As competition and challenges in business and trade at home and abroad increase, the cadre of government trade specialists continues to shrink. There are only 21 members of the government’s trade cadres. In 1994 there were 116 posts in this framework. The work of the trade framework has fallen into the hands of the administrative framework.
Neighboring countries India and Pakistan have expanded the trade wing in recent years. They also use them in expanding business and trade at home and abroad. The United States, the European Union (EU), China and Vietnam are also training trade or trade services officials to accelerate trade expansion and economic development. Bangladesh has spoken loudly about economic diplomacy. But embassies abroad do not create an opportunity to send experienced people in this field.
According to World Bank data, the country’s exports have grown 79 times in five decades. Imports have increased 74 times. Exports are limited to a few products due to the inability to introduce new products and diversify.
The latest information from Bangladesh Bank is that the total trade volume of Bangladesh in the last fiscal year 2021-22 was 10 lakh 75 thousand 519 crores. Of these, the export was 3 lakh 87 thousand 767 crore, the import was 6 lakh 87 thousand 752 thousand crore.
But there is no one in the trade framework for the position of chief controller of the country’s import-export controller. An additional secretary of the executive board fulfills this task. Bangladesh would no longer have the current benefits of low-interest loans and exports if it were a developing country. Then the need for specialized officers for the execution of commercial contracts, negotiations, reconciliation will increase.
Officials from the Import-Export Department said there is no policy to create a professional and skilled labor force for import-export, tariffs, incentive policies and various international and regional organizations, trade agreements.
As a result, the government is unable to supervise the internal and international market system.
Devapriya Bhattacharya, Special Fellow at the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) told Kal Kantha that trade diplomacy is a big problem in the world. Trade-related job preparation is essential to the work of international trade organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) and several UN agencies. Embassies should prioritize the positions of Commercial Counselors of Trade Cadre. They have to prepare for this.
Debapriya Bhattacharya said that due to the lack of specific manpower in the trade, if the officers trained move to other duties, this training is no longer useful. About 150 officers were trained by CPD. But many have been transferred to the family planning department after commercial training. So special people are needed for special jobs. Otherwise, the government’s money is wasted. The interests of the country are also harmed.
When asked to know that, Tapan Kanti Ghosh, senior secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, told Kal Kantha that the manpower of the trade cadres is very limited. The Office of the Import-Export Controller does not cooperate with them. Because of this, they cannot be placed in the commercial wing of the embassy. A proposal has been sent to the Ministry of Public Administration for the abolition of trade frameworks. There is also doubt whether this framework will exist in the future or not.
Tapan Kanti Ghosh, when asked about creating efficient officers in line with the country’s growing commercial activities, said it is being considered. The Department of Public Administration has asked those who have experience in trade to be placed with the Department of Commerce.
Administration Cadre to Trade Cadre Posts
Commerce Cadre was restructured on September 1, 1980 with 100 posts. Of these, 33 were posts in various embassies. 13 postal items were under EPB and TCB. Later, 116 posts were created under the Ministry of Prices and Market Information, the Ministry of Supply and Inspection, the Trade and Tariff Commission, the Textile Sales Trade Framework of the Ministry of Commerce.
But after 14 years of 7th BCS, only four officers were appointed in 22nd BCS in the trade cadre. 28 BCS has four, 29 and 30 BCS has two each and 36 BCS has five. Four were promoted from non-cadres.
Now the 44th BCS is underway. But there was no further recruitment in the commercial framework. This specialist work therefore continues with the administrative framework.
There is no trade framework in the embassy
Although there are 21 positions of Minister of Economic Affairs, Trade Adviser and First Secretary (Commercial) in the commercial wing of various embassies abroad, there is no officer in the trade cadre. Most of the workers have not worked for the Ministry of Commerce.
To achieve the export targets, these officials have to perform many important tasks, including formulating and implementing annual action plans, implementing bilateral, multilateral and regional trade agreements, communicating with various foreign trade organizations, liaising with domestic trade organizations, and resolving of import-export complications.
WTA cell also administrative framework
Since the work of WTA cell is technical in nature, it was proposed a few years ago to bring these posts under the BCS trading framework. But the Ministry of Public Administration has created 10 posts for the administrative cadre by converting this cell of the Ministry of Commerce into a department in August last year.
Export Development Bureau, Inspectorate of Joint Capital Companies and Firms, Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission have the rule that most are officers of trade cadres, but there are officers of administrative cadres. After working in these technical positions for a short time, they are transferred to other positions.
Shafiqul Islam, a former additional secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and a trade executive official, told Kal Kantha that many more challenges lie ahead. The global situation is changing. Commercial diplomacy certainly requires the creation of a water force. Commercial diplomacy requires an understanding of commercial terms. There are many technical issues related to LC, banking activities and contracts. Also for the post of commercial advisor of the embassy, the policy of hiring professional, skilled workers should be made.
The merger with the administration has also been three years in the making
At present, the scope of promotion of BCS trade executive officers is also limited. In 2019, they submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Public Administration to merge with the board of directors due to various discriminations. But there was no progress in that regard either.
Nandan Kumar Vanik, additional chief controller of the import-export controller’s office, said existing laws, policies, regulations, circulars and orders should be amended and updated to strengthen the trade framework. Because if Bangladesh is a developing country, the commercial challenges will increase. That is why it is now important to create a skilled workforce.
General Secretary of BCS Trade Cadre Officers Association Mohammad Awlad Hossain told Kal Kantha that now administrative executive officers are working in trade cadre posts. It makes no sense to maintain such a framework.