Transport blockade hits Bangladesh's economy

Both industrial and agricultural sectors hit heavily by nationwide transport blockade and political unrest in Bangladesh

Transport blockade hits Bangladesh's economy
 World Bulletin / News Desk
 
Bangladesh's economy is beginning to feel the impact of an ongoing transport blockage imposed by the country's political opposition. 

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party has enforced the nationwide blockage over the alleged ongoing detention of their leader Khaleda Zia, which has now reached its ninth days. 

Zia had been hoping to revive her party's political activity with a series of programs on Monday Jan. 5, the first anniversary of the 2014 general election her party boycotted, claiming it would be rigged, but her house has been surrounded by hundreds of police clad in riot gear.

According to the director of an economic think-tank, the blockade could have long-term effects on Bangladesh's economy. 

Mostafizur Rahman, Executive Director of Center for Policy Dialogue, said some sectors are already losing millions of Bangladeshi Taka every day.

"It has a strong and direct negative impact on economics and of course on production and the supply chain," said Rahman. "It has direct impact on raw materials transportation, on importers in their distribution channel. Local investors would be more careful in their investment decision. It also might have negative impact on garment sector in getting purchase orders as well."

"If they can resolve it soon, businessmen may try to survive, but if it prolongs, the impact would be more and ultimately the general consumer would face its effect," he said.

The country's transport sector is losing at least 2 billion Taka ($26 million) everyday for this blockade, the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries claimed in a press conference on Saturday.

Didarul Ahsan, a transport director, said: "It becomes even difficult to pay our daily expenses from own pocket. Don't know how to meet up the bank instalments at the end of the month."

The country's internal tourism is also struggling because of the blockade, which comes during the peak season. Cox's Bazaar, a coastal town that is considered Bangladesh's most popular tourist destination, has seen a dramatic drop in visitors. 

"We expect at least 70 to 80 percent capacity at this time but due to the transport blockade it dropped to an average 15 percent," said the chief executive the Cox's Bazaar-based Hotel Seagull, Rumi Siddiqui.

Khasrul Alam Khan, the CEO of a garment factory is similarly frustrated. 

"Even today 23 of my sewing operators were absent in the factory due to blockade and it had an effect on the entire production line, so that I couldn't meet today's production target," he said. 

According to Hasibur Rahman Bilu, a senior journalist in the northern district of Bogra, piles of piles of vegetables are rotting in the market and many farmers are distributing them for free because they are not getting the usual prices. 

The local newspaper New Age reported that sellers are unwilling to buy large amounts from farmers because of the lack of transport; at the same time, the consumer prices for staple foods like rice and lentils has been pushed up. 

Bilu also confirmed long queues of lorries, carrying goods from neighboring India, were building up at the various border crossings in the north. 

The government had provided security for transport moving along highways but it apparently has not been enough to meet the need. Transport operators have stopped their vehicles from moving for fear of their buses being attacked. 

Incidents of arson have been reported since the blockade was announced on Jan. 5, which the opposition had dubbed "Murder of Democracy Day."

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies boycotted the 2014 election, allowing the ruling Awami League to win, with 153 constituencies uncontested.

Barrister Rafikul Islam Mia, a member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's standing committee, told reporters after meeting with Zia on Sunday evening, that the blockade would continue until Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina begins talks for a snap election.

Sporadic violence and clashes are still occurring across the country. According to Daily Prothom Alo, at least 12 people have been killed in the last week and 12 motor vehicles were torched on Sunday alone. Trains only have limited operations and their schedule has completed broken down. 

Bangladesh's law enforcement agencies have detained several senior opposition leaders, accusing them of responsibility for the clashes. 

 

Last Mod: 12 Ocak 2015, 15:47
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