Saturday, January 12, 2019

Pakistan Garment Industry Becoming More Cost Competitive With Bangladesh's?

Low wages and trade deals with Western nations have helped Bangladesh build a $30 billion ready-made garments (RMG) industry that accounts for 80% of country's exports. Bangladesh is the world's second largest RMG exporter after China. Rising monthly wages of Bangladesh garment worker in terms of US dollars are now catching up with the minimum wage in Pakistan, especially after recent Pakistani rupee devaluation. Minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has declined from $136 last year to $107 now while Bangladesh has seen it increase from $64 last year to $95 today.  Western garment buyers, known for their relentless pursuit of the lowest labor costs, will likely diversify their sources by directing new investments to Pakistan and other nations. Competing on low cost alone may prove to be a poor long term exports strategy for both countries.  Greater value addition with diverse products and services will be necessary to remain competitive as wages rise in both countries.


Minimum Monthly Wages in US$ Market Exchange Rate


Wage Hike in Bangladesh:

The government in Dhaka announced in September that the minimum wage for garment workers would increase by up to 51% this year to 8,000 taka ($95) a month, up from $64 a year ago, according to Renaissance Capital. But garment workers union leaders say that increase will benefit only a small percentage of workers in the sector, which employs 4 million in the country of 165 million people, according to Reuters.  Bangladesh government promised this week it would consider demands for an increase in the minimum wage, after clashes between police and protesters killed one worker and wounded dozens.

Monthly Minimum Wages in US$. Source: Renaissance Capital

Pakistan Wage Decline:

Pakistani currency has seen about 25% decline in value against the US dollar since January 2018. As a result of this devaluation, the minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has dropped from $136 last year to $107 now while Bangladesh has seen it increase from $64 last year to $95 today. Renaissance Capital projects a further 10% depreciation in Pakistani rupee this year.

Race to the Bottom? 

Competing on cost alone is like engaging in the race to the bottom. Neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh can count on being lowest cost producers in the long run. What must they do to grow their exports in the future? The only viable option for both is to diversify their products and services and add greater value to justify higher prices.

Pakistan's Export Performance:

The bulk of Pakistan's exports consist of low value commodities like chadar, chawal and chamra (textiles, rice and leather). These exports have declined from about 15% to about 8% of GDP since 2003. Pakistan's trade deficits are growing at an alarming rate as the imports continue to far outstrip exports. This situation is not sustainable.  What must Pakistan do to improve it? What can Pakistan do to avoid recurring balance of payments crises?  How can Pakistan diversify and grow its exports to reduce the gaping trade gap? How can Pakistan's closest ally China help? Can China invest in export oriented industries and open up its huge market for exports from Pakistan? Let's explore answers to these question. 

Exports as Percentage of GDP. Source: World Bank
East Asia's Experience:

East Asian nations have greatly benefited from major investments made by the United States and Europe in export-oriented industries and increased access to western markets over the last several decades. Asian Tigers started with textiles and then switched to manufacturing higher value added consumer electronics and high tech products. Access to North American and European markets boosted their export earnings and helped them accumulate large foreign exchange reserves that freed them from dependence on the IMF and other international financial institutions. China, too, has been a major beneficiary of these western policies. All have significantly enhanced their living standards.

Top 10 Textile Exporters. Source: WTO


Chinese Investment and Trade:

Pakistan needs similar investments in export-oriented industries and greater access to major markets. Given the end of the Cold War and changing US alliances, it seems unlikely that the United States would help Pakistan deal with the difficulties it faces today.

China sees Pakistan as a close strategic ally. It is investing heavily in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which includes China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). A recent opinion piece by Yao Jing, the Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan, published  in the state-owned China Daily, appears to suggest that China is prepared to offer such help. Here are two key excerpts from the opinion piece titled "A community of shared future with Pakistan":

1. China will actively promote investment in Pakistan. The Chinese government will firmly promote industrial cooperation, expand China's direct investment in Pakistan, and encourage Chinese enterprises to actively participate in the construction of special economic zones. Its focus of cooperation will be upgrading Pakistan's manufacturing capacity and expanding export-oriented industries.

2. China will also actively expand its imports from Pakistan. In November, China will hold the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where, as one of the "Chief Guest" countries, Pakistan has been invited to send a large delegation of exporters and set up exhibitions at both the national and export levels. It is hoped that Pakistan will make full use of this opportunity to promote its superior products to China. The Chinese side will also promote cooperation between the customs and quarantine authorities of both countries to facilitate the further opening-up of China's agricultural product market to Pakistan. China will, under the framework of free trade cooperation between the two countries, provide a larger market share for Pakistani goods, and strengthen cooperation and facilitate local trade between Gilgit-Baltistan and China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. And China will take further visa facilitation measures to encourage more Pakistani businesspeople to visit China.

Top 10 Garment Exporters. Source: WTO

Pakistan's Role:

Pakistan needs to take the Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing's offer to increase Chinese investments and open up China's market for imports from Pakistan.  Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan should take immediate steps to pursue the Chinese offer. Finance Minister Asad Umar needs to form a high-powered team of top bureaucrats and leading businessmen to develop a comprehensive plan to attract investments in export-oriented industries and diversify and grow exports to China and other countries. Pakistan must make full use of its vast network of overseas diplomatic missions to promote investment and trade. 

Summary:

Pakistani currency has seen about 25% decline in value against the US dollar since January 2018. As a result of this devaluation, the minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has dropped from $136 last year to $107 now while in Bangladesh has seen it increased from $64 last year to $95 today. Renaissance Capital projects a further 10% depreciation this year.  While this can help Pakistan's RMG exports in the short term, it is not good long term strategy. Competing on cost alone  is a race to the bottom. Pakistan's manufactured exports per capita have declined in the last decade. Pakistan's exports have declined from about 15% of GDP to about 8% since 2003. The nation's trade deficits are growing at an alarming rate as the imports continue to far outstrip exports. This situation is not sustainable. Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing has offered a helping hand to increase Chinese investment and trade in Pakistan.   Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan should take the Chinese Ambassador's plan seriously. Finance Minister Asad Umar needs to form a high-powered team of top bureaucrats and leading businessmen on a comprehensive plan to attract investments in export-oriented industries and diversify and grow high-value exports to China and other countries.

9 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Bangladesh workers' wages rise in 6 grades
RMG workers' pay structure revised after PM's directive amid unrest for eight days

https://www.thedailystar.net/business/bangladesh-garment-workers-salary-structure-be-revised-1686979

After eight days of labour unrest, the government yesterday announced a revised pay structure, with a slight increase in both basic and gross wages in six of the seven grades in the RMG sector.

In the new pay scale, which comes after years, the yearly increment has been fixed at 5 percent.

Workers had been demanding pay raise in three grades in particular -- grade 3, 4 and 5.

The decision came following directives of the prime minister after an event-packed day, on which workers continued their protests, factory owners threatened to shut down their units and a tripartite committee held almost a daylong meeting to reach a consensus on the hike.

The meeting of the 20-member committee, which has representation of the workers, owners and the government, approved wage increase in grade 1-6. The hike ranges from a token Tk 15 to a modest Tk 747.

The raise is effective from December last year and will be adjusted from February.

The gross pay in grade 7 remains unchanged at Tk 8,000, which was Tk 5,300 in the previous pay structure announced in 2013.

The government will publish a new gazette of the revised wage in the next three to four days, said Labour and Employment Secretary Afroza Khan, who heads the tripartite committee.

The committee was considering pay hikes in the three “most problematic” grades -- 3, 4 and 5.

But at a meeting at Gono Bhaban on Saturday night, Sheikh Hasina instructed officials to revise the latest pay structure, originally announced in September last year, for all grades, sources said.

The workers will receive the arrear with their pay for February, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi told reporters after the meeting.

“We were mainly concerned about the pay in grade 3, 4 and 5. But we eventually revised the wages six grades so workers get a little more,” he said, announcing the decision at a press conference at the ministry.

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, said, “We welcome the revision and the new wage structure.”


He was speaking on behalf of the trade union leaders who are on the tripartite committee.

Reaction among the workers were mixed.

Alamgir Kabir, who works at a Ha-Meem Group factory, said he was happy and that he would join work today.

Another worker, however, said he was not satisfied. But still he would go back to work, if his colleagues did so.

Incidents of labour unrest over the pay structure made headlines in early December, just two months after the pay package was announced.

That protest died down ahead of the general election.

Ashraful said...

Without a CPEC, Bangladesh has progressed and now is ahead of Pakistan on many economic and social indicators. It was less than 50 years ago, Bangladesh was ignored and discriminated by their Punjabi countrymen on the west side. Even today, there is lack of recognition on it's birthing which came from within the Bangla. The nefarious self fulfilling rhetoric of the Pak Army serves Pakistan well by putting nearly all of the "blame" on India while ignoring the indigenous nature of Bangla's birth.


It is sweet revenge to see my Bangla a challenge for my once martial and superior Punjabi masters.

Riaz Haq said...

Ashraful: "Bangladesh has progressed and now is ahead of Pakistan on many economic and social indicators."

Being cost competitive on the basis of low wages is not a sustainable advantage.

The fact is that Bangladesh economy is a one-trick pony.

It's heavily dependent on RMG manufacturing and lagging in other major industries.

Harvard Kennedy School's economic complexity index measures the economic diversity of countries.

Bangladesh ranks 100 while Pakistan ranks 92 on MIT Atlas's economic complexity index (ECI).


http://atlas.cid.harvard.edu/rankings/


Based on ECI, Harvard Kennedy School economists forecast Pakistan to grow at 5.97% and Bangladesh at 2.82% over the next decade.

https://www.riazhaq.com/2017/07/harvard-kennedy-school-cid-projects.html

Take a look at the FT story below:

Bangladesh garment-making success prompts fears for wider economy

Warning dominance of sector hampers diversification and depresses wages

https://www.ft.com/content/5cd0d9ea-d316-11e6-9341-7393bb2e1b51?mhq5j=e3

Bangladesh’s garment-making sector has rebounded so strongly following the Rana Plaza disaster that economists and labour leaders are warning it risks holding back the country’s economy as a whole.

Nearly four years after the collapse of a factory in Dhaka, the country’s capital, in which more than 1,100 garment workers were killed, western clothing companies are buying more from Bangladeshi factories than ever before.

But while the booming garment industry is contributing to an overall growth rate of 7 per cent, economists say it is suppressing wages and crowding out higher value sectors.

“There is no diversity in the economy,” warned Rashed al Mahmud Titumir, economics professor at Dhaka University. “Bangladesh has not been able to produce more lucrative products — there are barely any exports except ready-made garments.”

In the 1983-4 fiscal year, Bangladesh garment sales abroad made up 3.9 per cent of its total exports and were worth $31.6m, according to data from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. By 1989-1990 that had risen to 32 per cent, worth $624.2m. At the time of the Rana Plaza collapse — the country’s worst industrial disaster — garment exports had reached 80 per cent or $21.5bn.

Despite the tragedy, the sector has continued to grow, hitting $28.1bn in the last financial year and accounting for 82 per cent of total exports.

Industry representatives say the continued growth is the result of the unprecedented action it took in the aftermath of the disaster, agreeing to independent safety checks and including workers and unions on inspection teams.

Riaz Haq said...

Rise of #Bangladesh. CLSA's Chris Wood believes Bangladesh's reliance on #garments sector is obstacle to future growth as it faces the risk of lower #wage alternatives in #Africa, #automation & loss of duty-free #market access when it loses #LDC status. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Cover-Story/The-rise-and-rise-of-Bangladesh

"Exiting LDC status gives us some kind of strength and confidence, which is very important, not only for political leaders but also for the people," she (Shaikh Hasina) told the Nikkei Asian Review in an exclusive interview in December. "When you are in a low category, naturally when you discuss terms of projects and programs, you must depend on others' mercy. But once you have graduated, you don't have to depend on anyone because you have your own rights."

Hasina says Bangladesh's strong economic growth will not just continue, but accelerate. "In the next five years, we expect annual growth to exceed 9% and, we hope, get us to 10% by 2021," she said.

"I always shoot for a higher rate," she laughs. "Why should I predict lower?"

On many fronts, Bangladesh's economic performance has indeed exceeded even government targets. With a national strategy focused on manufacturing -- dominated by the garment industry -- the country has seen exports soar by an average annual rate of 15-17% in recent years to reach a record $36.7 billion in the year through June. They are on track to meet the government's goal of $39 billion in 2019, and Hasina has urged industry to hit $50 billion worth by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of what Bangladeshis call their Liberation War.

A vast community of about 2.5 million Bangladeshi overseas workers further buoys the economy with remittances that jumped an annual 18% to top $15 billion in 2018. But Hasina also knows the country needs to move up the industrial value chain. Political and business leaders echo her ambitions to shift from the old model of operating as a low-cost manufacturing hub partly dependent on remittances and international aid.

To that end, Hasina launched a "Digital Bangladesh" strategy in 2009 backed by generous incentives. Now Dhaka, the nation's capital, is home to a small but growing technology sector led by CEOs who talk boldly about "leapfrogging" neighboring India in IT. Pharmaceutical manufacturing -- another Indian staple -- is also on the rise.

Behind the impressive numbers and bold ambitions, however, are daunting hurdles ranging from structural problems to deep political divisions, which have come to the fore ahead of national elections on Dec. 30.

Bangladeshi politics have been dominated for years by the bitter rivalry between Hasina and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, whose family histories go back to opposing sides of the liberation struggle, when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. Both women have been in and out of power -- and prison -- over the past three decades. Khaleda Zia, who chairs the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is in jail on corruption charges that she says are false.

Since 1981, Hasina has led the ruling Awami League, founded by her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's first president, who was killed by army personnel along with most of his family in 1975. The party enjoyed strong support in some past elections. But opposition activists and human rights groups have voiced concern about potential polling fraud and intimidation tactics. After two consecutive five-year terms for the ruling party, analysts point to a palpable "anti-incumbency" sentiment among some voters. Yet from an economic standpoint, many agree that a ruling party victory would support further development.

"If the polling passes without too much strife and the status quo is maintained, then [Bangladesh] would seem an attractive long-term story," said Christopher Wood, managing director and chief strategist at Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.

Riaz Haq said...

World Bank's Poverty and Shared Poverty Report 2018 compares the annual income growth rate of the bottom 40% of the population with the average income growth of the entire population for 91 countries for years 2010-2015. Here's the data for a few selected countries:

Country Bottom 40% income growth vs Average Income Growth

Pakistan 2.7% vs 4.3%

Bangladesh 1.4% vs 1.5%

Iran 1.3% vs -1.3%

Indonesia 4.8% vs 4.8%

Sri Lanka 4.8% vs 5.3%

Vietnam 5.2% vs 3.8%

Thailand 5.0% vs 3.0%

Malaysia 8.3% vs 6.0%

China 9.1% vs 7.4%


http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/poverty-and-shared-prosperity


People experience poverty differently even within the same household. Traditional measures haven’t been able to capture variations because the surveys stop at the household level. Measuring poverty as experienced by individuals requires considering how resources are shared among family members. While data are limited, there is evidence that women and children are disproportionately affected by poverty in many — but not all — countries. Sex differences in poverty are largest during the reproductive years, when, because of social norms, women face strong trade-offs between reproductive care and domestic responsibilities on the one hand and income-earning activities on the other hand. Worldwide, 104 women live in poor households for every 100 men. However, in South Asia, 109 women live in poor households for every 100 men. Children are twice as likely as adults to live in poor households. This primarily reflects the fact that the poor tend to live in large households with more children.

There is evidence from studies in several countries that resources are not shared equally within poor households, especially when it comes to more prized consumption items. There is also evidence of complex dynamics at work within households that go beyond gender and age divides. More surveys are needed to capture consumption patterns of individuals so that governments can implement policies to bridge the inequalities within households.

Anonymous said...

Ashraful, first of all congratulations to Bangladesh for the achievement. Second, I am not quite sure why if BD is making such progress somewhere between 1 to 3 million Bangladeshis are still living illegally in Karachi. If you visit any house of Karachi's posh locality of Defense or Clifton, chances are that you will see a Bangladeshi cook. Obviously BD’s progress is limited to the upper and middle classes and is not tickling down to the poor.

Regarding your comment “The nefarious self fulfilling rhetoric of the Pak Army serves Pakistan well by putting nearly all of the "blame" on India while ignoring the indigenous nature of Bangla's birth.”
I am not sure what history you have been read. No on in Pakistan puts total blame on India. Not a month passes by when some politician doesn’t say that East Pakistan like situation is being created in XYZ area. We all blame ourselves for the situation where the majority of our countrymen felt alienated. That India played a role in creating, arming and training Mukti Bahini is on the record and is undeniable. By the way, when Muktis were busy killing innocent non-Bengalis, they didn’t claim to kill Pakistanis or Punjabis, they always claimed that they were killing Beharis.

Zamir

Riaz Haq said...

1000s of #Bangladesh #garment workers clash with police. Min #wages rose by a little over 50% this month to 8,000 taka ($95) a month. But mid-level tailors said their rise was paltry and failed to reflect the rising costs of living, especially in housing. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/14/bangladesh-strikes-thousands-of-garment-workers-clash-with-police-over-poor-pay?CMP=share_btn_tw

Thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh who make clothes for top global brands have clashed with police as strike action over low wages entered a second week.

Police said water cannon and tear gas were fired on Sunday to disperse huge crowds of striking factory workers in Savar, a garment hub just outside the capital, Dhaka.

“The workers barricaded the highway. We had to drive them away to ease traffic conditions,” said police director Sana Shaminur Rahman. “So far 52 factories, including some big ones, have shut down operations due to the protests.”

On Tuesday, one worker was killed when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at 5,000 protesting workers.

Bangladesh is dependent on garments stitched by millions of low-paid tailors on factory floors across the emerging south Asia economy of 165 million people.

Roughly 80% of its export earnings come from clothing sales abroad, with global retailers H&M, Primark, Walmart, Tesco and Aldi among the main buyers.

Union leader Aminul Islam blamed factory owners for resorting to violence to control striking workers. “But they are more united than ever,” he told AFP. “It doesn’t seem like they will leave the streets, until their demands are met.”

The protests are the first major test for prime minister Sheikh Hasina since winning a fourth term in last month’s elections, which were marred by violence, thousands of arrests and allegations of vote rigging and intimidation.

Late on Sunday, the government announced a pay rise for mid-level factory workers after meeting manufacturers and unions. Not all unions have signalled they will uphold the agreement.

Babul Akhter, a union leader present at the meeting, said the deal should appease striking workers. “They should not reject it, and peacefully return to work,” he said.

Minimum wages for the lowest-paid garment workers rose by a little over 50% this month to 8,000 taka ($95) a month. But mid-level tailors said their rise was paltry and failed to reflect the rising costs of living, especially in housing.

Bangladesh’s 4,500 textile and clothing factories shipped more than $30bn worth of apparel last year.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, which wields huge political influence, warned all factories might shut if tailors did not return to work immediately. “We may follow the ‘no work, no pay’ theory, according to the labour law,” association president Siddikur Rahman told reporters.

Last year Bangladesh was the second-largest global apparel exporter after China. It has plans to expand the sector into a $50bn-a-year industry by 2023.

But despite their role in transforming the impoverished nation into a major manufacturing hub, garment workers remain some of the lowest paid in the world.

Riaz Haq said...

Access to #electricity: #Pakistan 99%, #India 84%, #Bangladesh 76%. Source: World Bank 2016

https://twitter.com/theworldindex/status/1085029776556023808

Access to electricity (% of population)

🇪🇺EU: 100%
🇧🇷BRA: 100%
🇨🇦CAN: 100%
🇨🇳CHN: 100%
🇺🇸USA: 100%
🇨🇴COL: 99%
🇵🇰PAK: 99%
🇵🇭PHI: 91%
🇮🇳IND: 84%
🇿🇦RSA: 84%
🇲🇳MGL: 82%
🇧🇩BAN: 76%
🇳🇬NGR: 59%
🇰🇪KEN: 56%
🇪🇹ETH: 42%
🇹🇿TAN: 33%
🇺🇬UGA: 27%
🇳🇪NIG: 16%
🇸🇸SSD: 9%

Riaz Haq said...

According to the newly released World Trade Statistical Review 2018 by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the current dollar value of world textiles (SITC 65) and apparel (SITC 84) exports totaled $296.1bn and $454.5bn respectively in 2017, increased by 4.2% and 2.8% from a year earlier. This is the first time since 2015 that the value of world textile and apparel exports enjoyed a growth.

Textiles and apparel are not alone. Driven by rising demand for imports globally, the current dollar value of world merchandise exports also grew by 4.7% in 2017–its most robust growth in six years, to reach $17.43 trillion. Particularly, the ratio of trade growth to GDP growth finally returned to its historic average of 1.5, compared to the much lower 1.0 ratio recorded in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.

China, European Union (EU28), and India remained the world’s top three exporters of textiles in 2017. Altogether, these top three accounted for 66.3% of world textile exports in 2017, up from 65.9% in 2016. All the top three also enjoyed a faster-than-average export growth in 2017, including 5.0% of China, 5.8% of EU(28) and 5.9% of India. The United States remained the world’s fourth top textile exporter in 2017, accounting for 4.6 percent of the shares, the same as a year earlier.

Regarding apparel, China, the European Union (EU28), Bangladesh and Vietnam unshakably remained the world’s top four largest exporters in 2017. Altogether, these top four accounted for as much as 75.8% of world market shares in 2017, which was higher than 74.3% a year earlier and a substantial increase from 68.3% back in 2007.

Continuing with the emerging trend in recent years, China is exporting less apparel and more textiles to the world. Notably, China’s market shares in world apparel exports fell from its peak—38.8% in 2014 to a record low of 34.9% in 2017. Meanwhile, China accounted for 37.1% of world textile exports in 2017, which was a new record high. It is important to recognize that China is playing an increasingly critical role as a textile supplier for many apparel-exporting countries in Asia. Measured by value, 47% of Bangladesh’s textile imports came from China in 2017, up from 39% in 2005. We observe similar trends in Cambodia (up from 30% to 65 %), Vietnam (up from 23 % to 50 %), Pakistan (up from 32 % to 71 %), Malaysia (up from 25 % to 54 %), Indonesia (up from 28 % to 46 %), Philippines (up from 19 % to 41 %) and Sri Lanka (up from 15 % to 39 %) over the same period.

https://shenglufashion.com/2018/08/16/wto-reports-world-textile-and-apparel-trade-in-2017/

https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/wts2018_e/wts18_toc_e.htm