Thursday, 5 September 2013

plan B 4 fashion manifesto

4-point manifesto from the blog at .
Points 1 & 2 are about fashion production in the UK.
Points 3 & 4 are about reducing poverty in the far east - for example Bangladesh.

UK government can help UK factories compete, by releasing tax data to say what factories exist.

Data could be made-up into trade directory by anyone who wanted to do the work as happens already with simlar data. Some companies would find ways of covering their costs and cross-selling other services. If not, perhaps a small grant of a volunteer effort could get good directories written.

Better trade directories are a very cheap way of re-balancing the UK economy so that it begins to pay enough taxes and employ enough people. Factories help money circulate around the UK, bringing taxes back into government, and creating jobs in run-down areas. Factories also have to be very lean to pay the costs of paying for a democratic welfare state with a UK living-standard and rents. They don't all have staff for sales or PR or tendering for contracts or submitting entries to competitions. Some don't even have office or reception staff. They need terse orders from well-informed customers who know exactly what the factory makes, the technique used, and maybe the minimum orders for free set-up or free UK delivery.

UK government can change the fashion week that we pay for in taxes (through Greater London Authority and Department for Business' UK Trade and Investment).  It can insist that exhibitors are nominated by UK or European factories & display the names of the factories. This would get better value for UK taxpayers' money: UK taxpayers pay to promote employment amongst other UK taxpayers. UK taxpayers promote a clothing brand and a factory for the same budget that just paid to promote a clothes brand in the past; it's two results for the price of one.

Factory-vetted designers are probably reasonable to work with, from a factory's point of view.
At the moment London Fashion Week pays for extra coaching for designers who aren't businesslike - even some in the past who didn't have a way of making the clothes they put on show! There is an export guarantee system that insures their bad debts from overseas buyers,  who sometimes take advantage by not paying. So, in the worst case, a fashion week and UK Trade and Investment subsidy can promote a designer who is hard to work with, then pay the bad debts when the designer isn't paid, and put rival producers out of work because they're not in the PR business and get overlooked. An example is Equity Shoes of Leicester who were overlooked as ethical footwear producers while Terra Plana, who bought shoes from China, got the PR. Both are now closed.

For a long time there was only anecdotal evidence that London Fashion Week helped taxpayers. Now they have a 50 page "Value of Fashion" report in very small print which seems to show huge returns. We know from the Olympics' effect on London tourism that these reports are partly a sales pitch; they are not impartial. Read closely, the report admits the opposite of what the headline summaries say. Estimates of how money circulates are based on decades-old data about how many shoe factories existed in the UK, including many like Equity Shoes that have now closed. Most of the money circulates amongst people who could get other jobs in PR and fashion journalism. And no estimate is made of the cost of crowding-out UK apparel suppliers from the market.

Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian & Chinese governments can reduce poverty.
The methods that worked in the UK 100 years ago were universal schooling and national insurance. Schooling for girls helped them become more assertive and reduced the rate of child birth. Pensions helped parents plan for old age without having to have as many children as they possibly could.

The first modern national insurance scheme was introduced in Germany, just before its industrial revolution.  It is not too early for Bangladesh to start one now.

The difficulty is how someone in the UK can effect government in Bangladesh, beyond a few factory checks or a fair-trade scheme. This is the next point.

European and US government can change the tariffs that tax trade from countries without democratic welfare states like Bangladesh or China.
This helps people in Bangladesh as well as their cousins in Bolton. There is a consensus.
A formula for tariffs be worked-out over time.

  • More democracy earns a lower tariff - there is already a democracy index that could help this one get started.

  • More of a welfare state earns a lower tariff.

  • More human rights earn a lower tariff. And the reverse could also be true, so a country with more expensive exports because of the cost of a welfare state can still compete on price with China; the worst country no longer sets the market price for garment production.

Western governments are already trying to help eastern ones become more stable and better governed, if only to prevent the tide of misery reaching Europe in the form of wars and refugees. Search "Bangladesh" on and find this...
"we are working with Transparency International Bangladesh and other civil society organisations to generate more debate between the government and citizens about progress in improving the providing services like health, education and legal services, and to beat corruption."

Unfortunately, western governments are also paying Bangladesh to keep its poor, with grants, development work and tariff-deals that depend on there being a lot of very poor people in Bangladesh. The rich in Bangladesh do very well out of this system. Their government even has enough free cash to pay for an export subsidy in a country that gets aid from the UK. Factory owners now get some free training for their staff paid by the UK taxpayer. With luck, the firm consistent pressure of conditional tariffs would change their minds and the way they run government. If not, the tariff system would raise some money towards the 0.7% that UK taxpayers pay in aid, to pay for Pakistani healthcare when the Pakistan government only pays 0.8% on health.

No comments:

Post a Comment