Friday December 1, 2023 08:28 am

Launching Bangladesh to an Elevated Economic Orbit

Time to Think Big on Bangladesh

🕐 2021-10-15 01:22:24

Time to Think Big on Bangladesh

Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat (LPR)

It is a matter of huge pride for every Bangladeshi to embrace the laurels of success over the past decades. Bangladesh's growth so far has been primarily driven by government economic policies and the private sector. Bangladesh will continue to ride on the inertia of development for many years to come. The last several decades have shown it's time to shed the belief, our population is a deterrent to our growth. It’s time to take advantage of our population and exploit the potential trapped in our people. However, we should not be complacent in our success and the statistical KPI (Key Performance Indicator). so it’s time to think big on Bangladesh and to launch Bangladesh into an elevated economic orbit. The fuel is our 166 million people.
Bangladesh is rapidly progressing with 6 plus GDP in the last decades. It has now a median age of 27.6 and around 118 m semi-skilled young computer literate people are coming out in the next decade. (Presentation of BIDA). Human Resource Development (HRD) is now geared up with the education institutes and the pairing up of the industries. The coming up of the Aerospace University is another one who would have EASA (European Aviation Safety Authority) recognition. The software business is also growing. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aerospace and Aviation University (BSMRAAU) has signed an Agreement with Airbus on 8 Dec 2020 to develop and ensure quality for EASA certification.
The preponderance of young people gives us the Demographic Dividend. Japan, China, and Europe are aging. Next 10 years they would be shrinking, not only population-wise but also market-wise (naturally). Factories there will need migrant workers and market expansion to places where the economy is growing. Many developed countries would rather keep migrants outside while they take the profit. This could be one scenario. (On the other hand, Canada is welcoming Immigrants like Germany).
There are around 10 million-plus Bangladeshis abroad. Unofficially more. While they live and raise children they are likely to visit their roots. While they travel to and from Bangladesh, many others also would do the same through Bangladesh. Because we have bigger runways and it will be easier. For example, Nepal, Bhutan, Tripura, and the other States of India. Moreover, Bangladesh is coming up with a deep seaport and the distance to Chattagram port from Guwahati is much shorter than Kolkata. If India and China cooperate, the distance to port from Chengdu is shortest if Chattagram or Mongla is used. We have dozen-plus runways of 5000 ft plus, of them, if we renovate a few, we have the possibility of becoming a connectivity hub. Aerospace industries need runways. We have. In short, we can be, as per the guidance of our honorable Prime Minister, a Hub of Connectivity for East and West. And we can use the disused runways for the growth of aviation-related industries/ plants/factories.
Now, where is the market? Where is the market in Singapore? There are many Boeing 777 converted to cargo versions in ST Corporation. They have the branding and the reputation and the market is the whole world. So, we have to build up the reputation, by our innovation, R&D, ingenuity, and that means leapfrogging. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. And we may even tap on our vast experts all over the world. NRB (Non-Resident Bangladeshis). We can even go in WARP speed by bypassing some of the wrong stages that the westerners took and brought about Climate Change. We sidestep the bad patches and go full speed green. Catch the Band Wagon of the 4th Industrial revolution. This means we must be putting forward the appeal of Eco-friendly Industrialization. And strength is the youngsters coming of age. However, the Demographic Dividend would be a small window of 20 to 30 years as we are coming to a halt in our Population Growth Rate. {2.1%}
The initial start-up has to be with a partnership. It comes free from nothing. Every asset acquisition and procurement need to be connected with offsets and counterbalances. (Like Indonesia). It could be joint ventures. But the bottom line is to have deals that bring in the know-how and the technologies, not by force, but by and because it would be beneficial for those coming. Win-win. The companies coming could make products competitive and by readily available skilled and semi-skilled workforce generated by the synergistic effect of working together between the Education Institutions and the Industries and now the military. A bigger dimension of PPP. What we should do, we need to project and point out the possibilities. How? by branding, by advertising, by expositions and exhibitions.
Post-COVID World Scenario. US China-bashing has increased, the specter of conflict heightened by the Jewish settlement renewals. The India China media debate goes on and the increasing dominance of China is prominent in Africa and the rest of the third world. China has developed an Aircraft Carrier and exercising its might where needed. Russia adds with the flexing of military might also by steaming through the English channel. Thus many western investors who went to China now desire to go somewhere else. Moreover, they understand the Chinese market will eventually shrink due to the aging population. Laos, Vietnam Cambodia is catching up. Why not us. The world is moving more to e-business and BLOCKCHAIN. Negative Interest Rate NIR is setting in. A new world order of economic parity and a more humane green regime may be in the offing. We only need to go and venture boldly.
Points to Ponder on Vision 2041 and Delta Plan. Our Honorable PM's Vision 2041 envisages that we will be a developed country. As we have already attained the criteria to graduate from LDC to a middle-income developing country status, we feel elated. However, our leaning on the Agro sector and services sector added with enhanced remittance flow alone will not be sufficient to take us there. We would need Industrialization. (In 2019, the writer was talking to Mahatir Muhammad where he emphasized and said so). Off-course it has to be eco-friendly. And what else could be more value-added than Aerospace related products and services? Today, a big chunk of the aviation travel market is taken away by outside airlines; our fleet goes abroad to perform routine maintenance. We could with little skill in a negotiation get into the business of MRO (maintenance repair organization) in our country. And with the marketing of branded world-class aviation companies, we should be able to be competitive as well as look after our requirements which are very less now. To be a Connectivity Hub, we need to expand our Flag Carrier. The input in the national carrier would be a greater output in branding Bangladesh. That Branding will get other products a larger share of the market. From low-end products, we need to transit to high-end value-added products. This is more important as we do not have minerals or oil. Remittance could take us up to a certain point from where we have to step into the world of our innovations through extensive R&D and building up a society of learned skilled people. The learning and the degree should be merged with the needs of the industries. Synergy should be developed through Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
We only recently have been able to put up our satellite, though back in 1974 Banghabandhu established Betbunia ground station. SPARCO does not have a space program to help in shaping and modifying our DELTA PLAN. It has to have a spatial orientation and the outlook needs to be in detail as to how we derive maximum benefit from space research and exploration in 2100.
Only by imitation, integration, and introduction of new products, we may not be able to attain the lofty goals of 2041. One option to leap is to THINK BIG and add our innovation and ingenuity. By technological developments, inventions, and by getting Patented Intellectual Property Rights, we are likely to reach our potentials better and become a nation driven by technical skills and empathy. Build a nation, happy and with an understanding of people's emotions and pain. Above all a prosperous and a HUMANE Bangladesh.

Masihuzzaman Serniabat, BBP, OSP, ndu, psc is Air Chief Marshal (LPR), Bangladesh Air Force.