Achieving SDGs: Expanding scope of private sector

MS Siddiqui   | Published: September 05, 2018 21:23:12 | Updated: September 07, 2018 21:31:09

The private sector is an indispensable partner in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for any developing country. In developing countries, private sector operations constitute 60 per cent of GDP, while generating 90 per cent of jobs and 80 per cent of capital inflows in formal and informal sectors. Bangladesh's economy is no different from this trend.

According to Labour Survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), in 2017, agriculture sector employed 42.7 per cent people, followed by 14.4 per cent in manufacturing sector and 13.4 per cent in wholesale and retail trade.

Household production units, consisting of family members and microenterprises, account for 98 per cent of all economic units in the country and half the jobs that offer subsistence earnings, in the absence of formal jobs.

The 7th Five Year Plan (2016-2020) of Bangladesh is aimed at developing strategies, policies and institutions that will allow Bangladesh to further accelerate the process of job creation and reduce poverty as well as to comply with new commitments to meet SDGs. According to the Plan, the resource envelope needed will be around Tk. 31.9 trillion (US$ 409 billion) in FY2016 prices. Nearly 78 per cent of this will come from private investment and 22 per cent from public investment.

At the moment, private sector schools play negligible roles in the education sector. With a total student population of 29 million, which is 20 per cent of total population, around 17 million or 55.95 per cent are enrolled at primary schools. Out of this number, 7.4 million or 25.5 per cent goes to secondary school. From that, only 720,000 students or about 2.50 per cent students go to public colleges, universities and free education government colleges in all streams. Around 4.6 million or about 16 per cent students go to private colleges/ universities. Only around 15,000 students or less than 0.05 per cent students goes for higher studies to overseas every year.

Private universities have a great impact on expanding higher education, save foreign currency and 'brain drain' from Bangladesh. At present, there are 137 universities in Bangladesh, including 97 private and 40 public institutions. The number of private medical colleges is 68 with capacity of about 6,500 students against 31 public medical colleges with 3,500 seats. About 10 per cent seats of some of the private medical colleges are occupied by students from neighbouring countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan etc. Also, at present, there are 13 dental colleges, 10 post-graduate institutions, 52 nursing institutes, 24 nursing colleges, 97 institute of health technology and 200 medical assistant training schools in the private sector.

In Bangladesh, healthcare is offered either through government-run hospitals or through privately-run clinics. But the private sector is leading in this sector as well. A total of 128 public medical intuitions provide secondary and tertiary level healthcare services to both in- and out-patients. The total number of seats for patients in these hospitals is 27,053.

Asia-Pacific Observatory on Public Health Systems and Policies reported that there are a total of 2,983 registered private hospitals around Bangladesh with a total capacity of 45,485 beds as of 2013. The bed-density in the private hospitals is around 0.031 per cent. All the 60 private medical colleges provide hospital and medical services as well. At the moment, there are 4,280 registered private hospitals and clinics and 9,061 diagnostic centres in the country.

According to the Department of Drug Administration, till April 2017, 98 per cent of medicine was produced locally. An increasing number of medicines and raw materials are also being exported to 127 countries of the world.

The real estate and housing sector has been contributing about 15 per cent to Bangladesh's gross domestic product (GDP) while providing employment to 2.5 million people. Over 250 subsidiary industries including steel, cement, tiles, sanitary ware, cable, paint, glass, aluminium, brick and more cater to the real estate and housing sector.

The private sector is also playing an important role at tackling power crisis in the country. Out of the total power generation capacity of 15,821 MW in the country, as of September 30 2017, public sector generated 7,476 MW. This is just 47 per cent of power generation including captive power plants. Private power plants have a total power generation capacity of 6,145 MW; and  660 MW is imported.

Nearly 80 per cent of Bangladesh's exports are manufactured by the private sector. The private sector further contributes to development by financing social and economic investments through taxes, and creating innovative solutions to help tackle challenges to development.

According to the latest data by BBS, the contribution of exports of goods and services to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) decreased to 15.05 per cent in the fiscal year 2016-17 from 16.65 per cent in FY2015-16. Still, the readymade garments (RMG) sector had contributed the most, adding Tk. 2.22 trillion to GDP. The RMG sector had earned $28.15 billion from the total export earnings of $34.65 billion worth of goods exported that fiscal year.

The readymade garments sector employs nearly 4.5 million workers of whom 85 per cent are women. This industry has played a significant role in poverty reduction and women empowerment in the society. About 12.9 million additional jobs are projected to be created by 2020 by this sector alone.

In fiscal year 2017, private investment was recorded at 23.10 per cent (75.71 per cent of total investment) of GDP against a target 23.9 percent of GDP. The share of private investment in 7th FYP is projected to be 77.27 per cent of total investment.

Services sector is the highest contributor to the GDP of the country. The sector has a number of sub-sectors including overseas employment and migration. This sector is responsible for remittances of $ 13 billion sent to Bangladesh in 2017 by migrant workers residing overseas. Other sub-sectors like transportation, IT Enabled Services (ITES), outsourcing, telecommunication, tourism and hospitality management, business consultancy/intermediaries, consultancy services, amusement, entertainment, testing laboratories, infrastructure development, filling stations, distribution channels, aviation services, automobile services, technical and vocational institutes, advertising etc.

In order to achieve SDG in Bangladesh the private sector needs to achieve high growth through inclusive business. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) defines inclusive business as "business models that create value by providing products and services to, or sourcing from, the poor," This  model engages people living at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services in a sustainable, commercially viable and scalable manner. This model will also aims at lower-income households as part of the value chain of companies' core businesses.

The SDGs have been designed with special focus on business-led solutions and technologies that can address the world's biggest sustainable development challenges. A vibrant private sector can play an important role towards achieving the 2030 Development Agenda.

The private sector in Bangladesh should come forward with innovative technology and strategies. In turn, the government can finance them through different schemes, reform existing regulations, reduce cost of doing business and take other steps that can help the private sector.

The private sector in Bangladesh has already proven its ability by taking the driving seat of growth. The government and society should create a business environment where different industries under the private sector can thrive and play their roles in achieving SDGs.

MS Siddiqui is a legal economist.







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