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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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

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? Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

By Ifty Islam of Asian Tiger Capital Partners

The collapse of Rana Plaza, the eight-storey building housing garment factories in Savar, near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has seen more than 300 killed and over 1200 injured, with many hundreds still missing.

Coming only five months after 111 deaths in an earlier factory fire, the overwhelming sentiment in Bangladesh has gone from shock to moral outrage about the scant regard for human life among the factory owners. There have been violent protests across Dhaka by thousands of enraged garment factory workers. Continue reading »

Subscribers to Bangladeshi mobile operator, Grameenphone, can breathe easy: Dhaka has no plans to suspend the company’s license – or its services. But Grameenphone’s owner, Telenor, still has cause for concern: Bangladesh’s government has not ruled out trying to force the Norwegian company to cede control of the lucrative venture. Continue reading »

The deadly fire at a clothing factory in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka in November, in which 117 workers died, could have consequences for the country’s exports as well as for its tarnished reputation as a manufacturing power. Continue reading »

By Ifty Islam of Asian Tiger Capital Partners

The fire and tragic loss of 112 workers in the Tazreen Factory on November 24 in Ashulia, the hub of Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) industry, has made headlines around the world.

As well as the human and material loss, substantial damage has been done to the image of a sector that accounts for 80 per cent of merchandise exports and to the country as a whole. The cost to Bangladesh’s reputation could be translated into economic losses if the global giants of apparel retailing, led by the US’s Walmart, as well as major trading houses such as Li and Fung, take business elsewhere in their moral indignation and outrageContinue reading »

Bangladesh is widely known as significant exporter of garments to major Western brands in Europe and the US. Less noticed has been the rapid growth of its leather industry, which last year exported around $663m worth of leather and leather products to Italy, Spain, Germany, China, South Korea and Japan.

But global importers sourcing leather from Bangladesh for handbags, shoes and jackets are running the risk of a severe blow to their reputation, with a human rights group now training its sights on abuses by the country’s unregulated export-oriented leather industry. Continue reading »