Need for reforming the system of recruitment of public officials

Need for reforming the system of recruitment of public officials

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on July 28, 2009

A thorough reform of the recruitment process for public officials is imperative in order to establish a civil service for the 21st century. Now, the Bangladesh Public Service Commission (PSC) recruits government officers to serve the nation. The PSC does often rightly or wrongly face criticism due to political influence that is exercised to facilitate the entry of politically favoured ones to public service. On its part, the PSC has otherwise been working efficiently to recruit the traditional cadre officers who cannot achieve all the goals of the Republic under globalisation. 

The main objective of the PSC is to help the government establish a civil service for the 21st century by recruiting capable and efficient officers for the Republic, who should have integrity and dynamism. To achieve this goal, in this era of globalisation, through economic diplomacy, the PSC needs to undergo a thorough reform. The nation is eyeing to boost its export earnings. For accessing markets, Bangladesh signed a number of bilateral and regional trade agreements. Accessing markets depends upon how efficiently a country can deal with the issues on the negotiation tables in the bilateral, regional or multilateral frameworks of trade. 

Does Bangladesh have any cadre service to handle the economic and trade issues? Does it have any specialised department or ministry to deal with trade negotiations for signing the agreements? Does Bangladesh have skilled trade negotiators? The answer is, ‘No’, though it is important to have the negotiators to achieve something out of the trade negotiations. As Bangladesh is going to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with other countries, it needs the negotiators. 

A WTO Cell in the Ministry of Commerce handles the issues with support from Bangladesh Tariff Commission, Export promotion Bureau and other ministries and departments. The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FBCCI) represents the private sector on the issues. To infuse professionalism, the WTO Cell in the Ministry of Commerce needs to be transformed into an independent “WTO, RTA and FTA Commission”, with the responsibilities of negotiating and updating international trade agreements. The PSC should recruit officers of this commission. Otherwise, the “WTO, RTA and FTA Commission” itself can be given the responsibility to recruit them. These officers should not be transferred to elsewhere.

 Bangladesh needs a trade cadre, which should not be recruited through the existing examination system for the recruitment of the civil servants. The existing preliminary examination is not at all suited to recruit the officers for a skilled trade service. The existing examination is suited only for the recruitment of administrative officers. 

The PSC now recruits only bookish people who memorise dozens of general knowledge questions to get through its preliminary exam. The question is how far the recruits are creative? For the trade service, the PSC should hold a special exam. to recruit the suitable officers who have the specialised education.

Trade service officers, to be posted in Bangladesh missions abroad, should be conversant in value creation, value addition and market access. Without these skills, an officer cannot be a good commercial counsellor in a Bangladesh embassy abroad.

So, Bangladesh needs a BCS trade promotion cadre to promote the country’s trade interest. The officers of the cadre have to be specialists in international marketing and not masters of all trades. To be an international marketing specialist, it is not necessary for an officer to be a master in Bangla literature, Bangla grammar or history and similar other subjects. But for an administrative cadre officer, it could be essential. 
Each Bangladesh mission abroad should have a trade promotion officer. He should identify the demand for Bangladesh’s products in the host country to capture its market. It should be the duty of the trade promotion officers to liaise with the host government and trade bodies in the host country to create a congenial business environment for Bangladesh products.
The trade promotion office should have the responsibility to organise trade fairs in different cities of the host countries to introduce Bangladesh products. The trade officers should help Bangladeshi businessmen’s visits to host countries to facilitate export.

The trade promotion officers can also be recruited by the proposed “WTO, RTA and FTA Commission”, instead of the PSC.

In this age of globalisation, Bangladesh needs specialist professionalists more than ‘sabjanta’ (all-knowing) civil servants. There is nothing special, Bangladesh civil service can offering in this age of corporate culture. Multinational corporate houses are recruiting the best brains of this country by offer better pay and benefits. To stop the brain, drain the Bangladesh civil service exam. system should be reformed to recruit specialists. 

The quota system should be abolished. All recruitments should be on merit. The civil service examination system needs to be redesigned to recruit professionalists in different fields. The preliminary examination should go. The written test should be held for the recruitment of specialists in different areas.

The objective of PSC cannot be achieved without the reforms. And it is the government that should initiate actions for such reforms with no partisan political interests on its agenda to serve so far as the recruitment of the best available talents in different categories of public service befitting the needs of the country in 21st century.

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Need for economic integration of South Asia

Need for economic integration of South Asia

Md. Joynal Abdin 

The Daily Independent on July 27, 2009

Economic integration in general is a process of removing progressively the discriminations, which occur at the national borders. Such discrimination may affect the flow of goods and services and the movement of factors of production either directly or through economic activity via the factor of production. Negative effects include the possibility that the infant industrial sector may not survive the open market competition or that the sick industries might face ruin. On the other hand, positive effects in the short-run include inland ‘trade-creation effects.’ But that must outweigh trade diversion effects in order to achieve beneficial trade liberalisation. However, apart from short-run benefits, there are also the long-run benefits such as greater technical efficiency due to greater competition, larger markets, higher consumer surpluses, and more foreign investments.

There are five main stages of regional integration such as free trade areas, customs unions, common market, economic union and total economic integration. Such stages are the outcome of policy decisions taken by regional inter-governmental forum and/or supranational institutions in order to affect the depth and breadth of regional integration. Meaningful integration through increased participation in the global/regional economy generates a lot of benefits. These include: Efficient allocation of resources due to the changing production patterns promoting comparative advantage; Domestic competition gains with international standards of efficiency; Wider options are available to consumers; The ability increases to tap international capital markets for smoothing consumption in the face of short-term shocks (as well as to achieve higher long-term growth; and, there is exposure to new ideas, technologies, and products, etcetera.

Our journey through South Asia Free Trade Arrangement (FTA) and some other existing initiatives to form more FTAs among the member countries created the awareness for economic integration. But we have to remember that there is a long way to travel to be able to reach the destination. Proper initiatives, commitments and timely actions are required to have success. In South Asia, almost all the countries have some strengths and weaknesses. But all limitations can be overcome, if they share their strengths among themselves. Private sector is the only key player in this endeavour under the prevailing global economic dispensation.

Actions towards economic integration in South Asia:

BFTAs: Only two bilateral free trade arrangements (BFTAs) are in operation in South Asia namely, India-Sri-Lanka BFTA, and Sri-Lanka-Pakistan BFTA. The proposals for establishing India-Pakistan BFTA, Pakistan-Bangladesh BFTA and India-Bangladesh BFTA are under consideration. The steps so far are encouraging but not up to the mark for economic integration.

SAFTA through South Asian Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA): introduction of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was a historic action by the South Asian countries to facilitate trade liberalisation and later formation of SAFTA. South Asian leaders should realise the importance of an effective SAFTA in the light of European Union (EU).

Role of private sector: All arrangements of economic integration are bound to fail if private sector does not play its role effectively. Private sector has to play the final game because they are the doers. They have to guide the government about how they might achieve their expected benefit. They have to bring the problems they face to the notice of the government in doing trans-border business among the signatory states. Government will communicate these problems to be solved by the state concerned. Inputs for any technical or business negotiation have to be supplied by the business community who are actually doers of the job. These inputs can be used as core text of the speech of the ministers concerned in the forum and taking necessary measures to farther advancement.

A. Barrier removal: Usually there are three types of problems in trans-border business. These are – tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and non-routine barriers. Tariff barriers are getting removed according to the agreement declarations but non-tariff barriers may be more effective in some cases. On the other hand, some new problems are arising day by day. These may be for short period, though those may be more perilous than any others. These types of problems may be addressed as non-routine barriers. First steps towards economic integration should be to remove all sorts of barriers to international business.

B. Negative list: A country must think of its own industries but those should not be used as barriers to the major exportable goods from other countries. If any common product is there, market should be opened up to face competition. We have to remember that open competition increases efficiency. Some may argue that infant or sick industries have to be protected. On this score, we must think about the strategic advantage. If any industry has strategic advantage, it will have to be continued; otherwise, it will die even after lots of subsidies. For example, in Bangladesh, the readymade garment (RMG) is the energetic sector from the day it was born in 1980s. But jute remained in infancy since the British period. However, at the same time some jute mills are also making enough profit.

C. Rules of origin: Rules of origin must not be more stringent than that prevailing under SAPTA. The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FBCCI) therefore advocates non-restrictive and simplified rules of origin, based on value addition criteria (summation of freight on board (FOB) value of exports – summation of cost insurance freight (CIF) value of imports >or = 30 per cent) to match their industrial capabilities as in SAPTA, with derogation of 20 per cent value addition for RMG and other such labour incentive exports products.

D. Recommendations: The following trade facilitation measures should be implemented as an obligation to ensure enabling trade policy and governance for smooth and speedy movement of goods across the borders which can make FTA effective as well as work to build confidence among the nations, which lead us towards the next step of economic integration: Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan have to be connected through functioning roads and transit facility should be ensured. More generally, we can say that trucks from any country should have the right to enter any signatory state without prior permission with legal goods. Cross-border trade regulations and documents do and to be harmonised by an end date. A South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)-harmonised tariff nomenclature at eight-digit level should be created based on the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding Systems (HS) of the World Customs Organisation.

There should be online publications of relevant trade regulations and procedures, including fees and charges, in the local language and in English. Simplification of customs procedures needs to aim at cutting the time taken and cost of transactions at each customs point. Regional customs action plan should be implemented. An effective appeal procedure has to be put in place for customs. Effective measures should be taken to ensure cosmopolitan environment, which will help to ensure more business transactions. Transport and communications infrastructures, port and warehousing facilities must be developed to benchmark levels within a time frame. Direct shipping and air links with necessary support and incentives provided by the respective governments have to be established. Bangladesh and other least developed countries (LDCs) must ask for immediate compliance of Articles V, VIII and X of the GATT 1994 by the non-LDCs and notify their transit measures and tariff schedules, NTBs and regulations on rules  of origin, labelling requirements, customs clearance and appeal procedures to SAARC Secretariat.

Private sector specialists should have facilities to take part in the negotiation for effective dialogue among the states. One ‘problem dealing authority’ can be established to quickly respond to any problems in the field level of operations. They have to be authorised to take necessary actions according to international law without waiting for political decisions of the government concerned. Non-tariff measures/barriers: Import licensing; Members must adopt and notify non-restrictive, locally administered, automatic and transparent import licensing procedures at least for the regional trade. For example,  instead of Kolkata handling import licensing for Tripura, the licensing office should be opened in Agartala. Technical Regulations and Standards: Member countries must harmonise TBT and SPS measures (on prioritised traded products) to streamline flow of traded goods.

The SAARC/Regional Accreditation Body must be established and in the meantime technical regulations and standards conformity assessment certificates issued by the respective designated national public or private sector institution must be accepted. Non-acceptability of conformity assessment certificates of any particular product, if and when arise, should be resolved by mutual cooperation without restricting its trade. Technical and financial assistance must be ensured for capacity building in this regard. National treatment must be accorded to charges and fees for imported products at the rate applicable for similar domestic products. Fees levied must be limited in amount to the approximate cost of services rendered and should not represent an indirect protection to domestic products or for fiscal purposes. Trade restrictive and discriminatory registration, labelling and testing requirements should be removed by extending most favoured nation (MFN) and ‘national treatment’ to imported products. Labelling and testing requirements without any valid scientific grounds must be waived. Customs valuation: Customs valuation must not be used for protective purposes or as barrier to trade.

A common interpretation of the GATT/WTO valuation agreement should be adopted to ensure uniformity and standardised implementation of the agreement. Information exchange: Member states must ensure exchange of vital information on the prevention and repression of smuggling, trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances, and other customs frauds. All these issues have to be recommended from the private sector to their government concerned for raising these issues during international negotiations with the states concerned. Private sector will also have to work as pressure group to the governments concerned so that these recommendations may be implemented as early as possible.

Saving electricity to meet the demand

Saving electricity to meet the demand

Md. Joynal Abdin and Engineer Md. Abu Taleb

The Financial Express on July 20, 2009

There is no alternative to industrialisation for ensuring full employment, increasing gross domestic product (GDP), augmenting export earnings and, finally, for alleviating poverty of a nation. But some prerequisites for industrialisation must have to be ensured before a country can expect rapid industrialisation. These are adequate infrastructural facilities, expedetious investment decisions from the government agencies, prompt hassle-free utility supply, stable political environment, business-friendly monetary and fiscal policies of the central bank and the government respectively, regulated law and order situation etc.

The foremost prerequisite for industrialisation is quick and hassle-free utility supply. Electricity is the most essential industrial utility. There is an acute shortage of electricity in our country now. To save electricity, we have advanced the clock by one hour. The measure has some positive effect but harms the retail business to a significant level.

There are two ways by which we can meet our electricity demand with our existing generation capacity. First, the government can take initiative to ensure 100% use of energy-saving lamps in every house of the country. Most houses at present use filament lamps which are of 50-100 watts. We can get the same lighting by using energy-saving lamps of six to ten watts. This will save much electricity.

The government can ban the use of filament lamps as was done in the cases of two-stroke three-wheelers and polythene bags in the past. It may be argued that energy-saving lamps are costly. It’s true. But if the government allows duty-free import of energy-saving lamps or the materials needed to produce such lamps and gives subsidy for a period of time, then these lamps may become cost-effective.

Secondly, if capacity bank is installed in the industries, there will be significant savings of electricity on account of industrial consumption. A capacity bank in a circuit can be used between our national line and meters of industries. It will help to regulate voltage and ensure the optimum use of electricity and save electricity consumption.

It is possible that the introduction of energy-saving lamps may save 80% of electricity now being used for domestic and lighting purposes and 20% of current industrial electricity consumption. Thus, we may meet our total demand of electricity with our present generation capacity. Here is a statistical justification of the claim. On July 5, 2009, the forecast maximum demand for electricity was 4400 MW and the generation was 3865 MW. So the deficit was 535 MW or about 12.5 %.

Suppose, 70% of our total consumption of electricity is industrial and the remaining 30% is for household or lighting purposes. Seventy per cent of the present 3865-MW generation is equal to 2705 MW. If we can save 20% industrial consumption through establishing capacity bank in the industries, then we are saving 20% of 2705 MW, that is 541 MW. If we can save 80% of (3865-2705 ) 1160 MW household consumption or consumption in lighting purposes, then we can save 928 MW electricity.

So by banning the use of filament lamps, using energy-saving lamps and making capacity bank mandatory for industrial establishments, we can save a total of (541+928) 1469 MW electricity per day. As our present deficit is 535 MW, we can get a surplus of (1469 – 535) 934 MW electricity from our existing production.

We may also try to increase the brightness of the LED lights through rigorous research. If we can produce 3000 lumen light from LED, then a revolution will be there. LED consumes the lowest amount of electricity to provide sufficient light. We can get help from China and Japan, our two friendly countries, in this endeavour. They undertook this project and made it commercially viable.

If filament lamps are banned, then the businessmen currently producing these lamps may face difficulties. But the government can help them through funds or other incentives to produce energy-saving lamps as well. We must sacrifice our small interests to get bigger benefit. 

Trade negotiators for Bangladesh

Trade negotiators for Bangladesh

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on July 15, 2009

MARKET access requires trade negotiations in bilateral, regional as well multilateral frameworks. Does Bangladesh have the officers to handle the issues? Does it have a specialised department or ministry to deal with trade negotiations? Does it have the skilled trade negotiators? The answer would be “no”, though they are essential for achieving something out of the trade negotiations. As Bangladesh is going to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with a host of countries the deficiency is felt, and acutely so.

A WTO cell in the Ministry of Commerce now handles the issues with support from the Bangladesh Tariff Commission, Export Promotion Bureau, besides other ministries and departments. The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce (FBCCI) represents the private sector on the issue. To infuse professionalism in it, the WTO cell of the Ministry of Commerce should be transformed into an independent “WTO, RTA and FTA Commission” to deal with regional, free trade and WTO negotiations. The officers of the commission should be recruited by the Public Service Commission or the “WTO, RTA and FTA Commission” itself. The officers should not be transferred to any other department. They would specialise in trade negotiation only.

They should not be recruited through existing examination system, which requires the candidates to pass BCS preliminary examination to become generalists. The recruits should qualify to become skilled trade negotiations.

Existing generation can leave a surplus

Existing generation can leave a surplus

Md. Joynal Abdin and Engineer Md. Abu Taleb

The Financial Express on July 13, 2009

With no alternative to create employment, industrialisation needs steady power supply. Infrastructure, quick processing of investment proposals by government agencies, hassle-free other utilities, stable political environment, business friendly monetary and fiscal policy and good law and order are all important issues in this connection.

The transformation of night into the day and vice versa brought some positive results in saving electricity but with a negative impact on retail business. The state should not take any initiative to facilitate one segment by harming another.

The government had, at least, two alternative options to meet the demand with the existing generation capacity. First, it could take the initiative to ensure 100 per cent use of energy saving lamps by domestic and commercial consumers to save up to 90 per cent of what is now wasted.

Now most rural and sub-urban houses use 50-100 watt bulbs when six to ten watt energy saving bulb would provide the same light. It would save at least eighty per cent of electricity spent for lighting throughout the country.

The government should ban the use of filament bulbs. It can facilitate duty-free import of energy saving lamps and cheaper domestic production by providing subsidy and duty-free import of the raw materials to bring down the prices

Secondly, Bangladesh can save 20 per cent of industrial electricity consumption by establishing capacity bank in each industry. A capacity bank in a circuit can be set up between the national grid and the factory meter, to regulate voltage and ensure optimum use of electricity.

The saving from domestic and industrial consumption would make the existing generation more or less enough to meet the current shortfall.

On July 5 last the peak demand of electricity was 4400 MW against the generation of 3865 MW left a deficit of 535 MW or between 12.159 per cent and 12.5 per cent.

If 70 per cent of the total consumption is taken by industry and 30 per cent by domestic users. 2705 MW is consumed by industrial consumers. Saving of 20 per cent industrial consumption would leave 541 MW for alternative use. Similarly, domestic users can spare 928 MW of electricity by using energy saving bulbs to save 80 per cent of power they now consume.

So, by banning the use of filament bulbs, using energy saving light and setting up a capacity bank, Bangladesh can save 1469 MW of electricity (541+928) per day. This would be worse than the shortfall of 535 MW. In fact it leaves a surplus of (1469-535) 934 MW of electricity from the existing production.

At the same time, by increasing the brightness of the LED lights with support from China and Japan, in research, Bangladesh can achieve a revolution in saving energy.

Budget implementation, a problem

Budget implementation, a problem

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on June 30, 2009

THE national budget for fiscal 2009-10 has been placed by the finance minister for its approval. The proposals in the largest budget, so far, will get its approval by parliament on June 30, 2009, following its scrutiny. Hopefully, with some additions or deductions, the budget will be approved for implementation from July 01, 2009.

The finance minister stated in his budget speech that he set the targets, following the vision 2020 of the government, for the macro-economy to secure a sustained gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 10 per cent from 2017 and to raise the contribution of industry to GDP from 28 per cent to 40 per cent. Other goals include raising life expectancy to 70 years, reducing maternal mortality to 1.5 per cent and to scale down child mortality to 15 per thousand births. Reducing the rate of unemployment by 15 per cent and bringing down the population living below the poverty line to 15 per cent are also among the long term objectives.

For increasing of GDP growth to 10 per cent from 2017, Bangladesh has to develop its infrastructure. Export diversification and access to newer markets will be necessary to increase contribution of industry to GDP as projected.

Government can itself generate employment by employing people in vacant positions in different ministries, government colleges and hospitals. The government can also create a congenial business environment for the private sector to increase investment to create more employment.

The budget proposals provide no clear road map of how the government would increase revenue collection. For increased revenue collection, the government can introduce automated export-import system to link the bank accounts of the exporters and the importers with the National Board of Revenue (NBR), Bangladesh Bank and the Port authorities. The NBR can then deduct the tax at source.

For public private partnership (PPP) the government should make it clear who will be the private sector stakeholders. The modalities of implementation need to be explained. The government should remove the bureaucratic barriers to the implementation of the programme.

The use of information communication technology (ICT) pledge would be important to make digital Bangladesh. But automation of government agencies would be necessary to reduce corruption by the government bureaucracy. To digitise Bangladesh, the government should pay its attention to generation of electricity on a priority basis.

The government should identify and remove the barriers in the implementation of the Annual Development Programme (ADP). Otherwise, its vision 2021 would be difficult to achieve. The government needs to change the rules and policies that impede the ADP implementation.

The budget should pay special attention to rural development for poverty reduction. Rural development can increase the export earnings, facilitate product diversification and reduce migration to the cities.

Implementation will be the main challenge for the government. Action, not words, would be needed for achieving of the objectives.

Not a single budget could be fully implemented in the country. The government needs to find out why no budget could be implemented properly and fully so far.

 

Generally, delays in the implementation lead to partial budget implementation. Development projects must be scrutinised by the ministries before approval. For example when project implementation needs to start in July, the ministry does not release the first installment of the money until February. In three months, the fiscal year comes to an end and the project implementation remains incomplete. Delay in project implementation is caused by delayed approval of the project proposal by the ministry.

Often important projects remain unimplemented over the dispute which ministry will implement them. The government should identify and remove the barriers to implementation of the budget.

Advantages of bilateral free trade agreement (BFTA)

Advantages of bilateral free trade agreement (BFTA)

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on June 19, 2009

Currently the world economy is experiencing a very serious economic crisis. World’s leading economies are suffering badly and working hard to overcome this crisis. Governments around the world offered special rescue packages to help the entrepreneurs so that the economic recession may not destroy their industrial sectors. The government of Bangladesh has also taken a comprehensive package to tackle the possible effect of recession. But we must remember that day comes after night. This recession may create opportunities for the growing economies to have newer market access around the world.

Presently countries are to share mutual strengths and overcome mutual weaknesses through combined efforts. As a result, countries are coming closer through various trade agreements like regional free trade agreements, bilateral free trade agreement even through cross-regional free trade agreements. Geographical distance is not an issue to act as a barrier today. ITC facilitates one touch connection between two cross-regional business interests.

Signing bilateral free trade agreement is not only creating the condition for closer relations among the nations but also providing a common platform to act in a united fashion in other multilateral platforms like, multilateral trade negotiation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and even in the global political arena under the UN. On the other hand, executing bilateral free trade agreement is comparatively easier than the regional or multilateral ones.

It facilitates resource sharing and to have a unique voice in the other forums. For example, during 11-17 May, 2009, this writer participated in an international workshop on “South Asian Economic Integration: Ways, Tools and Methods” in the Orchard Hotel, Singapore jointly organized the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). During dummy trade negotiation session he found that, the young trade negotiators of Sri Lanka and India are talking from a common ground. Each of them is supporting strongly the argument of the other.

It is because they are now closer to each other than any other South Asian States. They have a bilateral trade agreement in action and they are going to further expand it into agreements on investment and labour movement very soon. So it is quite clear that they will act together in real trade negotiation table under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) or in the WTO. As a result small Sri Lankan economy will get a strong support from giant India in these arenas.

The BFTAs also facilitate technology transfer and free flow of investment for the least developed countries (LDCs) like Bangladesh. These two are core elements of development of a country.

You may hardly get a single country except Bangladesh that is not having a bilateral free trade agreement with any neighbours. Not only neighbours, currently countries are signing cross-regional free trade agreements to ensure market access for their products abroad. This scribe may cite the example of the Singapore-USA free trade agreement here. Our neighbouring country India is also negotiating one bilateral free trade agreement with Singapore. Hopefully it may be concluded this year and will be executed from the next year.

Currently, Bangladesh has three proposals for signing bilateral free trade agreements. Those are Indo-Bangla FTA, Bangladesh-Sri Lanka FTA and Pak-Bangla FTA. It is not known why our government is in a state of indecision in connection with these BFTAs. From our past experience we can say that indecision is always harmful for us. For example, when submarine cable offer came, we neglected it or somehow avoided it. Similarly, the offer for the Asian Highway came. But we were dithering then and now it is depending on Indian and Thai decision, whether we may get connectivity with the Asian Highway. Usefulness of both the offers have been proved today and now we are ready to spend for the same.

Bangladesh’s experience regarding the regional trade agreements: Bangladesh is involved in four regional preferential trade agreements. Those are:

Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA)

SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA)

Trade Preferential System among the Countries of OIC (TPS-OIC)

Preferential Trading Arrangement among Developing-8 Countries (D-8 PTA)

We had one bilateral preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Islamic Republic of Iran i.e. “Preferential agreement Between Bangladesh and Iran”. We are a member of two Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). These are – South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and Bay of Bengal Initiatives for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC FTA)

None of the above is functioning well. So far as individual trade agreement is concerned, APTA is still in a negotiation stage, SAPTA has been transformed into SFTA, TPS-OIC and D-8 PTA would not be effective due to Turkey factor.

The only hope is AFTA, but until now intra-SAARC trade under SAFTA is less than 5.0 per cent and countries are not fulfilling SAFTA commitments as stated. A long negative list, some non-tariff barriers (NTBs), technical barriers to trade (TBTs) and geo-political factors are involved behind the ineffectiveness of SAFTA.

From the above discussion it is clear that, implementing RFTAs has involved a slow process and the progress may be halted by any country. On the other hand, implementing BFTA is quite easy and depends only on two signatory states. So we should give more concentration on BFTAs rather than waiting for multilateral or RFTAs.