In order to build a better society in the future, Bangladesh has to emphasise public welfare industrialisation with lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic.
For proper industrialisation, investments should be made in heavy industries now. This will create a wide range of employment opportunities. Initiatives have to be taken in forward and backward industries also. Besides, the government has to play a role in the development of small and micro industries also. It will decrease discrimination, said prominent economists of the country.
They also said that technology-based industries are needed for economic progress. However, in this case, even if there is more profit, the workers will be laid off. With this additional profit, new industries have to be created to provide employment opportunities to the laid off workers.
Speakers made the observations at a virtual discussion organised Saturday on a recently published book titled 'Society, Economy and State on the Big Screen: In Search of a Better Bangladesh from the Great Disaster of Virus', written by economist Dr Abul Barkat.
The webinar styled 'Industrialisation: In Search of a Decent Society' was the sixth of a 13-part series discussion. Bangladesh Orthoniti Samity organised the webinar conducted by its General Secretary Jamaluddin Ahmed.
At the event, eminent economist and Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation Chairman Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said the ownership of all the industries in the country, including the garment and the pharmaceutical ones, is in the hands of a few people. They just understand profit. But in order to build a decent society, people of the country must be given importance.
He said some employment would be created due to the present investment strategy of the government. But small and very small industries also need to be encouraged. The country needs heavy industry. However, if these industries are set up in backward areas, regional inequality will be reduced.
He said planned industrialisation needs to be done. Without technology based industrialisation, we will not be able to advance in the international market. However, the emphasis must be put on reducing inequality.
Khaliquzzaman said, "Once upon a time, the railway line from Mymensingh in Bangladesh to Kolkata was only for transporting jute, not for people. I agree with what Abul Barkat has said in his book that everyone should have equal ownership of natural resources. We need to go back to agro-based industrialisation to maintain the balance of nature in order to avoid the adverse effects of climate change."
Highlighting the industrial inequality between the then East Pakistan and West Pakistan before independence, he said, "All the mill owners at that time were from West Pakistan. Our jute farmers used to get lower prices. This exploitation and inequality in the distribution of wealth is mentioned in Abul Barkat's book."
Professor Shafiq Uz Zaman, former chairman of the economics department at Dhaka University, said high growth does not create employment. The use of modern technology will lead to higher growth, increased production and increased profits. But workers will be laid off. Therefore, it is necessary to build new industries, with the extra profit obtained due to use of technology, to create employment for laid off workers.
He said, "We need to focus on agro-based industries. If the farmer gets a fair price, the purchasing power of the farmer will increase. And if the purchasing power of the farmers increases, the picture of the country's economy will change. We have to increase investment for the expansion of the domestic market, production of diversified agricultural products and agricultural research sector."
Shafiq Uz Zaman said, "Earlier, jute was our means of industrialisation, but since the late '80s, garment industry has become the main means of our industrialisation. It is true that this sector has created employment for women. But today, industry and its waste are playing a role in the pollution of the river. Fresh water and fertile lands are being destroyed by plastic."
Professor Moazzem Hossain, former chairman of the economics department of Rajshahi University, said, "The emphasis should be on basic industries or heavy industries. We have to produce machinery and rail locomotives. We have to develop the modern information technology industry. But industries must be human welfare oriented. Professor Abul Barkat should adopt these principles."
The book 'Society, Economy and State on the Big Screen: In Search of a Better Bangladesh from the Great Disaster of Virus' is the fruit of 20 years of research of Professor Abul Barkat, former chairman of department of economics of Dhaka University. It has been jointly published by Bangladesh Orthoniti Samity and Muktabuddhi Prakashan.
Globally eminent linguist, philosopher and social critic Professor Noam Chomsky has a congratulatory note on the 716-page book. In addition to the letter of thanks, introduction and 12 chapters, the book has 27 tables, 39 charts, bibliography and footnotes.