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Textiles hold out the promise


A fast growing economy is the only option before the country to survive in a competitive world. But can the country hope to make a head start towards the path of development keeping millions of adults unemployed in the countryside as well as in the urban areas? With the growth of the garment industries, some employment opportunities were created especially for the female members of the floating population of the major urban centres that constitute a large chunk of the migrant labourers in the cities. Garment is undoubtedly a very thriving sector of the economy, which has proved its resilience even in a quota-free world with the phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) era. Moreover, it is still enjoying a competitive edge over many of its competitors in the global market. But the garment sector in its present shape can absorb only a small fraction of the ever growing army of the labourers in the country. So, it is time those concerned should give a serious thought on how to expand the sector further and make it more efficient and productive.
It is at this point that the question of choosing the country's path towards faster economic growth and industrial development comes under a sharper focus. The entire textiles sector, of which the garments constitute only a part, is now assuming a growing importance considering the overall performance of the country's trade and industry. It is not only the performance of an industry in terms of its potential for earning foreign currency that always matters in the choice of the path of industrialisation of an economy. The textiles sector, in particular, has been demonstrating its worth both as a good foreign currency earner and as a creator of employment opportunities for the cheap labour force of the country. But the textile is still a largely untapped segment of the industry so far as its ability to draw foreign investment is concerned. Of late, many fast growing economies of the region as elsewhere have been looking for the opportunity to invest in the textiles sector of Bangladesh to benefit from its cheap labour force. Another reason for the choice of Bangladesh's textiles sector as an investment destination by the foreign entrepreneurs is that the textile industry of the country has also by now developed a viable market infrastructure worldwide.
Overseas investors in the textiles sector are now eyeing Bangladesh with increasing interest. The indications are very loud and clear. Some 22 developed economies from different parts of the globe have arranged to hold a four days long textiles and Readymade Garments (RMG) machinery fair in the city. The Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) has organised the fair in association with an event management company of Malaysia. The very choice of Bangladesh to hold this fair to display the state-of-the-art technology in the textile sector is itself a telltale sign of the country's growing estimation in the eyes of the global players in this sector.
The total worth of the global textiles market was around $200 billion in the year 2000. The market is still growing and in the 2006-2007 periods the size of the market will rise to $350 billion. What is most reassuring is that Bangladesh, in spite of its very modest size at the moment in the global perspective, does enjoy an enviable share (2.6 per cent) of this global textiles market. If gainfully tapped, Bangladesh's share will soon rise to $10 billion globally.
Such developments vis--vis the textiles sector globally and locally, the government, the private sector and all others concerned should now home in on the issue of choosing the right path for the country's industrial growth.