As political unrest continues in Dhaka, many of the trade leaders of the garment industry lament that the issues facing their industry have taken a back burner, just over two weeks after the fire at Tazreen Fashion Ltd factory claimed more than 111 lives.
Business overall continue to suffer with the political unrest in Bangladesh causing a loss of working days as well as productive work hours. “The recent development of political unrest in Bangladesh has pushed the burning agenda of fire in RMG factory to sideline for the time being. We are still waiting for the enquiry committee report from the government,” said Beena Shikdar of the Garments Sramik Trade Union.
On Thursday, in a second strike by the opposition, businesses remained shut and several trade union leaders told WWD that the situation was “grave, as homemade bombs exploded” and opposition leaders claimed to have been attacked by police.
The protests on Thursday were organized by a coalition of 18 political parties who are demanding that a caretaker government needs to be in place before the 2014 elections in Bangladesh. Tension has been escalating since the government removed the system of positioning a caretaker government system during elections.
When US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited Dhaka this May she called for an end to the recent spate of violent strikes saying they “exact a heavy toll, especially on Bangladesh’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”
But now, it is the businessmen in Dhaka who are asking as well. “We need to have an assurance that we can get our job done,” said Rahat Sheikh, a garment factory owner in Dhaka.
Despite the poorer turn out and several foreigners canceling their visits to Dhake following a travel advisory, the Bangladesh Apparel and Textile Exposition organized by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) continued to be a platform for discussing and looking at the future of fashion in Bangladesh. It is also a fast growing segment for the country.
Faruque Hassan, vice president of the BGMEA, said that last year buyers from 40 countries attended the exposition, and orders worth $64.77 million were made and stock lots worth $1.58 million were bought — on the spot.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who inaugurated the fair on Wednesday, said that Bangladesh earned about $24.29 billion through exporting ready made garments of which $19 billion came from knitwear and woven garments.
“There are an approximately 400,000 workers, 80 percent of them women, are employed in 5,000 garment factories in the country,” she observed.