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Introduction The shift from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, industrial economy is inte gral to the process of economic

development (Kaldor, 1966). Policymakers in the least developed countries (LDCs) have, at various times, attempted to make agric ulture the primary engine of economic growth and employment generation but this approach has not worked. The Ready-Made Garments (RMG) industry occupies a uniqu e position in the Bangladesh economy. Bangladesh has a total population of over 160 million. Among of vast population about 3.5 million people are working in th e garments industries. It is the largest exporting industry in Bangladesh, which experienced phenomenal growth during the last 20 years under the quota system o f Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA). The abolition of quota system thus brings new c hallenges for Bangladeshs apparel industry to continue its current status and enh ance it in a free flow of apparel trade era. According to BGMEA, after the Liber ation War of Bangladesh, in 1983 the Ready-Made-Garment (RMG) industry emerged t o be a most promising sector in the socio-economic context of Bangladesh. From t hat point of time till now, this industry has grown and developed so rapidly tha t currently Bangladesh is exporting RMG products worth 5 billion USD every year to countries like EU, USA, Canada and other countries of the world. Now, Banglad esh enjoys the position of being the 6th largest apparel supplier to the USA and EU countries. The sector rapidly attained high importance in terms of employmen t, foreign exchange earnings and its contribution to GDP. Background of RMG industry in Bangladesh since beginning of 80s Export-oriented garment exports from Bangladesh were initiated in the beginning of the 1980s (Bhattacharya and Rahman, 2001; Hoque, Murayama and Rahman, 1995; M urayama, 2006; Rhee, 1990; Zohir and Paul-Majumder, 1996). A Korean investor was deeply involved in the inception of the business in Bangladesh. The growth and development of the RMG industry in Bangladesh was the result of an international managed trade regime in the apparel. Thanks to the quota restrictions, many compa nies were obliged to relocate their sourcing and production facilities in the lo w cost under-developed developing countries. The operation of MFA quotas in the process led to exporting opportunities in countries where textile and clothing w ere not traditional export items. Many international business firms, facing bind ing quota restrictions in their own countries, had relocated part of their produ ction and trade to other relatively poor developing countries including Banglade sh. The quota system ensured the time to develop and learn the skills required i n the production and marketing. Thus the RMG business started in Bangladesh as a result of a joint-venture between a South Korean and Bangladeshi firm in the la te 70s as a negligible nontraditional sector with a narrow export base. Within f ive years of the start, it emerged as a promising export earning sector in the 90 s.Over the past two decades, RMG export earnings have increased by more than 8 t imes with an exceptional growth rate of 16.5 percent per annum. In 2006, earning s reached 8.93352 billion USD, which was only less than a billion USD in 1991. E xcepting 2002, the industry registered significant positive growth throughout th is period.

Contribution of the RMG Industry Bangladesh exports garments to some 30 countries, its exports are highly concent rated in two major markets, the USA and EU. The USA as the largest importer coun try imported 43.24% of total garments exported from Bangladesh in 1998-99. Bangl adesh was the sixth largest supplier of apparels in the US markets in the same y ear. However, if European Union is considered as a single market, the US market becomes the second largest. Bangladesh exported 52.38% of its apparel exports to the EU in 1998-99. The EU is the single most important destination of knitwear export from Bangladesh. The growth has continued almost without interruption and the value of garment exports reached three-quarters of the value of total expor ts at the end of the 1990s. Though a negative impact from September 11 is appare nt in 2001, garment exports quickly picked up after that. Thus, the rapid growth

of garment exports has continued for a quarter of a century with little disturb ance (Yamagata-2007). Presently RMG contributes around 75 percent of the total e xport earnings. Over the past one and half decade, RMG export earnings have incr eased by more than 8 times with an exceptional growth rate of 16.5 percent per a nnum. In FY06, earnings reached about 8 billion USD, which was only less than a billion USD in FY91. Excepting FY02, the industry registered significant positiv e growth throughout this period. In terms of GDP, RMGs contribution is highly remarkable; it reaches 13 percent of GDP which was only about 3 percent in FY91. This is a clear indication of the i ndustrys contribution to the overall economy. It also plays a pivotal role to pro mote the development of other key sectors of the economy like banking, insurance , shipping, hotel, tourism, road transportation, railway container services, etc . A 1999 study found the industry supporting approximately USD 2.0 billion worth o f economic activities (Bhattacharya and Rahman), when the value of exports stoo d at a little over USD 4.0 billion. One of the key advantages of the RMG industry is its cheap labor force, which pr ovides a competitive edge over its competitors. The sector has created jobs for about three million people of which 70 percent are women who mostly come from ru ral areas. The sector opened up employment opportunities for many more individua ls through direct and indirect economic activities, which eventually helps the c ountrys social development, woman empowerment and poverty alleviation. Importance of RMG sector to Bangladesh Economy The RMG is the largest single economic sector in Bangladesh which contributes to 76% of national exports and 90% of manufacturing goods exports. In terms of GDP , RMGs contribution is highly remarkable; it reaches 13 percent of GDP which was only about 3 percent in 1991.It also plays a pivotal role to promote the develop ment of other key sectors of the economy like banking, insurance, shipping, hote l, tourism, road transportation, railway container services, etc. The industry e mploys more than three million people, or about 40 percent of manufacturing sect or employment, 90 percent of whom are women (Rhee 1990; Toai 2004) which eventua lly helps the countrys social development, woman empowerment and poverty alleviat ion. The industry support indirectly about 1015 million people. Over the past 20 years, the number of manufacturing units has grown from 180 to over 4400, 95 per cent of which are locally owned. Competitive Factors contributing to the rise of garment industry in Bangladesh There are many factors that contributed to the rise of the apparel industry in B angladesh. Most firms acknowledged three internal factors: favorable government policy, cheap labor force, entrepreneurial skills and two international factors: quota provided by USA and GSP scheme provided by EU as the top five reasons for the spectacular growth of this industry in Bangladesh. Favorable Policy by Government The government came out with some policies which triggered the business growth a nd the entrepreneurs took the chance to gain on it. The privileges enjoyed by RM G sector through government policy are back to back Letter of Credit (L/C), bond ed warehouse, Cash Incentives and reduced income tax rate. Back to back L/C was granted only for 100 percent export garment industry and considerably eased the financial load of the local entrepreneurs, Bonded warehouse facilities provided further support which allowed exporters to import their inputs tax and duty free (Dowlah, 1999). Additionally in 2004, gove rnment reduced the corporate income tax from 30 to 10 percent for RMG industry a nd from 30 and 35 percent to 20 percent for textile firms until June 30, 2006. G overnment also operates a Cash Compensation Scheme (CCS) through which local sup pliers for RMG industry receives a 10 percent of the value added of export garme nts. From 2001 to 2003, CCS generated around Tk. 6 billion (or over $100 million ) which further supports the growth (Montfort &Yang, 2004).

Availability of cheap labor and low energy cost The second most important factor was cheap labor. Bangladesh is one of the cheap est on labor wages, even compared to the standard of the South Asian region. The wages are unlikely to increase due to vast unemployment rate that exists in the country and lack of alternative work opportunities specially for rural women wh o constitute 90% of the RMG work force. Bangladesh has around 70 millions of ava ilable low cost workers who could be easily trainable and engaged in the apparel sector. As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the workers in the RMG are w omen who posses historically skills in embroidery and stitching clothing. Concer ning the energy cost, Gas burned energy cost in Bangladesh is less than two cent s/KWH in compared to 9.33, 6.72 and 7.84 cents/KWH in India, Pakistan and China, respectively. Quotas of USA and GSP provided by EU Third and fourth most important factors considered by the firms were internation al: quotas provided by the US through the MFA which was initiated in 1985 and pr eferential treatment by EU under the GSP scheme. The MFA has been called the most celebrated case of global market sharing arrangement, which was designed to prot ect the textile and garment industry of developed countries, due to increased im ports which was accompanied by unemployment rate. However, this restriction prov ed to be a blessing for Bangladesh as mentioned earlier. Local Entrepreneurial Ingenuity The fifth, not the least, important factor that emerged is the entrepreneurial s kill of the private organization, which (Rhee 1990) described as the catalyst model of the development . Entrepreneurs in the garment industry started business from a zero base, with no or little assistance. It was indeed a difficult environment, fit for only brav est entrepreneurs(Quddus 1993, p 30-31), entrepreneurs saw the opportunities that were lying ahead, grabbed them and boldly put their ideas in practice. As good practices and knowledge got diffused and enterprises developed, the government r esponded by coming up with policy and administrative reforms that facilitated th e growth of the industry. Thus, entrepreneurs created an environment at the earl y stage, proved their importance to others, showed their dynamism to reform poli cy (Mahmood 2002). Bangladeshi RMG entrepreneurs are resilient to any type of in ternal and external shocks. The continuous growth of the Bangladeshi RMG industr y despite the threats of Chinese and later Vietnams accession to the WTO, 9/11 an d the phase out of MFA in 2005 proved their entrepreneurial agility. They were q uick learners and took a cautious approach all the time in a new situation. Anot her factor which has also helped the RMG sector to grow is the composition of th e RMG entrepreneurs. A survey of garment entrepreneurs carried out in 1993 shows that 23 percent of respondents were retired civil or military bureaucrats, 89 p ercent had at least a bachelor degree and 32 percent had studied abroad (Quddus and Rashid, 2000). Thus, a large number of educated, mature and experienced indi viduals have been attracted to the garment industry. The presence of such dynami c persons as entrepreneurs doubtlessly stimulated the growth of this industry in ways delineated above. Favorable exchange rate The favorable exchange rate of Bangladesh currency Taka with the USA dollar help ed also the Bangladeshi RMG products to be competitive in world market. Problems in the RMG Sector of Bangladesh The garment industry of Bangladesh has been the key export division and a main s ource of foreign exchange for the last 25 years. National labor laws do not appl y in the EPZs, leaving BEPZA in full control over work conditions, wages and ben efits. Garment factories in Bangladesh provide employment to 40 percent of indus trial workers. But without the proper laws the worker are demanding their variou s wants and as a result conflict is began with the industry. Labour unrest is a great problem in the RMG sector. Low working salary is anothe r vital fact which makes the labor conflict. Workers made strike, vandalize indu

stries to capture their demand. As a result disruption in the production occurre d which delay in the shipment of products making a bad image of industry. Somet imes buyers cancel order which is very harmful for the owner. Another problem is the insufficient infrastructure regarding RMG sector. In our country there is an acute shortage of electricity and gas supply. Because of loa d shedding disruption in production occurred and owners use generator for electr icity. This problem also hampers production and increase production cost which i s threatening in the competitive market. There are some other problems which are associated with this sector. Those arelack of marketing tactics, absence of easily on-hand middle management, a small number of manufacturing methods, lack of training organizations for industrial w orkers, supervisors and managers, autocratic approach of nearly all the investor s, fewer process units for textiles and garments, sluggish backward or forward b lending procedure, incompetent ports, entry/exit complicated and loading/unloadi ng takes much time, time-consuming custom clearance etc. Besides these problems there are some other problems which are listed below with their percentagePrimary Problems Problems high medium low total 01.Raw-materials 60% 40% 3 2 100% 3 100% 0 100% 3 100% 1 100% 1 100% 3 100% 0 1 0 2 3 0 2 0 total 1 2 2 3 2 5 3 1 0 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 0 5 5 0 5 5 5

02. Marketing problems 1 20% 60% 20% 03. Machinery problem 100% 5 -

04. Inefficient workforce 60% 40% 05. Licensing problem 20% 20% 06. Quota problem 80% 20% 1 60% 4 -

07. Poor government policy 60% 40% -

08. Labor unrest/strike 5 0 100% 100% Secondary problems Problems high medium low 01.Middle man affect 20% 60% 1 20% 3 100% 0 100% 2 100% 2 100% 2 100%

02. Sluggish business linkage 40% 60% 03. Unloading(RM) takes time 40% 40% 20% 04. Time consuming schedule 40% 60% 05. Communication gap 20% 40% 1 40%

06. Dependency on foreign market 100% 100% 07. Trade block 0 40% 08. Credit problem 40% 60% 2 60% 2 3 100% 3 100%

5 5 0

Safety Problems Safety need for the worker is mandatory to maintain in all the organization. But without the facility of this necessary product a lot of accident is occur incur red every year in most of the company. Some important cause of the accident are given belowRoutes are blocked by storage materials Machine layout is often staggered Lack of signage for escape route No provision for emergency lighting Doors, opening along escape routes, are not fire resistant. Doors are not self-closing and often do not open along the direction of escape. Adequate doors as well as adequate staircases are not provided to aid quick exit Fire exit or emergency staircase lacks proper maintenance Lack of proper exit route to reach the place of safety Parked vehicles, goods and rubbish on the outside of the building obstruct exits to the open air Fire in a Bangladesh factory is likely to spread quickly because the principle o f compartmentalization is practiced Lack of awareness among the workers and the owners Impact of global economic recession The ongoing global economic crisis has been the cause of major concern of export dependent economies. It has been observed major industrial countries is experie ncing sharp fall in export demand .Even high exporting countries like China and India recorded sharp decline in export in last few months. Other high performin g countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillipine and Thailand are also suffering badly due to the ongoing crisis. On the contrary export from our country so far has remained quite strong. Knitting and woven garment exports have increased by 41% and 36% respectively. In July-December period over the corresponding period last year. This is attributable primarily to low-end textiles product, which ha s been least affected by the crisis. And they will continue to import this low e nd product during the crisis period from Bangladesh. The expert of foreign trade institute differs in opinion and they rightly point s out that garment sector is in deep trouble and the demands for these products will drastically will fall down when income will start improving. The BGMEA mus t look into it thoroughly and start thinking from now on without wasting time re garding how to tackle the situation and keep our products export on track which accounts for 76& of our foreign exchange. Prospects of the RMG Industry in Bangladesh Despite many difficulties faced by the RMG industry over the past years, it cont

inued to show its robust performance and competitive strength. The resilience an d bold trend in this MFA phase-out period partly reflects the imposition of safeg uard quotas by US and similar restrictions by EU administration on China up to 20 08, which has been the largest supplier of textiles and apparel to USA. Other fa ctors like price competitiveness, enhanced GSP facility, market and product dive rsification, cheap labor, increased backward integration, high level of investme nt, and government support are among the key factors that helped the country to continue the momentum in export earnings in the apparel sector. Some of these el ements are reviewed below. Market Diversification Bangladeshi RMG products are mainly destined to the US and EU. Back in 1996-97, Bangladesh was the 7th and 5th largest apparel exporter to the USA and European Union respectively. The industry was successful in exploring the opportunities i n markets away from EU and US. In FY07, a successful turnaround was observed in exports to third countries, which having a negative growth in FY06 rose three-fo ld in FY07, which helped to record 23.1 percent overall export growth in the RMG sector. It is anticipated that the trend of market diversification will continu e and this will help to maintain the growth momentum of export earnings. At the same time a recent WTO review points out that Bangladesh has not been able to ex ploit fully the duty free access to EU that it enjoys. While this is pointed out to be due to stringent rules of origin (ROO) criteria, the relative stagnation in exports to EU requires further analysis. Product Diversification The growth pattern of RMG exports can be categorized into two distinct phases. D uring the initial phase it was the woven category, which contributed the most. S econd phase is the emergence of knitwear products that powered the recent double digit (year-on-year) growth starting in FY04. In the globalized economy and ev er-changing fashion world, product diversification is the key to continuous busi ness success. Starting with a few items, the entrepreneurs of the RMG sector hav e also been able to diversify the product base ranging from ordinary shirts, T-s hirts, trousers, shorts, pajamas, ladies and childrens wear to sophisticated high value items like quality suits, branded jeans, jackets, sweaters, embroidered w ear etc. It is clear that value addition accrues mostly in the designer items, a nd the sooner local entrepreneurs can catch on to this trend the brighter be the RMG future. Backward Integration RMG industry in Bangladesh has already proved itself to be a resilient industry and can be a catalyst for further industrialization in the country. However, thi s vital industry still depends heavily on imported fabrics. After the liberaliza tion of the quota regime some of the major textile suppliers Thailand, India, Ch ina, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan increased their own RMG exports. Figure: Trend to back-to-back linkage If Bangladesh wants to enjoy increased market access created by the global open market economy it has no alternative but to produce textile items competitively at home through the establishment of backward linkage with the RMG industry. To some extent the industry has foreseen the need and has embarked on its own capac ity building. Flow of Investment It is plausible that domestic entrepreneurs alone may not be able to develop the textile industry by establishing modern mills with adequate capacity to meet th e growing RMG demand. It is important to have significant flow of investment bot h in terms of finance and technology. Figure 3 indicates that the investment out look in this sector is encouraging, although the uncertainties before the MFA ph ase-out period caused a sluggish investment scenario. In part the momentum in th e post-MFA phase-out period is indicative of the efforts underway towards capaci ty building through backward integration. This is evident in the pace of lending to the RMG sector and in the rising import share of RMG related machinery. Howe

ver further progress would be necessary to improve and sustain competitiveness o n a global scale. Policy Regime of Government Government of Bangladesh has played an active role in designing policy support t o the RMG sector that includes back-to-back L/C, bonded warehouse, cash incentiv es, export credit guarantee scheme, tax holiday and related facilities. At prese nt government operates a cash compensation scheme through which domestic supplie rs to export-oriented RMG units receive a cash payment equivalent to 5 percent o f the net FOB value of exported garments. At the same time, income tax rate for textile manufacturers were reduced to 15 percent from its earlier level for the period up to June 30, 2008. The reduced tax rates and other facilities are likel y to have a positive impact on the RMG sector. Infrastructural Impediments The existence of sound infrastructural facilities is a prerequisite for economic development. In Bangladesh, continuing growth of the RMG sector is dependent on the development of a strong backward linkage in order to reduce the lead time. However, other factors constraining competitiveness of Bangladeshs RMG exports i ncluded the absence of adequate physical infrastructure and utilities. Labor Productivity The productive efficiency of labor is more important determinant for gaining com parative advantage than the physical abundance of labor. In Bangladesh, the garm ent workers are mostly women with little education and training. The employment of an uneven number of unskilled labors by the garment factories results in low productivity and comparatively more expensive apparels. Bangladesh labor product ivity is known to be lower when it compared with of Sri Lanka, South Korea and H ong Kong. Bangladesh must look for ways to improve the productivity of its labor force if it wants to compete regionally if not globally. Because of cheap labor if our country makes the labor productivity in the apex position, then we think the future of this sector is highly optimistic. Research and Training The country has no dedicated research institute related to the apparel sector. R MG is highly fashion oriented and constant market research is necessary to becom e successful in the business. BGMEA has already established an institute which o ffers bachelors degree in fashion designing and BKMEA is planning on setting up a research and training institute. These and related initiatives need encourageme nt possibly intermediated by donor-assisted technology and knowledge transfer. A facilitating public sector role can be very relevant here. Strategies and policy recommendation Bangladeshs RMG sector has shown formidable resilience in the face of increased c ompetition in the post-MFA. Micro-level data analysis shows that Bangladeshs RMG will be competitive in the post-MFA era and even after the expiration of safegua rds against Chinese products. However, In order to remain competitive and consol idate market share and also to reap from the free market opportunities, there ar e some challenges to overcome in product selection, backward-linkages industry d evelopment, encouraging FDI, infrastructure and human resource development and p referential market access negotiation in existing and potential markets. Selected Items In a fiercely competitive apparel market where the competitors are the giants li ke China and India, Bangladesh might concentrate in the selected items. Banglade sh can gain competitive advantages over them rather to compete in whole gamut of the apparel products. Infrastructure Development and Reducing the Lead Time One of the major hurdles Bangladesh RMG sector faces is the inadequate infrastru cture and has, in consequence, longer lead time comparing with China and Vietnam . Bangladesh should further improve infrastructures such as electricity, gas, se a-ports capacity and efficiency and relocation of garments factories from the co ngested city centers like Dhaka, the national capital. The proposed garments vil lages and developing the Dhaka-Chittagong high-ways belt for garment industries can save it from congestion of the cities. Human Resource development

Although with huge population Bangladesh is in shortage of technically qualified personnel for product development and design as well as in middle management. T he private sectors with the help of the public sector can work on improving skil ls and develop capacity in this field. Preferential Market Access Bangladesh is a LDC (least developed country) and many WTO clauses urge the deve loped countries to open their market for preferential access of LDC products. Ho wever, Bangladesh is among the few LDCs which do not enjoy this access to the US A market. Bangladesh needs to pursue the developed countries such as the USA for preferential access to their markets as well as diversify export markets in the advanced emerging countries such as Russia, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, China, India and the GCC. Backward linkages industry and SAARC Cumulation Its necessary to further develop Bangladeshs backward linkages industry (i.e. text ile) specially in the woven sector in order to fulfill the current and increasin g demand of the RMG industry. Bangladesh can also encourage relocation of textil e industries from the high cost developed countries. In the mean time, Banglades h can fully avail the opportunity of DFQF access to the EU market in woven produ cts by using fabrics from the SAARC countries . In quota era, however, in order to improve local textile sector, Bangladesh did not fully use the DFQF export fa cilities with fabric from the SAARC countries. In a changed fiercely competitive market era, Bangladesh can easily increase its exports in woven with imported f abrics where it lacks local inputs. Only 40% of Bangladeshs woven garment meet Ro O requirements for DFQF access to the EU38 and have fared less well. Currently, Bangladesh enjoys DFQF access to the EU for 95% of its knitwear as this sector c an procure locally most of the inputs, thereby contributing to the very rapid gr owth of Bangladeshs exports of knitwear to the EU. Encourage FDI and Cooperation in apparel and Textile sector Bangladesh kept the quota advantages for local entrepreneurs during the quota er a and did not encourage FDI in apparel. But in current quota free trade regime, Bangladesh can encourage FDI in apparel sector along with the textile sector. Th e FDI can also bring new technology, know-how and enhance productivity. Banglade sh needs to work on image building and publicize the advantages of investment op portunities in apparel (and also in textiles). Bangladesh must join hands with l eading textile as well as apparel makers in China, Hongkong, South Korea and Tur key to encourage them to relocate the part of their production to Bangladesh. Th e latter should also improve cooperation with the leading consumer goods retaile rs such as WalMart, Costco, GAP and Carrefour. The RMG entrepreneurs from Bangla desh should make their strategies and policies in terms of the Value chain rathe r than the final products as the strategy of the coopetition (cooperation+compet ition) among the leading players are more sustainable than the blind competition . Conclusion Bangladesh has been able to maintain its current growth momentum, driven by rapi d export expansion, in spite of MFA phase out and other shocks. Its very clear th at the predicted decline of RMG industry in Bangladesh did not take place and in stead, The RMG industry has improved competitiveness and raised exports value. T hough the completely phasing out of safeguards against the Chinese products at t he end of 2008 and the accelerated competition are yet to come. If The recent da ta of the beginning of 2008 and quota-free-safeguards-less Canadian market are a ny example of market trends in 2009 and beyond, then Bangladesh can expect to be come the second largest net garments exporter in apparel. In order to reach to t hat point, It requires also continuous development of the sector such as the tra nsportation facilities, telecommunication network, and power supply, management of seaport, utility services and in the law and order situation. The government and the RMG sector would have to jointly work together to maintain competitivene ss in the global RMG market.

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