How does the recent success of being elected as the FBCCI president feel? How has your life changed since then?
Winning elections can be euphoric and a humbling experience at the same time. It feels great to have won the support of the business community, but there’s also a huge sense of responsibility that pushes me 24/7. My life, today, is all about less hours of sleep, more hours of seminar, more sessions of brain storming and whirlwind meetings.
As the former BGMEA chief, what were some of the challenges that you faced?
The biggest challenge was the issue of minimum wage. In a world where we are plagued by inflation and price hikes, it’s incredibly difficult to set limits on wages. Yet, since the garments sector depends hugely on price competitiveness, there were multiple factors which had to be considered and appropriate checks and balances had to be put in place.
How do you see the worker’s unrest, clashes and the on going criticisms concerning the garment owners and the overall system?
If you closely follow the developments of workers’ unrest, you will very often realise that more stories are done on a negative incident. There is more hype on negatives and nearly zero or nothing on the positives. The unrests are at times is justified, yet there are also times when a bus tragedy has been enough to have the workers resorting to a frenzy resulting in damaging any and every factory that’s situated close to the spot. Would I call it a reasonable outburst? No.
Hence as much as all the criticisms are not well founded, there are also incidents where the factory owner has actually defaulted. There are grey areas at both the ends.
Where do you feel the problem of this on-going clash lie?
The problem of this clash lies mostly on the workers’ resentment and their inability to cope well with what they take home, at the end of the day. At the same time, the owner too, is facing a competitive world that disallows him to be more generous. The export volume may be on the rise, but the margins are all gone anyway. In such a situation, where the Catch-22 parallel can be drawn, there must be an efficient bridge between the two parties. We need to address our workers directly and not allow any other intervention to take place.
What are your views concerning the BGMEA Bhaban that was constructed o n a protected wetland in the city and is subject to a debate over whether it should be demolished? How do you think the impact will be?
The impact will not be positive for sure. The Bhaban was endorsed by two former prime ministers; the BGMEA has already been penalised for the loopholes that it earlier had. Therefore, even after legalizing, if the question of demolishing persists, the business community will be demoralised.
Before the state of emergency was imposed, a number of businessmen had requested for the state of emergency to be announced so as to bring peace in the country and bring a stop to the damages done to businesses. Where you a part of it? How do you look at the impact of this imposition today?
No businessman wants his factory to be vandalized. No businessman wants to face road blocks when he/she is attempting to export an urgent shipment. No one wants a disaster that violates the calendar of commerce. With the imposition of the emergency, hartals and road blockades had ended. But any conscious citizen opts for democracy. I am no exception to this.
What are your views concerning the present political economy in Bangladesh?
We would want more investments to pour in and this has not happened. It is natural for business communities around the world not to invest in a transitional climate and therefore sufficient FDI’s have not blessed our economy yet. With the new budget around and with the hope for the elections in December, Bangladesh may just see a new dawn in terms of economic progress. Going forward, business community would want to see timelier and a more focused negotiations and interventions from the administration in case of a crisis.
Your life as a television anchor was indeed very successful- when you look back to those times, what are the best times and lessons that you learned?
Media has taught me how to cherish spotlight and how not to let any viewer or any audience down. This has left reflections on my professional path as well. I think of any transaction as a transparent and a commitment dialogue. One can’t cheat the camera and similarly, one can’t fool the common eye either. For me, the best is only what happens today.
How did you shift away to a different sector? Do you feel it was a good decision?
I did not shift to a different sector. I was a young man back in the 80’s and media was a passion. But along with age, during mid-80’s, there were responsibilities to be taken care of and I had to choose a career. I have, in reality never disassociated myself from television. I have always been a part of that virtual reality.
Throughout the time, you have played many roles- anchor, owner of Mohammadi group, BGMEA chief, president of FBCCI and many more. Which one made you feel the happiest and satisfied? How so?
I am happiest being ‘me’. None of my roles are conflicting. They all belong to the same package. I am all of them rolled into one.