How trade and industrial policy choices affect consumers does not attract much attention. The lead article in this issue of Policy Insights sheds some light on this issue, demonstrating that Bangladeshi consumers face the highest average rate of tariffs on imports when compared with many other Asian developing countries. It provides an estimate that, over the most recent five-year period, the total cost to consumers of protection was a staggering $71 billion. Unlike producers, though, voices of consumers are rarely heard in stakeholder consultations, including pre- and post-budget discussions.
This issue also contains an article that suggests that rapid economic growth alone will not be enough to meet the job creation challenge. At the current rate, a growth rate of about 15% would be needed to create 1.6 million jobs every year. The quality of jobs is also important. Another article in this issue, drawing on detailed primary data, suggests women workers in the readymade garment industry usually work longer hours than is legally allowed. The Myanmar military’s campaigns of violence and terror against the Rohingya community in Rakhine forced around a million refugees to take shelter in Bangladesh, putting huge pressure on already inadequate public services and poor livelihoods of host communities in Cox’s Bazar district and surrounding places. Humanitarian assistance has so far been inadequate to cope with the massive challenges involved. An article in this issue calls for enhanced global responsibility and expanded international support measures, to include ‘beyond-aid’ contributions, such as trade concessions and new investments in regional initiatives.
Other articles in this issue explore such issues as the need for a green growth strategy in Bangladesh against a backdrop of intensified environmental degradation and climate change-related risks and vulnerabilities; the unfolding balance of payments and liquidity crisis in the domestic banking system; the importance of the digital transformation of business enterprises to improve their competitiveness; and options for a comprehensive social pension system, as Bangladesh will soon be a rapidly ageing nation. This issue also carries an article that examines the potential implications arising from a trade war between China and the United States.