Entrepreneurial ecosystem needs improvement

Entrepreneurial ecosystem needs improvement

Md. Joynal Abdin

Published by the Financial Express on May 8, 2018

Bangladesh achieved the lower middle income country status in 2015, with the hope of graduating from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC) by 2024. At the same time, we have a vision to become a developed nation by 2041. Bangladesh’s successes in different parameters of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) have been praised by global think-tanks and investment banks. Renowned investment banker Goldman Sachs and economist Jim O’Neill identified Bangladesh as one of the Next Eleven (N11) countries along with Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam back in 2005.

In one of his recent articles published by BARRON’S on 28 April 2018, O’ Neill praised Vietnam for its successful journey of economic development from 2005 to 2018. He described Turkey and South Korea as countries having living standards similar to the European countries. But he was completely silent about Bangladesh.

Similarly, JP Morgan identified Bangladesh as one of the Frontier Five (Frontier 5) countries along with Vietnam, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Kenya in 2007. JP Morgan revised this list of Frontier Five in 2017 by keeping Ghana, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Peru, and Colombia in the list, which they felt have more investment opportunities and prospects. Bangladesh was again missing from this list as well. Therefore, it is time for Bangladesh to rethink its entrepreneurial ecosystem: Why we are absent from such influential global ratings? Is it because Bangladesh was more promising for investment in 2005 or 2007 than the developing Bangladesh of today? Or is it because our entrepreneurial ecosystem is becoming more complex due to absence of certain entrepreneurial tendencies or features?

Let us try to analyse entrepreneurship, factors that influence it, models of entrepreneurship development, and significance of entrepreneurship for a developing country like Bangladesh. Scholars have defined entrepreneurship in different ways. For example, Kuratko & Hodgetts defined entrepreneurship as a dynamic process of vision, change, and creation. It requires application of energy and passion towards the creation and implementation of new ideas and creative solutions. It includes the willingness to take calculated risks in terms of time, equity, or to marshal needed resources and fundamental skills towards building solid business plans.

According to Harvard Kennedy School, entrepreneurship consists of any earnest activity that starts, maintains, and develops a profit-oriented business in interactions with internal situation of the business and external situations like economic, social, and political ones surrounding the business. In simplified form, we can say that entrepreneurship is an entity to commercialise an idea or innovation with a profit motive by taking calculated risks. Entrepreneur is that risk-taker who organises all the factors of production and uses them to convert an idea into a profitable venture.

Two types of environmental factors have influence over entrepreneurship, namely internal or controllable factors and external or uncontrollable factors. Controllable internal factors are lack of efficient manpower, absence of technical knowledge or appropriate machineries, managerial know-how, cost of the factors of production etc.

One of the most important comparative advantages of Bangladesh is its young manpower. But there is a shortage of skilled manpower in the market; as a result, local entrepreneurs are employing many foreign managers and technicians in the readymade garments sector. We have a scope to develop need-based, industry-specific skilled manpower in Bangladesh. But unfortunately, all the public and private universities are generating job-seekers educated on old-fashioned curricula. As a result, they are not capable of fulfilling the needs of different industrial sectors and remain unemployed. More than three million educated young men and women are unemployed in the country now. Additional two million educated job-seekers are entering the economy every year. Therefore, there is tough competition for availing any job. The government can revise the academic curricula after consultations with the industries and incorporate current issues to mitigate this challenge. Private sector entrepreneurs can be encouraged to spend money for their employees’ training at home and abroad in order to develop their skills and improve productivity in the local industries. There can be a provision in the next national budget for allowing private enterprises to spend five per cent of their income for capacity development of their workforce by offering equal amounts of tax waiver.

Uncontrollable or external factors include inconsistency of government policies, discontinuation of policies, frequent shift of policies, unjustified taxation system, corruption in government departments, unprofessional bureaucracy, deteriorating law and order situation, extortions etc. Bangladesh is suffering from negative impacts through each of the uncontrollable factors. Therefore, doing business here is more complicated and costlier than the competing countries. As a result, it is performing miserably in the global ‘doing business’ index every year. Our complex, time-consuming and corrupt processes of business registration and approvals are discouraging local youths from becoming entrepreneurs and are also repelling foreign investors.

Bangladesh needs a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem to sustain its status as a developing country and graduate to a developed nation status, because entrepreneurs have a significant role in the economic growth of a country in the following ways:

  1. Entrepreneurs invest their money to innovate processes and techniques for increasing productivity in respective enterprises and sectors. Thus, they contribute towards improvement of national productivity and GDP growth of a country.
  2. Entrepreneurs generate employment opportunities by establishing new enterprises and helping the government in its fight against unemployment.
  3. Entrepreneurs adopt new technologies in respective industries, and facilitate transfer of technology throughout the country.
  4. Entrepreneurs play strategic roles in commercialisation of new inventions in the society.
  5. They invest money and take risks to produce new products by utilising resources available in a society.
  6. Progress of a business venture or industry in a community helps improve the standard of living of that particular community.
  7. Entrepreneurs play a crucial role in the restructuring and transformation of an economy. For example, Bangladesh economy is now gradually changing from a traditional agrarian one to an industrial one.
  8. Balanced industrialisation facilitates balanced economic development of a country.
  9. Entrepreneurship ensures dynamism in industries by launching innovative products and services.
  10. Entrepreneurs often search for new international markets, and create new market mechanisms locally.

In conclusion, we can say that entrepreneurship plays a multidimensional role in the development of a country. Therefore, the Bangladesh government should ensure a healthy ecosystem to encourage new entrepreneurs and promote proper growth of existing players by implementing business-friendly policies, regulations, processes, ensuring law and order, and curbing corruption, extortions etc. Bangladesh has a long way to go in creating a congenial entrepreneurial ecosystem and improving its current ranking in the global ‘doing business’ index. Without effective steps that can address these issues, foreign investors are unlikely to come in a big way, while local investors may be lured to migrate to other countries.


Industrial infrastructure development for sustainable economic growth

Industrial infrastructure development for sustainable economic growth

Md. Joynal Abdin

Published by the Independent on April 25, 2018

Infrastructure refers to the basic facility required to run the daily life of the citizen of a country or city like roads, bridges, tunnels, water supplies, sewers, electricity, gas, telecommunication system, cellular network, internet connectivity and broadband speed etc. Infrastructures are primarily classified into two brad heads namely, hard infrastructures like transportation networks like roads, airports, sea ports or river ports, railroads etc. and soft infrastructures like education system, healthcare system, law and order situation, financial system, form of government, financial service and government responses to the civil emergency etc. of a country. Bangladesh has primarily graduated from the LDC list this year and hopping to be sustainably graduating into developing countries list by 2024. To fulfill that mission we have to fight few socioeconomic inconveniences like providing employment to the existing unemployed as well as new comers in this category, improve infrastructure (hard and soft) facilities, transform the economy from agricultural based into industrialised one.

Transformation of Bangladesh economy from agricultural to an industrialised one has  started naturally during last couple of decades. For example contribution of Agriculture, Industry and Service Sector to Bangladesh GDP in 1972 (soon after the independence) was 59.60 6.06 percent and 34.32 per cent respectively. In the year 1980 contribution of the same sectors to Bangladesh GDP was 31.55 percent (Agriculture), 20.63 percent (Industry) and 47.81 percent (Service). Current contribution (2016) of Agriculture reduced into 14.77, Industry and Service Sectors increased into 28.76 percent and 56.45 percent respectively. From the above statistics it is clear that, Bangladesh economy is transforming from agricultural economy into industrial economy, but the transformation speed is too slow. Questions may be asked that, why this transformation is necessary. This transformation is necessary because per acre agricultural land a highest threshold of production. After that particular threshold further growth in agriculture is not possible. On the other hand productivity of the same size of industries is much higher than that of agriculture.

Secondly, there are above 3 million unemployed (workable) populations in Bangladesh, another 2 million newcomers are adding with this number as fresh job seekers. But Bangladesh is experiencing a job less growth during last couple of years. As a result burden of unemployment in mounting up day by day. Government alone is unable to create employment opportunities for such a huge number of citizens. Therefore; industrialisation is the most suitable options for employment generation, increasing GDP growth, enlarging export basket and finally sustainably graduating into a middle income developing country. To speed up industrialisation movement government initiated some initiatives like the honorable Prime Minister herself seat in a forum called National Council for Industrial Development (NCID), Ministry of Industries is providing secretarial support to this council. Among others Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) and SME Foundation are working to facilitate entrepreneurship development and industrialization in the country. But due to lack of industrial infrastructure facilities Bangladeshi industrialisation movement is not getting momentum. Now come to the points what is industrial infrastructure? And why these are important to increase industrialisation movement of Bangladesh?

Industrial Infrastructure is a set of physical facilities essential for healthy operations and further growth of the industrial operations in a country or city. Industrial infrastructure is also known as commercial infrastructure. Industrial Infrastructures of Bangladesh could be described as follows:

  1. Aviation Facilities: There are three international and seven domestic Airports in Bangladesh. These are Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Shah Amanat International Airport, Osmani International Airport (International), Cox’s Bazar Airport, Jessore Airport, Shah Makhdum Airport, Barisal Airport, Ishurdi Airport, Saidpur Airport, and Comilla Airport (Domestic). This number of only 10 airports is self descriptive that most of the districts of Bangladesh are out of air network. Airport facilities, security systems, cargo handling etc. capacity are very limited to offer a full sewing aviation service for tomorrows Bangladesh. About nine airlines operators are operating local and international flights in Bangladesh but the national carrier Biman is a losing concern. Bangladesh has a very small network of destinations connected by direct flight and cargo transport facility. This network has to be broadened and air cargo service destinations have to be enlarged to fulfill increasing demand of tomorrow’s industrialisation.
  1. Roads and Highways: Bangladesh has 3.33 lac kilometers of road network. Maximum lengths of this network are Upzila, Union and Village level road. Condition of only 19.46 per cent is good, 37.47 per cent is fair and rests are poor and very poor. Among 3.33 lac kilometers of roads national highways are only 3.5 thousands kilometers. But Dhaka Chittagong Highways (215 kilometer) carries above 60 per cent of Bangladesh’s commercial traffic and 27 per cent passengers of the country. Therefore traffic jam is a regular phenomenon here in this highway. An alternative roads between Dhaka and Chittagong is the necessity of time to promote hassle free transportation of export oriented goods and imported raw materials to and from the busiest port i.e. Chittagong port. Economic importance of Dhaka – Chittagong port is more than all other roads and highways of the country. Government has a plan to make Dhaka-Chittagong Economic Corridor functional. It would help to uplift living standard of the linked cities like N.Gonj, M.Gonj, Comilla, Feni etc. SEZ going to be established besides Dhaka Chittagong Economic Corridor like AMEZ, API Industrial Parks, and Mireshwrai SEZ etc. would be pieces of diamond of this economic corridor.
  1. Railway: There are only 2.87 thousands kilometers of railroads in Bangladesh. Most of the cities are out of rail network and its service. It is one of the busiest modes of transport in Bangladesh but losing concern due to some hidden reason. Railway could be a safe and quickest mode of transport for passengers as well as goods in Bangladesh. New railroads have to be constructed and operated in commercial mode. Government can open up this sector for private investment like the cellular phone sector. Private Investment can develop this sector and make it profitable. Mode of private investment in this sector could be BOO (build, operate and own) or BOT (build, operate and transfer) under the PPP modality.
  1. Land Ports: There are 23 Land Ports in Bangladesh namely Benapole Land Port, Burimari Land Port, Akhaura Land Port, Bhomra Land Port, Tamabil Land Port, Darshana Land Port, Belonia Land Port, Gobrakura-Karaitali Land Port, Ramgarh Land Port, Sonahat Land Port, Tegamukh Land Port, Chilahati Land Port, Daulatganj Land Port, Dhanua Kamalpur Land Port, Sheola Land Port, Balla Land Port, Sonamosjid Land Port, Hili Land Port, Banglabandha Land Port, Teknaf Land Port, Bibirbazar Land Port, Birol Land Port and Nakugaon Land Port to carry its import and exports from the neighboring countries through road transports. Infrastructure facilities in most of the land port are measurable. Carrying goods to or from most these land port is till horrible experience for the businessmen. Storage facilities, Road condition, Customs stations and other important institutions in these land port has to be developed to make these functional and effective.
  1. Sea Ports: There are only three functional sea ports in Bangladesh i.e. Chittagong Port, Mongla Port and Paira Port. A large number of private or specific service oriented port facilities are there in different locations. About 92 per cent of maritime trade traffic of Bangladesh goes to a single port i.e. The Chittagong Port. Therefore traffic congestion in Chittagong Port is rising day by day. It is increasing hidden cost of doing international business through Chittagong port. A deep sea port is under process to ease maritime trade of Bangladesh. But delay in decision making related to deep sea port may increase threats to Bangladeshi maritime trade i.e. import or export in near future. Because we have a target to increase our export volume to USD 50 billion in 2021. Current export of USD 35 billion is making congestions in our major ports how they can handle additional USD 15 billion trade by existing capacity? Not only sea ports, government have to go for capacity building of all the existing river ports of the country to make trade goods transportation comfortable through river channels. River ports activation could ease traffic jam in roads and highways too.
  1. Electricity, gas, coal, oil and renewable energy: Currently Bangladesh is generating about 10 thousand megawatt of electricity per day. This generation is fighting to supply adequate amount of electricity to the existing industries. But when 100 SEZs will be commissioned with full range of factories then what would be the demand for electricity, gas, coal, oil and other forms of energies. This could be a major challenge to make our dream into reality. All the renewable energy sources could be unable to supply the demanded amount of energies. Therefore before making land boundaries of all the SEZs, Industrial Parks, Industrial Areas and Clusters we should work out how much different forms of energies could be demanded by all these industrial states, SEZs, and industrial clusters. Do we have enough preparation for that?

Finally we could state that, we are running towards a very lucrative goal but have to be prepared enough to achieve it and feed its demands too. Not only the above mentioned industrial infrastructures (hard) Bangladesh has to supply required soft infrastructures too to make 100 SEZs functional, to sustain as a developing nation after erosion of all the existing trade preferences from 2024 and  onwards.

Private sector investors could be engaged actively to develop all of the industrial infrastructures (hard & soft) under PPP or BOO or BOT etc. modalities.

Government should open up all of the industrial infrastructure development relevant sectors for private investors to contribute. Otherwise government alone may not be in a position to supply resources for all these and measurable pain of bounce back to the LDCs could be the end result.

Opportunities and challenges of the new industrial revolution

Opportunities and challenges of the new industrial revolution

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on November 26, 2017


The term revolution means radical change of existing order in favor of a newer one. Industrial revolution refers to the radical improvement of manufacturing and other technologies that have completely changed the previous scenario and established a newer version with positive shift of industrialization. Experts are forecasting that 4th industrial revolution is taking place in the international arena. As a part and parcel of industrialization Bangladesh have to enter into the 4th industrial revolution to compete and gains its stake from the industrial world. Each change or shift offers something opportunistic and few challenges. Relevant policy makers have to be careful about the opportunities to grab and challenges to overcome of it. Bangladesh has a long list of industrial sectors waiting to take off. Some of the sectors are in performing level like RMG sector; some of the sectors are in growing stage like Leather and leather goods sector, some of the sectors are potential to grow like ICT and Outsourcing. In such a condition 4th industrial revolution is taking place. So we have to be careful about the opportunities and challenges of 4th industrial revolution and prepare proper policies to grab the opportunities at most and overcome the challenges efficiently.

The then latest technologies played vital role in each of the industrial revolution for example 1st industrial revolution (1760) was driven by the rise of steam power, railways and mechanized forms of production. Similarly 2nd industrial revolution (1890) was driven by the invention of electricity and new approaches to manufacturing based on assembly lines and mass production. Rapid improvement of semiconductors and the spread of computers and the internet technology were the driving forces of 3rd industrial revolution (1960s) finally 4th industrial revolution is going to be take place with the mass performance of the artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, mobile internet (available everywhere), 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, such as cars and drones etc. technologies. These technologies will offer new ways to create and consume, will transform how we deliver and access public services, and will enable new ways to communicate and govern. Almost every aspect of our lives will be touched: jobs, business models, industrial structures, social interactions, systems of governance.

In comparison to the 4th generation manufacturing / production technologies most of the Bangladeshi sectors are lagging behind. As a result there performance and product’s quality, productivity is very low in comparison to the competing countries technologies. Therefore challenge of losing market share by Bangladeshi companies in upcoming competitive world is becoming prominent day by day if we failed to adopt the sophisticated technologies and machineries in every sector. Study found it out that, new technologies are emerging faster, being adopted more quickly and delivering greater impact than ever before. For example fixed-line telephones (1878) took 75 years to reach 100 million users. On the other hand mobile phones (1979) took only 16 years to reach 100 million users. Similarly internet (1990) took 6 years to reach 100 million users. On the other hand Apple App Store (2008) took just 3 years to reach 100 million users. So it is proved that the technologies pushing the reality into 4th industrial revolution will be adopted faster and change the reality of human society even faster ever before.

Opportunities of 4th industrial revolutions could be wealth maximization through continuous improvement of GDP growth, inclusive growth, improved performance of the SMEs, jumping into advanced stage of development, connecting disconnected people, improve environment management system, automation of agriculture and transformation of agro production technologies, more access to healthcare and use of modern technology to forecast about natural calamities etc.  Bangladesh shall start its wholehearted preparation to avail all of these above mentioned opportunities of 4th industrial revolution. For example we have highest priority to economic growth, SME development, digitization of processes etc. but till now we are lagging behind in terms of inclusive growth, improved environment management system, access to healthcare by all etc. parameters. Preparation to avail an opportunity could be our strengths and vice a versa.

Challenges of the 4th industrial revolution includes losses of jobs and disruption by the lower educated people, inequality and political instability, end of low-cost and low-skilled labor based industrialization due to artificial intelligence and robotics technology, more market access to the global giant companies through offering more value to the customers, vulnerability of LDC countries to fight with cyber crimes and cyber attacks etc. Shift of technology causes losses of job by the people dependent on the previous technology for any reason. For example light engineering enterprises of Bogra light engineering cluster used to produce sallow machine, tube well and rickshaw etc. with shift these technology into deep tube well, tractor, battery driven auto-rickshaw and CNG driven auto-rickshaw many of them losses their job there in Bogra light engineering cluster. Because most of them have no access to the technologies relevant to the deep tube well, tractor, battery driven auto-rickshaw and the CNG driven auto-rickshaw due to many reasons. So they lost their livelihood from that profession. Similarly 70 coconut oil mill reduced into 4-5 during last couple of years in Bagherhat coconut oil cluster. Therefore government and relevant agencies have to be careful about the negative impact of 4th industrial revolution on many sectors in Bangladesh.

Finally we can state that, advancement of technology could not be controlled by any society. We have to adopt it today or tomorrow by our own willingness or unwillingly. But we must have to be prepared ourselves to minimize diverse negative effect of it into the society and rehabilitate the victim society like Bogra light engineering and Bagherhat coconut oil cluster. Otherwise new industrial revolution will give us a missed result. Few people will be reached again and rest will be losing respective profession without any rehabilitation facilities. Again it will not be an inclusive development in the society.

Merits and Demerits of Foreign Direct Investment

Merits and Demerits of Foreign Direct Investment

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on May 26, 2017


There are significant reserves of foreign currency in Bangladesh. It is mounting up during the last few years. At the same time, we have a good amount of unutilised money in the banking system. It seems good to listen that we are becoming a wealthy nation with handsome cash in hand. But till now our investment in percentage of GDP is about 29%. It is 56% in Bhutan, 33.25% in India. Bangladesh’s investment in percentage of GDP is increasing day by day but the growth rate is too slow.

It is a matter of investigation whether foreign currency reserve and unutilised cash in banking system is mounting because of this poor performance in investment or not. In terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) we are performing even poorer than the neighbouring or competitor countries. Bangladesh earned USD 1191, 1726, 1432, 1830 and 2001 million during the last five fiscal years. It is only 0.98, 1.19, 1.74, 1.47 and 1.73% of the GDP whereas India earned FDI of 2.00, 1.31, 1.52, 1.70 and    2.11% of its GDP during the last five years. Vietnam got FDI 5.48, 5.37, 5.20, 4.94 and 6.10% of its GDP. The Maldives received FDI 17.29, 9.05, 12.91, 10.77 and 8.70% of its GDP during the last five years.

Let’s have a look at the benefits of receiving FDI into a developing country like Bangladesh. FDI could offer the following benefits to its host country:

1    Increasing supply of foreign currency and channelise international sources of industrial funds;

2    Increases employment opportunity and help to reduce unemployment rate;

3    Increases skills of the host country’s labour and facilitate technology transfer;

4    Increases managerial knowledge of the host country’s professionals;

5    Foster economic growth, export earnings;

6    Introduces products standardisation and international exposure of other products;

7    Provides corporate tax to the government and contribute in revenue growth;

8    Creates a competitive business environment and productivity improves with the competition;

9    Develops international channel of distribution;

10    Assists in adopting international standard policies and creates a global business regime;

11    Contributes to development of backward and forward linkage local enterprises and

12    Assists in improving living standard of the stakeholders through different social responsibility measures.

Bangladesh is fighting with the development barriers like unemployment, poverty reduction, enlarging product basket, enlarging export basket etc. since its independence. It achieved significant economic advancements but till we have scope to grow further. Therefore, the government attaches the highest priority to industrialisation of the economy by any means. Already we have eight Export Processing Zones (EPZ), 78 Industrial Estate developed by BSCIC to host investment. Furthermore, the government is progressing to establish 100 Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Bangladesh. All these arrangements are to host investment either from local or foreign sources. Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) has been restructured by merging the Board of Investment (BoI) and Privatisation Commission together. BIDA is organising conferences, seminars, road shows abroad to draw attention of the foreign investors. The government declared a long list of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to boost up the investment movement. But till now Bangladesh’s performance in FDI attraction is considered poor. It is because a number of other factors like good governance, political stability / understanding among the political parties, security and safety of investment, law and order situation, availability of industrial logistics, hassle-free business registration and licensing etc. are involved with an investment decision making.

Now Bangladesh has to go for a comprehensive investment services like one stop service, approaching foreign investors with specific project proposals, justification of investment policies and revision (if necessary), establishment of sector specific technical and engineering institute, establishment of sector specific testing laboratories, signing free trade agreements with existing and potential export destinations, reducing business licenses and registration requirements, activating BIDA with own manpower instead of the cadre officials deployed in deputation to activate the investment attraction measures.

Bangladesh has everything to be a good destination for foreign investment. It is located at the heart of South Asia, corridor between SAARC and ASEAN countries. It has a large number of domestic consumers. Purchasing power of local people is increasing day by day with economic growth of the country. Bangladesh has a good number of sectors to invest profitably with supply of enough manpower in competitive cost. The government keeps assisting the investors with a long list of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. Finally export items of Bangladesh are enjoying duty-free and quota-free market access to most of the export markets other than the USA. All the LDC facilities under the WTO arrangement are enjoying by an entrepreneurs while doing international trade with Bangladesh. Therefore, Bangladesh could be considered as one of the most attractive locations to relocate global business corporations to the EPZs and SEZs being developed by the government.

It is for sure that Bangladesh needs foreign investment to boost-up its economy but we must remember that there are some adverse effects of FDI too. For example, FDI in some sectors could have an adverse effect on local employment sector. For better understanding we could imagine a scenario where a large corporation establishes a highly sophisticated readymade garment factory here in Bangladesh, where most of the tasks are completed by robotic technologies instead of human labour. Its productivity is much higher than human labour and product cost is also lower. In such cases, local factories will lose its market share. After a certain period it could be seen that local factories are reducing their manpower to adjust with the situation. Large number of people loses their employment due to that large investment. Similarly extreme competition from an FDI company may be the cause of death to many local SMEs. Repatriation of a large FDI conglomerate could have an adverse effect on foreign currency reserve or balance of payment of a country. Therefore, we must consider all these possible adverse effects of FDI into the local economy and adopt legal framework to mitigate these threats.

Finally, we could state that, Bangladesh needs FDI to functionalise its upcoming SEZs and generate employment for the growing number of job seekers. But we must reserve few product and service sectors for the local entrepreneurs. Welcoming campaign for FDI has to be increased and equipped with enough precautionary measures. Adequate preparations, practical drive and a business friendly local business environment could encourage the investors to invest here in Bangladesh. We have everything to become a middle income country by 2027 if our government, political leaders, decision makers play respective role accordingly. Otherwise piecemeal investment drive will not give us complete output up to the expectation.

Trade Organisations in Sustainable Economic Development

Trade Organisations in Sustainable Economic Development

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on April 26, 2017

There is no alternative of individual and institutional income generation for economic development and poverty alleviation of a country. Ensuring employment is the most effective tool for facilitating individual and institutional income generation. There are about 162 million populations in Bangladesh and about 120.70 million of them are in workable age group. For providing employment to such a huge number of populations government has only 1.7 million positions in civil service, a mentionable percentage of this government positions remain vacant forever; for example 18% of government positions are vacant now in Bangladesh. As per a recent report there are 58.10 million people involved with private sector jobs.

There are no exact data regarding the total number of businessmen in the country but it is stated that, there are about 30 million businessmen in Bangladesh. From the above statements we could find out a summery that there are about 37.20 million unemployed people in Bangladesh now.

Another recent report shows that there are more than 3 million higher educated unemployed populations in Bangladesh with 2.2 million newcomers in the job markets every year. It is easier to manage and employment opportunity for a low educated or uneducated youth but difficult to manage a career opportunity for a higher educated one. Uneducated or lower educated manpower could migrate into Middle East as a labour but higher educated youth could not do so. Thus the number of unemployed higher educated people is rising day by day. If such a trend continues for next few years they could be another burden for the society as well as for the nation.

Before meeting a terrible situation of the above mentioned problem we must have to identify a way out of it. The government has to take the issue as a new challenge and come out with appropriate solutions. The government could mitigate this problem with professional education system, skills development through practical training, creating entrepreneurs through entrepreneurial education, creating entrepreneurship friendly policy regime, creating start-up friendly fiscal and economic policies, self-employment oriented education / training, hands-on training for creating freelancers etc. Such types of projects should get the highest priority in the upcoming national budget of the government.

There are few problems which are impossible to solve by individual or organisational initiative. These problems are subject to be dealt with collective power and unity. To apply that collective power of the business community, effective trade organisation is required. There are about five hundred trade organisations in Bangladesh; among these 101 are chamber of commerce (district chambers, metropolitan chambers, joint chambers, international chambers etc.) and about 379 sectoral associations are mentionable. The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) is the apex institution that represents all the trade organisations of Bangladesh.

FBCCI used to negotiate, cooperate and support the government in enacting trade related policies on behalf of the private sector of the country. It represents all the trade bodies in different committee forms by different ministries, agencies, departments, and other organs of the government. It assists all the 500 trade bodies of the country in holding election and other regulatory purposes. FBCCI used to negotiate budgetary facilities for different sectors, products and customs structures with the national board of revenue (NBR) on behalf of the private sector.

To perform all of the above mentioned duties an efficient and functional FBCCI is our national requirement. To make it functional and effective its current manpower has to be increased, professional skills of existing manpower has to be improved and financial capacity of the federation has to be uplifted. There are many countries in the world where federation / national chambers are getting budgetary support from the government.

But till now FBCCI has to depend upon its members’ subscription, building rental and donation of business community. It is not sufficient to employ and retain efficient professionals and expand its services to the economy of Bangladesh. FBCCI will get its new leadership through the upcoming election in next month. We are hopeful that the new management will take necessary initiative to take the organisation as well as its member bodies into new height and serve the nation better. Competing business leaders are supposed to declare respective election manifesto soon. We would like to offer few recommendations as follows for their consideration and include into the election manifesto for making the federation as well as other trade bodies (chambers and association) for functional and effective:

  1. Taking necessary initiative to get budgetary support for operating FBCCI from the government.
  2. Pursuing the government to involve district chambers closely with the development project implementing in respective district.
  3. Undertaking projects to ensure hassle-free visa facility for the business community in consultation with all the foreign missions working here in Bangladesh. It will increase movement of our foreign trade into a new destination.
  4. Increasing research based capacity of the federation through undertaking visible interventions along with a time bound action plan
  5. Increasing capacity of the federation to undertake projects for private sector development and pursue government and other development partners for funding.
  6. Making the initiative of establishing Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) a reality (initiated earlier but failed to get finance). Indian model of EDI, located at Ahmedabad, could be replicated here in this regard.
  7. Capacity building of different trade bodies to provide business support services, registrations and licenses. Negotiating with the government to hand over trade license, small and cottage industry registration etc. responsibilities to the trade bodies.
  8. Participating in foreign investment / trade fairs with own stall of FBCCI to facilitate B2B business matchmaking.
  9. Establishment of product research and new product innovation centre, testing laboratory, and undertaking product diversification initiative to enlarge export basket.
  10. Perusing the central bank and other ministries of the government to inspire the corporate houses, banks, NBFIs to support FBCCI development 10fund from respective CSR budget.
  11. Developing a research fund for conducting a certain number of systematic researches by the FBCCI research team every year.
  12. Providing FBCCI Award to the best growing company, most employment creator company, most Donor Company, best exporting company etc. to recognise their contribution to the society and inspire them to donate most at FBCCI development fund.
  13. Establishment of FBCCI’s branches in important business hubs at home & abroad and fixation of an FBCCI contact point in relevant ministries.
  14. Opening a news department in FBCCI and all major chambers and associations to assist local entrepreneurs to get quality certification of respective products from respective international or foreign authorities. It will help to get more acceptances of Bangladeshi products to the foreign buyers.
  15. Establishing business incubation centre to support new entrepreneurs, perusing the government for start-up financing.
  16. Establishing technology and engineering institute to produce skilled manpower as per demand of different business sectors.
  17. Motivating government for creating an environment to commercialise local inventions.
  18. Undertaking regular research on different international trade arrangements under the WTO, RTA or BFTA to make local entrepreneurs aware about our trade benefits under different agreements and facilitating to utilise the benefits in international trade.
  19. Playing more visible role in creating freelancers and adopting outsourcing friendly infrastructure in Bangladesh by the government.
  20. Undertaking projects to facilitate adoption and utilisation of e-commerce and e-business facility to make the digital revolution fruitful.

Finally we could state that the private sector has to play a visible role to achieve SDGs by 2030. This role could be played more effectively from a common platform like trade bodies instead of personal or institutional level. Therefore the government has to play its due role for capacity building of the trade bodies. New elected panel of FBCCI leaders could play the role of catalyst here in this regard. A common vision of the business community, government and the development partners is required to ensure sustainable development of the economy and achieving a developed Bangladesh as per our national target.

For sustainable economic development

For sustainable economic development

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on November 3, 2016


Contribution of Agriculture, Industry and Service Sector to Bangladesh GDP in 1972 (soon after the independence) was 59.60 6.06 per cent and 34.32 per cent respectively. In the year 1980 contribution of the same sectors to Bangladesh GDP was 31.55 per cent(Agriculture), 20.63  per cent(Industry) and 47.81 per cent(Service). Similarly in the year 2000 contribution of Agriculture reduced into 23.77, industry increased into 23.31 per cent and Service increased into 52.91 per cent to the Bangladesh GDP. Current contribution (2015) of Agriculture further reduced into 15.50, Industry and Service Sectors increased into 28.14 per cent and 56.34  per cent respectively. From the above statistics we could state that, Bangladesh economy is transforming from an agriculture dependent economy into an industry dependent economy. But till now agriculture is the single largest sector for employment generation, agriculture employed 47.5 per cent of total manpower to contribute 15.50%. That means productivity of agriculture sector is lower than that of the other sectors or manpower employed in agriculture sector are underutilized.

As per Labor Force Survey 2010 conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics there are 2.6 million unemployed populations in Bangladesh, at the same time another 2 million workable labor force is coming forward per year into the employment market. Employment generation for this large number of unemployed population is a very hard task for any government. Therefore government emphasized upon private sector development and industrialization as an effective tool for employment generation. Development and promotion of labor intensive small and medium enterprise (SME) lead industrialization could offer a better solution to this unemployment problem. If adequate policy, institutional and monetary support is available a large number of this unemployed population could be entrepreneur and employ others too.

Government of Bangladesh have already initiated few industry friendly policies and support through the SME Foundation, Bangladesh Bank, EPB, BSCIC, BITAC, BCSIR, BEPZA, SEZ authority, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industries, finally NCID etc. institutions. Bangladesh is getting dividend of their activities by this time. As a result Bangladesh economy is growing steadily even during the global financial crisis in recent past. But Bangladesh is one of the lowest performing countries in the doing business index till now. According to a recent report Bangladesh positioned 176 out of 190 countries. Bangladesh performed most miserable at registering property (185th), resolving insolvency (151st), starting business (122nd), and paying taxes (151st) etc. indicators. All of these indicators are controllable by good governance. If there is a political commitment of the government that they will not be involved in corruption and will not allow bureaucrats to be corrupted then these problems will be solved automatically.

Bangladesh has capacity to grow even faster than the projections if good governance could be ensured. Proper implementation of existing policies and some new institutional support could lead us easily to a higher middle income country even before 2041. Following institutional support could boost up current transformation of Bangladesh economy and achieve a middle income country faster than ever:

  1. Establishment of an ‘Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI)’: Establishing a new institute for entrepreneurship development while we already have about 132 (One hundred and thirty two) universities in Bangladesh could sound as a stupid proposal. We have about 37 public, 92 private, and 3 international universities in Bangladesh. All of the universities are creating skilled, knowledgeable professionals including business graduates, engineers, and doctors etc. to enter into the job market after completing respective degrees. We are enlarging the list of jobseeker every year but not producing job providers academically. Entrepreneurs are just born is an old concept. It is proven that, entrepreneurs can be created through a systematic training, guidance, support and mentoring. Indian government (Government of Guzrat) has established a completely separate types of institute in 1983 (about 33 years back) to produce only entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India is a name of enormous success into its mission. The model has been replicated by many countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and few African countries to establish entrepreneurship development institute. Bangladesh can easily replicate that model to establish an engine of entrepreneur creation. These types of specialized institute to create entrepreneur is also available in many other countries like, Entrepreneurship Institute of Malaysia, Entrepreneurship Institute Australia (EIA), Institute for Entrepreneurship & Enterprise Development (IEED) in UK, The Entrepreneurship Institute of Canada, and Global Entrepreneurship institute (GEI) in the U.S etc. So it is quite clear that, separate institute is required to create job providers i.e. entrepreneurs. Bangladesh government could establish or inspire relevant organizations like SME Foundation or BSCIC to establish “Entrepreneurship Development Institute of Bangladesh”. Development partners could come forward to establish an entrepreneurship development institute here in Bangladesh to produce entrepreneurs the most essential component for private sector development.
  2. Establishment of ‘SME Cluster Development Authority’: Cluster based SME development could be another vital weapon for boosting up the industrialization of Bangladesh. There are 177 SME clusters identified by the SME Foundation throughout the country, of which 129 fall under SME Booster sector and 48 under Non–booster SME sector. There are 69,902 enterprises operating in these 177 clusters employing a workforce of 1,937,809, of which 74 per centare male and the rest 26 per centare female. Total approximate annual turnover in these clusters has been estimated at 295150.66 millions. Clusters were found in 51 districts of Bangladesh. So development of SME clusters could give us another platform of balanced economic development considering geographical locations of these. Undertaking and implementing massive development interventions in these cluster is required to develop and promote the SMEs located there. Government could establish a separate body namely ‘SME Cluster Development Authority of Bangladesh” or establish specialized wing in SME Foundation with adequate budgetary and manpower support for rapid development of SME Clusters. It will increase GDP growth, make Bangladesh self dependent, increase export earnings, generate more employment and finally alleviate poverty sustainably.
  3. Establishment of ‘Sector Specific Engineering & Technology Institute’: Like my 1st proposal this one could sound stupid too. Establishing sector specific Engineering & Technology institute while we are having a number of engineering universities and polytechnics in Bangladesh. But the ground reality is this; there is a long distance between the graduates of those engineering universities, polytechnics and our industry’s demand. Industry needs operators, troubleshooters, technicians of modern machineries currently using in the sectors. While engineering universities and colleges are producing high profile graduates to deserve 5 digit salaries from the first day at job. Therefore it’s time to establish sector specific engineering and technology institutes as per sectoral needs. Currently the government of Bangladesh is helping to establish Bangladesh Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology (BIPET), similarly we are in need of Bangladesh Institute of Agro-machinery engineering and technology, Bangladesh institute of ship building technology, Bangladesh institute of leather goods diversification technology, Bangladesh institute of Agar Ator Technology etc as per sectoral demands.
  4. Establishment of ‘Common Facility Centers (CFC) in Every Clusters’: There are 177 SME clusters in Bangladesh. Entrepreneurs in a cluster are producing similar products throughout the year. In some cases there is one or more common process to manufacture several products. Currently these tasks are doing manually as a result product quality become inferior. On the other hand single entrepreneurs cannot afford modern machineries to complete the common process due to high prices of the machines. A single testing is applicable for almost all products of a cluster to ensure products quality. But due to the same reason none can afford it. If government or development partners come forward to establish a common facility center into the SME Clusters with the machinery needed to complete the common process or test the products quality then all the entrepreneurs will be benefited from it. SME Foundation or BSCIC could be the lead organization if government takes this initiative. It will increase overall productivity of Bangladesh; quality of the products will go up. High quality products will be acceptable to the local and foreign buyers.
  5. Establishment of ‘Trade Negotiation Commission’: Till date there is no common body to negotiate bilateral, regional or multilateral trade negotiation of Bangladesh. A group of professionals including WTO Cell of the Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh Tariff Commission, EPB, NBR etc. represent Bangladesh in different trade negotiation table. Most of them are civil servant performing transferable job. A person being specialized in any particular agreement and got transferred into a completely irrelevant position after three or four years. We can remember many officials of WTO cell get involved with the process and currently serving in totally irrelevant desks. Therefore we need a constitutional body for handling our trade negotiation issues only. It will help the professionals to be specialized with a single issue and handle it efficiently with any counterparts. Otherwise Bangladesh will be completely isolated if proper initiatives are not taken to negotiate bilateral free trade agreement with our existing or potential buyer countries. Similarly we have to maintain our involvement with regional free trade agreements and multilateral arrangement under the umbrella of WTO.
  6. Establishing ‘Product Research & New Product Development Center’: Bangladesh has a very small product basket. To enlarge the product basket and diversify export items we are in need of a product research and new product development center. It will be a separate body to conduct research with existing and potential products producing or could be produced in our industries.
  7. Establishment of ‘Manpower Export and Management Center’: Remittance is the second largest source foreign currency. In true sense it is the single largest sector of earning foreign currency without deployment of all the factors of production. Till now Bangladesh is sending unskilled workers into various destinations. Many workers are experiencing cheating in home and abroad during his migration. If government took initiative to collect visa from demanding countries and distribute these to the manpower exporters in a fixed price then these harassments could be minimized. At the same time this Manpower Export and Management Center will collect demands for professionals like Doctors, Engineers, Teachers, Business Executives, Researchers, Analyst, and Lawyers etc. and take necessary initiative to send them safely. By exporting higher educated professionals Bangladesh could easily earn hundred times more remittance than that of the present earnings.

Finally we could summarize that, Bangladesh economy is moving forward with many limitations due to our resource constraints. We can move faster if the government took timely initiative to establish few institutes which are very essential for industrialization and economic development. Only economic growth may not make us happy without inclusive, balanced and sustainable development. During this transforming period it is time for the policy makers to formulate and implement inclusive economic development policy to ensure every body’s stake into this prosperity. Otherwise social disparity will be higher and create chaos a new threat to sustainability of this development.


A sustainable mode of financing for industries

A sustainable mode of financing for industries

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on August 19, 2016


The present government of Bangladesh has expanded its vision 2021 into vision 2041 by updating a few targets. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is committed to us to reaching into a peaceful, prosperous, happy and developed nation comparable with the developed world by the year 2041. In other word, we could state that, in the year 2041, Bangladesh will become a peaceful, prosperous and developed country after crossing the status of a middle-income country. With these visions in mind government formulated the 7th Five Year Plan and started sincere implementation of the document. On the other hand, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia announced her plans to ‘elevate Bangladesh to a higher-middle income state by 2030’ during the last council of her party. As per her declaration Bangladesh will become a modern democratic and higher middle-income country with the per-capita income reaching around US $ 4,000 to 5,000 by 2030.  Government’s vision 2021 and 2041 and opposition’s (not in parliament) vision 2030 both the declaration make a consensus that Bangladesh is united for being a higher middle income country by the period of 2030 to 2041. Bangladesh has few remarkable achievements in the Millennium Development Goals during 2000 to 2015. We are more sincere to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

      All the above mentioned targets / goals state that presently Bangladesh economy is passing through a significant phase of preparing us to be a higher middle income country by 2030 – 2041 period. To achieve this vision Bangladesh has to fight with a long list of challenges like providing decent job to a large number of unemployed and under employed population, accelerating economic growth into double digit and maintain a steady upward curve, increasing social safety net, ensuring education, health care, food security, self-sufficiency in food, technological development so on and so forth. Government is unable to meet these targets without private sector development through industrialization. For this reason industrial development is the highest priority of the government to facilitate self-employment, new employment generation, increasing export earnings, fostering economic growth finally building a poverty free higher income Bangladesh.

National Industrial Policy 2016, 7th Five Year Plan, ICT Policy, and Upcoming SME Policy Strategy incorporate specific tasks for each of the organ of the government for promoting industrialization from respective ends.

Currently there are 7.81 million different categories of industrial units / enterprises in Bangladesh; among these 6.84 million are cottage, 0.10 million micro, 0.85 million small and 0.07 million medium enterprises / industrial units. About 87.44 percent  of the enterprises are fully domestic market based, only 1.14 per cent  enterprises are fully export oriented, and 0.82 percent enterprises are involved with local as well as export markets. These industries are employing about 20.50 million people; about 4 million of them are female. Current rate of employment generation of Bangladeshi enterprises is about 3 people per enterprise. It is very low in number, because most of the enterprises are suffering from different types of difficulties. If a congenial business environment could be offered the same number of enterprises could generate employment to 80 million people easily.

Major challenges of the Bangladeshi enterprises are experiencing are; low productivity due to the use of inappropriate technology, smaller investments capacity due to limited access to finance, irregular/inadequate supply of power, high rate of interest on bank loans, inadequate availability of raw materials (in few sectors), absence of clear-cut government policies, lack of skilled technicians and workers, low range of product diversity due to the absence of research and development facilities, poor physical infrastructure and high transportation costs, unofficial cost of doing business,     absence of an effective and transparent legal system, and poor information about market opportunities and requirements of that market etc.

If we would like to draw a frequency table with all of the above mentioned challenges of the industrialization of Bangladesh then the most frequent challenge would be smaller investment capacity, limited access to bank loan, higher rate of interest in one sentence it would be problematic access to finance. Bankers / lenders are arguing that they are searching for qualified investors / entrepreneurs with adequate amount of bank loan but not getting entrepreneurs. But the entrepreneurs are claiming that one of the most important barriers towards further growth of their business is limited investment capacity or unavailability of bank loan. Let’s try to believe that both the parties are right and both the opposition statements are true. Further analysis done by various experts find out that, SMEs limited access to finance is not the disease; but it is a symptom of disease. Most of the SMEs are doing business informally. They do not manage proper written documentation of financial transactions even the transaction of goods / raw materials. They do not maintain business account in any bank just to deposit the cash. As a result,  it is quite difficult to determine their depth of financial ability or eligibility for a bank loan. Whatever is that cause or effect it is quite sure that, doing business with a double digit rate of interest loan is quite difficult.

In such a situation government could promote venture capital for lending in SME sector of Bangladesh. Now come to the point, what venture capital is? Venture capital is financing that investors (lender as partner) provide to startup companies and small businesses that are believed to have long-term growth potential. Venture capital generally comes from well-off investors, investment banks and any other financial institutions that pool similar partnerships or investments. Why venture capital is worthy than that of the bank loan? In case of bank loan the entrepreneurs are bound to repay the lending amount with interest (in a predetermine rate). The risk is taken by the entrepreneur’s only. On the other hand, venture capital is an amount of fund (in a proportionate rate) entrepreneurs are getting against ownership (of that particular portion) of the enterprise. Risk is shared by the entrepreneur as well as the venture capital investor / firm. Entrepreneurs could get relief of higher rate of interest of bank loan by using venture capital funds. On the other hand, banks are reluctant to finance the startups, whereas venture capital is offering funds to the startups only.

The idea of venture capital was originated in 1946 in the USA. Later on it became popular in Europe in 1970s. Statistics states that 1981 – 1987 is the most peak  tenure for venture capital mostly in the US and European economies. Journey of venture capital in Bangladesh is still in an infant stage. A few venture capital firms started their journey during the last five years. Notable Bangladeshi venture capital companies are BD Venture Limited, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh Ltd, SEAF Bangladesh Ventures (SEAF BV), Athena Venture & Equities Ltd, and  Bangladesh Venture Capital Ltd etc.

Government issued Venture Capital Rules “Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (Alternative Investment) Rules, 2015” for that first time in Bangladesh in June 22, 2015 through Gazette Notification. It is the primary guideline for the venture capital firms. Now government shall undertake initiative to make this source of capital popular through different initiatives. Because of it is interest free (based on profit) source of fund for investing by startups or further growth of existing small enterprises. From religious perspective it is more acceptable due to its non-dependency on predetermined rate of interest. Till now only a few SME entrepreneurs hardly know about this source of fund. They are running behind high interest bank loan from one bank to another but never think of going to any venture capital company’s office. It is because they are not aware of it. So existing venture capital firms as well as the government, development agencies could take the role to promote venture capital and make people’s awareness about it.

Till now Bangladeshi venture capital firms are having a very limited amount of funds to invest in comparison of schedule banks or leasing companies. Government is investing the Entrepreneurship Equity Fund (EEF) as venture capital for fostering industrialization in Bangladesh. Previously it was managed by the central bank and currently it is being managed by the ICB. Criticism is available in the market that this is a political fund and many EEF invested firms are not becoming full functioning ever. Therefore, this venture capital amount of the government could be invested through private venture capital companies for better utilization and proper management of the fund. Government could facilitate local venture capital companies to get similar funds from global venture capital companies or investment banks. Low cost multinational funds like IDB, ADB could make available to the local venture capitalists to make the sector stronger and matured. A full functioning venture capital sector could meet up the increasing demand for investment fund of the local SME sector. It could lead us to an industrial revolution in Bangladesh. This industrial revolution is essential for achievement of vision 2021, 2030 and 2041. Thus a dependable financing mechanism could foster the movement of Bangladesh to become a higher middle income country before the projected period.