Bangladesh businessmen ask for fixing politics to save economy
Businesspeople took to the streets all over the country yesterday, denouncing the ongoing violence that claimed at least 68 lives and inflicted serious damage on the economy in the last one month.
They formed human chains and staged sit-ins in the capital and elsewhere simultaneously for 15 minutes from 12:00noon, seeking an immediate end to the crisis to help save the economy.
They sang the national anthem, waved the national flag and chanted a slogan "Save the Country, Save the Economy".
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), the apex trade body of the country, led the protest programmes. The biggest one was held in the capital's commercial hub Motijheel where leaders of the FBCCI and its affiliated bodies stood in line in front of the chamber building for 15 minutes.
“We don't want destructive politics. We want to get out of this situation as the country's supply chain has been seriously disrupted due to the ongoing violence,” said FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed.
With sectors including garment, agriculture and transport bearing the brunt of the turmoil, the economy has already counted around Tk 75,000 crore in losses since the BNP-led 20-party alliance launched the non-stop blockade on January 6.
The economy is on the verge of collapse. If this situation doesn't improve, the government should ban shutdowns and blockades, he said.
He urged political parties to follow democratic norms to voice their demands.
Interests on bank loans of affected industries and businesses must be waived and the loans rescheduled. "Otherwise, they will not survive," said Ahmed.
The FBCCI president was joined by business leaders, including former president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Rokia Afzal Rahman and President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hossain Khaled.
Expressing solidarity with the FBCCI, garment makers demanded an end to the deadly violence and security for running businesses smoothly.
“We don't want political violence any more. We don't want deaths in arson attacks,” said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), a platform of garment exporters.
Garment makers are incurring losses as they face hurdles, including high transport costs of carrying raw materials and goods to and from factories and the Chittagong port, he said.
More than 150 garment makers, workers and leaders of trade unions stood in line in front of the BGMEA office, demanding a peaceful solution to the political unrest.
Leaders of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association also joined the BGMEA rally.
“The economy is bleeding … we want a business-friendly environment,” said BGMEA Vice President SM Mannan Kochi.
This was the second programme by the BGMEA in the last two weeks. On January 28, the trade body formed a massive human chain in front of its office, demanding security of businesses.
Yesterday, human chains were also formed in Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Sylhet, Bagerhat, Sherpur, Chandpur, Satkhira and Narsingdi.
Sylhet Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised a human chain in the city. It was attended by leaders of trade bodies, including CNG Filling Station and Conversion Workshop Owners Association, Coal Importers Group, Petroleum Dealers, Distributors and Agents Association and Shop Owners Association.
Speaking at a human chain programme, Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Monir-uz-zaman said, “We don't want this politics ... Our politicians must think about businesspeople and the masses before launching any political programme."
Blockade and violence have already wiped out three-fourths of sales. "If this situation persists, we will not be able to give our employees salaries, and many businesses will go under,” he said.
Businesspeople in Barisal, Rangpur and Satkhira condemned the ongoing violence and demanded an end to the blockade and shutdown.
In Bagerhat town, businesspersons took part in the human chain programme, keeping their shops shut.
Meanwhile, the BNP said the business community's message was not reaching the government because of the partisan president of the FBCCI.
"The present political crisis and instability arose out of wrong decisions of the head of the government,” BNP Joint Secretary General Salahuddin Ahmed said in a statement.
He urged the trade body to ask the government to step down quickly to create a stable political environment.