Is Pakistan Garment Industry Becoming More Cost Competitive With Bangladesh's?
|Minimum Monthly Wages in US$ Market Exchange Rate|
Wage Hike in Bangladesh:
The government in Dhaka announced in September that the minimum wage for garment workers would increase by up to 51% this year to 8,000 taka ($95) a month, up from $64 a year ago, according to Renaissance Capital. But garment workers union leaders say that increase will benefit only a small percentage of workers in the sector, which employs 4 million in the country of 165 million people, according to Reuters. Bangladesh government promised this week it would consider demands for an increase in the minimum wage, after clashes between police and protesters killed one worker and wounded dozens.
|Monthly Minimum Wages in US$. Source: Renaissance Capital|
Pakistan Wage Decline:
Pakistani currency has seen about 25% decline in value against the US dollar since January 2018. As a result of this devaluation, the minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has dropped from $136 last year to $107 now while Bangladesh has seen it increase from $64 last year to $95 today. Renaissance Capital projects a further 10% depreciation in Pakistani rupee this year.
Race to the Bottom?
Competing on cost alone is like engaging in the race to the bottom. Neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh can count on being lowest cost producers in the long run. What must they do to grow their exports in the future? The only viable option for both is to diversify their products and services and add greater value to justify higher prices.
Pakistan's Export Performance:
|Top 10 Textile Exporters. Source: WTO|
|Top 10 Garment Exporters. Source: WTO|
Pakistani currency has seen about 25% decline in value against the US dollar since January 2018. As a result of this devaluation, the minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has dropped from $136 last year to $107 now while in Bangladesh has seen it increased from $64 last year to $95 today. Renaissance Capital projects a further 10% depreciation this year. While this can help Pakistan's RMG exports in the short term, it is not good long term strategy. Competing on cost alone is a race to the bottom. Pakistan's manufactured exports per capita have declined in the last decade. Pakistan's exports have declined from about 15% of GDP to about 8% since 2003. The nation's trade deficits are growing at an alarming rate as the imports continue to far outstrip exports. This situation is not sustainable. Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing has offered a helping hand to increase Chinese investment and trade in Pakistan. Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan should take the Chinese Ambassador's plan seriously. Finance Minister Asad Umar needs to form a high-powered team of top bureaucrats and leading businessmen on a comprehensive plan to attract investments in export-oriented industries and diversify and grow high-value exports to China and other countries.