Bangladesh

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