Stopping the opposition from ruining the economy

Early in 2013 prophecies were being made that Bangladesh seemed to be getting ready for an even bigger role to replace China as the number one RMG exporting country. Not only in RMG, as the US ambassador and other institutional watchers of the international business conditions realized, Bangladesh could be getting into a favourable position to replace China and other southeast nations inrelatively less capital intensive enterprises such as footwear, toys, etc. as the competitor countries were turning non competitive vis-a-vis Bangladesh .
Thus billions of dollars of local and foreign investments in RMG and these other prospective industries appeared to be only a matter of some time before these would come to Bangladesh. The RMG industries that employ directly some 4 million people, mainly females, were expected to quickly add a couple of millions new workers sooner than later from the expected new investments in this sector. Similar large scale employment in the potentially emerging sectors were anticipated. A big boost to the country’s export earnings were considered to be only a matter of time.
But what happened in the course of that year completely shattered these very bright prospects. Reportedly, the occupancy rate in Dhaka’s top class hotels plummeted alarmingly in that period. These hotels are usually booked by a large number of apparel buyers from overseas who come to Bangladesh at this time of the year to place orders for the next season. But their arrival thinned and business sources said that RMG export orders were declining worryingly.
This decline is yet to be steadied or pulled up. The RMG sector is yet to recover fully from the battering it received last year. But tragically once again it appears that the opposition political forces are getting ready menacingly to stir up another round of violence like in 2013. It needs no imagination to realize how the unleashing of another such mindless anarchy before the country’s businesses has had enough time to recover from last year’s trauma, would do to the economy.
Business observers say foreign buyers are losing confidence in the longer term ability of our RMG sector to maintain its viability with the potential of political turmoil looming once again in the horizon. Thus, it is feared the RMG sector in Bangladeshcould lose losing its competitiveness and dependability. Considering Bangladesh no more so lucrative a destination for their businesses RMG buyers could switch over to other apparel exporting countries.
Only some months ago, local think tank bodies and international organizations such as the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) were making forecasts about the Bangladesh economy sustaining its over 6 per cent annual economic growth rate. But recently they are sounding not so confident. The way destructive political developments and their fallouts are impacting on the economy, if this trend is not checked very soon, then the economic growth rate could be squeezed much further.
Realistically looking at the political crystal ball and seeing no hope there, the hard boiled observers are saying that it would be no wonder if the growth rate comes down to even 5 per cent in the present year. Others are making still worse projections.
New private sector investments have been significantly on the low side during the current year. The investments could come down further if the potential of politically induced troubles is not removed from the minds of investors at the fastest. But this will call for stronger proactive actions on the part of the government to be able to head off such troubles. Legislation to be able to counteract such troubles need to be urgently considered and adopted by the government. Also government should take appropriate actions against the potential trouble makers well before they attempt to launch their so called movement afresh.


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