The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have opened up new markets for the private sector that need to be explored and require policy alignment, speakers at an economic conference have said.
Economists and business leaders gathered at Dhaka’s Brac Centre Inn yesterday for the third Annual Economists’ Conference, discussing the country's future and the role of the private sector in it.
The topic of yesterday's session was ‘Reforms needed to facilitate private sector engagement for SDG achievement in Bangladesh.’ The session was jointly organized by the South Asian network on Economic Modelling (SANEM) and the Dhaka Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).
“SDG is creating new markets that were previously inaccessible to the private sector,” explained M Masrur Reaz, senior economist in the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice of World Bank, citing greater participation in health and education sectors as an example.
However, Masrur warned that: “Based on the current level of competitiveness, it will be very difficult for Bangladesh to achieve future goals.”
He added that Bangladesh had ranked very low on the Ease of Doing Business Index, and that this was shocking since the rank was lower than the war ravaged country of Syria.
“Industrial, agricultural, jute and ICT policies must be aligned with the aim of achieving SDG,” said Asif Ibrahim, vice chairman of New Age Garments Ltd.
Calling SDG a part of the core business process, he said that its awareness has just started to emerge in Bangladesh.
Executive Director of Policy Research Institute Ahsan H Mansur, in his keynote speech, said Bangladesh has to face a good number of challenges before achieving SDGs, and that future outcomes in this regard will be determined by the performance of the private sector.
Pointing out the shortcomings of the Department of Environment, he further added that the government must play a more proactive role in achieving SDGs.
In response to a question by Debapriya Bhattacharya, Chair of the session and a distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), he said: “Bangladesh has been able to bring absolute poverty level down to zero, and managed to shift towards sustainability.”
Speakers at the session urged for more public-private dialogues, monitoring of reform agendas, and benchmarking against already successful countries, as necessary strategies for success.
Panelists criticized the business regulations of Bangladesh, claiming that most of these laws are from the British and Pakistani periods, and these laws do not apply to the current economic condition of Bangladesh.
Managing director of Technohaven Company Habibullah N Karim said that technology is going to be very helpful in achieving SDG in Bangladesh. He also urged the acceptance of artificial intelligence and quantum computing for technological progress.
The discussants said that the current state of private sector investment is too lacklustre, and this will not allow us to achieve SDG targets.
They also criticized some of the mega projects undertaken by the government, claiming that these were unnecessary, and would only end up exhausting national resources.
Condemning politically motivated projects, the speakers urged the Public Private Partnership program to undertake market driven projects only.
Highlighting the need for more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), they said that this would not only bring more money into the country, but also new management and new technology, that would be beneficial for sustainability.