Bangladesh's garment industry seems to have left behind the worst days when it earned an infamy of frequent fire incidents, collapse of factory buildings and other accidents accounting for lives of workers. The transformation has been phenomenal courtesy of Accord and Alliance, platforms of major European and North American apparel retailers respectively. Today Bangladesh boasts the highest number of green garment units in the world. With 46 platinum, 95 gold, 10 silver and four factories certified by the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the total number reached 155 in January last. By now there may have been an addition of a few more such factories. An achievement of this order is worth celebrating. Transformation of factories has also been complemented by improvement in product lines, in some cases well beyond the low-end cheap woven and knitwear apparels.
Thus garment articles made in Bangladesh deserved showcasing long before, particularly when Chinese monopoly in global apparel export slacked significantly, partly because of its voluntary withdrawal and partly because of the pandemic-induced prolonged lockdown. Yesterday, one such event titled, 'Made in Bangladesh Week 22' kicked off with the prime minister inaugurating it. There is no doubt about the merit of arranging an event on a grand scale to make international buyers familiar from close quarters with the progress in garment making, fashion and style. Here is a demonstration of the confidence of RMG makers in order to attract such buyers and throw a challenge before them why they will make preference for apparels made in Bangladesh. No doubt, the manufacturers have reached the stage where they can win over the foreign customers. The country's RMG has come a long way off on investment in advanced machines and technology and needs branding. But one unsettling question remains, is the timing of the event right?
The hosts of the event have made arrangement for elaborate and grand exposition of what makes Bangladesh's case special through a board meeting of the International Apparel Federation (IAF) and a general assembly at a posh hotel in the city. Alongside, a three-day Dhaka Apparel Expo and the 37th World Fashion Convention will add further global dimensions to the local showcasing range. Although president of the BGMEA assures that the expenditure on the event will be more than compensated by the arrival of guests, speakers and global retailers including some of the Asian region, there is no guarantee work or export orders will receive a major boost at a time when recession has eroded purchasing capacity of customers in Europe and America.
If the prime purpose of the event is to focus on the strength of RMG industry in this country, there is obviously a need for setting its sight on designing a roadmap it will chart in the future, overcoming the current crunch time. To do this, it will have to identify its weaknesses as well for addressing those as early as possible. One of these is the right to workers' union and skill development of workers and employees particularly at the mid-level for the latter. Also, the sub-contracting factories, which stay at the opposite pole of green factories and ticking like a potential time bomb, should be immediately brought under a locally initiated retrofitting programme. If all these issues are taken care of, the RMG industry here can be competitive and have a fair share in the global apparel export.