Last year, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that her vision for the Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) sector was to reach $50bn in exports by 2021. It is an important and ambitious goal for a nation that has worked hard to develop a brighter economic future. With the RMG sector accounting for 81 per cent of Bangladesh’s overall exports, reaching such a milestone could help the nation substantially reduce poverty and strengthen economic outcomes for millions of people.
Transforming industries and economies requires dedication and commitment from numerous stakeholders, ranging from the government to the private sector. That’s why the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh—two coalitions of brands that source garments from Bangladesh—have undertaken an enormous and unprecedented effort to inspect every factory from which their members source, and to ensure that safety issues are thoroughly addressed. Read more
Developed country central banks that see quantitative easing as a route to recovery are merely inflating bubbles, driving up the prices of assets held by rich people and failing to deliver growth on the ground. So says Atiur Rahman, governor of the central bank of Bangladesh.
“QE will lead to bubbles and overheating,” he said during a visit to beyondbrics on Friday. “They are creating liquidity in the air and never really touching the ground.” Read more
It’s a few minutes into Marion Akinyi Onginjo’s social studies lesson at Bridge International Academy Gicagi in Nairobi and the class 4 teacher is being drowned out by loud cheers next door.
Bridge International Academy Gicagi, Nairobi. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman
Class 4 finally gets its chance to make some noise when one student, Margaret, correctly answers a question about subsistence crops. After Onginjo tells the class, “let’s give Margaret the cowboy cheer,” they stand up, spin imaginary lassoes in the girl’s direction and yell, “One, two, three, four, five, yee-hah.” Read more
A problem in a single electricity transmission line running between India and Bangladesh caused a nationwide blackout in Bangladesh on November 1. The outage lasted nearly 10 hours, making it the country’s worst incidence of power failure since a cyclone knocked out the national grid in 2007.
Insufficient energy production remains a major roadblock to Bangladeshi growth. Apart from such poorly maintained infrastructure, power generation is stifled by ancient land acquisition laws that impede mining and a severe shortage in the production of natural gas; coal and gas account for 70 per cent of energy generated in the country. Read more
Since the collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka’s Rana Plaza last April, which killed more than 400 people and injured many more, Bangladesh’s garment industry has been popularly associated with wretched working conditions and exploitation.
A new research paper, however, reveals an altogether more benign side to the country’s garment industry. Read more
Remittances sent home by Bangladeshi workers overseas rose 19.7 per cent to a record monthly high of $1.4bn in July, boosting the country’s GDP outlook, bolstering the current account surplus and helping to offset an over-reliance on garment exports, analysts said.
“The improvement is credit positive for Bangladesh (Ba3 stable) because it suggests a bolstering of the sovereign’s external payments position,” said Moody’s, the credit rating agency, in an August 11 report (see chart below).
Bangladesh, the eighth biggest remittance recipient country in the world, relies on such inflows to drive consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 80 per cent of domestic GDP. Moody’s projected the remittance inflows will push GDP growth above 6 per cent this fiscal year, up from 5.8 per cent last fiscal year. Read more
In the aftermath and shock of the Rana Plaza disaster, in which more than 1,100 people died, many promises were made. Yet the Bangladesh government has been lethargic and its promises of action on factory safety and labour relations have hit familiar walls. Foreign powers, meanwhile, have produced contrasting responses. Read more
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s recognition of Bangladesh. It’s not a celebrated anniversary for many, least of all the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina. The year, 1975, was also that of the death of her father, the country’s independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His struggle against Pakistani domination was bitterly opposed by Beijing, where in 1971 state media described him as a “puppet countenance” and the country’s creation as “fascist nonsense”. It wasn’t until he and most of his family were gunned down that China opened relations with the country. Read more
Anyone reading about Bangladesh would be forgiven for thinking it’s a one-industry country. And when it comes to exports, they wouldn’t be far wrong. More than three quarters of Bangladesh’s exports are of ready-made garments. The anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, in which more than 1,100 people died, has focussed attention on the industry’s dangers. But what is being done to move the economy away from sweat shop factories? Read more
Ashraful, 30, was a line quality supervisor in the New Wave Style factory on the seventh floor of Rana Plaza. He can’t remember April 24 2013 but in the weeks following manufacturing’s worst ever disaster, he spent weeks chained to a hospital bed. Like many who were trapped in the destroyed building Ashraful was deeply traumatised and can no longer smell, taste or work.
It was only after this disaster and his subsequent unemployment that his wife, Lucky, 25, began also working in the garments trade, for a company called Standard Garments. Like millions of Bangladeshi women, this was the only avenue open for her to support her family. But following the disaster has come a mounting concern that while Bangladesh is still the go-to location for low-end garments manufacturing, other emerging markets may soon develop the capacity to compete. Read more
By Ifty Islam of Asian Tiger Capital
A “patient in intensive care” or a “slow-moving train wreck” – I’m not sure which of these analogies best describes the state of democracy in Bangladesh – maybe both? But there can be little doubt that after a tumultuous 2013, the country’s political system is in trouble and a majority of country’s 160m people are desperate for a solution and end to the mindless violence.
The human tragedy in terms of hundreds of innocent civilians being killed – including many burnt to death by petrol bombs thrown at buses and trucks, and thousands injured, has been horrific. But the extent of polarisation between prime minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia and their increasingly bitter and entrenched “no compromise” mindset is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the current crisis. Read more
Britain: quite safe, actually
Monday’s storm in southern England may cost insurers around $500m, and the economic impact will be greater still. But for all the media’s headlines about killer storms and more chaos to come, London will be relatively untouched by the flux in weather for the near future.
In fact, London and Paris are the only cities facing a “low risk” from the impacts of climate change, according to a new report from Maplecroft, a risk consultancy. For cities at greater risk, look elsewhere. Read more
Garment makers are set to stay in Bangladesh despite poor factory safety and worker unrest, according to a survey of 29 chief purchasing officers of some of the best-known European and US apparel manufacturers. But the level of commitment is falling. Read more
Five months after the Rana Plaza factory collapse that left more than 1,100 dead and caused international outrage, Bangladesh is trying to improve the working conditions of its garment workers and allow for greater labour representation. The FT’s Ben Marino reports from Dhaka.
Russel can make you look very popular: for as little as $15 he can give your fan page on Facebook 1,000 unique ‘likes’ in three or four hours. Russel is a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who featured in an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme into the fraudulent side of internet marketing. What it found was that Russel’s employees were part of a huge ‘cyber reserve army’ at work fraudulently assisting brands to appear popular online.
The ‘fake like’ industry appears to be thriving just as Bangladesh struggles to establish its own orthodox IT sector in the shadow of its giant neighbour, India. Read more
Grameen Bank, founded by the pioneer of microfinance, Muhammed Yunus, has become a political football in Bangladesh. Yunus resigned from the globally-renowned Bangladeshi microfinance lender in 2011 over his age after a government campaign to remove him. Yunus – who had talked of starting a political party – has remained influential despite his removal from the board.
Now there are reports that the Bangladeshi government is pushing to take majority control of the bank – and Yunus’s supporters are up in arms. Read more
The US has suspended preferential access to its market for Bangladesh because of what it sees as slow progress in enforcing heath and safety standards in the country’s largest export industry, ready-made garments, following the Rana Plaza factory disaster (pictured).
The move, announced by the Obama administration on Thursday, could damage the international reputation of the garment industry and hit Bangladesh’s exports. Read more
Never give up hope: soldiers digging through the rubble of the Bangladesh factory collapse say a woman has been found alive 17 days after the disaster, the BBC reports.
That’s one life against the 1,000-plus that have been lost. It’s just very unlikely there will be more survivors to add to the 2,500 people who have escaped death. It’s virtually certain there will be more bodies. But rescuers deserve every credit for perseverance. Read more
By Qazi Arif of Envision Architects
Nearly two weeks have passed since the disaster at Rana Plaza in Savar, Dhaka, which is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, and the deadliest structural failure in modern times.
It is easy to simply say the building was poorly constructed. How and why is harder to understand, given the confusion and and buck-passing surrounding building permits and construction regulation. How can this be prevented in future? Read more
Last week’s tragedy at a nine-storey factory complex in Bangladesh has sparked a long-overdue debate on outsourcing to low-wage workers in precarious conditions and what action multinationals should take.
Coincidentally, it is in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster that the Walt Disney Company, the world’s largest licensor, has stopped production of goods under its brand name in Bangladesh. Read more