The people must come first. The rest will inevitably follow
If there is one lesson to be taken away from the Rana Plaza tragedy and the actions taken in its aftermath, it is that when a nation prioritizes its people above all else and actively works to ensure the rights of its citizens, economic progress is inevitable.
Our RMG sector stands now as one of the most prominent in the world and is hands-down the largest contributor to the economy, but to say that we have fully realized its potential would be foolish, to say the least.
To ensure its sustainability, we must continue to work towards ensuring that workers in the RMG sector are not taken advantage of and are paid a living wage because, at the end of the day, it is their collective contribution that has kept the wheels of the sector in such impressively rapid motion.
For example, as a least developed country, we have enjoyed zero-tariff benefits in the EU for the longest time under the Everything But Arms scheme, but this will end in 2027 on account of our graduation from LDC status, when our exports will experience 8.7% duty on average.
To ensure that we continue to avail the same benefit, Bangladesh must become eligible for the GSP+ program for which it is imperative that we focus on improving labour rights, with the EU themselves having suggested nine specific areas where we must take action, including the amendment of labour-related laws and the elimination of child labour.
Bangladesh has been responsible for clothing the European Union for the longest time and to lose such an opportunity would be devastating not only for the RMG sector but also for the economy overall.
This is another perfect example where the prioritization of human rights inevitably leads to sustainable economic progress and as we move out of LDC status, it is an important lesson to keep in mind.
At the end of the day, we should not need the GSP+ scheme to inform us of the fact that, as a nation that has taken great strides in the last decade in terms of socio-economic development, the people must come first. The rest will inevitably follow.