Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Affairs Adviser Salman F Rahman today said that the factories of those Industries which are not complaint would not be able to sell their products in the domestic market in future.
He also said that like Accord and Alliance in the RMG sector, a body would be formed for the domestic Industries to ensure that those follow strictly the compliance issues while the government would extend long-term financing and loans to those Industries for becoming compliant.
Salman came up with such observations at a webinar tilted ‘Reviving the Leather Sector in the Aftermath of COVID-19’ as the chief guest jointly organized by the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF), Research Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) and The Asia Foundation (TAF) held today through Zoom Platform.
Speakers at the webinar stressed the need for ensuring compliance in the local industries especially in the leather sector industries to become more competitive.
They also stressed the need for forming a task force in this sector to look at the recommendations from different stakeholders and work on the betterment of the leather sector Industries as well as improving rawhide management in an integrated way.
They also advocated for modernizing and making more functional the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in Savar through addressing its loopholes, improving solid waste management, addressing the environmental and labour rights issues in this sector and thus manufacturing quality products and providing the same facilities to all other sectors that the RMG sector is now enjoying.
Former Advisor to the Caretaker Government Syed Manzur Elahi joined it as the guest of honor.
Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Chairman, BFLLFEA Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin and Chairman, BTA Md Shaheen Ahamed joined it as the special guests.
Professor & Director, ILET, DU Dr. M Mizanur Rahman, Managing Director, DTIEWTPCL (TIED) Brig. Gen. M Zahid Hasan and The President, Tannery Workers’ Union Abul Kalam Azad attended the webinar as panel discussants.
Managing Director of Apex Footwear LtdSyed Nasim Manzur, Chairman of RAPID Dr. Mohammad Abdur Razzaque and its Executive Director Dr. Abu Eusuf jointly presented the keynote paper.
Country Representative, The Asia Foundation Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj delivered the welcome remarks.
ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy chaired the event while ERF General Secretary S M Rashidul Islam moderated the event.
Speaking on the occasion as the chief guest, Prime Minister's Adviser Salman F Rahman stressed the need for ensuring full value chain compliance in the leather industry starting from livestock, processing of leather to manufacturing of finished goods.
Referring to the recent tragic fire incident of a Sajeeb Group (Hashem Foods factory) in Narayanganj that left at least 51 workers dead, Salman said that the government is in a serious problem regarding domestic Industry compliance.
He said that the factory fire incident has severely damaged the image of the country while the government has taken up the matter seriously.
Salman also suggested for forming organizations like Accord and Alliance to strictly make domestic Industries complaint adding that if the domestic Industries do not become compliant, then it would be ensured that these Industries could not sell their products in the market.
"We'll have to make the environment of the Industries compliant, this is something we're thinking seriously and we'll work on improving domestic compliance," he added.
Regarding the issue of making functional the CETP of leather Industries in Savar, the Adviser said although there was progress, but unfortunately the results were not up to the desired level.
He said that the CEPT in Savar has been brought under a structure, but it is yet to be made fully compliant.
In this regard, Salman suggested for BMRE of the CETP in Savar adding that necessary Investment could be made in this regard.
The Adviser said that the original design of the SAVAR CETP was under capacity while more awareness should be created among users on usage of water at the CETP.
He said although the CETP is not now fully complaint, but the good thing was that it has become operational. "Now the next step will be to make it compliant.......we'll have to seriously address the solid waste, we're nearly there and we'll solve it."
Regarding Hazaribagh, known for formerly hosting the tannery Industries, Salman said that as per the vision of the Prime Minister, this "red zone" would be turned into "green zone" as RAJUK has been working to this end.
Terming RMG as one of the most successful sectors of Bangladesh despite not being a cotton growing country, he said that the other sectors should enjoy the same facilities that the RMG sector has enjoyed over the years for which the Ministry of Commerce should pursue a full-fledged export promotion.
Turning to the labour rights issue, Salman said that the government is giving a lot of importance over the matter. "We're meeting international standards to a large extent. Even though if there is any gap, we'll address that as the government is very much committed to do that."
About the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive, the Prime Minister's Adviser said that vaccines are coming and the government is trying that all eligible people are vaccinated. He said that the age limit for vaccination has been lowered to 35 and it will be further lowered so that everyone can been vaccinated as soon as possible.
Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said that the leather sector Industries should have to produce quality products through addressing the environmental and labour rights issues.
"If they can make products through addressing such issues, then there is no reason for not increasing exports in this sector," he said hoping that this leather sector would move forward through keeping its growth trend.
Syed Manzur Elahi suggested for forming a task force in this leather sector to look at the recommendations from different stakeholders and work on the betterment of the leather sector Industries as well as giving due priority to making fully functional the CETP in Savar as per the LWG standard.
Noting that there will be no business if there is no compliance, he said that there is a lot of potentials in this sector with available technologies through which Bangladesh could move forward further like South Korea and Thailand.
The former caretaker government Adviser also suggested that Salman F Rahman should sit with all concerned leather sector stakeholders once in a month, make a roadmap and thus move forward following it for the flourish of this sector.
Brig Gen M Zahid Hasan said that they are confident and optimistic to overcome all the challenges before this sector with the support of all concerned stakeholders.
Country Representative of UNIDO and Zaki Uz Zaman said that they are very much interested to work in the leather sector of Bangladesh.
Chairman, BFLLFEA Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin said that if their former tannery factory areas in Hazaribagh is made free with sincere efforts from RAJUK, then they would be able to repay their bank loans.
Chairman of BTA Md Shaheen Ahamed said that the allocation of loans from the state owned commercial banks every year is insufficient for procuring raw hides while the rawhide management should be further improved with the integrated approach from the Ministry of Industries, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
Dr Md Mizanur Rahman suggested for making functional the CETP in Savar and ensuring solid waste management, and taking steps for properly preserving rawhides.
Abul Kamal Azad suggested for moving forward with a holistic approach in this leather sector and also for looking in to the reasons why local raw materials could not be used largely in the Industries.
Prof Razzaque in his presentation suggested for devising a five-year plan including a clearly articulated accountability framework to revive the leather sector, achieve LWG certification, build brand image and adopt the international best practices.
He also said there should be a targeted policy to increase FDI flow in the tannery sector so that it attracts renowned global brands.
Dr Razzaque said during this pandemic period, the global trade witnessed a fall of 10 percent whereas the trade of leather goods suffered a slump of 22 percent which indicated that the trade of leather and leather products was largely affected.
Syed Nasim Manzur in his presentation suggested for ensuring alignment with LWG protocols, offering eligible tannery owners customized financial exit so those who remain may grow and serious new entrants can invest.
Prof Eusuf suggested for a five-year plan to revive the leather sector, attain LWG certification and build brand image as responsible source.
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