Don`t go on strike, Bangladesh businessmen tell politicians

Bangladesh`s business chambers plan to propose law to ban political strikes.

Last Updated: Nov 25, 2010, 13:27 PM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh`s business chambers, which plan to propose a law to ban political strikes, have appealed to the country`s main opposition party to defer the next round of agitation against the government scheduled for Tuesday.

The appeal will be made at conferences being organised by various chambers and business guilds that are scheduled to be attended by Finance Minister AMA Muhith and other ministers.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief and leader of opposition Begum Khaleda Zia, who has given the strike call, is also scheduled to attend.

Political analysts say the business community, having had a good run in the last two years, fears a relapse into political chaos that would hit the economy badly. This had happened in January 2007, causing cancellation of a Parliamentary Election.

Production and exports were badly hit and the country witnessed for two years a caretaker government without popular mandate that withheld many key economic decisions.

The political situation in the country has come to a boil with Zia`s eviction from her home earlier this month. It was followed by a day-long strike that businessmen say cost the economy Taka 10 billion (USD 142 million).

Stressing that political unrest is greatly hampering investment and economic growth, businessmen urged the political parties to find an alternative to hartal (strike) or "similar destructive activities", The Daily Star newspaper said on Thursday.

Political programmes like strikes virtually stand in the way of the country achieving its potential double-digit growth, they said at a meeting organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) in the capital on Wednesday.

"This (hartal) is even more unacceptable when the country is on track of vigorous economic growth in the coming days thanks to its startling rise in trade and export activities," said FBCCI President AK Azad, who chaired the discussion.

Azad said business leaders might propose a law to ban the hartal.

"Two hartals within a period of 15 days do not send a good signal to foreign investors and local businesses," the apex trade body chief said.

"Such destructive activities could send back many potential foreign investors from our shore, at a time when many developed countries including Turkey and Japan are looking to relocate their industries in Bangladesh."

The apex body says the country`s exports have risen by 37 percent in last four months.

Nazrul Islam Mazumder, chairman of Bangladesh Association of Banks, said: "The business leaders can form a committee that will sit with the leaders from both the (major) political parties to persuade them not to go for political confrontations which affect normal public life and business activities."

Zia is to attend on Saturday the closing session of a conference called by the garment exporters, who earned USD 12 billion last year.

Zia has said that the Sheikh Hasina government has failed to provide basic amenities, brought the economy to a precipice and has lost in terms of exports and export of manpower, one of the mainstays of the economy.

IANS