Showcasing light industrial products
EVERY modern nation chooses its path to industrialisation, basing on its specific conditions. The recent history of the East and Southeast Asia provides ample proof for this. But such uniqueness apart, what those nations that have undergone the phase of industrialisation has one feature in common. That is, they develop light industrial base first, on which the heavy industries stand. In fact, there is no shortcut to this tested growth path of the industry. As an aspirant to the status of an industrialised nation, Bangladesh must, therefore, choose its own path. But to all appearances, it has not purposefully chosen one. As a result, the actual actors that could expedite this process did not get the necessary patronage they deserved due to lack of attention from the government. So, the entrepreneurs in this sector had to make do with whatever they found it handy. Unsurprisingly, they made the most of the obsolete and old technology they found in their surroundings.
Left to their own devices, the local entrepreneurs in the light engineering sub-sector, meanwhile, has grown to be an emerging force in the economy. According to the Bangladesh Engineering Industries Owners Association (BEIOA), in the fiscal 2006-07, this sub-sector exported light engineering products to the tune of US$310 million. Similarly, in the next fiscal, it has a target of exporting products worth US$ 500 million. But it is not just due to its capacity for growth and export potential that this particular segment of the industry, which is worth Tk.200 billion with its 40, 000 units spread all across the country, should be treated with respect. These self-developed industrial units are producing and supplying valuable spare parts for a wide swathe of the industry from textiles, jute, tea, food processing, construction, furniture industry to the agriculture. It is also producing whole power-tillers as well as their spare parts, irrigation pumps, automobile components and spares for marine engines. Add to this long list also bicycle, spares for shallow pumps, carbon rod for dry-cell batteries, pistons, you name it. Or in other words, the contribution of this self-grown light industrial sub-sector to all other sectors of the industry and the economy is immense, to say the least.
The BEIOA leaders have recently made a move to set up an industrial park, where they will display their products as well as develop infrastructures for providing training, holding workshops, conferences, etc. For the purpose, they have selected a site in Naryanganj, where some 200 display centres would be built on about 50 acres of land. Now what the light industrial sub-sector wants is not simply appreciation. They need patronage and so some work has to be done considering the largest untapped prospect of employment creation, high value addition to the products the light engineering units produce and the hard currency they are poised to add to the economy.
The case for the light engineering sub-sector, which is but part of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), should not be looked upon as just one of the so many other claimants to government largesse. In fact, the light engineering sub-sector is the key to the development of heavy industry. And in that sense, it has not, so far, claimed its due share from the government in marked contrast to many others. The leaders of the BEIOA, who reportedly have already convinced the SME Foundation of their project, are planning to put across their case to the Commerce Adviser. After getting the necessary government nod of approval as well as support, they may then go ahead with their light industrial park project. Setting up of an industrial park is but one of the ways to showcase the potential of an industry before the wider audience. All concerned would, therefore, like to share the hope that the effort would also open up another avenue for foreign investment in the economy.