Tapping the talent beyond start-ups

Dhaka,  Sat,  19 August 2017
Published : 10 Jul 2017, 20:03:49
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OPINION

Tapping the talent beyond start-ups

With revenue receipts better than the revised target  but well short of the original number, exports slackening and worse, remittances slowing down, the focus has to be on prioritising spend, efficient spending and quality spend at that, writes Mahmudur Rahman
Each year, CNN and BBC award individual and group success in initiatives that bring about meaningful change in societies. In a way they shame governments because the onus should ideally be theirs. A jaundiced view might suggest this is a trapping of corporate social responsibility (CSR). After all, why aren't such initiatives supported in a greater way by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector? If, as many claim we are inclined to a knowledge-based society innovation, specially those that appear inexpensive, the view should be clear of eye. Grey Advertising has already won an award for reusing plastic water bottles for solar energy. Sadly that hasn't gone any further. That's the precise problem. A young Indian girl has come up with a green air conditioner. That probably is destined for a similar fate.

The jaundiced view of more of the same, attract foreign investment, lower lending rates and squeezing taxpayers for more isn't just limited to our government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just stirred up a whole hornet's nest by kicking-off the General Sales Tax (GST) system. While significantly different from our VAT system, it has created an outrage leading to a strike by Cinema Hall owners and a social media blitz by an Indian nation that woke up to the realisation that even using automatic teller machine (ATM) cards would be attracting tax. That sounds awfully similar to the attempt to increase excise duty on individual bank accounts. Public outrage, voiced by MPs, caused thus to be put on hold and the benefit of exemption threshold increasing. What happens in India will unfold but is likely to be complex in that West Bengal has stated upfront it has taken umbrage.

Ambitious budgets are good for the ego and make a nice showcase of capacity, provided the inflow-outflow ratios are balanced in favour of the former. With revenue receipts better than the revised target  but well short of the original number, exports slackening and worse, remittances slowing down, the focus has to be on prioritising spend, efficient spending and quality spend at that. The thrust must now shift to innovative ideas from the new generation that can help in cutting costs and reducing expenses for even mega projects. If it takes the state minister for energy three years to figure out that due to lack of 'efficient' personnel, the ambitious power sector objectives aren't likely to be met, it calls for stern and strict measures. Talent is available and they should replace the dithering fuddy-duddies. 

The brilliant, if raw, inventions by the youngsters have to be followed up and patronised by companies dealing with the same kind of products. One of the popular TV reality shows in the U.K. gets business people to judge innovative business concepts and allows them to bid for the rights and patents - on screen. This not only helps new innovation but also supports creation of more small businesses. As is now clear small businesses are what keep the wheels of economy running. Bangladesh Bank (BB) can step in to set targets for the banks to finance innovators along the lines of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by creation of separate SME desks. In its hey-days, Islami Bank had the little mentioned achievement of financing 55 per cent of SMEs, as stated by a former banker. Yet the same bank's owners were forced to part with their shares, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) gave theirs' up and now we await the results of the change.

Entrepreneurial young folk are working from their homes under the umbrella of the information technology (IT) revolution. Ambitious export targets are being aimed at from the sector. One wonders what the turnaround would be if this potential was allowed to be unleashed on an economy propped up by crabbed age. 

mahmudrahnan@gmail.com

 
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