Exports of non-apparel items will go up if the government extends the same level of attention and benefit it gives to the garment sector, Salman F Rahman, private industry and investment adviser to the prime minister, said yesterday.

He said the government has identified a number of potential sectors for exports and measures have been taken to this effect.

“We are giving attention to these sectors. We have achieved success in some cases as well.”

The adviser was addressing an orientation programme for the members of the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) on “Export diversification for economic growth in Bangladesh”.

The ERF organised the programme in collaboration with the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund-II, which is managed by the International Finance Corporation, at the forum’s conference room in Dhaka.

Bangladesh’s exports are heavily dominated by garment items. In the last fiscal year, the earnings of the sector accounted for more than 84 percent of the national exports of $40.53 billion.

Rahman said the export market of the garment sector has diversified and the sector is moving towards value addition as part of diversification.

He is hopeful that Bangladesh’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index would improve as some initiatives have been implemented and some are underway.

“We want to improve the ranking to double-digit by next year and it will be helpful to diversify the export basket.”  Bangladesh ranks 176th out of the 190 countries in the last edition of the ranking.

The government has taken initiatives to introduce one stop services at business promotion bodies, including the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority, the Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority, the Public-Private Partnership Authority, and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority.

“Within the next four to five months, the one stop services will be fully operational,” the adviser said.

M Masrur Reaz, a senior economist at the World Bank Group, said Bangladesh would face challenges in the field of competitiveness after graduating to the developing nations’ category.

“For this reason, preparation should be taken to overcome the challenges and upgrade the quality of products and move to high value items.”

He said the garment sector has remained almost unchanged for the last 40 years. It is high time to shift to high value products as part of export diversification.

Saiful Islam, president of the ERF, said Bangladesh has progressed a lot in terms of export volume, but the number of export items is very limited. “We need more efficiency and more entrepreneurs for export diversification. We also need skilled workforce.”

Hosna Ferdous Sumi, a private sector specialist of the World Bank Group, and SM Rashidul Islam, general secretary of the ERF, also spoke.

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