Youth Policy Forum (YPF) launched a new initiative called "Coalition for Upgrading Bangladesh Economy" on Tuesday (21 June).
At the roundtable discussion, expert panellists like Economic Affairs Adviser to the prime minister Dr Mashiur Rahman, Professor at Oxford University Stefan Dercon, and Professor of SOAS, University of London Mushtaq Khan, Unilever Bangladesh CEO Zaved Akhtar and Walton CEO Golam Murshed with more prominent academics, executives, public and private sector representatives, and most importantly the youths discussed the impact of collective coalitions for economic diversification of Bangladesh.
The world is on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), bringing immense opportunities in agriculture, electronics, automotive and digital economy sectors. Bangladesh has a competitive advantage in the world in terms of labour costs and wages, reads a press release.
The opening remarks of this conference were carried out by Stefan Dercon, professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.
He said, "Upgrading means not about finding technical parts, it's also upgrading the elite and political parts." Adding to that, he also said, "Self-awareness of state is important. Your state is built differently than Korea, Vietnam and China and it needs careful planning on where to begin, such as focusing on being more transparent."
Followed by him, Prof Mushtaq Khan, professor of Economics at SOAS University of London, said." Further adding to this, he explained - "We can't learn from South Korea and China because of the difference in the distribution of power in our country. We need to rely on a mix of markets and innovative forms of support which cant be captured. Countries don't move up the value chain because they do not have skilled people. It's difficult to know how to organize workers and machines and organizational productivity."
How can an international conglomerate like Unilever impact upgrading the Bangladeshi Economy? As Bangladesh has the 3rd largest Unilever facility in South Asia, Unilever Bangladesh CEO Zaved Akhtar emphasised the importance of coalitions like these immensely, with the remark that Bangladesh should be the next destination for any investor, which will further catapult the upgrade of our economy, reads the release.
What advice would Walton give to play a meaningful role in upgrading the Bangladeshi Economy? Walton CEO Golan Murshed said, "We have to shift the mentality of believing that we are incapable of changing the world. The major industry members should be present while making policies."
The chief guest Economic Affairs Adviser to the prime minister Dr Mashiur Rahman made the closing remarks of this conference.
In his speech, he said, "You can't depend on cheap labour for too long; as the economy develops workers will ask for higher incentives. In this transition many things will become obsolete and if the entrepreneurs can't take the challenge of the new changes it will be difficult. The new entrepreneurs are much better educators; they know what they want to do. They emphasize law must be transparent, they want to acquire more skill. Tech and machines can be imported but the knowledge, commitment and skill to use them don't come with it. It has to be built."
Adding to that, Dr Mashiur also said, "An entrepreneur needs to take into account how long he will stay in the same industry and when to exit. They need to make that decision. Govt can only create an offer of opportunity which they must recognize and must use."