The Engine of our Growth

Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh

In South Asia, private sector remains to be the engine of growth. The dynamism, entrepreneurship and contribution that private sector has shown, at the backdrop of a complex governance structure, is nothing short of a heroic story. Private sector has battled in a field which is characterized by numerous regulatory, governance and technical challenges.

The region is stifled by red tape, badly governed and certainly lacks a business enabling environment. So this private sector has battled through these very odds and really come out. If we look at real contributions, be it in terms of our GDP, employment, production levels- it is evident that their contribution has been significant.

But, the story of private sector is also a complex one. The complexity lies in the fact that private sector is characterized by stark dualism. Approximately, 90% of the workers remain to be in the informal sector. So, a large portion of what we call the private sector in the region is really the informal sector and this includes the micro enterprises, which are not within the remit of our analysis often. So, while we speak about private sector development, and plans for improvements, it is important to address the issue of bringing this large informal sector under the fold of the analysis and bringing them in the forefront. Unless this large informal segment is addressed, growth may not necessarily sustain.

While it true that the private sector remains to be the engine of growth, increasingly there is also an immense need to ensure that they are productive, and more importantly, the concept of responsible business is instilled within their operations. It is really time for this private sector to embed business ethics within its operations and embrace the concept of responsible business- this obviously is not an easy feat and must be pushed forward by key stakeholders such as the associations and civil society.

As we speak about need for policies, it is fully agreed that the more urgent issue is the appropriate implementation of key policies such as competition policy, industrial policies and others which are already in place. One of the interesting areas that also came through in discussions of this session was the need for appropriate investment promotion strategy that can actually attract investments within the region. The region does not seem to have a body or a strategy to ensure this- will better cooperation and integration in the coming year push this idea to the forefront? It was also reiterated that the region needs to open up to the global value chain, which in a way, some countries have done so in some sense.
But it is also important to note that the region also needs to be able to compete within an enabling and competitive domestic market before moving to the global competitive world.

It is for time to tell how reforms will finally take place and how strategies will be brought forward for better regional private sector integration. The task ahead of us is immense, and perhaps each party the civil society, the governments and the private sector itself, must own their roles in the true sense and bring forward the transformation that is really required.