Bangladesh's export has long been beholden to the products of a single sector, the readymade garments (RMG). So, as part of its efforts to graduate to a middle-income economy, Bangladesh should now be able to access the world market with a wider range of products. But that would require those products to meet international competitive standards. So far, only RMG products could meet those standards. It is time, other potential export products (PEP) did also meet the standards to access the global market. But when it comes to the case of certifying products for exports, the question of meeting the standards set by the international regulators for the overseas markets would also arise. Is Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute (BSTI), whose job it is to certify local products, on a par with the international standards? Or are there gaps to bridge? As such, to ensure the quality compliance of the local products for international markets, there is a need for convergence of the standardisation regime of the BSTI with that of the overseas market regulators.
To this end, the BSTI's certification procedure has to be synchronised with that of the international regulators. If there are any gaps in this respect, urgent steps need to be taken to bridge those lacunae so that BSTI-provided quality certificates are recognised globally. Concerned stakeholders from the public and the private sectors met at a webinar recently to discuss these issues. What became plain from the deliberations is that the sectors including leather and leather goods, plastics and light engineering have been producing high quality exportables to meet international standards. So, what is crucial at the moment is that the mismatches between the BSTI's and the international regulators' standards are identified and measures taken to address those incongruities within the shortest possible time. The good news is that to align its work with that of the international regulators, the BSTI has concentrated its efforts on upgrading its capacity. And, it has begun collaborating with the academia to create a research base for product standardisation. Also, to ensure proper testing and certification of the products from different sectors, BSTI, under its two projects, is going to set up 90 laboratories. The projects also include building of logistic infrastructure in 10 districts.
Undeniably, these are commendable steps on the BSTI's part to upgrade its capacity so that its certification for various exportable non-RMG items can meet international standards.
However, stakeholders from the private sector will be required to extend their support towards this government effort aimed to help diversify the export basket as well as widen the overseas export markets and achieve the government's export targets. At this point, one would also like to look at another area long clamouring for attention. Admittedly, product standardisation and accreditation are a difficult and complex process. It is imperative that steps are taken to simplify and streamline the process. To be frank, those complexities constitute a big barrier to the export of non-RMG items, especially, the potential export products (PEPs).
So, the challenge before the stakeholders is to initiate a time-bound programme to fulfil the agenda of developing a product accreditation and standardisation facility that can meet the global standards. That would, of necessity, require a lab facility to be set up which is proud of an army of highly qualified manpower and the best testing equipment available.