Millennium Post

Bangla political blockade hitting economy hard

In the nine days that Zia has been locked in her office, supporters of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have taken to the streets in their hundreds, torching vehicles and even derailing trains by removing tracks.

The country’s top business chamber said that the transport sector alone had been losing two billion taka (USD 26 million) a day since the blockade began, with at least 200,000 buses and lorries kept off the road for fear of attacks. “The disruption in the transport sector has created immense troubles for the passengers and also hampered supply of goods,” said Kazi Akramuddin Ahmed, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

“Farmers are the worst sufferers. Their vegetables are rotting on the fields,” he said, adding they were “deeply concerned” at the worsening political crisis.

Zia leads a 20-party opposition alliance which boycotted a general election last year on the grounds it would be rigged. She has said the blockade will continue until Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agrees to new polls organised by a caretaker government.

Authorities have provided guards for buses and lorries carrying shipments to the ports. The paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh has said it alone has provided security to some 3,000 buses and trucks.

Ahmed said garment manufacturers, who account for 80 per cent of the country’s USD 27.3 billion annual exports, fear the worst since a prolonged blockade could prompt Western retailers to divert orders to other nations.

“The impact has not been visible yet, but the supply chain has been disrupted and naturally garment sector won’t be immune from the fallout,” he said.

Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter after China. The sector provides jobs for four million people, mostly women, and has spurred economic growth to over six per cent a year in the last decade.
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