Prof. Papanek hits on Investment and Growth with Style
Seminars dealing with economic issues are a rarity in Bangladesh; good seminars are even more rare and good seminars organised in a combined effort with a good turnout of university students is like an oyster falling from the sky in the midst of a sunny day with two, or heck, three pearls inside! So when I say rare, I mean really rare. Such an atypical occasion found its way through to the heart of Dhaka on the 08th of April when Prof. Emeritus Gustavo F Papanek (Prof. Gus for short) of Boston University was invited to hold a seminar on “The Investment Climate and Economic Development: Bangladesh and the World,” organised by International Finance Corporation (IFC) along with UKAID and the European Union. Students from BRAC University, NSU, IUB, United and East West University were invited, and to the organiser's surprise I am sure, quite a good number did attend.
Prof. Papanek's lecture if anything was more than relevant in today's immediate context, and he gave us (and hopefully our leisurely government also) quite a good reason to solve our energy crisis as soon as possible, and no, Shark energy drink won't help here. Papanek emphasised that we are adding almost 2 million jobs per year due to population momentum whereas our creation of jobs per year is not even close to that. If we had managed to supply 2 million jobs as per yearly additional demand, then it would add approximately a billion dollars to our GDP. Sadly that is not happening and most are either being left unemployed or pushed to the informal sector. To make matters worse employment in the garments sector and migrant workers are slowing down rapidly. Also those who are being employed are mostly in the agriculture sector, which is really not that, productive due to too many people cramming into limited cultivatable land. Diminishing productivity of labour leading to zero marginal productivity, live in action (for the economics students)!
He identifies foreign investment as one major source of creation of jobs. Apparently foreign investors love us, which is why they are not investing in our country because they don't want to take away a chunk of our money. Sadly this love is not very lovely. Lack of foreign investment equals lack of job creation which we need right now; we need to create at least 3 million jobs per year if we want to include those who are already unemployed now along with yearly additions. This means we need to break the foreign investors love for us and get them in here. There is a problem though, actually many of them. Namely corruption, inefficient administrative labour, hostile environment towards foreign investors, poor roads, poor ports, not very friendly and uber slow government procedures, and also a two minded government and serious power failures.
Guess what though! Most other countries competing in the RMG (ready-made garments) and textiles sector have similar troubles except maybe the two minded government part and power failures. Our government needs to be able to say a yes or a no answer (preferably a yes) instead of maybe. These foreign guys don't like to be hung around; time is actually money for them. Also the investors won't be too happy if they have no power much of the day and hence can't even produce stuff for which they invested. Papanek mentioned the main advantage that we have in Bangladesh is the very very cheap labour due to increasing unemployment (supply curve shifts to the right, demand curve can't shift as much and price, or wage in this case, falls). China's labour is currently 3 to, 4 and in some places 6 times more expensive than in Bangladesh. Within a few years Papanek expects, very validly, China's grasp over the RMG and textile to fall, which creates an opportunity for Bangladesh to jump in and increase profits! However we are in competition with other countries and unless we fix our power problem, our cheap labour won't be attractive enough to seduce those foreign investments. Hence, here is another very good reason to fix our power crisis and be sexy.
Prof. Papanek identifies the deal with Tripura, India to be a major and temporary source of immediate power problem solution, if only our political parties can make the good decision quickly. Also our exports have to be increased if we actually do want economic development. We do want that don't we (staring at policy makers)? As a final restatement, the seminar was very informative and certainly a necessary one for the younger generation as they are the ones who will be dealing with such issues pretty soon and we do hope IFC will organise such seminars more often in the coming future. The aftermath Westin food was pretty charming as well by the way.
By Adnan M. S. Fakir
Of Loos and GDP
Food, clothing and shelter. These are three prime requirements for human survival. Whoever wrote that stuff down always managed to skip one minor, but important detail. Sanitary. What could be MORE important than a clean sanitary system, and further more a proper wastage system too? Growing up, we've all seen in the television series “Mina” (or was it Meena? In that matter, what does it matter how Mina is written? Is there a difference in pronunciation for Meena and Mina? No? Then why the different spelling? Yes? Then why do we not know the proper pronunciation? Enlightenment, anyone?), how important it is to have clean sanitation and of course the importance of the subsequent hand-washing which helps us prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and what not.
Hand washing won't do diddly squat for you if the smell alone is powerful enough to kill you dead. If you don't know what I'm talking about, imagine your best friend coming over to your place and then using your sanctum to relieve himself of his heavy burdens having long suffered in the face of adversity. Imagine then, yourself taking a turn at your sanctum to pass on your own troubles and find some relief in the mercy of it all. Only things don't really go as planned. It seems the burdens of your best friend were too much for your little sanctum, and is no longer fit for habitat, even for the shortest period that you might have required to liberate yourself. A solution would be to spray perfume/deodorant on a handkerchief and make like them old cowboys from ye old, old west, except there's nothing really you can shoot at. Anyway, I'm pretty sure you have a good idea of what I am talking about, and the scale of stink involved. Multiply that by a hundred times, throw in a pinch of desperation, and you will have Abdullahpur Petrol Pump rest room.
If stinks could kill, then that stink would. In fact, it is SO bad that it wouldn't really be entirely impossible to suddenly find out that Bangladesh has been supplying the powerlords of the world at large with weapons of massive stinkyness.
A country's economic growth should NOT be measured by its GDP or any other measurement of the standard of living for the population. One has to only look at the number of serviceable public restrooms to get a good idea of how well the standard of living is for a country. It says a lot when a desperate man on the streets needs to barge in to a shopping mall for the sole purpose of relief instead of jovially walking into a sparkly clean and shiny public restroom. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him how to catch fish, feed him for a lifetime. Give the population restrooms and watch all your troubles soar away.
Honestly, it's pretty much the same all over the place. We need roads, hand it over to private companies. We need telecom services, private companies. We need natural gas, private companies! We need some pure-bred Bengalis. Well, whaddya know! Private companies! In the same way, the role of clean sanitary provider has fallen upon the shoulders of lone private companies, groups and people (remember Mina/Meena?), such restaurants, shopping malls, etc.
I HAVE... A DREAM! I have a dream that one day we shall NOT be using walls for relief functions, and we shall NOT use back alleys and trees like common dogs.
NB: The point of this article is further illustrated and proven in the graph.
Far away from the hassle of the city there is a place where millions and billions of fireflies trying to blend in with the Milky Way, running like a pathway across the sky towards heaven. Listen a bit carefully and you will hear the lonely flute in the distance, far away from machines and skyscrapers.
This is the rural life of our country. But it's true that as the stream of industrialisation and modern technology hits every part of this developing country the old fashioned calm and quiet life is changing faster and faster. But the heart of rural people still holds the sweet memories of those old days.
Alliance Francaise de Dhaka is hosting a 15-day solo painting exhibition of artist Syeeduzzaman Sumon titled "Rural Life" in its La Gallery from last 3rd April. The paintings of the artist portray the soul of rural Bangladesh within the canvas with acrylic and oil paint. Bangladesh Shishu Academy chairman Mustafa Monwar was there to inaugurate the exhibition as the chief guest. CEO and managing director of Eastern Bank Ltd Ali Reza Iftekhar and deputy managing director of Ashiyan Development Ltd Mohammed Saiful Islam Bhuiyan were also present as special guests at the inaugural ceremony. This is the first solo exhibition of the young artist. Sumon has a Diploma in Fine Arts from Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts, Dhaka and has been painting since 1996. He wants to pay homage to the rural Bangladesh he loves and his paintings deal with the rural people, and every aspect of their life. Although he is very young, his paintings show a maturity beyond his age. Talking about his work Sumon says, “This exhibition is the reflection of rural life of Bangladesh. I love this Bangla. My mind is drawn to the villages again and again by the form, the beauty and the lush green nature of Bangla. So in many forms, in many ways, I tell the stories of these people through my art.”
The exhibition will run till the 17th of this month. So if you are up for some mesmerising artwork, justh ead over to La Gallery of Alliance Francaise and watch rural Bangladesh unfolded.
By Zabir Hasan
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