Govt may allow duty-free safety product import for RMG sector

February 24, 2014

Tofail urges buyers to include local engineers in factory inspections
Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed on Sunday assured that the government would take an initiative to ensure duty-free import of fire and building safety-related products and he would place the matter to the next cabinet meeting. ‘To make the readymade garment sector safer and compliant I will talk to the prime minister and the finance minister over the issue and the government will take the initiative so that you can import duty-free safety equipment and building materials,’ he told garment factory owners at the inaugural ceremony of the two-day International Trade Expo on Building and Fire Safety at Sonargaon Hotel in the city.
C&A Foundation and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative and Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh — the two retailer groups of North America and the EU — in association with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, International Finance Corporation and international consultancy firm Elevate are organising the event.
Addressing as chief guest Tofail urged the Accord to appoint engineers from the Bangladesh to inspect factories. Bangladesh has international standard engineers and some are even working in the developed countries, he said.
North American retailers have decided to carry out the factory inspections mainly by the local engineers but the Accord has started its inspections mainly by the foreign experts.
Factory owners have apprehended that without inclusion of local experts in the Accord team there will be confusions during the factory inspections as the foreign engineers are not familiar with the situation in Bangladesh.
Retrofitting and remediation are must for a safer industry and the government is highly convinced to do it but it is not a matter of today or tomorrow, it needs time, the commerce minister said.
Ian Spaulding, senior partner of Elevate, said the manufacturers needed to choose right products and before installation fire doors, sprinklers system and lights, they would have to make sure that the products were certified.
He said a number of factories in Bangladesh introduced fire safety products that were not certified and later on they had to reinstall certified products.
Ian, also the chair of the expo organising committee, urged the factory owners to join in the programmes designed to aware them about the fire and building safety.
Instead of collapsible gate, installation of proper fire doors is a must as when people run to save their lives the security guards remain unconscious and keep the doors locked, said M Rabin, executive director of Alliance.
He said there were three types of building in Bangladesh — shared building, converted building and purpose-made — and most of the factory buildings were made before Bangladesh National Building Code of 2006.
‘There have been lacks of some safety issues in around 74 per cent of factory buildings that were built before BNBC and we have to come forward together to minimise the safety risk in those buildings,’ Rabin said.
During inspections it has been found that a number of factories are missing major documents, which is an impediment to run the inspections properly, he said.
BGMEA president Atiqul Islam said the factory owners were committed to ensure safety in their units but they needed proper time and adequate fund.
‘It will not be possible to solve all the problems overnight,’ he said.
Requesting the buyers not to pull out business from shared and converted buildings, Atiqul said, ‘If buyers do so, many of the factories will be shut and thousands of workers will be jobless.’
‘Withdrawal of orders from the factories those are situated in shared buildings is not a solution but we have to work together for a solution and so, don’t withdraw orders and make workers jobless,’ he said, calling upon the buyers.
He sought financial support from the global retailers for the remediation of factories as per the findings of inspection.
Except some major buyers and brands, most are not willing to increase the prices of products whereas Bangladesh has increased the workers’ wages, said state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam.
Not only pulling out business from the shared buildings but also price cutting and not increasing prices by the retailers is a problem for the apparel sector, he said.
Roy Romesh Chandra, secretary of IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, urged the brands not to withdraw orders until the inspections were over as they had legal bindings.
Urging to form a RMG foundation to compensate Rana Plaza victims he said that a number of seminars and meeting had been held after the disaster but the victims were yet to be compensated.
Fifty-two stalls are showcasing world-class products like fire doors, sprinklers, fire hoses and electrical equipments in the exposition.

-With New Age input

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