Emergence of globalisation and integration of regional economies have brought new challenges as well as new opportunities for development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Bangladesh.
The country's industrial policy has, of late, identified SMEs as a thrust sector. The Ministry of Industries has set up a SME cell as part of the policy and strategy for the expansion of the SME sector.
The ministry has formed a SME panel with representatives from the private sector to help the government implement the recommendations of the SME Taskforce. It has also a plan to set up a SME foundation.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FBCCI) has taken up steps to collect district-wise data to open a SME website. It has also a plan to turn its SME cell into an institute for the development of the SMEs. Special tax incentives for SMEs have been demanded by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI). The government has assured that such incentive is under its active consideration.
Yet what is true about the upcoming situation is that 35 per cent of core skills will change globally between 2015 and 2020, says a Future of Jobs Report prepared by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Bangladesh, sooner or later, will also face the impact of change in core skills around the globe between 2015 and 2020, experts opined.
In order to address the emerging situation, the country's SMEs should adopt new technologies to boost their business, as they are the backbone of the economy. There is an urgent need for bringing immediate change in technical and IT-related curriculum in universities as well as technical and vocational training institutions, especially in the public universities.
The upcoming scenario is that about one-third of the present technical and IT-related skills and courses, taught in the Bangladeshi universities, will be replaced by the next five years due to disruption in the core skills globally.
The rate of skill changes across the globe is changing very fast. In Bangladesh, there will be a major impact on employment and wages due to these technological changes. There will be destruction, productivity and creation at the same time. Scopes of job delegation to machines are higher than before due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
A large number of universities have been established in the country. Most such institutions are not apparently prepared to listen to the demand of the future. They did not allegedly take industry-related people in their academic and advisory councils in order to change the curricula as per future demand of the industries.
However, a few universities have begun changing the curricula. But the process is relatively slow in the public universities. The authorities concerned should take move to change their curricula through the University Grant Commission (UGC).
Taking into consideration the inevitable impact of the 4IR, Bangladesh will face the challenges of change in core skills globally within three to four years only. Hence, the SMEs should adopt new technologies as soon as possible - and in a greater scale.
SMEs are undeniably the biggest driving force of an economy. In America, SMEs contribute 80 per cent to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), creating two-thirds of new jobs in the private sector.
Empowering SMEs should be one of the priority areas and strategies of strengthening the country's economic growth. However, a level playing field for small businesses is important for generating employment and increasing opportunities for women and the poor. The small business community is often stymied by structural impediments, including over-regulation, corruption, and other aspects of poor governance, as well as by high prices caused by providers of inputs and services, often the state-owned enterprises.
Needless to say, honest will of both the government and the private sector should go a long way in turning the SME sector into a more active and vibrant one. Adoption of e-commerce in the SMEs is also very much essential for accelerating the pace of economic development in the country.
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