“These countries, covering nearly 50 percent of global exports of apparel and 80 percent of Asian apparel exports, have many common problems, including low- price image, environmental and social regulations, high electricity and fuel cost, dearth of trained manpower, infrastructure impediments and little exposure to high-tech machinery, said a study conducted by a Sri Lankan textiles and clothing sector writer, A H H Saheed, who is also a chartered marketer by profession. These countries are Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. .The study, named Global Apparel Industry and Major Asian Suppliers, has discussed weaknesses of each of the Asian countries dealing in apparel industry separately. .Pakistan: Major weaknesses of Pakistan’s apparel industry include low-price image, reliability, marketing, environmental and social regulation and inadequate infrastructure, including power, water and the road network not able to provide foundation for a dynamic industrial sector .Similarly, very expensive power, low grade technology leading to low productivity and poor quality, outdated machinery, lack of considerable upgradation of human resource skills and confusion in political, religious and social situation, including terrorism . “India: In India again low price image is a major weakness like Pakistan and other Asian countries. Besides, buyer hardship and control, environmental and social regulations, narrow export base in garment as over 50 percent is confined to four products, relatively low technology, hardly available traditional tailoring background and automation in decentralized garment sector, inconsistent and low quality and productivity and a higher power cost in India’s power cost also hampering growth there. As per ITMF – Study 2003, power cost in India is $ 0.08 per kw that is higher comparing with seven countries, including China, Brazil, Korea, Turkey and the USA. Then India’s cotton yield is only 372kgs per hectare as compared with the world average 900-1000kgs per hectare. Low labour productivity, pro-employees labour laws resulting in unproductive employees union in India, which are mainly externally and politically motivated .China: The quota restriction and safeguard measures from the US and the EU are described as major weaknessses of the apparel industry in China. Then wage rates in the apparel industry and other production costs, land prices, training, social fees and shipping costs are rising, Social responsibility/accountability and labour issues, low price image, buyer hardship, mass production/flexibility have been counted as some other major issues in China .Bangladesh: Low-price image again emerges as a major weakness in Bangladesh. According to the writer, interest rate for long-term in Bangladesh is very high, that is, 9-12%, as compared with 5-6% of competitors. Similarly, no fund for assistance to textile and apparel sector has been created and when it is coupled with the dearth of trained manpower of international standards and lower labour, the situation is translated into low productivity and inconsistency in quality. Then obsolete production technique, over-dependence on imports, especially woven fabrics, environment and social regulations are few other weak areas in Bangladesh. Particularly, reliability and lead-time in Bangladesh is high as 90-120 days and machinery is mostly outdated unable to keep pace with technological development. Finally, weak marketing and selling techniques had made impossible for any company to develop a brand or have any new market emerged . “Vietnam: In Vietnam product quality needs improvement, as technology and machines are 10-20 years old compared with regional countries, that has put the production costs very high something around 5-7 percent compared with competitors China, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia. The country imports fabric and accessories demand of the clothing industry and it lacks fashion design badly. High oil prices and being a non-member of the WTO is again a big challenge for its apparel sector, says the report .Thailand: According to the report, most export products of Thailand are commodity types, which are subject to fierce competition and have lower prices. Then the lack of variety and quality products due to shortage of technical manpower and modern technology is resulting in loss of competitive advantage compared with lower cost countries, especially in labour wage rate. The wage rate in Thailand is $1.24 per hour – higher than India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Relying on imported raw materials, the domestic industry cannot supply material, especially quality and variety. High cost of production and difficult to get workers is another big issue there. There is a general lack of skilled people, particularly in the sewing industry, so productivity is not high and investments and industrial engineering are limited. .Sri Lanka: Continued civil war in the country significantly has suppressed the growth potential of the economy and adversely affected investor confidence. The apparel industry there heavily depends on imported raw materials, say 80%, ie, 150 million kgs of fabric are imported annually. The industry has not kept pace with the technological developments. The issue of longer leader times is also hampering growth there. The need to import fabrics results in longer lead times for the apparel industry. The average lead time – 8 weeks or more and lower labour productivity are big weak areas of the industry. The fall is attributed to lower capacity utilization, high labour turnover, absenteeism and under-trained employees and most factories lacks design and product development, . “The domestic market there is relatively small with 19 million people and high electricity and fuel costs besides weak supply chain management are main stumbling block there .Indonesia: In Indonesia, political Instability and confusion in the political and social situation, including terrorism, are proving to be major hurdles facing the industry. The infrastructure needs improvement. The rising electricity and fuel costs, increasing trend of minimum wages coupled with low-tech textile and clothing industries is another weak area of the industry. Depreciation in rupiah has increased import costs and oil fuel prices. There is also an increase in the number of labour unions there. Source: Daily Times, Pakistan .