Md. Joynal Abdin*
Published by the Independent on March 16, 2018
Bangladesh economy performed on an average 6-7 percent annual growth during last few decades based on Readymade Garment (RMG) export earnings and foreign remittance by exporting semi skilled and unskilled labours mainly to the Middle Eastern countries and two Southeast Asian countries. RMG and expatriate Bangladeshi led growth mentored us to dream big and focus further. Now we are a lower middle income country during last few years and aiming towards a middle income status by 2021, developed economy by 2041. We took SDG Goals seriously and are confident to achieve by 2030, similarly we have numbers of visions like Vision 2021, 2030, 2041 etc. given by major political parties of the country. All of the above visions and goals bring the nation (knowingly or unknowingly) towards a consensus that, Bangladesh wants development; Bangladesh would like to be a middle income country in between 2020-2030 and a developed country in between 2031-2041.
Each of the above vision and goal sounds good and aspiring but this is the appropriate time to assess Bangladesh’s ability to cater all of the inputs needed to achieve the visions. Do we have enough resources to deploy in different sectors for aspiring development? Do we have enough skilled hand to work towards a developed country? Is our education system ready to produce required manpower for sustainable development? So on and so forth. At the same time Bangladesh have to realise its existing challenges and find out root causes of those challenges to make us capable and forward moving. For example one latest survey of BBS showed that there are 2.6 million unemployed people (age 15-64) in Bangladesh. Every year another 2 million new jobseekers are entering the job market. The same survey (Labour Force Survey 2015) identified that Bangladesh created only 1.4 million jobs during 2013 to 2015-16 FY. If we interpret the above data like this, 2.6 million unemployed and 2 million new jobseekers that means 4.6 million unemployed workforce in a year whereas only (1.4/3) 0.46 million placement in a year. It results about 4 million remains unemployed or under employed in a year. It means creating employment is a great challenge for Bangladesh. Therefore growth of the economy may look good for time being but may not be sustainable in the long run.
On the other hand Bangladesh is paying about USD 5 billion every year by recruiting foreign mainly Indian and Sri Lankan professionals and mid-level managers here. Two conflicting statement that Bangladeshi jobseekers are remaining unemployed and Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are paying huge salaries to the foreign professionals is giving a signal that our education system is not producing required level of qualified manpower to serve our industrial needs. Therefore it is the best time to assess the capacity needs of Bangladesh, identify the required trade, and incorporate these in national curriculum, trained up respective teachers and trainers and produce demanding manpower. But governmental process is extra ordinarily slow and cumbersome. Therefore focus of the need may be changed while government will start to produce manpower of that certain need. In such case private sector could be a good weapon to fight with this sort of challenges and government could encourage entrepreneurs to train up respective manpower from home and abroad by providing tax benefit against training cost of the companies.
Bangladesh Employer’s Federation (BEF) with assistance from the UNDP Bangladesh has completed a study titled “Capacity Needs Assessment for Enhancing Management and Professional Capacity of the Private Sector in Bangladesh”. They have identified ten (10) weakest competencies of Bangladeshi managers and professionals. The weakest competency is ‘Communication Skills’ of local professionals, 72 percent of the respondent identify communication as a competency needed to be improved further. Lack of ‘Strategic Thinking’ has been identified as the second most important competency weakness of local professionals followed by ‘Market Forecasting’ in the third position with responses of 52 percent and 51percent respondents vote respectively. Other seven weakest competencies of Bangladeshi professionals identified as ‘Marketing & Promotion’, ‘Initiative Taking’, ‘Product Development’, ‘Innovation and Creativity’, ‘Critical Analysis’, Sales Planning, and ‘Operations Management’ in that order.
All of the above mentioned weaknesses of Bangladeshi professionals are human competencies which could be improved through proper education and training. Similarly all of the above competencies are very much essential to operate corporate houses and to compete with global players in export market.
Therefore Bangladesh has to develop these skills at any cost to survive, sustain and compete with local and foreign competitors. As our education system failed to develop these competencies among the local professionals government should take steps to ensure this competency development in professional arena. Massive skills development projects could be taken on the above skills and compulsory training participation could be ensured. Private sector entrepreneurs could be encouraged to train up respective employees on the above competencies against tax weaver benefit. Private training institutes could be used to train up professionals on the above competencies with government’s budgetary support.
All the major trade bodies like FBCCI, DCCI, MCCI and BEF could be the right platforms to assist government for this capacity building drive.
Government may strengthen training facilities of these trade bodies and develop qualified pool of trainers, course modules to ensure better training performance and qualified local professionals. If government does not take the matter seriously then all the development visions, goals and targets may remain beyond our reach. Because recruiting foreign professionals and rendering local manpower unemployed may be double the burden for the country in near future.