Bangladesh: A way up, “with dignity” – comment on a Dhaka Tribune Editorial

“An international panel of experts recently recommended that the developed countries allow 100% duty and quota free (DFQF) entry of products to their markets from least developed countries (LDCs), such as Bangladesh. As trade is the most viable vehicle to reducing poverty and economic development in the long run, we whole-heartedly support this recommendation.”

via Trade, not aid | Dhaka Tribune.

When the Rana Plaza collapsed earlier this year, many of my western friends contacted me to ask “what should we do?” The world, quite rightly, was horrified and people wanted to make sure such carnage could never happen again.

Thoughts ranged from: Stop buying clothes from the stores which keep the garment factory girls in such squalid, illegal conditions to giving money to the dozen or so charities which were hastily set up to respond to the disaster. While some of the charities have done some excellent work (as I commented on here), most of the suggested solutions and ideas are pointless, if not even harmful to the very people the world wants to see better off.

Here then, from the Dhaka Tribune, is an editorial which I think points in the right direction – not just about the immediate future of the Garment industry in Bangladesh, but for the country as a whole in the long term.

Bangladesh is the seventh largest country in the world by population. It’s people are hard-working and inventive – they’ve had to be in a country where disasters, man-made and natural strike everywhere without warning all the time. It’s a country which in just forty-odd short years has pulled itself up at incredible speed and deserves to get a ‘bigger slice of the pie’ in global terms.

Bangladesh doesn’t need charity, it doesn’t need: it needs trade – as the editorial puts it ‘with dignity’.

Well, that’s not quite true – for while the Developed countries of the West continue to monopolize the global market and keep small players in Asia out, Bangladesh will continue to need charity and it will continue to suffer exploitation and disasters like Rana Plaza. And that’s just not dignified at all.

About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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8 Responses to Bangladesh: A way up, “with dignity” – comment on a Dhaka Tribune Editorial

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  4. Some of my customers here in India, who are exporters to companies in Europe and America, told me that their customers insist on safety, good working conditions, no child labour, etc. as a prerequisite. This is not just on paper. Some customers conduct ‘surprise inspections’ at least once a year. This ensures trade with everybody’s dignity.

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    • In theory this happens in Bangladesh too. However, it is foreigners who come and I’m afraid I’ve seen with my own eyes how easy it is to pull the wool over the eyes of a stranger to the country. They can only comment, after all, on what they get to see…

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      • My customers told me that the ‘inspectors’ are either Indian-origin employees of the customer or Indians employed by the international inspection agency to which the inspection has been sub-contracted. This is quite effective.

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  5. Good point you make in the last paragraph. Made me wonder if its really necessary for masses to be marginalized for some to be privileged and extravagant.

    With help of international RMG buyers, the country is taking up a number of good safety projects (I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in some). But no one has yet addressed building safety, oversight and accountability. I feel solutions must eventually come from within. That, to me, is the only dignified way.

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