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Saturday, March 20, 2004

Compiled by SDNP

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Garment exports may  even gain more
ground in post MFA

The Bangladesh Observer

The country’s garment exports may continue to hold on the ground in the global competitive market and even grow further after the phasing out of quota system from January next year, reports BSS.

This was the experts opinion at a roundtable discussion in Dhaka title, “Surviving in a quota free world : will Bangladesh make it” held at Sheraton Hotel on Thursday evening.

But most participants repeatedly referred to the growing political tension, and hartal in particular underlining the need for peace and stability in the country to face the coming challenge.

The Center for Policy Dialogue, Citibank and BGMEA jointly organized the discussion at a time the phasing out of the MFA is only nine months away giving out widespread speculations in different quarters as to what is coming next.

Commerce minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, commerce secretary Suhel Ahmed, US ambassador Harry K Thomas, German ambassador Dietrich Andrew, BGMEA president Anisul Haq and Citibank country office chief Mamun Rashid were, among others, present.

Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, research director of the CPD told the gathering made of representatives from the industry, banks, trade unions, buying houses, members of parliament, diplomats, and such other stakeholders that Bangladesh would remain and even may further in the market as a major source of apparels supply.

“Importers will not abandon Bangladesh because of its high competitiveness,” he said identifying China, India and Vietnam as its major challenge in the post MFA period.

Harry K Thomas speaking on the occasion praised the garments sector capacity to respond to the post MFA situation. “ You have this capacity to achieve the goal and sustain it,” he said while reminding the need to improve seaport, airport and other infrastructure, power supply and combating corruption.

Dietrich Andrew in the same vein praised Bangladesh’s garments industry’s capacity to face the new challenge saying, at least now it has a very high competitiveness and his country is buying at the highest record level from here recently.

BGMEA president Anisul Haq sounded similar optimism saying in the post MFA period Bangladesh may be rated as one of the five major suppliers in the global market.

But the road to the global market may be more arduous, he reminded the participants asking for both policy support and incentives to reposition the industry facing the new emerging situation.

The most important is to reduce bank interest and service charges, he said asking for more investment fund in the industry.

Mustafiz took China as the biggest challenger to Bangladesh in the global market dealing with its recent export statistics.  One participant said, “as a friend we are not jealous of China’s performance, but it needs to correct the value of currency which is now about 40 per cent under valued.”

“We may be losing market to its under valued exchange rate,” he said.

Mustafiz made some recommendations including technological upgradation of the garment industries, reduction of the lead time in executing supply orders, zero tariff access in the US market, and foremost of all, a public and private sector partnership in working out a new strategy and market plan.

He said, the focus should go on now about how to contain, sustain and expand the market in the new situation. It is not only bringing challenge but also immense of opportunities for Bangladesh’s garments sector, he argued.

Summing up the mode of the discussion on the floor, CPD executive director Dr Debapriya Bhattachariya said, “there is no cause to be panicked, we have room for cautious optimism.”

But he warned saying, “We should not turn this optimism into a complacency.”

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The four winners of Bangladesh Business Awards 2003
Business Person of the Year

The Daily Star

(From left) Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the PHP Group, Monjulika Chakma, proprietor of Bain Textile, Mirza Ali Behroz Ispahani, chairman of MM Ispahani Ltd and Shafiq Uz Zaman, managing director of Coats Bangladesh Ltd..

Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the PHP Group, received the 'Business Person of the Year 2003'. PHP (Peace, Happiness and Prosperity) Group has 16 different business concerns. Being the largest manufacturer of flat steel products in Bangladesh, it has started exporting its products to the global market. PHP Shipbreaking & Recycling Industries Ltd exported copper and other products to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and other countries. Some other products of the group are exported to Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and many African countries. Total exports of the group amounted to Tk 98.27 crore in 2003. Born in 1941 in Narayanganj, Rahman now is envisioning the establishment of the country's first integrated steel mill to produce finished goods (CI sheet) from iron ore.

"Divine blessings combined with hard work, backed by good intention make this miracle," said Rahman while unveiling the reason behind his success before the audience at the award giving ceremony.

Outstanding Woman in Business of the Year

Monjulika Chakma of Rangamati-based Bain Textile was awarded the 'Outstanding Woman in Business of the Year 2003'. Born in 1943 in Rangamati, Monjulika is the first tribal woman entrepreneur in the country, who took bold and unprecedented initiatives to develop traditional looms as an industry. Bain Textile has three showrooms in Rangamati and one in Cox's Bazar. Besides, her products are sold in selected outlets in Dhaka. Around 80 weavers, experts and helpers are engaged in her handloom business, apart from the more than 100 tribal women in four villages who produce handloom products for sale.

"My future plans include establishment of another unit equipped with power looms to increase production volume," Monjulika said at the function.

Enterprise of the Year
MM Ispahani Ltd was awarded 'Enterprise of the Year 2003'. Blessed with a 184 year-old heritage, the House of Ispahani today is one of the most respected business concerns in the entire subcontinent. The company's historical roots can be traced way back to 1820 when its founder Haji Mohammed Hashem moved from Isfahan, Persia to Bombay and started a business that soon expanded phenomenally in both scale and coverage. In Bangladesh, the first branch office was opened in Dhaka in 1888. After 1947, the corporate headquarters of M M Ispahani Ltd was shifted from Calcutta to Chittagong. Today, the company is involved in numerous sectors such as tea, textile, real estate, poultry, shipping and internet services. It has corporate offices in Chittagong, Dhaka and Khulna employing more than 20,000 people.

Mirza Ali Behroz Ispahani, chairman of MM Ispahani Ltd, received the award and conveyed his thanks to the family members and company staff for extending him all out supports in attaining the success.

Joint Venture Enterprise of the Year
This year's 'Joint Venture Enterprise of the Year', went to Coats Bangladesh, where Coats Plc, UK has 80 percent share and the remaining 20 percent equity belonging to A K Khan & Co Ltd of Bangladesh. The company began manufacturing industrial thread in Bangladesh when the market was hundred percent dependent on imports and over the last 12 years. It expanded capacity every year and is now one of the largest dye-houses in the Asia Pacific region. Coats Bangladesh now enjoys double-digit sales growth. On the production side, Coats Bangladesh established its first manufacturing plant in Chittagong in 1990 which now has a capacity of 14 tons of sewing thread a day.

Shafiq Uz Zaman, managing director of Coats Bangladesh, received the award. He acknowledged the supports he got from the ministries concerned, National Board of Revenue, Board of Investment and other regulatory bodies in doing business.

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