Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bangladesh RMG industry at crossroads: WB

The future of the Bangladesh readymade garments sector looks depressing and the industry is now at crossroads, said a World Bank report citing inaction of the authorities following building collapse and deadly fire incidents in factories. World Bank in its ‘Bangladesh Development Update-October 2013’ said on Thursday: “The time to act is now and cost of inaction could be high.” “The deadly incidents of fire and building collapse over the last year have exposed the parlous state of physical and social compliance in the garment industry, placing the country’s primary foreign exchange generator at a historic cross road,” the report said. At least 1,130 people, mostly garment workers died and approximately 2,515 others were injured when Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building, collapsed in Savar on April 24 this year.
In one of the most devastating fire accidents in the history of apparel industry of Bangladesh at least 112 workers of Tazreen Fashion, a garments factory, were killed on November 24.
Bangladesh’s garment sector has the potential to become a US$ 36-42 billion industry by 2020 if it can prevent recurrence of the tragedies seen with the Tazreen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse, it said.
On the other hand, the report said, the industry could face a declining trend by continuing to neglect workers’ rights and safety, thereby prompting buyers to reduce their dependence on Bangladesh or abandon the country altogether, in order to protect their reputation with consumers.
The industrial accidents have revived concerns over compliance in labour standards and worker safety, and the international community has placed the Bangladesh garment industry under serious scrutiny, the report said. “As a result, attention to low worker wages, poor working condition and the violation of workers’ rights has become more pronounced, raising questions about the sustainability and competitiveness of the country’s entire RMG industry,” it said.
The report has termed non-compliance in worker safety as a collective failure of the manufacturers, the buyers, and the government. It said the buyers have demanded quality at low prices without much regard of the working environment, while manufacturers have cut costs by failing to invest in improving safety and labour standards.
Moreover, these failures have been aided and abetted by lax enforcement and regulatory capture by government authorities, it added.
The report said: “For Bangladesh garment industry, the time to act is now. The most immediate priority for the Bangladesh government is to ensure enforcement of the steps suggested by foreign buyers, international agencies and domestic regulatory bodies. All the stakeholders need to work together to ensure a healthy and safe workplace, without which it would be difficult for the sector to recover and continue to grow.
“On the other hand, the cost of inaction could be high, as if the EU were to suspend Bangladesh’s favoured access to its markets, Bangladesh could see its total exports fall by as much as 4.1 to 8 per cent,” the report said.

-With The Independent input

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