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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

What of our SMEs and farmers?

A problem-targeted and solution-oriented framework will go a long way to help these sectors reach their maximum potential

Update : 06 Feb 2024, 09:20 AM

Bangladesh owns a rich agricultural heritage and a growing small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. The country stands today on the cusp of nationwide multi-faceted transformation. Our SMEs and farmers however, who together populate a large portion of the country’s employed workforce, continue to struggle with a chain of obstacles that sets back their propensity to thrive. 

Starting from the dollar crisis and market volatility due to inefficiencies in governance to wars-stricken economic disruptions, the path to prosperity for these vital sectors is fraught with hurdles.

The currency depreciation due to the dollar crisis is drastically affecting the affordability of inputs and raw materials for SMEs and farmers as a result of higher import costs. This is cutting the profitability and competitiveness of SMEs and farmers in both domestic and international markets.

The uncontrollable rise of basic commodities’ prices represents how incompetent and subservient concerned bodies are in front of syndicates and other savage forces existing in the market. Markets as distressingly volatile as ours have been knocking off local entrepreneurs with limited income on account of super unpredictable pricing, making it very troublesome for them to plan their operations and make informed decisions. 

This further disrupts supply chains, affects financial margins of safety, and creates confusion about future market conditions. The unfortunate lack of effective measures to stabilize markets cripples the growth and sustainability of farmers and SME owners. It is understandable that wars among powerful nations further muddle the difficulties SMEs and farmers endure. Due to such geopolitical tensions, local economic conditions have deteriorated. 

To arrive at a sustainable and effective resolution in order for Bangladesh to pave the way for the SMEs and farmers to flourish, a comprehensive framework is imperative. Such a framework should encapsulate various important dimensions, including access to finance, market opportunities, capacity building, sector-based infrastructure development, and supportive policy reforms.

Our policymakers and changemaking entrepreneurs must collaborate with a sincere social value proposition and forge active partnerships between the public, private, and international sectors. Collaboration among these stakeholders shall lead us to a platform where diverse perspectives, resources, and expertise can be brought together to box in and eliminate the challenges faced by SMEs and farmers. By aligning their efforts and merging their resources, such engagements can give us the supportive leverage that we need to expedite innovation, facilitate knowledge sharing, and accomplish measurable capacity building.

Critical to this endeavour is the capacity development of entrepreneurs, farmers, and the employed workforce. Equipping them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and tools treasures a generation of empowered individuals Bangladesh can nurture to drive substantial economic growth. 

Institutionalization of SMEs and farmers must go hand in hand with a reform of bureaucratic procedures. The interminable red tape inertia that often stifles their progress and blocks their ability to obtain resources and markets is a formidable obstacle. Simplified procedures, streamlined regulations, and a commitment to eradicating corruption are essential to utilize their potential. Developing a culture of diversification can further serve as a deterrent against changes in the market.

Poor access to reliable electricity, substandard transportation networks, and limited storage facilities remain issues and in order to tackle adversaries ahead, the mechanisms policymakers design must function as a buffer against unexpected market and infrastructural hiccups, giving farmers and SMEs the resilience they need to withstand unsolicited downturns. A problem-targeted and solution-oriented framework will go a long way to help these sectors reach their maximum potential, hone their nation-building tenacities, and guide them toward development and growth that sustain. 

Starting from encouraging entrepreneurship, and facilitating convenient financing options to promoting a culture of continuous improvement through innovation, supportive regulations and incentives from the government will go a long way in supporting our farmers and SMEs. Simultaneously, corporations, financial institutions, and business associations that form the private sector can also bring valuable resources, expertise, and networks to the table. 

Our friends from beyond the boundaries, our international partners such as development agencies, NGOs, and multilateral institutions, can provide technical expertise, funding, and opportunities to enter the global fraternity. They can also capitalize their networks and influence to attract investment, promote market linkages, and advocate for inclusive economic development.

It is time we remind ourselves that the power to shape our future lies within us. It is a collective effort that requires unwavering commitment. With the right strategies, we can overcome the challenges and build a meaningful, energizing, and fulfilling tomorrow.

 

Nafis Ehsas Chowdhury and Antara Raisa Sohana are freelance contributors.

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