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Press reports on Dialogue on Bangladesh Apparel sector

Jointly organised by CPD and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Bangladesh Office, the dialogue on“Bangladesh Apparels Sector: Does Margin Matter for Ensuring Compliance?” was held on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 at Brac Centre Inn, Dhaka.

View more news reports on the event

 

Published in The Financial Express

All-stakeholder meet urges western buyers
Pay more to share compliance cost for healthier RMG industry
“US denial of GSP facility to BD not acceptable”

FE Report

Speakers at an all-stakeholder meet observed Wednesday Bangladesh readymade garment sector still struggling to meet compliance with its existing profit margins, lowest in the world, and urged the western buyers to pay more to see a healthier industry.

They pointed at a disparity in compliance conditions handed to Bangladesh and those allowed to its competitors on the global apparel market and called for a fairer value chain on an equitable basis.

Exchanging views on a presentation entitled ‘Bangladesh Apparel sector: does margin matter for ensuring compliance?’ at the BRAC Centre Inn in the city, experts in the trade issues recommended adding a component of ‘worker compliance’ during negotiation on price.

This, in their view, would help the country come out of the situation arising out of the compliance issue raised and strongly being pursued by western consumer side following recent tragedies in factories.

They, however, blamed the government for its “inability” to make the regulatory system accountable and acceptable to lessen growing international pressure.

Policy think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue-Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung organised the dialogue. With CPD Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan in the chair, the meet was attended by labour and employment secretary Mikhail Shipar as chief guest.

Economists, entrepreneurs and labour rights activists, CPD executive director Mustafizur Rahman, Swedish Ambassador in Bangladesh Johan Frisell, FES resident representative Henrik Maihak, European Union Delegation trade adviser Zillul Hye Razi, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) director Arshad Jamal, among others, spoke at the dialogue.

Dr Khondaker G Moazzem, additional research fellow of the CDP, presented an illustration based on a study on 15 apparel industries of different categories. It shows Bangladesh’s gap in profit margin with its competitor countries.

Such gap in gains has compelled readymade garment sector to spend minor part from it on compliance. Such modicum spending, however, put the burden of spending additional eight cents to meet the demand.

Though he showed spending little from buyer side on compliance issue as their margin is also low, the CPD fellow recommended integration of both sides’ shares on worker- related issues to meet the compliance that has been getting highest priority after the incidents like Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen fire.

Chairman of Opex Group and former president of BGMEA Anisur Rahman Sinha and Assistant Executive Director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies and Managing Director of Mohammadi Group Rubana Huq were also present as discussants.

Professor Sobhan also raised the question of denying the GSP facility to Bangladesh and urged the US government to “transparently explain” actual status of the country on the issue.

The CPD chair noted that Bangladesh was maintaining competitiveness only in the cheap labour cost while the cost of capital, port charge and other costs are high in the country.

“Cheap labour practically means that the country is getting competitiveness at the cost of workers’ health and welfare,” he told the meet.

The CPD chief, however, stressed new standard of governance, good administration as well as regulatory framework for ensuring accountability in the sector.

CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya also termed the decision of the USA not acceptable and suggested that the government continue its effort to retain the GSP facility for local exporters.

The government should not leave its efforts to retain the benefit out of frustration as GSP is a fair right of Bangladesh in the international trade system, he said.

The CPD distinguished fellow emphasised ensuring harmonisation in compliance standards globally and said compliance issue should be similar for both Bangladesh and other countries such as China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Sultan Uddin Ahmed of BILS laid importance on creating solid ground to establish a decent working condition and productive employment through the country’s own regulations and legal obligations and urged entrepreneurs to provide the workers the proper share to ensure industrial competitiveness.

“We are not still in a way preparing ground to fix percentage of profit margin and labour compliance,” he said.

The Opex Group chairman laid importance on maintaining a margin in business from sustainable point of view but said practice of zero tolerance on the issue of getting business and customers should be maintained through fair competitive prices.

“Lower price for products indirectly direct lower wage to workers,” he said.

Rubana Huq highlighted the burden of compliance being put on suppliers from buyers’ side for lack of the country’s acceptable regulatory system and said meeting compliance issues cannot be possible without funds.

She finds the country in reputational risk and said price is often compromise price for the sake of survival. She urged all to address the problem properly.

The EU trade adviser said supplier side has no other choice than to comply in the case of preferential trade and urged the readymade garment sector to be prepared from now on for the GSP-plus regime.

Roy Ramesh Chandra, president of United Federation of Garment Workers, however, highlighted fact that marginal profit of the apparel sector was not as low as it is now and urged the authorities concerned to be alert on the ethical buying practice, as to whether it is being maintained or not.

BGMEA Director Arshad Ahmed laid importance on forming participatory committee to oversee developments in the sector on compliance issues.

The CPD suggested the market players to build an integrated value chain in which suppliers and buyers will jointly share the responsibility for improving compliance issues and said allocation for maintaining compliance by apparel firms needs to be increased.

And a part of this additional spending should come from buyers as increased cutting and making charges of products.

Gana Shasthya Kendra trustee Zafrullah Chowdhury stressed improving workers’ health, living wages for workers and sound law-and-order situation in the country for increasing productivity.

The labour secretary highlighted the government efforts to ensure labour rights and improve working environment and compliance in factory level. He said amended labour rules will be published by end of August or early September.

He said “ethical buying is most important issue at value chain” for the exporters target to reach $50 billion export earnings by 2021.”

 

Published in Dhaka Tribune

COMPLIANCE AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS
RMG makers urged to spend more from bottom line

Tribune Report

Both manufacturers and buyers should spend additional fund from their profit margin to ensure compliance and workers’ rights as well as increasing sustainability of the sector, experts said yesterday.

They also viewed that strengthening government’s institutional mechanism and social audit system set up by the buyers and retailers would be essential to inspect factory-level compliance and maintain international standards.

The observations emerged from a dialogue on “Bangladesh Apparels Sector: Does Margin Matter for Ensuring Compliance?” organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Bangladesh in the capital.

The apparel experts gave their views over a CPD study on Margin and Its Relation with Firm-level Compliance and Illustration on Bangladesh Apparel Value Chain, presented by CPD Additional Research Director Khondaker Golam Moazzem.

The study said it would be very difficult for Bangladeshi manufacturers to increase spending for compliance under the existing level of margin.

Economic and noneconomic factors, including higher labour efficiency, low interest rate, financial incentives, semi-automated production process and developed infrastructure   force will enable domestic firms to compete with other countries that spent most on compliance than Bangladesh, it said.

It said Bangladesh spent 15.1% for trimming or packaging, which is the highest than any other competitive countries.

Bangladeshi manufacturers invariably spend less for selling, general and administrative cost and manufacturing overhead cost of manufacturing, according to the study.

It revealed that a disjointed value chain is in operation in the apparels value chain of Bangladesh because existing structure and market forces put little emphasis on compliance.

Expenditure on compliance is extremely low in comparison with other countries and in contrast with investments in industrial raw materials including fabric, it said.

Chairing the event, CPD Chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan observed that increasing export competitiveness at the cost of workers’ wellbeing is socially unjust and politically unsustainable.

He proposed making the workers into shareholders to positively include their contribution in the global value chain and thus make the industries sustainable.

Highlighting initiatives so far taken by the government for ensuring compliance, labour and employment ministry secretary Mikail Shipar said the government is committed to expand RMG sector in the country in future and to keep sound relation between the workers and owners.

Mohammadi Group Managing Director Rubana Huq said maintaining compliance standards pose challenging, especially without apparels industries regulating themselves by addressing real compliance issues instead of protecting reputation for business.

She laid emphasis on necessary fund minting compliance saying so many assurances that we will be funding you. That’s fine, but my point is when.

Assistant Executive Director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed said fundamental rights of workers are not dependent on maximum margin. He urged buyers to give support on ensuring compliance in Bangladesh apparel sector.

Opex Group Chairman and former BGMEA President Anisur Rahman Sinha said: “We have to be practical that things are being built, but not destroyed.”

 

Published in The Daily Star Business

Compliance can’t be compromised
Analysts say at a discussion on Bangladesh’s garment sector

Star Business Report

Compliance cannot be compromised, using lower profit margin as a pretext, in the ongoing efforts to improve working conditions and ensure labour rights in the garment sector, analysts said yesterday.

“Compliance can no longer be left on whether you earn profit or not. Compliance is not an issue of bargaining or discussion,” said Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue.

He spoke at a discussion on compliance in Bangladesh’s apparel sector at Brac Centre Inn in the capital. CPD in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a non-profit political foundation of Germany, organised the dialogue.

Khondaker Golam Moazzem, additional research director of CPD, presented a paper he co-authored with Kishore K Bashak, senior research associate at the think-tank.

The study was conducted at a time when the apparel sector is undergoing major reforms, following Rana Plaza building collapse and Tazreen Fashions fire that together killed more than 1,200 people, mostly garment workers.  Moazzem said profit margin is supposed to be neutral with regard to compliance, while necessary costs for compliance are supposed to be built in the margin.

“There is no direct link between the two in theory. But we have observed that compliance is compromised. Low cost for compliance is practised as a strategic tool for competitiveness and profit.”

Moazzem said compliance-related standards have changed particularly during the post-Rana Plaza period. Most of the firms are moderately equipped with major physical compliance-related indicators.

He said there is a wide difference in terms of compliance between large and small companies and sub-contracting firms, which indicates a lack of investment as well as a dearth of proper monitoring, inspection and auditing practices of buyers.

He showed that profit margins for T-shirts, polo shirts, bottoms, pajama sets and shirts are 3-10 percent, 3-6 percent, 3-5 percent, 3-4 percent and 2-4 percent as most of the money is spent on raw materials and as industrial and other costs.

Raw materials eat away 60-75 percent and industrial cost 12-20 percent of an order.

Of a $100 shirt, buyers get 72 percent and suppliers the rest, Moazzem said.

He said Bangladeshi firms struggle to invest more to ensure compliance, as the rise of compliance-related expenses may reduce competitiveness.

“Accommodating additional costs by cutting suppliers’ profit is not so easy in low-level of profit margin.”

Firms in other countries spend more on compliance. They, however, are able to maintain their competitiveness by way of low interest rates, developed infrastructure, skilled labour force, semi-automated production processes, financial incentives, higher labour efficiency and low cost of raw materials.

“Without sufficient improvement in these factors, it would be very difficult for Bangladeshi manufacturers to increase spending on compliance under the existing level of profit margin,” Moazzem said.

Anisur Rahman Sinha, chairman of Opex Group, said: “Compliance is non-negotiable.”

Sinha, also a former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said western buyers talk about workers’ rights and safe working conditions and, at the same time, demand cheap products.

Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, said factories will have to meet compliance obligations whether there is profit or not. “We have to give workers decent wages and safe working conditions.”

Rubana Huq, managing director of Mohammadi Group, a garment maker, said compliance cost in Bangladesh has risen to a great extent. An average factory with 600 workers will have to spend from $600,000 to $1 million on compliance.

“It is not easy for us. I don’t know how we are going to come up with these additional funds,” she said, adding that the new set of compliance rules is haunting factory owners.

Rehman Sobhan, chairman of CPD, said the whole regulatory initiative has unfortunately been coming from buyers. “But the primary responsibility for regulation is with the government of Bangladesh.”

“The lifestyle of the workers is determined by the wage they get. If we want to improve working conditions, it is finally the wage that is more important in the broader conversation on the distribution of gains and benefits from the industry.”

Bhattacharya said, if compliances, rules and regulations were followed properly when the industries were set up, the cost would have been part of the investment in the movable property.

“It was not done at the time; now a major one-off financial shock is coming in the face of pressure.”

He said it remains to be seen whether only big factories can absorb this cost, while small and medium industrial units are banished — an issue that brings the interest rate to the fore.

He said compliance must aim to improve productivity, working conditions and living standards of workers.

He said Accord and Alliance, two foreign inspection agencies, have long been asking for corrective actions at faulty factories, but the funds have not come. “So there is a mismatch between the availability of funds and the reconstruction.”

Mikail Shipar, secretary of the labour and employment ministry, said the rules of the amended labour laws have been finalised and would be published by the end of August or early next month, which will strengthen the efforts of establishing compliance in the sector.

Henrik Maihack, resident representative of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, said it has to be ensured that retailers and buyers come up with a business model that assures workers are safe and are paid living wages and helps businesses make a profit.

Swedish Ambassador Johan Frisell said: “I think investing in sustainability is actually adding to your profit. If you produce sustainably, you actually secure your place in the market for the long-term.”

Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of CPD, Roy Ramesh Chandra, president of United Federation of Garment Workers, Arshad Zaman, a director of BGMEA, and Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, also spoke.

 

Published in The Daily Star

Bangladesh think-tank CPD critical of US decision on GSP
‘Compared to other countries, Bangladesh has not been in such a bad shape’

Staff Correspondent

The Centre for Policy Dialogue yesterday criticised the US for its decision to leave Bangladesh out of the list of countries granted trade benefits recently.

“It was bad as Bangladesh did not regain the GSP,” said Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the think-tank.

“Compared to other countries, Bangladesh has not been in such a bad shape that it was wise to do the unjust for the country.”

He was speaking at a discussion on the apparels sector at Brac Inn in the capital. The discussion was organised by CPD in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s (FES) country office.

The US left out Bangladesh from the list of 122 nations for whom US President Barack Obama on June 29 re-authorised the generalised system of preferences (GSP), the US’s biggest scheme for the world’s poor nations.

The reason for the exclusion was Bangladesh’s failure to fulfil all the 16 conditions the Obama administration had laid out when it revoked the privilege two years ago on grounds of poor workplace safety and labour rights.

Debapriya said the issue however should not be wholly politicised.

“It can’t be said that we have no faults at all. Besides, the US is a major market, so it would not be strategically right to make the country an opponent for political reasons.”

The economist said the country should not get upset and give up. “We have to pursue the issue. It is our due rights among all the international rules. We can’t lose due rights out of anger or resentment.”

Prof Rehman Sobhan, chairman of CPD, who chaired the dialogue, also vented his anger. He said the GSP has been given to countries X, Y or Z but not Bangladesh.

“Obviously, there are many constraints on Bangladesh in terms of what the country should do,” he said, adding that there has to be an analysis of compliance behaviour and labour conditions in the supply chain leading to the US.

“Are the workers in all these countries with the GSP status living in the sort of workers’ paradise?”

Sobhan said the analysis should be brought on the table and presented to the US government as a comparative analysis of the objectivity determining the decision-making.

The US GSP programme promotes economic development by eliminating duties on up to 5,000 types of products when imported from the 122 countries on the list.

The beneficiaries of the new scheme include South Asian nations such as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan.

Although only 5 percent of Bangladesh’s exports to the US used to be covered by the GSP before it was revoked in mid-2013, the duty benefit was an opportunity for the non-traditional sectors to widen their market share in the world’s largest economy.

Garment, which accounts for 95 percent of Bangladesh’s exports to the US, is not one of the products covered by the GSP.

 

Published in Daily Observer

CPD raises brows at US move to leave Bangladesh out of GSP list

Staff Correspondent

Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), differed with the decision of the United States of America to leave Bangladesh out of GSP (Generalised System of Preference), while over 120 other countries have been enjoying the facilities.

The eminent economist said compared to many other countries on the GSP list, Bangladesh was far ahead in term of c compliance, if a proper assessment was done. “Many countries are not ahead of Bangladesh (in terms of qualifying for GSP),” he told a dialogue on Wednesday.

“The USA deprives Bangladesh of availing itself of GSP facilities without any comparative assessment with other countries now enjoying the facilities,” he said, adding that Bangladesh is well ahead in terms of compliance issues.

The dialogue on ‘Bangladesh Apparels Sector: Does Margin Matter in Ensuring Compliance’ was held at the BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium in the city.

CPD in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Bangladesh Office, arranged the event.

Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar was the chief guest at the dialogue.

Anisur Rahman Sinha, Chairman, Opex Group & Former President of BGMEA, was present as the Guest of Honour.

Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, Assistant Executive Director, Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and Rubana Huq, Managing Director, Mohammadi Group participated in the discussion.

Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Additional Research Director, CPD, made the keynote presentation. Professor Rehman Sobhan chaired the meeting. Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury and CPD Executive Director Prof Mustafizur Rahman also spoke in it.

Prof. Rehman Sobhan said Bangladesh will have to be compared with 122 countries now under the GSP facilities. “Nobody knows that all countries have already come under compliance standards. The situations of all countries are not well ahead of Bangladesh,” he added

He said, “The GSP issue has to be seen through legitimised comparison. Bangladesh has to raise the issue with the USA government that no comparative assessment has been done at all. It is unfortunate.”

Bangladesh should continue solving problems “as per its strength or power and responsibility,” he said.

Bangladesh was dropped from GSP beneficiaries last year. Commerce Minister Tafael Ahmed on Tuesday told reporters that Dhaka would not try further to restore GSP, in an apparent feat of anger and displeasure.

“When the comparative assessment issue will draw attention of international forum, a pressure will be created unless it is proved that the 122 countries have compliance standards. Otherwise, the decision is not acceptable,” Sobhan said.

Mikail Shipar said the problem, Bangladesh is now facing, is time mismanagement in the flow of finance from the Accord Alliance.  Bangladesh was asked to ensure compliance within certain timeframe, but fund does come in time, he noted.

CPD distinguished fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said the compliance standards need to be harmonised to develop the competitive market saying, “You’ll make Bangladesh a soft target while forget China?this is duplicity.”

Chairman of Opex Group Anisur Rahman Sinha said compliance is not a choice, it is requirement. The issue is not negotiable. There’re certain rules to set a factory, which need to be followed, he added.

CPD additional research director Dr Khondaker G Moazzem presented the report of the CPD study saying that compliance will have to be ensured in the apparel sector by improving government regulation system and increasing the margin of profit through negotiation with buyers.

 

Published in Daily Sun

Work environment better than in GSP-listed nations: Experts

Staff Correspondent

Criticising the US government for not restoring the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), analysts on Wednesday said the work environment in Bangladesh is better than in the 122 countries enjoying the trade privilege in the US market.

“Bangladesh’s labour situation is far better than many competitor nations,” said Rehman Sobhan, a noted economist and chairman of the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), adding “Unfortunately, the reasons behind the scenario of cancelling Bangladesh’s GSP facility are not clear yet.”

Rehman Sobhan made the remarks while addressing a dialogue titled “Bangladesh Apparels Sector: Does Margin Matter in Ensuring Compliance” held at BRAC Center Inn in the capital.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh Office arranged the event.

Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar addressed the function as chief guest. Former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Chairman of Opex Group Anisur Rahman Sinha, CPD  Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Managing Director of Mohammadi Group Robana Haque, President of Bangladesh garment Buying House Association Kazi Iftekhar Hossain and labour leaders addressed the programme among others.

Golam Moazzem, Senior Researcher of CPD, delivered the keynote at the event.

“The retailers should share the responsibility with the apparel makers to ensure compliance standards in the RMG sector here,” Golam Moazzem said in his keynote, adding that the Bangladeshi apparel makers get lower prices than their competitors.

Suggesting for increasing prices of Bangladeshi apparel products, Moazzem also stressed on the need for more government regulations for the RMG sector.

“Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in ensuring workers rights in the garment sector as a large number of trade unions have been registered,” the Labour and Employment Secretary said expressing dissatisfaction over the GSP issue.

“Compliance is a not a matter of bargaining, but a legal one,” Anisur Rahman Sinha said.

Hailing the role of two major buyers’ platforms Accord and Alliance in ensuring workers safety, Sinha said major progress has been made in the area of compliance. He also called upon the retailers to pay compatible prices for Bangladeshi apparel items to help the RMG owners ensure workers safety more efficiently.

While addressing the event, Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya called upon the government not to consider GSP as a political issue and continue its efforts to revive the trade facility.

Kazi Iftekhar urged the apparel makers to create a single platform involving the buying houses to overcome the setbacks in the garment sector here.

 

Published in Prothom Alo

সিপিডির সংলাপ
পোশাকের দাম কম, কমপ্লায়েন্স নিশ্চিত করা যাবে না

নিজস্ব প্রতিবেদক

জিএসপি–সুবিধা পাওয়া দেশগুলোর অবস্থা বাংলাদেশের চেয়ে অত বেশি ভালো নয়: রেহমান সোবহান

বর্তমানে পোশাক রপ্তানি করে যে দাম পাওয়া যায়, তাতে কারখানার কমপ্লায়েন্স বা উন্নত কর্মপরিবেশ গড়ে তোলার ব্যয় নিশ্চিত করা যাবে না। কারণ, দেশের উদ্যোক্তারা এখন অনেক কম দাম পান, ফলে মুনাফাও হয় কম। তাই বর্তমান বাজারভিত্তিক কাঠামোর মধ্য দিয়ে কমপ্লায়েন্স বাস্তবায়ন করা সহজ নয়।

বেসরকারি গবেষণা সংস্থা সেন্টার ফর পলিসি ডায়ালগ (সিপিডি) আয়োজিত ‘বাংলাদেশের পোশাক খাত: প্রাপ্ত দাম কি কমপ্লায়েন্স নিশ্চিত করতে পারছে?’ শীর্ষক সংলাপে উপস্থাপিত মূল প্রবন্ধে এ কথা বলা হয়েছে। সিপিডি মনে করছে, বর্তমান বাজারকাঠামোয় দুর্বলতা, সমন্বয়ের ব্যর্থতা ও তথ্যপ্রাপ্তির অপ্রতুলতার জন্য কমপ্লায়েন্স পুরোপুরি বাস্তবায়িত হচ্ছে না।

রাজধানীর ব্র্যাক সেন্টারে গতকাল বুধবার অনুষ্ঠিত এ সংলাপে সভাপতিত্ব করেন সিপিডির চেয়ারম্যান অধ্যাপক রেহমান সোবহান। এতে ব্যবসায়ী, সরকারি কর্মকর্তা, কূটনীতিক, শ্রমিকনেতাসহ বিভিন্ন শ্রেণি–পেশার প্রতিনিধিরা বক্তব্য দেন।

দেশের তৈরি পোশাক খাতের কমপ্লায়েন্স ​নিয়ে রাজধানীর ব্র্যাক ইন সেন্টারে গতকাল বুধবার ​সিপিডি আয়োজিত সংলাপে বক্তারা l প্রথম আলোবর্তমান অবস্থা থেকে উত্তরণে সিপিডি সাতটি সুপারিশ করেছে। এগুলো হলো কমপ্লায়েন্স নিশ্চিত করতে কাটিং অ্যান্ড মেকিং (সিএম) মাশুল বাড়িয়ে বাড়তি অর্থের সংস্থান; এ অর্থের জোগান দিতে ক্রেতা-বিক্রেতার ব্যয়কাঠামো নির্ধারণ; পোশাকবিক্রেতার উৎপাদন খরচ কমিয়ে বাড়তি অর্থের সংস্থান; কমপ্লায়েন্সের বিষয়ে নজরদারির জন্য প্রতিষ্ঠান গড়ে তোলা; সামাজিক নিরীক্ষা জোরদার করা; আন্তর্জাতিক বিধি ও দিকনির্দেশনা শক্তিশালীকরণ এবং বিদেশি ক্রেতার সঙ্গে সম্পৃক্ত বাজারসংশ্লিষ্টদের একই কর্তৃপক্ষের আওতায় নিবন্ধন দেওয়া।

সংলাপে মূল প্রবন্ধ উপস্থাপন করেন সিপিডির অতিরিক্ত পরিচালক খন্দকার গোলাম মোয়াজ্জেম। এতে তিনি বলেন, কমপ্লায়েন্স ব্যয়ে স্বচ্ছতার পাশাপাশি নজরদারিও থাকতে হবে। কমপ্লায়েন্স নিশ্চিত করার দায়িত্ব সরকারের। কিন্তু সরকারের দুর্বলতার কারণে তা করা যাচ্ছে না। এ জন্য সরকার, ক্রেতা-বিক্রেতাসহ সবাইকে নিয়ে সামগ্রিকভাবে উদ্যোগ নিতে হবে।

সিপিডির চেয়ারম্যান রেহমান সোবহান বলেন, রানা প্লাজা ঘটনার পর সব ধরনের বিধিবিধান আসছে বিদেশি ক্রেতাদের দিক থেকে। কিন্তু বিধিবিধান করার দায়িত্ব সরকারের।

রেহমান সোবহানের মতে, যেকোনো বিধিমালা বাস্তবায়নে সরকারের ব্যর্থতা থাকলে এর সুবিধা পাওয়া যায় না। বাংলাদেশে এ ধরনের ব্যর্থতা রয়েছে, এদিকে জোর দিতে হবে। তিনি বলেন, ২০২১ সালের মধ্যে দেশের পণ্য রপ্তানি ৫০ বিলিয়ন বা পাঁচ হাজার কোটি ডলারে উন্নীত করতে হলে শিল্পবান্ধব নীতি নিতে হবে। উন্নতি করতে হবে নিম্ন মজুরি ও কর্মপরিবেশের মতো বিষয়গুলোর। এতে দীর্ঘমেয়াদি কমপ্লায়েন্স তৈরি হবে।

আলোচনা: কমপ্লায়েন্সের বর্তমান প্রেক্ষাপট নিয়ে কিছু প্রশ্ন তোলেন সিপিডির বিশেষ ফেলো দেবপ্রিয় ভট্টাচার্য। তিনি বলেন, যে প্রতিষ্ঠান যত বেশি মুনাফা করে, সেটি কি তত বেশি কমপ্লায়েন্ট? কারখানা স্থাপনের সময়ই এসব কমপ্লায়েন্স মানা হলে প্রতিষ্ঠানের স্থাবর সম্পত্তির সঙ্গে তা যুক্ত হতো। কিন্তু এখন সেই কারখানা এককালীন খরচের ধাক্কা সামলাতে পারবে কি? আর এ খরচটি কি পৌনঃপুনিক হবে? যদি হয়, তবে বড় প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলো সক্ষম হবে, ছোট ও মাঝারি প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলো হারিয়ে যাবে।

দেবপ্রিয় আরও বলেন, পোশাকের বাজারটি স্বল্পমেয়াদি, কিন্তু কমপ্লায়েন্সে বিনিয়োগ দীর্ঘমেয়াদি। তাই বাজার ও বিনিয়োগের মধ্যে একটি পার্থক্য রয়ে যাবে।

শ্রমসচিব মিকাইল শিপার বলেন, কারখানার কর্মপরিবেশ ধীরে ধীরে উন্নত হচ্ছে। আন্তর্জাতিক বাণিজ্যে এখন নৈতিকতাসম্পন্ন কেনাকাটাকে প্রাধান্য দেওয়া হচ্ছে।

আগস্ট মাসের শেষ দিক থেকে মধ্য সেপ্টেম্বর নাগাদ নতুন শ্রমবিধিমালা প্রকাশ করা হবে বলে মিকাইল উল্লেখ করেন।

ওপেক্স গ্রুপের চেয়ারম্যান আনিসুর রহমান সিনহা বলেন, কারখানার অবকাঠামো নির্মাণের সময় নিয়মকানুন মানলেই কমপ্লায়েন্স মানা হয়ে যায়। এখানে কোনো ছাড় দেওয়া উচিত নয়, কেননা এটা শ্রমিকদের নিরাপত্তার বিষয়। তাঁর মতে, বাংলাদেশে শ্রমের মজুরি ছাড়া সবই ব্যয়বহুল।

মোহাম্মদী গ্রুপের ব্যবস্থাপনা পরিচালক রুবানা হক বলেন, ‘আমি জানি না, কমপ্লায়েন্সের জন্য কোথায় অর্থ পাব? অগ্নিনিরোধক দরজার দাম ৮০০ থেকে ১ হাজার ডলার। একটি কারখানায় এ ধরনের কমপক্ষে ১৫টি দরজা লাগে। কিন্তু কমপ্লায়েন্স নিশ্চিত করা পর্যন্ত বিদেশি ক্রেতারা আমার জন্য অপেক্ষা করবে না।’

বাংলাদেশ ইনস্টিটিউট অব লেবার স্টাডিজের (বিলস) সহকারী নির্বাহী পরিচালক সৈয়দ সুলতান উদ্দিন আহমেদ বলেন, ‘ক্রেতাদের চাপিয়ে দেওয়া শর্ত অনুযায়ী কমপ্লায়েন্ট হতে চাই না। আমরা আমাদের নিজস্ব উপায়ে কমপ্লায়েন্স নিশ্চিত করতে চাই।’

গণস্বাস্থ্যকেন্দ্রের ট্রাস্টি জাফরুল্লাহ চৌধুরী বলেন, ‘কারখানায় কাগুজে শ্রমিক ইউনিয়ন নয়, সত্যিকার ট্রেড ইউনিয়ন থাকতে হবে। প্রতিবছর বিদেশি বায়িং হাউসগুলো কী পরিমাণ অর্থ বিদেশে নিয়ে যাচ্ছে, তা নিরূপণ করা উচিত।’

ঢাকার ইউরোপীয় ইউনিয়ন (ইইউ) কার্যালয়ের বাণিজ্য উপদেষ্টা জিল্লুল হাই রাজী বলেন, ‘কমপ্লায়েন্স নিয়ে কোনো শিথিলতা দেখানো যাবে না। যখন জিএসপি প্লাসের দিকে যাব, তখন কমপ্লায়েন্স আরও কঠোর হবে।’

তৈরি পোশাক প্রস্তুতকারক ও রপ্তানিকারকদের সংগঠন বিজিএমইএর পরিচালক আরশাদ জামান বলেন, এখন কমপ্লায়েন্স ইস্যুতে নিয়ন্ত্রকের ভূমিকা পালন করছে অ্যাকর্ড-অ্যালায়েন্স। তিন হাজারের বেশি কারখানা পরিদর্শন করে মাত্র দেড় শতাংশ কারখানাকে ঝুঁকিপূর্ণ হিসেবে চিহ্নিত করেছে তারা। কমপ্লায়েন্সের জন্য বিনিয়োগে দাতারা অর্থ দেওয়ার প্রতিশ্রুতি দিলেও তা এখনো পাওয়া যায়নি বলে তিনি উল্লেখ করেন।

ইউনাইটেড ফেডারেশন অব গার্মেন্ট ওয়ার্কার্সের সভাপতি রায় রমেশ চন্দ্র বলেন, ‘সেই কোটা আমল থেকেই কারখানা মালিকেরা মুনাফা করে আসছেন, এখনো করছেন। কিন্তু কমপ্লায়েন্সের প্রতি তাঁদের কোনো আগ্রহ নেই।’ এ ছাড়াও সংলাপে বক্তব্য দেন সিপিডির নির্বাহী পরিচালক মোস্তাফিজুর রহমান, ফেডরিক এবার্ট স্টিফটাংয়ের (এফইএস) আবাসিক প্রতিনিধি হেনরিক মাইহাক প্রমুখ। সংলাপ অনুষ্ঠান আয়োজনে সহায়তা করেছে এফইএস।

প্রসঙ্গ জিএসপি: আলোচনার একপর্যায়ে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের বাজারে জিএসপি-সুবিধা নিয়ে কথা বলেন রেহমান সোবহান। তিনি বলেন, ‘হাতি, ঘোড়া, ছাগল সবাই জিএসপি-সুবিধা পাচ্ছে। কিন্তু বাংলাদেশকে দেওয়া হয়নি। জিএসপি-সুবিধাভোগী দেশগুলোর শ্রমমান, কর্মপরিবেশ ইত্যাদি বাংলাদেশের চেয়ে ভালো কি না, তা নিয়ে গবেষণা করা যেতে পারে।’

অনুষ্ঠানের পরে তিনি সাংবাদিকদের বলেন, প্রতিযোগিতা সক্ষমতার বিবেচনায় জিএসপি-সুবিধা পাওয়া ওই সব দেশের অবস্থা বাংলাদেশের চেয়ে অত বেশি ভালো নয়। এখন যুক্তরাষ্ট্র সরকারকেই স্বচ্ছতার সঙ্গে প্রমাণ করতে হবে যে বাংলাদেশের প্রকৃত অবস্থা কী?

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