'RMG steps encouraging'

The Netherlands finds "encouraging" the steps taken by Bangladesh to ensure factory safety and workers’ rights after the worst-ever building collapse last year but feels a lot more needs to be done.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 25 April 2014, 12:32 PM
Updated : 25 April 2014, 12:42 PM

The Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen also told Bangladesh foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali at The Hague, the Dutch seat of government, on Saturday that they were keen on greater cooperation with Bangladesh in this matter.

According to the foreign ministry, “the exact modalities for further cooperation” would be discussed during Ploumen’s scheduled Dhaka visit at the end of next month.

She was in Bangladesh last year after the Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garment workers and evoked worldwide concerns about Bangladesh’s factory safety.

The Netherlands along with other countries is funding International Labour Organization (ILO) projects to improve factory safety and working conditions in the readymade garment sector along with other countries.

Ploumen suggested that the European Union and Bangladesh should “work together to impress upon international companies, including the European ones, to adequately contribute to the compensation fund for the Rana Plaza victims”.

The EU is a major destination of Bangladeshi garments that enjoy duty-free market access.

“We are encouraged to see the huge steps taken in the last one year to improve working conditions in Bangladesh’s massive RMG sector, but there is still some way to go for sure,” she said.

She said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina “did the right thing to press ahead with necessary reforms” in the clothing sector to improve labour rights and safety.

She particularly acknowledged the raising of the minimum wage in the sector, an initiative she considered “to be a positive step forward”.

The two ministers discussed the need for creating the “necessary comfort level” in the ready-made garment industry about the factory inspections being done to ensure safety standards.

They agreed that the ready-made clothes sector needed to be made “sustainable and resilient” in the larger interest of Bangladesh’s poverty reduction efforts and economic development.

The Dutch minister also expressed satisfaction at the rapid turnaround of the Bangladesh economy immediately after the Jan 5 parliamentary elections.

Referring to bilateral cooperation in water management, she observed that the Netherland’s engagement with Bangladesh in the sector had now moved “from an aid-driven approach to a more public-private partnership model”.

In this context, she responded positively to the Bangladesh Foreign Minister’s suggestion that the Netherlands undertake some concrete work along Bangladesh’s coastal belt to help land reclamation.

The Foreign Minister thanked the Dutch government for hosting the “Global Oceans Action Summit” bringing the issue of “Blue Economy” to the forefront of the post-2015 development discourse.

The foreign minister is in The Hague to attend the summit.

They also agreed that the Netherlands and Bangladesh could continue to learn from each other’s experience in living with water, rather than “fighting” it.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher