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Bangladesh fears growth setback due to continued political unrest

Bangladesh fears growth setback due to continued political unrest
Bangladesh may not meet the targeted 7.2 per cent GDP growth rate for the current fiscal year due to the deadly political unrest, Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith has said.

“Even in December, I was fully hopeful about reaching 7.2 per cent GDP growth... but now I am highly doubtful about reaching the target,” he told a press briefing yesterday even as financial analysts feared many small traders can perish in the political unrest that has been going on for over a month.

Muhith said though the nation-wide transport blockade enforced by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) since January 6 was relatively insignificant in the capital, but it severely affected activities in districts which are “far away from the centre of politico-administrative controls”. 

The Finance Minister’s comments, the first such formal government statement on economy since the start of the unrest, came even as newspapers here reported fresh causalities in the violence. A truck driver succumbed to his wounds and two more suspected saboteurs were shot dead in “encounters” with elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in central Comilla and western Jessore early today. RAB officials said the suspected saboteurs, killed in “gunfights”, were activists of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, a crucial ally of BNP.

The Prothom Alo newspaper reported that over 100 victims of firebombs, mostly bus passengers, were being treated in five major state-run facilities including Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Muhith, a civil servant-turned-politician, also sought the intervention of “sensible people in the BNP” to end the violence as “what is happening in the name of politics is entirely enmity to the nation”. Muhith said the expenditure for maintaining law and order has also gone up sharply. “The law enforcement agencies in the past one month have sought additional TK 100 crore,” a finance ministry official said. Bangladesh has set the target of reaching over 7 per cent growth in 2014-2015 fiscal, ending in June. However, experts fear, it would be highly unlikely as the violence and blockade has started taking its toll on the economy.

The violence, that has claimed over 75 lives so far, is the result of a nationwide transportation blockade called by the opposition to pressurise PM Sheikh Hasina to resign and announce new elections. 

Agencies

Agencies

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