Bangladesh a role model in battling poverty
DHAKA: Bangladesh is a role model for the least developing countries (LDCs) in reducing poverty through increased global trade under the rules of the multilateral forum, World Trade Organisation, its Director General Pascal Lamy said on Saturday.
He particularly mentioned the growth of Bangladesh’s readymade garment, which created more than three million jobs, and enhanced growth of the pharmaceutical industry.
The future challenge, however, is extending the progress to other sectors so that economic shocks like the one the world has experienced do not negatively affect Bangladesh’s trade and development outlook, he said.
Lamy was the convocation speaker of Dhaka University’s 46th convocation ceremony held at the university’s playground. The university conferred him honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
President Zillur Rahman, chancellor or the university, inaugurated the convocation. The university conferred graduation degrees to 16,800 students, MPhil degrees to 56 researchers and PhD degrees to 84 researchers.
Addressing the huge gathering, Lamy said the garment sector is a source of more than 75 per cent exports and today accounts for roughly 10 per cent of gross national product.
Phasing out of quota in world textile and clothing trade in 2005 created apprehension that the sector in Bangladesh would not survive. But the reality has been profoundly different, said Lamy, also political adviser and honorary president of Paris-based think tank — Notre Europe.
The sector has not just survived but thrived, he said.
“Removing the quotas revealed Bangladesh’s comparative advantage. Simplification of rules of origin governing the duty and quota-free market access to the EU has led to another surge in Bangladesh’s garment export.”
Bangladesh’s pharmaceutical industry also saw its growth consolidated by the flexibilities of the two LDCs under WTO rules on intellectual property, he added.
“Here again Bangladesh is a model for other LDCs in using the flexibilities of the multilateral trading system to achieve concrete development outcomes,” Lamy said.
Impacts of these developments have been evident, Lamy said, noting last year’s household poverty survey that showed drop in 8.5 per cent in absolute poverty.
“Few countries of the planet have recorded 8.5 per cent drop in absolute poverty over a five-year period. Progressive trade opening has helped Bangladesh reduce poverty,” he observed.
Lamy, a twice elected director general of the WTO, lauded Bangladesh’s vision 2021, saying it provides a compelling image of how Bangladesh is going forward. “I believe the government is well on track to meet many of the time-bound targets including achieving the middle income status by 2021.
He also said, as a coordinator of the LDCs in 2003, 2007 and last year, Bangladesh has ably advanced the interest of the LDCs within the WTO.
The flexibilities under the WTO system are helping Bangladesh grow, he said. To best use those, Bangladesh needs to invest in services, infrastructure, trade facilitation programmes and help the businesses into integration of global economy.
“It is a transformation that will require a great deal of strategic planning. You will find the WTO as a willing and sympathetic partner,” Lamy said, suggesting that Bangladesh’s active civil society, vibrant private sector and profound social transformation will make it happen.
He said Bangladesh is a natural leader, but if Bangladesh is to continue its leadership, it needs leaders.
“This country needs an internet generation that will tweet, blog and network Bangladesh into the global economy.”
He negated protectionism in trade, saying its very nature is a source of conflict and deprives others of the benefits of their talents and comparative advantage.
“And, in doing so it raises the cost of all — producers and consumers alike, while creating economic inefficiency,” he said, adding that nationalistic and protectionist policies earlier contributed to the national violent and aggression in the 1930s and 1940s.
President Zillur Rahman congratulated the graduates and suggested that they get engaged with the global advancements in terms of information technology and biotechnology. He called upon the students and teachers to conduct more and serious researches and utilise those for common people’s wellbeing.
The president said students of Bangladesh have a glorious past of sacrifice and achievements, but that is not reflected today. Intra- and inter-party conflicts in the student bodies are not expected, he said, urging them to regain their past glory.
Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique called upon the graduates to establish their leadership in politics, economics and culture.
However, he reminded that there are various challenges including rising prices of essentials, climate change, unemployment, but more serious problem is the deterioration of values.
“One can compensate financial loss over time, but not value if it once gets damaged,” Siddique said, urging the students to maintain self dignity, without which a nation cannot flourish.
The educationist asked the graduates to cherish the culture, values and philosophy of the land, observing that getting detached from the roots never leads to anything great.
By arrangement with The Daily Star/ANN