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Is the government pro-business?
Syed Fattahul Alim

          Since the fall of Berlin wall, the global perception of life has undergone a sea change. Now the national states are more obsessed with the idea of military supremacy over their rivals. However, the discourse of power is still there and is reigning supreme. The only difference is that countries are now willing to become mightier economically. The ideology and with it the jargon of the race for supremacy has naturally shifted from war to business. So business is now the watchword everywhere. Bangladesh is no exception. But how is Bangladesh going to face this challenge? But for Bangladesh there is no other alternative either. For it has neither the ambition, nor can it afford the luxury of becoming a military power. It cannot even think of turning into an economic power overnight. Frankly speaking, Bangladesh is struggling hard to find a respectable position among the comity of nation through trade and commerce. As Bangladesh is yet to become an industrialised nation in the sense that the more advanced economies of Europe and Asia are, it is still depending for its growth on the export of garment products and agricultural commodities. So if the country is to carve out a place for itself among other nations globally, it will have to focus on trade and commerce for its survival as well as growth. And the government, too, must do everything to promote the cause of business only.
But business is a word that has more than one dimension. The government leaders, to all intents and purposes, are all for business. They never miss any opportunity to tell the business community to be hard working, honest and enterprising to be more successful in business. While the government leaders thus talk down to the business community of the country, like the teachers of a school to their truant and inattentive students, they do precious little towards helping the business to get out of its present predicaments. What are the predicaments the business community has been facing day in, day out while carrying out their business? The proverbial bureaucracy, corruption and weak infrastructure apart, the policies of the government bearing on the business themselves have more often than not proved to be a big stumbling block on the way of smooth business in the country. Without going into further details on the unending story of how the different government steps have made it harder for the business community of the country to carry out their business, it will be sufficient to mention the latest decision of Biman to raise air cargo freight by fifteen per cent. One can easily guess the consequence of such decision, because other private air cargo operators will be bound to follow suit and revise their own airfreight regimes. Who is going to be the first casualty in consequence of Biman's decision? The business for certain and it is the export business in particular. The exporters of garments products and perishable items like vegetables, fish, fruits and the like have already expressed their concern over the Biman's latest decision to increase airfreight. The increased air cargo freight will certainly have its knock-on effect on the price structure of the exportable goods. Garment and its accessories, which constitute seventy per cent of the air cargo of Biman and other private operators, will bear the brunt of the hike in air cargo freight. Secondly comes the export of fruits, vegetables and fishes. A leader of the association of exporters of fish, vegetables, fruits and allied products has said that the immediate impact of this freight hike on their business will be that they will have to increase the prices of the exportable items at the rate of Tk. 10 to Tk. 12 per kilogram. This in other words means that Bangladeshi vegetables, fish and fruits will become costlier in the international market and hence less competitive. It is worthwhile to mention here that the main overseas buyers of our perishable export products are the non-resident Bangladeshis living in Europe, America, Middle East, South East Asia and Far East. These markets constitute what is called the ethnic market. So, whom are the authorities then punishing by their recent decision to increase air cargo freight? The local exporters and the consumers in the ethnic markets overseas.
Biman or its boss the civil aviation authorities, however, have a reason to justify their decision. It is the price of jet fuel, which has increased in the international market. And one high official of Biman even expressed his dissatisfaction over Biman's, what he said, subsidising the vegetable exporters year after year. Why should an increase in the price of jet fuel trigger a 15 per cent increase in air cargo freight and why not by more or by less, is best known to the authorities concerned in Biman. But what the man in the street does not understand here is the authorities', or the government's for that matter, less-than-friendly attitude towards the business community. The government, even if it has to subsidise such a sector of the business like the exports trade for sometime, then it has to do that in the interest of the nation. For then why are the authorities there if not for the development of trade and commerce in the country at a time when the zeitgeist of the modern era is economy, of which business enjoys the lion's share?


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Private air cargo business booming
Is the government pro-business?
Biman's monopoly in cargo handling needs to be broken
What is a freight forwarder?
UPS: synchronising commerce
Air cargo facilities inadequate
Emirates Sky cargo reaches out to the needy
Bilateral deals will impede trade in east Asia

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