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Business leaders give 5-day ultimatum to political parties to resolve crisis

Top business leaders of the country yesterday comment and sign on a banner in front of the BGMEA Bhaban in the capital demanding relief from the ongoing political violence and security for the garment sector. Top business leaders of the country yesterday comment and sign on a banner in front of the BGMEA Bhaban in the capital demanding relief from the ongoing political violence and security for the garment sector. Photo: Palash Khan

Top business leaders of the country yesterday comment and sign on a banner in front of the BGMEA Bhaban in the capital demanding relief from the ongoing political violence and security for the garment sector. Top business leaders of the country yesterday comment and sign on a banner in front of the BGMEA Bhaban in the capital demanding relief from the ongoing political violence and security for the garment sector. Photo: Palash Khan

Garment makers have warned of ‘tough programmes’ if the two main political parties do not reach a consensus over the next 4-5 days to put an end to the ongoing instability sapping the economy.

“Our backs are against the wall now,??? Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said yesterday at a demonstration to protest the volatile political situation.

He said the garment owners and workers will together take to the streets if there is no agreement in the next five days. The garment owners also threatened to stop salary payment of the workers as well.

About 1,000 people including garment owners, workers, representatives from linkage industries and civil society members took part in the human chain organised in front of the BGMEA headquarters in the capital.

Leaders of several business bodies also participated in the demonstration co-organised by the BGMEA, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA).

The wave of blockades and shutdowns since October 27 has collapsed the sector’s supply chain. “Lots of goods-laden containers are now stuck in the Chittagong port—even after offering higher prices we are not getting any vehicle.???

The BGMEA president said the image of the sector is at stake globally as well because of the political violence, as it has hampered their shipments during a critical shopping season in the Western world.

“We cannot ship our goods amid the risk,??? he said, adding that many factory owners have incurred huge financial losses from the air freight, order cancellations and deferred payments since October 27.

Around 1.32 lakh tonnes of garment items have been shipped by air during the January-September period, causing losses of more than Tk 4,000 crore, according to BGMEA.

If the present situation continues any longer, the garment owners will be unable to clear their payrolls, pay bank loans, LCs and insurance premiums, he said. “The prime minister and the opposition leader will have to take the responsibly then.???

The businessmen’s latest move to take the streets comes after previous attempt to mediate a solution between the two parties failed.

Earlier on December 3, garment exporters marched impromptu to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s official residence, where they held a two-hour meeting. Following the meeting they set off to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s office in Gulshan, but were denied a meeting with her.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) expressed its full support to the garment owners’ latest step.

“We are unable to do any business amid this unstable political situation. So, it has to be stopped,??? said Helal Uddin, vice-president of FBCCI, adding that a grand rally will be organised should the situation not improve.

Annisul Huq, a former president of the country’s apex trade body, “earnestly??? urge the two political leaders to resolve the ongoing violence and save the future of 160 million people as they are “the mothers of the country???.

Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, the immediate past president of BGMEA, said the businesspeople now provide around 74 percent of the total government revenue, so they have the right to get proper security from the government.
Mohammad Hatem, first vice-president of BKMEA, urged the government to enact a special law to protect the apparel industry.

Around 2 crore people are involved with export and import activities, said Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Exporters Association of Bangladesh. “So, this ‘sick politics’ in the country must be stopped urgently.???

Rustom Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Owners’ Association, said the country’s transportation system has collapsed due to the blockades and shutdowns, during which picketers burn the vehicles and loot money from the drivers and helpers.

Jahangir Alamin, president of the spinners’ platform BTMA, said the apparel sector is the backbone of the economy. “If the sector is damaged due to this volatile politics, there is no meaning of politics.???

AK Azad, president of Bangladesh Chamber of Industries, and Sirajul Islam Rony, president of Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League, also spoke among others at the human chain.

The apparel sector now employs around six crore people in the backward, forward and supporting industries.

http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/business-leaders-threaten-tougher-actions/

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