The government together with the private sector needs to emphasise boosting regional trade, reducing the cost of business and developing transport infrastructure to cope with possible challenges that would stem from the losses of duty-free facilities and other international support measures after the country's graduation from the list of the least developed countries (LDCs) in 2026, economists said on Thursday.
Recommending signing effective free trade agreements with major trading partners, they at a discussion also stressed increasing negotiation skills to ensure continuation of the existing support measures for some additional years beyond the graduation point.
The Development Journalist Forum of Bangladesh (DJFB) organised the event at the National Economic Council auditorium in the capital to unveil a publication, marking Mujib Borsho and 50 years of Bangladesh.
Presenting a keynote titled "LDC Graduation: Challenges and Way Forward for Bangladesh", Professor Dr Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said Bangladesh will the post-LDC challenges would be more difficult to overcome as provision of concessional loan is reducing as the country graduated to a lower-middle income status.
Stressed utilising the opportunity of lower-cost regional trade, the economist said markets in neighbouring regions have remained largely unassessed although the countries in regions of South Asia, Asean and East Asia are the drivers of the Asian Century.
"Given the current initiatives to establish multi-modal transport linkages, triangulation of investment, multi-modal transport linkages and trade will become crucially important to reduce the lead time and raise competitiveness of exports," he added.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said domestic and foreign investments are not increasing owing to bureaucratic tangles.
"To eradicate the poverty rate, we need to invest more in the social safety net," he noted.
State minister for planning Shamsul Alam said the commerce ministry has to play a key role in enhancing the country's negotiation skills to deal with post-LDC challenges.
"We have already started work towards signing FTAs, PTAs and other trade deals. Besides, we have to reduce import duties to a great extent," he also said.
Trade infrastructure facilities need to be further enhanced, he noted.
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director at the Policy Research Institute, said, "Maintaining competitive advantage will be a key issue after the LDC graduation as to avail benefits from a country, we also have to offer them at least a few ."
Besides, Bangladesh should come out of its dependence on fabric imports for making apparel items. It will also have to recycle fabric scrap, he added.
Secretary to Planning Division Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, said, "We are far behind in terms of information technology. We have to prepare ourselves to face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But there is nothing to fear."