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18. Februar 2013 1 18 /02 /Februar /2013 17:57
Businesses concerned over fallouts from ongoing political developments
Published : Monday, 18 February 2013

Nizam Ahmed

Businesses have expressed their serious concern over the fallouts from the ongoing political developments that have tended to go violent across the country. 

This situation is putting hurdles to uninterrupted production and export-oriented activities and many deal further blows to businesses, according to business circles.

Such developments, which they fear to aggravate, may worsen in the coming months in the event of lack of any serious efforts to help resolve them.

Representatives of business bodies also called upon the feuding parties to address the vital issues of the economy in the larger national interests, by shunning the path of any unruly showdowns and acts of senseless street violence.

More than a dozen people have been killed and scores of people including law enforcers, injured in violent clashes following sudden sporadic attacks by some die-hard political activists on law-enforcers as well as brutal physical assaults on innocent persons by others across the country.

Some of the victims, including activists, were also killed in some politically motivated clandestine attacks over the past weeks, police said. 

As part of the confrontational politics mainly over the prosecution of some alleged collaborators of Pakistani occupation army during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, one particular political group has called for a fresh nationwide general strike on Monday (today).

"The perennial confrontational politics has again turned violent at such a time when the country is hoping to expand its exports to different countries including China," President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Md Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin told the FE.

Despite an ongoing global slowdown that has reduced prices of Bangladeshi products in the international retail markets amid appreciation of the domestic currency that has tended to erode its export competitiveness, Bangladesh has otherwise posted a positive export growth in the current fiscal year (FY) 2012-13, the BGMEA president observed.

"The ruling and major opposition parties should negotiate their differences to come to a settlement. The problem is that the relevant leaders are not interested to accommodate the views of major parties across the current political divide, even if these are not all devoid of logic," said Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) President Md Sabur Khan. 

Though general strike (hartal) do not necessarily force owners to stop production in garment factories, it causes dislocations, as consignments cannot be delivered to buyers on time.

"The strike drives away foreign buyers following disruption in deliveries. It also dents into our image and competitiveness," said Adams Apparels Managing Director Shahidul Haque.

Violence and hartal really cripple the economy, Mr Haque said.

Small businesses and traders including those in shopping malls and big markets in the city have reported a marked decline in their sales turnover because of frequent political turmoil. 

However, most business leaders, entrepreneurs and general traders have lent their support to the non-stop mass rally, being held for about last 15 days demanding capital punishment for all the eight detained people indicted for crime against humanity during Bangladesh liberation war in 1971.

Bangladesh exports suddenly fell following political violence in the country in late 2006. In this backdrop, several analysts have expressed fears over a possible export crunch if violence recurs.

"If political violence recurs, we may not even maintain a 6.0+ per cent GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth in the current fiscal year (FY) that we had registered in the past several FYs," Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Research Director Dr Zaid Bakht told the FE.

Inflow of remittance has been growing at an encouraging pace, and if the exports also grow in tandem, then Bangladesh is likely to witness greater economic prosperity in the days ahead, Dr Bakht said.

All concerned including political activists, leaders and traders and the general people should be keen about maintenance of peace in the country under all circumstances, he noted.

Hartal programmes and acts of violence adversely affect every sector from capital market to insurance, transport, industry, local and international trade of the country, he noted.

"Strike, work stoppages and violence should be stopped immediately to keep the wheels of economy moving," said Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Executive Director Prof. Mustafizur Rahman.

However, most businesses and analysts believe that the ongoing occupation and rallying at Shahbagh square by younger generation, demanding death penalty to alleged collaborators, are not harmful, rather these have provided a unique opportunity to express national solidarity on an issue that has great historical value and importance.

"There is nothing wrong with non-violent Shahbagh rally of 'nutun prajanma' (new generation) and it is being held on a national issue," said CPD Executive Director Prof. Mustafizur Rahman.

Supporting the Shahbagh protest, Bangladesh Knit-wear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) President Mr AKM Salim Osman said: "The protests by new generation should be supported."

"If it (Shahbagh protest) leads to any situation that may harm the business, then also we should continue to support them," the BKMEA president said.

However, DCCI President Sabur Khan expressed the hope that the Shahbagh protest would conclude peacefully. "We will like to see its peaceful conclusion," he said with a tone of uncertainty.

During the recent deadly political violence, dozens of vehicles and other properties, offices and business houses were also burnt. Some of burnt vehicles belonged to law enforcers.

Police fired teargas shells, and used batons to disperse stone throwing and stick-wielding violent activists at most troubled spots.

The violent group demanded unconditional release of six central leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and two others of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), all charged with war crimes.

The BNP led 18-party alliance also enforced several countrywide general strike over the past couple of months. At least, 10 people were killed and many injured in strike-related violence, in which scores of vehicles were either vandalised or burnt.

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