PLEASE rescue us from the situation. We want to do business." That was the call of despair from the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers Association. The readymade garment (RMG) industry is one of the largest foreign exchange earning sectors and has been under tremendous pressure thanks to the ongoing political stalemate. Indeed, the week gone by saw four out of five working days in hartals. The message from the $19billion industry is that the country risks losing its hard earned place in the global apparel industry. That the jobs of some 50million people engaged directly or indirectly in the industry are at risk should the current state of affairs continue cannot be lost on anyone.
The Bangalee New Year is one of the biggest seasons for apparel retailers and boutique shops. This year however, sales are so dismal that a significant number of businesses face closure. Calls for direct talks between government and the opposition have been uttered by different interest groups for some time now. Yet what is disturbing to witness is the apparent willingness of both groups to thrash out differences on the streets rather than the negotiating table. This simply cannot go on indefinitely. Livelihoods of such a large portion of the population cannot be trifled with.
The real danger lies in the fact that many foreign RMG buyers are turning away from Bangladesh. This is more so since foreign missions located in the country have been cautioning their citizens about travelling to the country due to the political unrest. There are other countries waiting in the wings to take the business lost here. And once Bangladesh is branded an unreliable country to do business with, where do the millions of unemployed go and what happens to our foreign exchange earnings? It is high time that national interest superseded petty party politics. The time for a negotiated settlement has arrived.