GOVERNMENT'S small size and reduced role are desired everywhere. In the era of market economy and free enterprise, the government's role has conceptually shrunk. Nonetheless, there are areas where the government is duly expected to play a bigger role or predominant role to hasten productivity and economic growth. This is the area of skill development to create a wide range of skills in the country's workforce to enhance employment prospects, either institutional or self employment, or to improve production capacities. Both, in turn, can work as powerful catalysts for economic growth. Government's ample spending for skill development is all the more necessary because private sectors may prefer not to invest in this area out of a consideration of low profits.
The other very important consideration of high costs of skill development training under the private sector is also likely to exclude most seekers of such training on the ground of their inability to pay for the training. Thus, government's role as a skill trainer assumes great importance in a country like Bangladesh. This country appears to have scored some modest gains as shown in the human development report on South Asia released on Tuesday and reported in this paper. But the rate of progress seems well below what is desired or necessary for speedy advancement and that creates the imperative for greater skill training of the workforce under governmental auspices.
Presently, opportunities for skill training or vocational training provided by the government are limited to the country's small number of polytechnics and some programmes under the ministry of youth. But these are very inadequate compared to the requirement and it calls for much expansion of such training facilities and programmes. The expansion of skill training activities may be looked upon as gainful activities by the government if these are conducted with some vision. For instance, government may conduct market survey of the sort of skills that have growing domestic demand and in the international labour market.
Accordingly, it can set up its training establishments and programmes and, no doubt, this will call for some investment on the part of the government. But the investment will promote economic growth and higher productivity. Besides, government can also recover the invested sums of money in the long run by providing training free of costs or at nominal fees but obliging the recipients of the training to pay back the full amounts of their training fees in instalments from their monthly wages or salaries on finding employment.
Such a model of skill development training will serve several objectives. First of all, young persons in far bigger number will be able to train up themselves easily as they will not be frustrated by the relatively higher costs of private training. The skilled ones coming out of government training institutions will form a bigger pool of the trained workforce to undertake various economic activities. The number of the employed -- institutionally employed as well as the self-employed -- will rise notably. Training will also likely to improve productivity per worker. The economy in a variety of ways may benefit from the availability of a well-trained workforce and the government would be investing in a highly prospective field and also getting returns from its investments.