity in vocational as well as technical colleges. (4) Skills for employment, decent job and entrepreneurship, focus of most Bangladeshi learners are employment but decent job is very rare in the society. At the same time skills are not focused to entrepreneurship at any level or at any faculty. Every faculty is creating job seekers but not job providers here in Bangladesh. (5) Disabled, indigenous and vulnerable area children have to get special focus. Other terminologies are relevant to curriculum development and priority areas like literacy and numeracy both are equally emphasized, life style, human rights, gender equality, promotion of peace and non-violence shall get priority in the curriculum. ICT education, engineering education technical and scientific education shall be prioritized to ensure pro-development and pro-employment education for sustainable development. Finally target ten has rightly pointed out that supply of qualified teachers is one of the most important tasks to ensure quality education and skills development for sustainability.

Now come to the Bangladesh perspective, 7th five year plan of the government provided enough emphasize on quality education. It emphasized on (1) Improve the Teaching Learning process in schools, (2) Ensure participation and reduce disparity, (3) Ensure Decentralization and enhance effectiveness, (4) Establish Effective Planning and Management, (5) Increasing the rate of enrolment, (6) Capacity increase in reading, writing, listening & speaking, (7) Necessary steps

Reducing the rate of dropout, (8) Encouraging female enrolment, and inclusion of all children in the education system. 7th five year plan is also recognizing the challenges like Infrastructural shortage, Inadequate implementation, Insufficient funding, Inequality and gender disparity, Imbalance among disciplines, Skills mismatch, and finally; Skills deficiency of migrant workers etc.

By focusing on the above mentioned challenges we would like to mentioned that, Bangladesh is earning about USD 13.5 billion by exporting 10 million workers abroad, whereas 2.3 million Pilipino expatriate workers are earning USD 31.2 billion per year. That means Philippine earns double remittance of Bangladesh by sending our one fifth workers abroad. It is because they are sending semi-skilled and skilled workers and professionals like nurses, technicians and others. Bangladesh has to focus on expatriate workers oriented skills development to earn more remittance and ensure their adequate demands and safe work environment in abroad.

On the other hand Bangladesh is paying more than USD 5 billion by employing about 0.5 million foreign nationals mainly in the readymade garment and its backward and forward linkage industries. It is also indicating we are paying much higher rate than our expatriate workers earning rate from abroad. We are not paying more by employing foreign nationals due to absence of required competencies among the local professionals. A recent study identified that, Bangladeshi professionals are weak in Communications, Strategic Thinking, Market Forecasting, Marketing& Promotion, Initiative, Product Development, Innovation & Creativity, Critical Analysis, Sales Planning, and Operations Management etc. competencies. Therefore capacities of local mid-level managers are not up to the mark of a foreign mid-level manager. Therefore government shall emphasize on the above mentioned competencies to incorporate in national curriculum in different levels and produce qualified teachers and trainers to ensure fruitful result out of it.

Finally we can state that, our technical colleges, poly-techniques and vocational institutes, training centers and teachers training institutes are lacking in laboratory facilities, shortage of equipment as well as qualified trainers. Therefore these faculties are unable to ensure quality education and skills development for optimum result out of these. Demand driven, employment oriented and entrepreneurial curriculum has to be developed with supply of adequate qualified trainers. Government alone cannot do this at all, private sector investors shall be attracted to invest in quality education and skills development with relevant facilities to produce world class professionals for local market as well as to export into the demanded world market. Tax holidays for a certain period, soft bank loan can be effective tools to attract entrepreneurs to invest in skills development sector. Similarly tax weaver facilities against training up employees from abroad could be offered for lifelong skills development of the employed workers and professionals. It will help to produce a technically sound and professionally qualified generation in near future. Thus Bangladesh could improve productivity as well as products quality and remittance earnings. Qualified non-resident Bangladeshi professionals could be attracted here to contribute in local quality improvement through offering them a tax free income for a certain period under certain criteria. Thus government could involve private sector in achieving SDG Goal – 4 i.e. ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030.

Colonial habits persist

Colonial habits persist

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on January 7, 2018

Celebrating 31st Night or New Year’s Eve is also known as Old Year’s Day or Saint Sylvester’s Day in many countries. Saint Sylvester’s Day is the day of the feast of Pope Sylvester I, a saint who served as Pope of the Western Church from 314 to 335 and oversaw both the First Council of Nicaea and Roman Emperor Constantine I’s conversion to Christianity. Among the Western Christian Churches, the feast day is held on the anniversary of Saint Sylvester’s death, 31 December, a date that, since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, has coincided with New Year’s Eve. This is the most prominent historical reference about celebration of 31st night in the West mainly the Christian dominating societies. They used to organize social parties in this occasion and have alcoholic drinks with light shows and others. Probably Indian society has been adopted this 31st night celebration like so many other things from the British culture during the colonial period.

Many colonial habits injected to Indian cultures and became part and parcel of our daily life. We sometimes promoted those habits to show our loyalty to the western masters; sometime we wanted to place ourselves in the British level elite by adopting their cultures here in the colonial India. The eastern part of British India is dominated by the Bengali originated people. It is not unlikely to state that celebrating 31st night and New Year’s Eve is one of those western cultures adopted by the upper class people of the Bengali society to place themselves in British level elite class. Though is does not have any reference in Bengali Culture or does not permitted by the major religious believers of the Bengali society.

Not only the Gregorian calendar year have many other cultures celebrated respective New Years Eve today. For example the Pohela Boishakh (1st Day of Bengali New Year), The Chinese New Year (exact date can fall any time between January 21 and February 21), the Korean New Year or Seollal (the first day of the lunar calendar), The Vietnamese New Year or Tết Nguyên Đán (most times is the same day as the Chinese New Year) and the Tibetan New Year or Losar (falls between January and March) etc. Actually celebration new years is a trillion Dollar business around the world today. In presence of too many New Years Eve we Bengali people are crazy to celebrate the Gregorian New Year’s Eve or the Saint Sylvester’s Day only. Why do we? May be it is the most widely used calendar around the world, maybe we are inheriting this event from the British Lord’s till now, maybe it is allowing us to dance with alcohol and others.

We observed another new trend of 31st night celebration in Dhaka city this year. This trend was listening loudspeaker Hindi songs (90%), English songs (5%) and Bengalish songs (5%) throughout the night. Few parties used Fanush (throughing fire to the sky) with different types of bombs. These fires and bombs could create dangerous fire distraction any time. We are thankful that Dhaka Metropolitan Police was strict (as per their media announcement) against such dangerous acts. But in practice Dhaka duelers had to fight for sleep in the 31st night this year. At last the night passed without any major casualty or fire incident. But the silent harm is doing by this injected events to our culture is that, Bengali songs are going to be abolished due to the loud presence of Hindi songs in the 31st parties. Hindi is the official language of our neighboring country. But I am afraid that, such frequency of loud Hindi songs was absent in many states of India like Dhaka during this 31st night. I am sure native state of current Indian Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi i.e. Gujarat had not played such a huge number of Hindi songs in loud speaker during this 31st.

I do not have any reservation for listening to Hindi songs or English songs or any other language songs during the 31st or throughout the year. My only reservation is listening to Bengalish songs i.e. 70% English or Hindi lyric and 30% Bengali words in a song to make it Bengalish. It’s totally unaccepted to destroy our own resources like the language by the name of modernization or becoming smart. I am afraid our future generation will be affected by this wrong pronunciation of Bengali language and miss the original glory of our beloved mother taught. We fought for this language, our forefathers offered their bloods and lives for this language. But today we are doing nothing to save this language from the illegal transformation into Bengalish (Bengali + English) or Hingla (Hindi + Bengali). Some FM radio stations are regularly competing with each others to inject foreign words into Bengali illegally. Some singers are copying Hindi or English lyric to sing Bengali songs. As a result our beloved language is becoming polluted.

Government shall look after the matter seriously and going to anti language pollution drive is essential need of the time now. Broadcasting authority should make it clear that, no Hindi or English lyric shall be allowed to copied and used in Bengali songs. No FM radio shall be allowed to pollute Bengali language with the name of modernization or smart practice. Serious attention of the government and relevant agencies is required to save our beloved mother tang from this trend of pollution and preserving the pure taste of Bengali for our future generation.

Skill development: a priority for sustainable development

Skill development: a priority for sustainable development

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on December 18, 2017

The government of Bangladesh has fixed up vision 2021 and vision 2041 to be middle income and developed countries by the year 2021 & 2041. Similarly major opposition political platform has come up with their vision 2030 to have economic development of the country. On the other hand globally sustainable development goals (SDGs) 2030 were fixed up by the United Nations as a follow-up action plan of the millennium development goals (MDGs) 2015. Government of Bangladesh took SDG targets seriously to be achieved by 2030. 7th five year plan of Bangladesh focused mostly to the SDG goals and targets. Separate platform has been created to coordinate SDG related issues under the leadership of a Senior Secretary of the government under direct supervision of the honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Each of the newly enacted policies, development plans, projects and programs are making linked with the SDG and other national goals like vision 2021 and 2041. During resource allocation for these development activities we identified a serious gap between our development expectations and availability of required skills. Bangladesh is earning about USD 5 billion by exporting 8 million plus semi-skilled or unskilled workers mainly to the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries. But Bangladesh is paying about USD 5 billion plus by recruiting less than 0.2 million foreign professionals here in Bangladesh. That means we are lagging behind in terms of mid-level managerial and technical capacity required to operate our existing corporate houses.

Skills development became an emergency issue for Bangladesh to achieve its visions and to increase valuable foreign currency earning in any forms namely; export earnings and remittance. According to a recent study conducted by BIDS titled “Labour Market and Skill Gap in Bangladesh” labor demand has been projected to increase from 63.5 million in 2016 to 88.7 million in 2025. The rapid increase in projected labor demand is the result of high projections of GDP growth, which has been assumed to be sustainable with the same elasticity of employment as experienced during the last decade. From the year 2021, labor demand will be in excess of supply of labor in Bangladesh. In fact, Planning Commission has also estimated that during the Seventh Five Year Plan period, labor demand generation would be in excess of supply. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also mentioned that Bangladesh is in skills shortage in a study conducted in 2015.

BIDS (2016) showed in another study i.e. Skill Gap Analysis for Selected Sectors that, existing skill gap is the highest in the agro-food sector followed by the RMG Sector. Skill gap for “skilled workers” is also high (40%) in the IT and leather sectors where this is a constraint. Generally skilled workers and semi-skilled workers are in short supply in every sectors of Bangladesh. The same study projected that demand for skilled workers would be in agro food sector will increased to 261%, in construction sector it would be 54%, in healthcare sector 54.95%, in hospitality and tourism sector 35%, in IT sector 100%, leather goods sector 107%, light engineering sector 76.95%, in RMG sector 122.6%, and in shipbuilding sector 677% in 2025-26 fiscal year. From the above study findings it’s quite clear that, to meet the visions (2021, 2030, and 2041) Bangladesh has to develop skilled manpower in every sector. Few other studies identified that demand for overall manpower in Bangladesh would be higher than its population growth. That mean overpopulated Bangladesh is becoming manpower shortage country within next one decade.

To meet up this skills gap government is trying to restructure overall education system of Bangladesh. Technical and vocational education system is given priority over general education. A cash incentive is given to the technical education students along with other instrumental support. But performance of the vocational institutes throughout the country is miserably poor. Quality of education in technical and vocational sector became questionable. Graduates from these institutes are becoming idle due to their poor performance in the industry. This education system is unable to meet up-to-date demand of the industrial sectors. As a result graduates are remaining unemployed. On the other hand industries are recruiting foreign professionals with valuable foreign currency to meet concurrent demand of the world competition in respective sector.

National skills development council (NSDC) was established and upgrading it into National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) is under process. National Skills Development Policy (NSDP) was adopted few years back. Updating curriculum of technical and vocational education board is under process. Now is the time to analyze weather our existing institutional setup is capable to create required number of skilled hand to meet up the demand or we have to establish new institutes?

One of the major challenges to improve quality of our education system to produce qualified manpower is absence of enough laboratory facilities in specific fields. Secondly, we have limitation in development of appropriate course curriculum and modules to teach. Scarcity of trained trainers / teachers is another bold barrier to capacity building of our local education institutes. Government alone cannot fight with all these barriers toward capacity building of our education system and facilitate demanded skills development of Bangladesh. Government shall involve private sector more actively with skills development initiatives. Local entrepreneurs shall be encouraged by the government to establish skills development institutes and training up their employees in respective field.

Without governments direct support private sector cannot effort cost of training up an employee during his working hours (while he is paying for this hours), paying the training cost in addition to the salary without work. As a result local professionals are remaining backdated in absence of up-to-date training facility; finally they are remaining under performer. Government could allow Private Sector to adjust the cost of capacity building of his employee from the applicable corporate taxes on him. Government may enact 100 hours mandatory training act to facilitate skills development of the professionals working in private sector. But that 100 hours cost should be adjusted from corporate tax applicable on respective organizations. Otherwise skills development in massive scale will remain a need never be achieved.

Private Sector shall be encouraged to establish technical institutes with up-to-date modules and laboratory facilities. Government should allow foreign investment in capacity building sector of Bangladesh to facilitate technology and managerial capacity transfer. A massive revolution is required to draft and adopt competitive course curriculum, modules, trained teachers, laboratory facilities, industrial attachments and other necessary tools of skills development. SEIP type’s project is required for capacity building of technical and vocational institutes as well as the institutes established by Private Sector Entrepreneurs, Chamber of commerce, Sectoral Associations, and Social Contributory Trusts etc. Without producing qualified manpower with up-to-date skills all of our visions i.e. Vision 2021, 2030, and 2041 will remain unattended forever.

 

An Evaluation on the Proposed Budget for 2017-18

On Proposed Budget for 2017-18

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on June 4, 2017

Honourable finance minister AMA Muhith has proposed the national budget for the 2017-18 FY in the parliament on June 01, 2017. The most experienced finance minister of Bangladesh has broken his own record of placing maximum budget in the parliament. The total size of the proposed budget is taka 4.26 trillion along with an annual development plan of about taka 1.55 trillion. The sizes of the total outlay and ADP are both the ever highest in Bangladesh budgets. Critics called it an election budget to manage everybody. Few criticisms came with crueller words like to cut mass peoples pocket and collect election expenditure of the party. In spite of all the political criticisms, we welcome this biggest budget in the national history. Before going into detailed evaluation, I would like to have a look on the development budget allocation.

As per the proposed development budget transportation and communication got the highest priority with about 27.4% allocation. Bangladesh economy is transforming from agriculture dependency into industrial economy. During this transformation stage transportation and communication sector got its justified priority. So no doubt that, the experienced brain committed a justified move. The second highest budgetary allocation goes to the education and technology sector. It is another wonderful step from the honourable minister. But it makes me sorry that the healthcare sector is just neglected in this budget with 6.1% budget that stood at the 6th position of the ADP. It could get the 2nd or 3rd highest priority. Because till now there is only one child hospital in Bangladesh for 160 million people. The capital city is the only way out for treating many serious diseases.   The government healthcare sector is overloaded to bear the demands of 160 million populations. Private healthcare facilities are just out of reach to 80% of the citizens. In such a situation healthcare sector deserves more budgetary allocation to establish more seats in the existing district level government hospitals. Establishing specialised hospitals at the divisional or district level is a justified demand of the mass people. Childcare is crying loudly in Shaymoli when a serious child needs ICU facilities to save his / her life.

The local government and rural development got 15.3%, Energy and electricity got 13.5% of the proposed ADP. To ensure a balanced development of the country local government and rural development deserves attention. Similarly, energy and electricity are the inputs to industrialisation and essential catalyst of mass people’s living standard. The honourable minister explained his achievement to bring 9,000 MW electricity generation capacities to 15,000 MW. But till now we are experiencing uncontrollable load shedding in the capital city especially during last two months. The experience of the rural people is even more agonising than that of the city duellers. At the same time a significant portion of the rural Bangladesh is still to get electricity connection. In this circumstance energy and electricity deserves extra attention.

Now we would like to have a look on the sources of this money. The finance minister has proposed to collect 62% of the revenue through the National Board of Revenue (NBR). It could be an extra pressure on the income tax and customs collectors. As a result, mass people especially the business community could face tough treatments from the NBR people. At the same time, single rate VAT collection has been proposed with a waiver list which is offering a relief to some identified groups but in general poor people have to be brought out from this VAT net. It is not clear how the government is planning to do so.

This budget has an over dependency on foreign aid and foreign loan. There are many examples of our inefficiency in utilising existing foreign assistance. But in the proposed budget these sources have shown a 3 times growth. How such a large amount of foreign assistance will be managed and how we could utilise those with our existing project implementation capacity remains a big question. Therefore, how the budget deficit of Tk. 1.12 trillion will be made up is remaining a very prominent grey area. If the government borrows unusual amount of money from the local sources than the private sector entrepreneurs could face credit deficit.

I am afraid of the proposal of imposing Tk. 800 as excise duty on bank deposits of Tk. 1-10 lakh. This decision is completely at variance with the government move for inclusive banking / financing. At the same time, it would be a pocket cutting decision for the low income group who are maintaining bank accounts with one lakh taka just to face any inconvenient situation or emergency. Therefore, this slab for imposing excise duty could be raised to Tk. 10-20 lakh. Less than Tk. 10 lakh should be exempted from imposing excise duty; otherwise poor people will lose interest in saving money and depositing them in banks.

As the number of unemployed higher educated youths in the country is rising day by day, we were expecting a special move from the government to address this issue through this budget. But relevant initiatives to generate employment or develop entrepreneurship are not visible in this budget though the honourable minister could defend himself by the GDP growth projection conducive to job creation. But still job creating projects deserve extra care in current situation of unemployment. Special allocation or mechanism is required for employment generation and entrepreneurship development.

A very good decision has been taken by reducing corporate tax rate and inspiring green industrialisation. But personal income tax slab also deserves to get hiked because people’s living cost is rising throughout the country due to inflation and other developmental effects. As the living cost of the mass people is rising, the personal tax-free income slab should be raised further.

Finally, we would like to conclude this brief evaluation on the proposed budget 2017-18 with a hope that, the honourable parliament members will evaluate the proposed budget and propose adjustments in some areas like increasing the slab of bank deposit to impose excise duty in line with the vision of inclusive banking, increasing the personal income tax slab due to rise of living cost of the mass people etc. And finally the most experienced finance minister will rethink few issues to make this budget more people-oriented, pro-poor and pro-development budget.

Quick and inclusive economic development

Quick and inclusive economic development

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on January 12, 2017

Bangladesh achieved its independence through a bloody war in 1971. The 1st government of independent Bangladesh under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took initiative to rebuild the war destroyed country as soon as possible. Foreign aid, grants, loans were collected to rehabilitate Bangladeshi’s into respective profession. A large number of West Pakistani and foreign entrepreneurs, professionals went back to the respective countries and a common vacuum was visible in every sector. The then government of Bangladesh was influenced by the communist leaders of Bangladesh. As a result government adopted socialistic policies in economic arena. Socialist model resultants into nationalization movement and control market economy situation. But after a certain period, government has to shift its sole communist ideology into moderate socialistic approach due to many reasons. After 19980s capitalistic movement started to get momentum and individual investment in many sectors were inspired by the government policies. A long list of nationalized industries started to be sold into private sector. Foreign direct investment and private sector driven economy get started its progress in the independent Bangladesh.

Global free market economy concept was totally adopted in 1990s in Bangladesh. Almost all major barriers were withdrawn to allow private sector entrepreneurs to be involved in and uplift the economic development through employment generation in private sector. There are few cases of misappropriation of privatization concept but the free market economy concept strengthens its position in Bangladesh economy. Post 90s situation was made complex to determine its position.

With the change in government privatization was inspired by one party others are discouraging it. Five year plane got new title as PRSP. As the major political parties are rival to each other’s this contradictory environment started to be reflected everywhere of the government, bureaucracy, policy papers, and other governments priorities. One party is influenced by the socialistic ideology while others are the free market biased. Whatever is the motive but everyone has to be returned into the poverty alleviation, employment generation, social safety net, economic growth, overall development of the country etc. issues.

The world experienced failure of socialism and troublesome condition of capitalism as well. Therefore it is difficult to state that a single ideology is best to be adopted in Bangla desh for ensuring optimum level of inclusive welfare for the general people. Socialism / communism discouraged competition, innovation, and highest level of efficiency while capitalism made the human a product to be sold. A class of people becomes richer than ever while his neighbors are fasting to eat.  There are positive and negative aspects of each of the models offered by economist, social scientist till date. Therefor it is really difficult to determine which one is the best model to be replicated by a newly development potential country like Bangladesh?

In such a situation we could search information to determine the key factors contributed in economic development of the countries like Germany, China, and Japan etc. The ideal case of this condition could be Germany. It is the largest economy of Europe and forth largest GDP of the world. Size of the German GDP is $ 3.5 trillion to $ 4.00 trillion. GDP per capita of Germany is $ 42,000 to $ 48,000 in 2016. Contribution of service, industry and agriculture to the GDP of Germany is 69.1per cent, 30.2per cent and 0.7per cent respectively. Service sector contributed 73.8per cent, industry contributed 24.6per cent and agriculture contributed 1.6per cent of employment generation in Germany.

Major industrial sectors of Germany are iron and steel, coal, cement, mineral fuels, chemicals, plastics, production machinery, vehicles, trains, shipbuilding, space and aircraft, machine tools, electronics, information technology, optical and medical apparatus, pharmaceuticals, food, beverages, and textiles etc. The top 10 exports of Germany are vehicles, machineries, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment, basic metals, food products, and rubber and plastics. Major export destination of German products are the United States 9.6per cent, France 8.6per cent, United Kingdom 7.5per cent, The Netherlands 6.6per cent, China 6per cent, Italy 4.9per cent, Austria 4.8per cent, Poland 4.4per cent, and Switzerland 4.2per cent. Germany is one of the highest trade surplus nations of the world. In 2014 total trade surplus of Germany was $285 billion that is more than the total GDP of Bangladesh.

Now come to the question was Germany in the top position from the very beginning? The answer is no. Because of the industrial revolution occurred in Germany about 100 years later than that of the industrial revolution in England, France or Belgium. German states eliminated tariff barriers among themselves in 1834 while we are suffering to do so in SAARC even after 200 years later in this 21st century. To promote social development German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck promoted laws that provided social insurance, improved working conditions and instituted the world’s first welfare state during 1881 to 1889. Germany was the first to introduce social insurance programs including universal healthcare, compulsory education, sickness insurance, accident insurance, disability insurance, and a retirement pension. Moreover, the government’s universal education policy bore fruit with Germany having the highest literacy rate in the world 99per cent education levels that provided the nation with more people good at handling numbers, more engineers, chemists, opticians, skilled workers for its factories, skilled managers, knowledgeable farmers and skilled military personnel. These are the key factors of rapid development of Germany.

The German economic miracle was also intensified by an unprecedented population growth from 35 million in 1850 to 67 million in 1913 (while we are considering population growth as a burden). From 1895 to 1907, the number of workers engaged in machine building doubled from half a million to well over a million. Only 40 percent of Germans lived in rural areas by 1910, a drop from 67per cent at the birth of the empire. Industry accounted for 60 percent of the gross national product in 1913. The German chemical industry became the most advanced in the world, and by 1914 the country was producing half the world’s electrical equipment. The rapid advance to industrial maturity led to a drastic shift in German economic situation, from a rural economy into a major exporter of finished goods. The ratio of finished product to total export jumped from 38per cent in 1872 to 63per cent in 1912. By 1913, Germany came to dominate all the European markets. By 1914, Germany became one of the biggest exporters in the world. It was as like as China is doing in Asia today.

The economic model of Germany is based on the concept of the ‘Social Market Economy’. It is neither socialism nor capitalism in total nature. It is a socioeconomic model combining a free market capitalist economic system alongside social policies which establish both fair competition within the market and a welfare state. In other words it could be termed as a coordinated market economy known as Rhine capitalism.

The social market economy refrains from attempts to plan and guide production, the workforce, or sales, but it does support planned efforts to influence the economy through the organic means of a comprehensive economic policy coupled with flexible adaptation to market studies. Effectively combining monetary, credit, trade, tax, customs, investment, and social policies, as well as other measures, this type of economic policy creates an economy that serves the welfare and needs of the entire population, thereby fulfilling its ultimate goal. The “social” segment is often wrongly confused with socialism and democratic socialism, and although aspects were inspired by the latter, the social market approach rejects the socialist ideas of replacing private property and markets with social ownership and economic planning.

The ‘social’ element to the model instead refers to support for the provision of equal opportunity and protection of those unable to enter the free market labor force because of old-age, disability, or unemployment.

There are supporters of both the doctrines i.e. socialism and capitalism in Bangladesh. There are two types (socialism biased and capitalism biased) of policy makers in our existing parliament as well.

Therefore this German model of ‘Social Market Economy’ could be the best model for adopted in Bangladesh. Its success is proved in Germany as well as in China in some extent. Bangladeshi policy makers (political leaders), bureaucrats, and other stakeholders could be oriented with the model through more interaction between two friendly countries Bangladesh and Germany. The German Embassy in Dhaka could be play the role of catalyst here in adoption of German Social Market Economy model in Bangladesh.

Overseas Employment Sector Deserves More Attention

Overseas Employment Sector Deserves More Attention

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on November 18, 2016

 

Contribution of agriculture, industry and service sector to the Bangladesh GDP was 51.03%, 7.68% and 41.28% in the year 1971 (during the Liberation War of the country) respectively. Similarly, it was 31.55%, 20.63%, and 47.81% in the year 1980, 32.75%, 20.69% and 46.55% in the year 1990 respectively. Later on in the year 2000 contribution of agriculture, industry and service sector to the Bangladesh GDP was 23.77%, 23.31% and 52.91% respectively. Currently (2015) contribution of the same sectors to the Bangladesh GDP is 15.50% (Agriculture), 28.14% (Industry) and 56.34% (Service). From the above discussion it is quite clear that the economy of Bangladesh is going through a transformation from agriculture dependent economy into industrialised economy. Agriculture has an optimum point of production that could not be increased by increasing inputs. Therefore the government is encouraging industrialisation for facilitating employment generation, poverty reduction, earning foreign currency by increasing exports, and so on and so forth.

Since our independence one segment of Bangladesh GDP i.e. service sector is rising sharply without much efforts and measures. It has grown from 41.28% into 56.34% without any breakthrough. Contribution of industry rose to 28.14% from 7.68% with the growth of RMG, Leather, Plastic, Agro-processing sub-sectors. We offered back to back L/C facility, bonded warehouse facility, Cash incentives, Negotiated at WTO and other regional and bilateral forums to ensure duty-free and quota-free facilities to the manufacturing industrial sub-sectors. As a result, readymade garment (RMG) sectors earned UDS 25.49 billion in 2014-15 FY. If the value addition is around 30% then we could state that Bangladesh received USD 7.65 billion by employing 1.2 million workers, a large amount of capital, fullest capacity of our diplomacy etc.

On the other hand, Bangladesh received USD 15.31 billion remittance in 2014-15 FY by employing 0.6 million overseas workers. Without consuming Bangladeshi rice, water, gas, electricity or any other facility overseas workers contributed USD 15.31 billion for the country. Most of them are less-skilled, semi-skilled or even unskilled. How many Bangladeshi taka the government provided as cash incentives for them? How much tax government weaved? How many trade delegations went to negotiate with foreign recruiters regarding the welfare of these overseas workers of Bangladesh? How many free trade agreements required be negotiated or signed to promote flow of workers to the destination countries? How many institutes/ universities the government has established to increase their skills so that they could earn more money with the same service?

USD 15.31 billion is net profit of Bangladesh whereas we are working hard to get USD 7.65 billion profits by employing more workers, capitals, policies, and so on and so forth. It is very shame for the nation while we read news that baggage of this overseas workers are missing in Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport while returning home. It is our national disability to establish a government commission for promoting overseas employment in abroad. They will be liable to collect foreign demands for the workers and supply visa to the interested workers without super profit of the middlemen.

We hate those Bangladeshi diplomats who are ashamed to talk to Bangladeshi workers abroad while they are in dire need for help. We hate those embassy people who disagree to offer information support / direction / advise while a Bangladeshi worker is missing abroad. Many Bangladeshi workers have to be buried abroad while they died there. Why could not we ensure an overseas worker that his dead body will be carried forward to your family if he dies over there? Anyway this sector is the second highest source of foreign currency for Bangladesh economy.

Migration from Bangladesh started in 1976 with a modest number of 6,078 workers. Presently Bangladeshis are engaged in overseas employment in more than 100 countries; about 6.07 million workers had been employed in various parts of the world up to October 2016. 2007 and 2008 were the highest overseas employment years in the history of Bangladesh with total 8.32 million and 8.75 million employed overseas. But in terms of remittance 2014 and 2015 are the highest earning years with USD 14.94 billion and USD 15.27 billion remittances respectively.

About 49.65% Bangladeshi overseas workers are less skilled, 31.75% are skilled, 15.15% are semi-skilled and only 2.3% of them are professionals. Comilla has the highest number of overseas employed population i.e. about 11% of the total overseas employed population followed by Chittagong 9.57%, Brambanbaria 5.22%, Dhaka 4.48% and Chandpur 4.16% of total migrated populations. Top most destinations of Bangladeshi overseas workers are the KSA, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Malaysia, Korea and Singapore etc.

To ensure smooth migration of workers and professionals, the government shall have to take the following steps:

  • to reduce the prevailing unemployment problem of the country;
  • to earn foreign currency without consumption of Bangladeshi foods or drinks;
  • to reduce frustration among the youths, terrorism, drug addiction, social unrest etc;
  • to develop the capability of investment for self-employment and entrepreneurship;
  • to promote relevant business sub-sectors like travel agents, aviation, tourism etc;
  • to enhance the financial capability and purchasing power of the migrant workers which gears up the economic activities and uplifts the standard of living;
  • to enhance transfer of technology to the country through technical knowledge and expertise acquired by the workers working abroad;
  • to create motivation and develops awareness of the migrant workers towards cleanliness, hygienic environment, importance of literacy, discipline, etc.

Overseas workers face the following challenges while migrating:

  1. Corrupt Passport office does not issue passports without some extra money / hassle.
  2. Super extra profit motive of the recruiting agency / visa sellers leads to abnormally high payment for the visa.
  3. Procedural hassles in some legal institutions in home and abroad.
  4. Over demand of the employers without adequate requirement of labour just to get the money by selling visa.
  5. Non-payment, underpayment, delayed payment, poor living conditions, refusal to provide air tickets at the time of exit, non-adherence to the terms and conditions of employment by the sponsors.
  6. Sometimes workers are repatriated after becoming handicapped temporarily or permanently due to accidents without proper treatment or compensation.
  7. If a worker dies over there, then carrying his dead body is another burden for his family.
  8. In most of the cases victims’ families do not receive insurance or other benefits due to non-claim for the benefit.
  9. The government is paying around three lakh Bangladeshi taka to each of the victims’ families (if workers die abroad) but the system is too cumbersome and lengthy.
  10. Sometimes recruiting agents do not provide any money receipt for receiving money from the migrant workers.
  11. Sometimes some agents do not handover the requisite papers like employment agreement, visa papers, etc., to the workers, or they deliver it at the last moment before departure.
  12. Sometimes recruiting agents do not come up to assist the workers who are facing various problems related to their contracts in the destination countries.

The above mentioned hassles would be removed if the government took following actions:

  1. Activating relevant government agencies with a view to turning regulators to service providers;
  2. collecting demands for workers and professionals from foreign recruiting authorities and supplying those visas to the interested workers and professionals with a logical / banking profit;
  3. the government should reduce government agency linkage to reduce migration time and relevant corruption;
  4. searching new destinations and new professions to increase remittance earnings;
  5. providing training on demanded trade and exporting skilled workers instead of unskilled or semi-skilled workers and using Bangladeshi embassies as service centres for the overseas workers instead of remaining typical bureaucrats.

Neighbouring India earns much more remittance per overseas worker because they are sending skilled workers after negotiating their working environment, minimum salary, insurance benefit etc. Migration cost from India to the same destination is much less than that of Bangladesh. Therefore it is time for the government to come forward for the welfare of the overseas workers and migrating professionals to ensure a hassle-free, safe and secure migration and ensure logical remuneration for them through government to government negotiation. Special drives could be taken for encouraging highly educated professionals to opt for overseas employment to ensure more earnings and quick development of the country.