ESCAP South and South-West Asia Development Report 2012-13 launched in Dhaka

Policy Dialogue on Value Chains for Inclusive Development in South Asia underscores high resilience of Bangladeshi economy

Policy Dialogue on Value Chains for Inclusive Development in South Asia underscores high resilience of Bangladeshi economy.

With an annual growth rate of around 6.5 per cent despite the incidence of repeated natural disasters, the economy of Bangladesh has proved to be highly resilient and is expected to sustain a similar dynamism in the current year and beyond. A critical element for the country’s sustained high performance will be its ability to broaden and diversify its production base and move up the value chain in the readymade garments sector, in which it leads South and South-West Asia.

These are some of the messages conveyed by UN-ESCAP at the Policy Dialogue on Value Chains for Inclusive Development: Lessons and Policies for South Asia, which was held on 24 and 25 November 2012 at the BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka.

Organized by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Bangladesh; the Institute for Human Development; Care; and the South and South-West Asia Office of ESCAP, the two-day meeting also marked the launch in Bangladesh of the ESCAP South and South-West Asia Development Report 2012-13 on Regional Cooperation for Inclusive and Sustainable Development.

Welcoming the role of ESCAP in promoting regional cooperation in South and South-West Asia during the inaugural session of the Dialogue and launch of the Report, Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, Minister for Food of the Government of Bangladesh, highlighted some of the key findings of the Report, including the “importance of establishing a minimum social protection floor” and the “need for nurturing a second green revolution based on sustainable agriculture to enhance food security in the subregion”.

Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director, ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office and Chief Economist, ESCAP noted that “regional cooperation can help the subregion move up the value chains in common export products such as textiles and garments, commodities and agricultural products. Regional cooperation can help in enhancing food and energy security and in reducing risks of disasters in the subregion”. “With improved connectivity along the proposed two corridors linking Bangladesh to Turkey along the Asian Highway and TransAsian Railway routes, South and South-West Asia can re-emerge as the hub of East-West trade that it once was”, he said.

Along with a discussion on the challenges of moving up the value chains and the role of women in value chains in Asia addressed during thematic sessions, the Dialogue also explored issues related to sectoral value chains such as garments and other labour-intensive products, agro-food products, off-shore services and manufacturing.

Strong emphasis was placed on the important role of the State in increasing benefits to workers and small producers. Minimum wages and a minimum social protection floor were stressed as important aspects of development policy, while the significant improvements associated with women’s access to independent incomes as employees was also highlighted. Women’s bargaining power and self-esteem both increase as a result, although the continued burden of domestic responsibilities tend to limit these benefits.

The Policy Dialogue was attended by some 70 senior academics and representatives of civil society organizations from Bangladesh, as well as India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in addition to experts from Australia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The event also benefited from collaboration with the Duke University in the USA and Manchester University in the UK.