The Prime Minister's call to the youth of the country to be entrepreneurs rather than job-seekers after obtaining a degree couldn't have been timelier. The call came when she was opening the eighth fair of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) in the capital city on Wednesday. It does not mean that everyone will be an entrepreneur, but that many people can be better suited to an enterprise rather than fit into a job slot. Besides, the job-market cannot accommodate an endless stream of people. The big industries and enterprises have a propensity -- also perhaps a necessity -- to pick up, in some places, expatriates rather than Bangladeshis. It is common knowledge that the country's own available hands are far fewer, especially in technical and supervisory positions. Indeed, the figures coming from earnings of Bangladeshi workers abroad show a clear pattern that most of the workforce is semi-skilled or even unskilled. Although the government has taken up several skill-development programmes, the rate of turnout is likely to fall behind the increasing demand for multiple skills.
This agenda needs to be diversified and fast-tracked. Otherwise, there will not be enough hands available inside the country, far from exporting a critical mass abroad. Besides, to be a successful entrepreneur one has to be skilled both technically and from the business acumen point of view. The SME event also highlighted the importance of the small and medium sectors for the economy of the country, especially employment generation and providing a large percentage of necessary tools-kits for various industries. The directives from the Prime Minister stressed that apart from the traditional items, attention should also be directed to catering for the taste and need of the foreign market. Indeed, it would help the sector to be part of the global value chain through adoption of higher technology and thereby adding value to products. The SMEs can also help facilitate the growth of the 'blue economy' by a multiplication effect. As a matter of fact, the SME sector accounts for a disproportionate percentage of the country's workforce if judged against the money that is invested here. This has opened the way to fostering care for the sector in recent times. Starting from the central bank i.e., the Bangladesh Bank, down to every public and private bank, SME issues are dealt with special care and consideration.
Being the bread-earner for so many people and complementing the larger industries with much of their spare-parts, SME sector in fact demands more nurture than has been provided for. An SME division had been proposed in the past under the Ministry of Industries which, if materialises, may be a shot in its arms. Nevertheless, the main thrust has to come from the banks, as emphasised by the Bangladesh Bank. The banking sector, through its various initiatives can be the driving force behind this sector's rapid growth. Already some products of the sector have attained world standards. We can hardly rest on such laurels. The whole sector needs upgrading and diversification, in terms of investment, training and constant nurture. As the SME fair brought under one roof the endeavours to publicise products and entrepreneurs, one only wished the effort a far-reaching success. The small and medium enterprises hold the key to sustainable development based on appropriate technology, topped up by adaptability to modern techniques.
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