Friday December 1, 2023 09:42 am

Steps Needed to be Taken to Bring about Aerospace and Aviation Related Industrialization

📝 Online Desk
🕐 2022-01-27 17:38:57

Steps Needed to be Taken to Bring about Aerospace and Aviation Related Industrialization

Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat (LPR)

Bangladesh, on the positive note, is a rising economy with GDP growth rate consistently above 6 for the last decade. It is providing a lot of incentives for FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in all sectors (see the BIDA website). Bangladesh has the runways (5000 plus length runways) to allow aviation related plants to come in. It needs to grow the Human Resources for which Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aerospace and Aviation University (BSMRAAU) is coming up in a big way. The students would be learning their practical part in the Maintenance Repair Organizations of both Military and Civil side - a synergy could take place between Industry, Educational Institutions and the military workshops and facilities. The partnership could generate extraordinary output in being competitive in the world. A newer version of Public Private Partnership (PPP) could come about in Bangladesh. And now as our fighter fleet modernization is round the corner, many manufacturers are vying to get the contract. There lies our bargaining chip. The write-up is the result of the visit to many aircraft manufacturing plants and interacting with company’s senior leaderships and the experience gained from negotiating in capital purchases for the Air Force.
A window of opportunity has arrived for Bangladesh to take steps in quantum jumps to bring in aerospace and aviation related industries. To explain in short, the reason for his are as follows:
- Geo-politics. The recent US China hot talks and strained relations on Taiwan issue added with HUAWEI issue is prompting many US investors to move to other places. The COVID rhetoric has added fuel to fire. Many EU manufacturers and investors are also looking for better places. Add with it the ATLANTIC DIVIDE (AUKUS) and the VACCINE DIVIDE. Also take note that Germany has apologized for their past atrocities, to Namibia, France to Ivory Coast, Australia to its aborigines and Canada to its original Nationalities. On the other hand, Russia is more assertive and taking the role of countering the US along with China.
- Demographic Pattern. Aging population and declining birth rate in the WEST and CHINA is another reason for the likely shifting of factories and plants and investments to countries like LAOS, CAMBODIA and VIETNAM (already happening). Not only the population is declining, but also people of working age are reducing and eventually the market therein is shrinking. In many of the third world countries including Africa, the market is growing and also opening up along with business-friendly environment creation.
- Evolving Economic Order. Post COVID rise of e- commerce and the setting in of Negative Interest Rates (NIR) is flooding the monetary world with excess liquidity. Thus, hedge funds and the Foreign Direct Investments are on the search for lucrative places to invest. The other factor is the advent of BLOCK CHAIN SYSTEM of deals and paperless transactions. (This could also lead to a more just economic order replacing the present paradigm of speculation and future market derivatives etc. which makes the rich richer and poor poorer or on the contrary.)
- Other Factors. Growing concern for CLIMATE CHANGE and moving towards NET ZERO is slowly forcing plants and factories to be eco-friendly and to change the products, reduce toxic by-products, and also to go to places where they can make profit. (Though some says that many are going for SOCIAL BUSINESS type operations). Availability of a conducive environment in terms of skilled and semi-skilled work force who should be at least computer literate is another consideration. And we are going to have around 118 million semi-skilled computer literate youngsters coming out in the next decade because of our DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND (median age 27.6 years) and the initiative of the present government under the leadership of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Developing our Human Resources. The geographical location of our country makes it a natural stepping stone to go outside, specially for the Indian seven states, Nepal, Bhutan and China (If India China cooperates) and also, we were part of the OLD SILK road connecting the whole world. Our deep-sea port is in the making and CXB is going to be an International Airport. We have to believe in ourselves and become truly humane and think positively. We can achieve unbelievable goals under the present leadership.

Steps Required
Firstly, all left behind airstrips by the colonial power British to be preserved even if it is near the bordering area, especially those with runway lengths 5000 feet and more. 
Secondly, a committee may be formed to study the prospects of maintaining those runways and budget to be provided through CAAB/Air Force. The committee could comprise three services along with members of the Ministry of Civil aviation and Tourism, Industry and Ministry of Defense. It may be guided through AFD.
Thirdly, DPP for the BSMRAAU is pending which is to be expedited through the Line Ministry of Education.
Fourthly, pending the DPP, the Agreement signed on 8th December 2020 with Air Bus and BSMRAAU to be materialized through special funding so that EASA certification is ensured for our graduates of BSMRAAU. The Honorable Prime Minister may intervene. 
Fifth, a team may be evolved and developed through appropriate training and courses on Negotiation and Contract making. The team could be multidisciplinary in character comprising both from the civil side and the air force. They would be necessary to seal the deals favorably for Bangladesh. Like there should be Counter Trade, Offsets, Trade offs etc. along with handover of Source Code and Technology Transfer. Know how transfer is a must.
Sixth, but in parallel, we need to have heavy investment in each sub sector like Avionics, Radar, Directed Energy, Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computers and many more sides through effective TALENT HUNTING and employing these youngsters.
Seventh, environment to be created through multiple initiatives, like attractive remuneration, good fringe benefits and recognition for the NRB (Non-Resident Bangladeshis) who are capable of contributing through their talents and experience gained abroad. They may join our forthcoming aviation plants as civilians or they may be taken in on contract basis. Highly educated and renowned persons could be in the BSMRAAU also.
Eighth, the government department having the land beside the runways could become the facilitator of accommodating the industries/plants/ factories. An interfacing modality (Standard Operating Procedure/ Rules of Business) to be developed to work harmoniously. (SOP)
Ninth, All the existing facilities that are stated in the BIDA initiative could be valid, like bonded warehouses, tax holidays, unlimited exit and coming in of equity.
Tenth, BIDA rule of having more Bangladeshi employees may be relaxed as aviation related plants would be more technology oriented and initially may need more foreigners. However, effort has to be there always to have Bangladeshis employed {through Human Resource Development (HRD) and endorsement of EASA (European Aviation and Safety Authority) like institutions}.
Eleventh, as many companies come in when we go for some capital purchase/asset acquisition, a Strategy has to be there in the Purchasing Policy of Government to have the clause of off-sets, trade offs, counterbalance and technology transfer and if feasible to go for IPR (Intellectual Property Right) transfer.
Twelfth, Intensive R&D to be vigorously pursued and maximum latitude to be given in terms of auditors review on the output. Because of fear of lack of success, many do not and cannot go for research. (In certain places, the R&D budget should be as high as 25% of the total budget)
Thirteenth, Exhibitions and especially Air Show to be organized in 2022 to lure in the aerospace industries as we are in the process of modernizing our armed forces and also making our country a CONNECTIVITY HUB - HPM’s directive.
Fourteenth, Biman Bangladesh Airlines to expand in support of becoming a Connectivity Hub. It would advertise Bangladesh and is a symbol of National pride to the expatriates. The input therein comes back as output in many other areas many times multiplied as a cascading effect. And the spin up effect would come from the making of Bangladesh a Connectivity Hub.
Fifteenth, the already approved AIP (Agreement in Principle) to hold the AIR SHOW in COX BAZAR to be materialized. As per the AIP, consultants are also to be contracted.
Finally, overall awareness can be grown in all arenas of government machineries in supporting the effort of building up aerospace and aviation related industries. For that workshop/seminar to be organized.

Time Line
COVID is an opportunity as many feels business is going away, so we might get things cheaper, and as the world economy rebounds and air travel increases, we should be able to catch the out flow of industries and newer versions of eco friendly factories, like hydrogen run aircraft, cars etc. to come in. Already we are doing well on the Solar Energy side. We may start with a joint venture in making maintenance repair organizations for civil aircraft then parts of aircraft. As 2022 could be the time of recovery from COVID, we should keep 2022 as the time for doing the bulk of the ground work. Most important part is the Air Show or the Aerospace Exhibition scheduled to be held in first week of Feb 2022. The participants are aerospace companies both civil aircraft and military aircraft and related avionics and armament companies/manufacturers.
- Immediately start the held up process of the AIR SHOW on schedule
- Review the Defence Purchase Policy in put in the clause of Technology Transfer/ Source Code acquisition/ Know How Transfer etc. even if it is partially.
- The BSMRAAU contract with AirBus to be supported (the forthcoming HPM visit to France may be useful) by the appropriate Ministry of the Government.
- All disused runways to be preserved, a bill may be passed in the parliament.
- On going AIP projects of the military where possibility of Aviation Companies coming in Bangladesh with their Plants are envisaged - should be vigorously followed up for finalizing the deal.
- In 2022 February, hold the Air Show in CXB.
- Start finalizing the Contract for bringing in Maintenance Repair Workshop in Bangladesh for different aircraft and Helicopters in the military. (Own funded but as a lure for possible FDI by the companies themselves - needs skillful negotiation) Finish by June 2022.
-Start providing hands-on training for students of BSMRAAU in 2022.
- Hold the AIR SHOW every alternate year.
- Complete the making of BSMRAAU by 2026.
- Team making for negotiating and contract finalizing should be a continuous process. The team may be formed from PMO/AFD.

We have to think big and work smart to take Bangladesh in to an elevated higher orbit. It is not only to be developed in 2041 as per the vision of our Honorable Prime Minister but also to be a country with people having empathy - people of understanding being knowledge based. The stepping stones towards aerospace related industries is linked with our concerted effort by all dimensions of experts both civil and military inclusive. And it could be a newer version of partnership between public and private. We have to understand where small inputs could have far greater outputs in different aspects and levels. For example, for expatriates, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is a great morale boosting and show of national pride. Likewise, the Air Exhibition could bring in a quantum change in the way the world looks at us. Branding Bangladesh in the competitive market of tomorrow.

Air Chief Marshall Masihuzzaman Serniabat (LPR), former Chief of Air Staff of Bangladesh Air Force (2018-2021).