The United Kingdom has said Bangladesh needs to improve its investment climate, infrastructure and the skills of its labour force to grow and absorb the two million new entrants into the labour force each year.
“While the garment sector will always remain important, diversifying into other sectors is also necessary,” said Mark Lowcock, UK Permanent Secretary for the Department for International Development (DFID) emphasising improved infrastructure, investment climate and the skills of its labour force.
Talking to UNB, Lowcock said the garment sector is of importance to the economy and empowerment of women in Bangladesh, and this is likely to continue.
About delay in compensation process, the top British bureaucrat said it is of vital importance that the victims of Rana Plaza are ‘adequately compensated’ in a timely manner.
“We’ve used every opportunity to call on UK companies to take responsibility and contribute to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund. This has included the Westminster Debate on 30 April, repeat Ministerial visits to Bangladesh, communications around the Rana Plaza anniversary, and various meetings with retailers and buyers,” he said.
Primark, a UK retailer, has been at the forefront of compensation delivery, they have provided over $ 12 million of compensation to victims over the course of the last year.
“Going forward, we’ll continue to work with other stakeholders to ensure that the gap in compensation is met and that the victims receive their dues,” Lowcock said.
To facilitate further growth in Bangladesh, he said, DFID is supporting a new ‘Skills and Employment’ programme that will provide at least 100,000 poor people, particularly women, skills training and access to semiskilled, better pay and more formal jobs.
DFID is also promoting improvement in the Investment Climate through its support to the Bangladesh Investment Climate Facility which works to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, thereby helping them grow and create more jobs, said Lowcock.
“This work is complemented with work to support a well-functioning Economic Zone regime that will provide the serviced land that businesses require to grow and create new jobs,” he mentioned.
In addition to the programmes that they fund in Bangladesh, they have an important role to play in sharing UK knowledge and expertise.
In September 2013, a team of UK experts from the Better Regulation Delivery Office and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors visited Dhaka to share their experience in safe and effective building regulation.
The UK also supported the Inspector General of Factory, Establishment & Inspection Directorate to attend a conference on Inspection Reform in London in September 2014. “Going forward we’ll continue with our programmatic approach while also facilitating more opportunities for knowledge sharing.”
On progress in the RMG sector’s reform initiative, Lowcock said an important momentum was generated by the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013.
DFID is playing a leading role in driving change through a multi-pronged approach that supports: building inspection, strengthening the government’s labour regulations and inspection capacity, establishing guidelines on operational safety and health, raising awareness of workers, helping some of the worst affected victims of Rana plaza to develop new skills for employment and urging buyers to take responsibility for their supply chain, he said.
“Since Rana Plaza, progress has been made. Through a number of initiatives, 65 percent of all active export-oriented garment factories have been inspected for building fire and electrical safety,” Lowcock said.
Some 178 new labour inspectors have been recruited by the government and they are currently being trained by the ILO, while 300 new Trade Unions have been established,” he added.
Despite the progress, Lowcock said, much work remains to be done. “The rules and regulations that relate to the Labour Law are of critical importance for the sector to move ahead.”
“The remaining inspections have to be completed, after which remediation work must move ahead swiftly and effectively. We are also concerned about the progress that has been made on the compensation fund,” he mentioned.