Businesses lie in ashes
Huq runs a big spinning mill in Bhaluka, Mymensingh. For the last five days his factory has been totally idle. He has run out of raw materials . His cotton is lying at Chittagong port, from which he cannot transport it.
He also owns a few fish projects in the Mymensingh belt. He could not sell his fish because there are no buyers. He is feeding them and the fish are growing bigger. This means a loss for him because after a certain size the Pangas does not sell.
His bank loans are piling up. He knows he will be a defaulter this time. And then he does not know how he will overcome the situation.
This is the situation for all businessmen in Bangladesh today. As we talked to them, we found that most of them have either shut down their operations or have drastically scaled down production.
Bangladesh's economy has today collapsed beyond any measure.
Many businessmen like Parvez are trying to grab at any straw they find to keep afloat. Parvez took the risk of bringing two truckloads of fabrics for his garment factory in Ashulia five nights ago. Both his trucks were burned down at Sitakunda.
He has no answer as to how he will make his American buyer understand his plight.
The story is the same everywhere.
A single day of a strike or blockade costs Tk 250 crore in financial losses in the country's apparel sector only.
According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), only 10 of its factories faced cancellation of nearly $4 lakh (Tk 3 crore) worth of export orders since December 1 this year. The figure will be many times higher if the conditions of all factories are taken into account.
A study conducted earlier by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and rough estimates by the International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh revealed that 15 days of shutdown have cost the economy the equivalent of $3 billion, each day causing a loss of around $200 million.
Accordingly, 52 days of hartals and nine days of blockades so far this year have caused the country $12.2 billion in financial losses, a figure that is good enough to finance the construction of four Padma bridges.
Bangladesh's economy has grown by an average over 6 percent for the last one decade, but this year's growth rate has already been projected to go down close to 5 percent.
With the country's economy becoming more integrated with the global economy today, it will be difficult for the industries to get back to business because global confidence in Bangladesh has been shattered by the unprecedented scale of violence and blockade.
And this situation is not only hitting the rich, but people across the spectrum. All corners of the country are now facing a dearth of essential commodities since trucks cannot ply on the highways.
“Dealers from the districts are crying for wheat, oil, sugar and everything, but we cannot reach out to them,” says Mostafa Kamal, chairman of Meghna Group, a leading commodity importer.
Trucks are hard to find and even if one finds one, one has to pay five times the normal fare, as Bidhan Sarkar, general manager of Uttara Group said. He had to pay Tk 50,000 for a truck to come to his Gazipur factory from Chittagong instead of the normal Tk 10,000.
But the worst hit are the daily wage labourers.
“I break bricks into chips,” said Akram, who was sitting at Mohammadpur market in the misplaced hope of being called to a construction site. “I did not get work in the last three days as the contractor has suspended construction.”
Akram does not know how long he can last on his half-fed stomach. But he is more worried about his wife and three children.
“We will die, simply die,” said Akram, fear playing in his eyes. “When will this end?”