The prime minister's announcement on setting up advisory centres for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in all districts and upazilas in the country augurs well for this particular type of industry. One gets the idea that the advisory centres will be more like the agriculture extension centres that have contributed so much to the country's increased food production by making farmers familiar with new varieties of crops, advanced farming methods and technology. Agriculture is no longer where it was a generation before. Industries are transforming even at a faster pace. But in a land-scarce and overpopulated country like Bangladesh, introduction of heavy and even highly sophisticated industries must of necessity be limited. This is for the simple reason that unemployment of the people cannot be allowed to rise beyond a reasonable level. So the SMEs would be almost a panacea for shortage of output and unemployment.
However, harnessing the potential of small and medium type industries depends on how they are managed and made to feed the market both at home and abroad. There are some specific small enterprises which produce products only for foreign markets. There is no harm so long as they earn foreign exchange and prove beneficial for employees at home. Small is beautiful in such cases. But then a country of Bangladesh's size and structure needs many such enterprises preferably of myriads of types. This calls for diversification of the basket both for domestic consumption and export. It is at this point the advisory centres will be expected to play a crucial role. The fact that the village community of Bangladesh is yet to accept the transformation of an agrarian society to an industrialised one must have to be acknowledged. A wholesale transformation of this order is also unnecessary and therefore ruled out.
The policymakers should think of a balanced type of industrialisation where farming and SME villages coexist in a happy combination. The task would be challenging - only more so for staffing the advisory centres. They would form the outreach organ of a well-versed resource pool. The expertise at the highest level will have a comprehensive idea of industrial management, product promotion both at home and abroad, marketing and diversification of industrial output and investment for expansion. All this, however, will conform to the region's supply of raw materials and above everything else to the country's environment.
So, the advisory centres will have to be manned by people of knowledge and foresight. This will be a tall order. If there is a high-powered central advisory council, it will be able to guide the district and upazila centres. For those centres, it would be better to maintain liaison with the council. Before finalising a project of a specially challenging nature, they must ask for guidance from the council. If the council deems it fit, it may send either an expert or even a team of experts to the spot for verification of the project. Their recommendation will be binding for all. This is how small industrial and environmentally friendly villages can be established in the country.