The economy was held hostage by persistent unrest

Business leaders, analysts say

Representative image

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Asia's economy is easing

Representative image

According to economists and business leaders, Bangladesh’s economy is under pressure due to ongoing political unrest centered on the January 7 elections.

The current blockades and hartals were launched by the opposition BNP and its like-minded parties on October 29, when their massive rally in Nayabaldan was broken up by the police. The police swung into action after a police constable was beaten to death during the protest.

According to figures released by the FBCCI chief, the 20 days of hartals and blockades (from October 29 to November 20) caused a financial loss of Rs 1.30 lakh crore (a loss of Rs 6,500 crore per day) to the entire economic sector of the country.

„The economy is losing Rs 6,500 crore a day due to hartals and blockades,” said Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Mahbubul Alam.

„Therefore, we have repeatedly urged political parties in Bangladesh to refrain from activities that cause financial loss and create public suffering,” he added.

Although the hartal and blockade campaign failed to disrupt normal life, the unrest hit the transport sector hard, disrupting the flow of goods and raising prices.

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The opposition parties are engaged in street protests as the government has rejected the demand that the parliamentary elections to be held in the country on the 12th should be held under a neutral caretaker government.

Transport owners said the financial loss would be around Rs 161 crore per day. In the subsequent 20 days of hartal and blockade protests, the financial loss is estimated to be around Rs 3,220 crore.

Talking about the losses, renowned economist Dr. Debabriya Bhattacharya told UNB, „The financial loss due to hartal and blockade is multi-dimensional and you cannot quantify it in statistics alone.”

He said that international business groups are worried when global buyers of Bangladesh or any other specific countries break due to instability due to political or any other reason. They then divert their purchase orders and investment plans to more secure and stable areas.

„When a large global buyer shifts orders from one country, smaller buyers follow suit,” said Dr Debabria, Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

PRI (Policy Research Institute) Executive Director Dr Ahsan H Mansoor echoed Dr Debabria.

A growing economy requires a stable and democratic environment in every sector to attract global investment and global buyers, he said.

Because trading and investing are purely related to monetary gain or loss, buyers and investors are always looking for a place for financial gains. They want to save paradise for investment, he pointed out.

The transport sector has been greatly affected by this protest. Long-distance inter-district buses sat idle at stations. City buses were run with fewer passengers for fear of fire. As a result, many transport workers are left without work and wages.

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Mohaghali Inter-City Bus Owners Association President Abul Kalam told UNB that around 700 vehicles depart from Mohaghali Bus Terminal daily during normal hours. Now it has reduced to 100 per day due to hartal and blockade protests.

He expressed concern that it would be a financial challenge to cover the workers’ wages and fuel costs as the buses run only two days a week. As a result, business owners struggle to manage expenses including bus operating costs and bank loan installments.

Around 3,500 buses ply in the capital every day, said Mahbubur Rahman, vice-president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association. Owners and workers collectively earn Tk1.58 crore per day, an average of Tk4,500 each.

However, this income has fallen to Tk32.50 lakh, resulting in a daily loss of Tk1.26 crore for running buses in the capital due to hartal and blockade, he said.

Under normal circumstances, about 200,000 long-distance bus trips across the country generate about Tk 10,000 each, resulting in a daily income of Tk200 crore across the country, Mahbupur said.

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