Country Session 10: Bangladesh

Chaired by Mushfiq Mobarak (Yale; IGC), the Bangladesh session started with Mark Rosenzweig (Yale) presenting his work on the hidden costs of arsenic contamination in rural areas of Bangladesh. He finds that young men with higher arsenic contamination have lower schooling attainment and are less likely to have skilled occupations. Reducing arsenic contamination to USA’s average would enable Bangladesh to increase its productivity by as much as 9%. Elimination of arsenic contamination could also lead to a rise in per household benefits of $94 per year, which over 20 years would amount to $1000-$1400 (for discount rates up to 8%). This can provide a benchmark of investment that could be made on elimination of arsenic contamination in the country, and which could still be beneficial merely on economic grounds.

Kala Krishna (Penn State University) presented her on-going work on the possible impact of potential policy changes regarding the garment export sector of Bangladesh. She and her colleagues estimate that had the preferences for Bangladesh garment exporters been completely removed, it would not only risk the garments sector of Bangladesh, but would also lead to welfare loss of 481 million USD for the EU, and 69 million USD for the USA. Trade facilitation could thus aid not only a developing country, but would also ensure welfare gain for the country providing the facilitation.

Lack of supervisory skills is generally perceived as a bottleneck in increasing productivity in the large garments sector of Bangladesh. In an attempt to precisely comprehend the gains from possible training programmes, Christopher Woodruff, along with Rocco MacChiavello and Andreas Menzel (University of Warwick), evaluate the impact of a supervisory training programme provided to female garment workers in Bangladesh. From this on-going study, they find that a few weeks of training provided can let the trainee operator outperform even the existing experienced supervisors. Also, at a more disaggregated level, female trainees tend to outperform male trainees, as well as the existing supervisors. The challenge, however, as identified by the discussant of the paper Md. Ghulam Hussain (Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh) remains in implementing such training programmes on a larger scale.

Nasiruddin Ahmed (Chairman, National Board of Revenue, Bangladesh), Shamsul Alam (Member, Planning Commission, Bangladesh) and Riti Ibrahim (Secretary, Statistics Division, Ministry of Planning, Bangladesh) also provided their comments as discussants in the session.