Speaker calls for enhancing export competitiveness of SMEs

Staff Reporter:

Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury yesterday said all concerned would have to come forward to enhance the export competitiveness of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as those are playing an important role in the economic development of the country.

“Bangladesh has been transformed into a fast expanding economy across the globe under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Prime Minister has also been working tirelessly for the development of the SME industry,” she said.

The Speaker said this while addressing a seminar on “Improving export capabilities of SMEs: succeeding globally upon LDC graduation” as the chief guest organized by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) at a hotel in the capital.

Dr. Shirin said that the SMEs of Bangladesh are resilient enough and contribute more than 30 percent to the country’s GDP. “Still this sector has various challenges,” she said hoping that the policymakers would try to address these issues to solve the existing problems.

She noted that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war, Bangladesh has been able to continue its commendable progress securing 6.5 percent GDP growth.

The Speaker also invited the SME entrepreneurs to utilize technology for getting access to virtual market as well as requested them to use the platform of Joyeeta Foundation to sell their products.

“We can also give them One Stop Services so that they can avail all required services from one place and for that we need to take coordinated efforts,” she added.

Dr Shirin said women entrepreneurs can take up to Taka 10 lakh loan collateral free. “Policy makers may think about lessening the customs duty for import of raw materials that is needed for SMEs,” she added.

Speakers at the seminar stressed on technology advancement, access to finance, marketing facility, research and innovation, product diversification, cluster base, infrastructure as some of the important issues for the overall development of SME sector of Bangladesh.

Ambassador of Canada to Bangladesh Dr. Lilly Nicholes said Canada is working with Bangladesh in the technology and vocational sector. She also underscored to sign FTAs with potential trading partners. “SMEs face various challenges like access to finance, technical barriers, skills gap etc,”

She also emphasized on conducting more researches so that SMEs can add value to their products and enhance their capacity in the export market. “Canada is happy to work with Bangladesh in terms of capacity building, research, collaboration and skills development,” she added.

Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Bangladesh Essa Yousef Alduhailan said Saudi Arabia put more emphasis on SMEs. In the post pandemic time, Saudi Arabia facilitates their SMEs by supporting them to revive.

He said these supports include implementation of new regulations, reform measures financial assistance by the Saudi Government. “Bangladesh has a strong and diversified export market. Jute, shrimp, vegetables, pharmaceuticals and RMG are some of the major products of Bangladesh,” he added.

The Saudi Ambassador said Bangladesh is going to graduate into middle income country and this transition needs more investment in education, technology and innovation. “Bangladesh can take similar policies and programmes likewise the SMEs in Saudi Arabia to get maximum benefits,” he added.

DCCI President Barrister Md. Sameer Sattar in his speech said that necessary preparations are needed to be taken as the exporters including SMEs will face tariff ranging from 8 percent to 16 percent on their export later 2026.

“However, we have a very strong SME base in Bangladesh. SMEs contribute 28% to the country’s GDP, 45% manufacturing value addition and account for 90% of the jobs in the private sector,” he added.

To facilitate enhancing export capabilities of the SME sector, Sameer suggested to redefine SME definition by excluding ‘Medium’ businesses as medium are largely privileged.

He also recommended banks to provide SME tailored export financing like credit insurance, export development fund, working capital loan to address export related financial challenges.

The DCCI president underscored the importance of having a central SME database with updated information. He also endorsed foreign investment, easy technology transfer and cluster development for export-oriented SMEs.

While making the keynote-presentation, Dr. Selim Raihan, executive director, SANEM said that Bangladesh’s SMEs face few challenges like capacity constraints, lack of policies and regulatory issues, financing, infrastructure and skills gap.

He also said that import tariff for SMEs in Bangladesh is a bit high as well as emphasized on faster customs and trade regulations.

Dr Selim urged for conducive and investment friendly tariff regime, consistent tax rates, predictable policy regime and stable macro-economic situation. “We have to address the high rate of NPLs, weak capital market, high operational cost of SME financing and weak integration with financial system,” he added.

Kohinoor Yeasmin, CEO of Tarango, Rezbin Begum, MD, People’s Leather Industry, AFM Asif, CEO Bengal Meat Processing industries Ltd and Executive Director of Bangladesh Bank Dr. Md. Kabir Ahmed were also present as panel discussants.

DCCI senior vice president SM Golam Faruk Alamgir Arman and vice President Md. Junaed Ibna Ali were also present on the occasion.

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