There is no denying that official procedures, if those are complex, tardy and burdened with too much paper shuffling, tend to slow down business. Aware of these long-standing difficulties, the government has issued directives to all offices concerned to simplify their rules and procedures to ease external trade in particular. This, indeed, is a welcome and timely decision, among a whole raft of others already taken to reinvigorate business, especially the export sector with emphasis on the Readymade Garment (RMG) part of it.
While business is inconceivable without some official rules to guide it, the opposite may happen when the procedures turn bureaucratic. The directives, for instance, include one that instructs government officials not to ask for unnecessary documents from the business operators doing external trade. If this directive is implemented in its true spirit, it will remove a big hurdle in business's way. However, for that to happen, the government should also address corruption, the root cause of the bureaucratic file-shuffling. True, of the many fallouts of this malady, the loss of 'lead time' in business is one. It often results in our exporters' losing out to their competitors in the global market. Thankfully, by spelling out in clear terms the need for reducing 'lead time', the commerce ministry has tried to address a very nagging issue affecting our export trade's competitiveness in the foreign markets.
It is believed that there is enough political will behind this latest government drive to strike at the root of the 'official procedures' stymieing business in general and export trade in particular. Needless to say, the apparel industry which by exporting its merchandises contributed more than 10 per cent to the nation's GDP and earned 84 per cent of its foreign currency is in a deep crisis. Though lately it is reportedly making some progress, that too is hardly comparable to what it was before the pandemic. So, to regain the previous level of business performance, an all-out effort would be necessary both from the government and the industry itself. Most importantly, big changes may take place in the global business practices and market operations after the pandemic is over. The export industries will be required to keep track of those changes and trends and prepare themselves fully to adjust to those developments.
To survive in that highly competitive global market, the strategy should include a redoubled effort to get more foreign and local investors in business, manufacturing of high value products and building backward linkages for the apparel industry. Also, the industry will have to negotiate for zero and non-tariff faculties from the world market following the country's graduation to a middle-income economy. On this score, the government, as part of its focus on non-conventional markets, has made a right move by asking the central bank to develop a system to carry out business transactions with Russia and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent states) comprising 12 former Soviet republics.
Interestingly, to be up to the upcoming fourth industrial revolution, the government is going to form a low-interest loan fund for the apparel industry so it may train manpower and procure machinery to face the challenge. Hopefully, given the industry's resilience demonstrated over time and with a government so willing to help, it will be able to meet the challenge and succeed in the face of all odds.