The arrival of a team of more than two dozen global players in garment business in the capital with the express desire to make Bangladesh their number one choice for sourcing garment products is indeed a resounding acknowledgement of our garment industry's goodwill and potential.
We welcome the international brand leaders in apparels trade in Bangladesh. It is worthwhile to note that these international companies alone account for around one-fourth of Bangladesh's total value of this year's worldwide readymade garments export worth US$ b5.7 billion.
Clearly, Bangladesh's huge army of low-cost labour force is a source of attraction for international buyers of garment products. Moreover, China switching from basic garments to other industries is another factor driving these big companies to look for other sources of supply with adequate opportunities. Definitely, Bangladesh, with its long track record as a producer of quality readymade garment products and the existence of its assured market in the USA, EU and in other international markets, provide them a viable option. The local garment industries, on their part, will have to increase the skill of their workers through better pay and working conditions to increase their productivity and thereby enhance their competitiveness in the world market.
Bangladesh can ill afford to allow this opportunity to pass by as there are also other alternatives for those seeking new sources, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and our next-door Myanmar, which has started to open up to the world.
To meet these challenges, Bangladesh will have to get its act together. The quality and capacity of the physical infrastructures like road, railway, waterway and especially the load handling capacity of our ports have to be increased. In this connection, the need to accelerate the work to expand the Dhaka-Chittagong highway and increae the efficiency of the railway calls for special attention. The situation in power and energy supply has to be adequately improved to assure these prospective foreign buyers and investors. Alongside these physical aspects of the bottlenecks, the red-tape in bureaucracy that impedes expeditious processing of investment proposals has to be removed.
The foreign companies willing to buy apparel products as well as relocate their production facilities in Bangladesh will also have to look into the issue of better pay and working condition for our garment workers, an overwhelming proportion of whom are women.