‘Finance, training, tech support must to boost light engineering sector’

58 businesses from 41 districts showcased at Light Engineering Trade Fair

Diversification of light engineering sector depends on effective policy support, public-private partnerships, technical and business information, innovation and sustainable development of technology and related products. Capacity development of industries, research and development facilities and removal of other barriers are also needed to flourish the sector. 

Experts made these observations while speaking on Monday at the inaugural ceremony of  the two-day ‘Light engineering trade fair’ organised by BRAC at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka city. The fair is being held under BRAC’s ‘PRo-poor growth of rural enterprises through sustainable skills-development’ (PROGRESS) project funded by European Union. 

The 3-year PROGRESS project began in February 2017 to support the growth of the country’s light engineering sector by developing dynamic and competitive micro and cottage enterprises. 

Addressing the event as the chief guest, Salman F Rahman, Private Industry and Investment Adviser to the Prime Minister, lauded BRAC’s gender-inclusive strategy and said public-private partnership is one of the reasons light engineering sector is flourishing. 

“The basic weakness of our economy is our excessive dependence on the readymade garment industry. We have to diversify our export capacity and products in which light engineering sector will play a crucial role,” he said.  

Manfred Fernholz, Head of The Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Development Section of the European Union Delegation in Bangladesh, urged the government and the financial institutions to extend their support to the small engineering sector. 

“The contribution of the light engineering sector measures up to 2.2 per cent to Bangladesh’s GDP. Yet the sector has been suffering from lack of tech and financial support, skills development, infrastructure, which in turn, makesthe sector less competitive.”

Abdur Razzak, President of Bangladesh Engineering Industry Owners Association, observed that import of capital machinery requires only one per cent import duty and no vat. “But 15 per cent VAT on local production of the same capital machinery has been imposed to be effective from July 1 this year. We want the VAT to be entirely lifted,” he said.  

Chair of the event, AsifSaleh, Executive Director of BRAC, said, “We as an organisation continue to focus skills development in our 2020-2025 strategy as a committed development partner of Bangladesh government.”

To effectively grow the skills development sector, Bangladesh must turn around its conventional perception about degree-based education and remove the stigma attached to vocational education, he further said. 

Currently, 47 per cent of our university graduates are unemployed and the solution lies in skills-based education focusing on the contemporary and future market needs, he said, adding,“Bangladesh government is doing the right thing by prioritising the light engineering sector in MujibBarsha of 2020.”

A study by the project shows that the business productivity of light engineering workshop owners increased by 29 per cent after the project intervention. A total of 500 people received training and support facilities to start their own businesses and among them 223 were female.

Approximately 9,865 youth received apprenticeship-based training, 98.65 per cent of them were placed in jobs. 5182light engineering workshop owners received technical upgrade training. Besides, 5289 workshop owners received training on fair work conditions and health and safety at work. 700 market committees received gender awareness and access to finance training.