Poll unrest deals economic blow  

The country’s economy lost Tk. 108.5 billion ($1.4 billion) during the violent run-up to the January 5th general election, according to the World Bank.

The service sector represented 86% of losses, followed by 11% in industry and the rest in agriculture, due to the political turmoil and uncertainty during 2013’s last quarter, the bank reported in its “Bangladesh Development Update”, released April 9th.

violance BDThe loss equals nearly half the total estimated cost of Tk. 226 billion ($2.92 billion) to build the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, the country’s biggest infrastructure project.

“There could be some controversy about the magnitude of the loss but there is no denying that the unrest had a very negative impact on the economy,” University of Dhaka economics professor Abu Ahmed told Khabar South Asia. “If we cannot ensure political stability in the near future, our economic growth will be sluggish in 2015 and 2016 as well.”

Dimmer outlook

The turmoil has pushed officials and economists to revise downward their national GDP forecast for 2014. GDP is poised to grow 5.4% this year, smaller than last year’s growth rate of 6%, the World Bank said.

“For a country like Bangladesh, which has drawn international praise for consistently achieving over 6% growth in the past five years despite myriad challenges, slowing GDP growth is a matter of concern,” said Monowar Mostafa, research head of Development Synergy Institute, a Dhaka-based think-tank.

He added the economy will likely keep growing during the next two years because of rising export earnings from the garment, pharmaceutical and shipbuilding sectors, among others.

“Given the unusual turmoil that Bangladesh had gone through last year, 5.4% growth is certainly not unsatisfactory,” World Bank chief economist for Bangladesh Zahid Hussain told a press briefing, noting that India’s projected growth rate for 2014 was 5.7%.

“What we really want”

Business owners are relieved a semblance of stability is returning after prolonged unrest.

“We don’t really understand what GDP means. What we really want is that there should not be any more strikes and violence so that we can lead a normal life and do our business,” Sheikh Masum, a grocer at Dhaka’s Hatirpul Bazaar, told Khabar.

“It’s the responsibility of the government and the political parties to make our life easier.”

 Courtesy: Khabar South Asia