Dhaka businessmen demand ban on strikes in poll run-up

November 16th, 2008 - 2:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 16 (IANS) Hoping to prevent a repeat of the agitations and unrest that hit the economy during the political turmoil last year, Bangladesh’s worried business community has demanded a ban on strikes in the run up to the much-delayed general elections next month.Besides industrial unrest, the business community has also urged the military-backed caretaker government to prevent the use of children in the political campaign.

The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), at a conference Saturday, also called for a consensus among the political parties to eschew industrial agitations.

The ninth general election was called off in January last year after several months of political turmoil that also affected the economy adversely.

The closure of industrial units, blockade of roads and work suspension at the ports hurt production and exports that the business community took months to recover from.

The non-compliance of export orders, particularly ready made garments and knitwear that are Bangladesh’s top foreign exchange earners, led to investors and importers cancelling orders or going to other markets, including India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Indonesia.

“Parties should reach a consensus that the next elected government will enact a law banning hartal (shutdown) and strike in the greater interest of the economy,” FBCCI president Annisul Huq was quoted as saying by New Age newspaper Sunday.

Briefing on the economic agenda and tasks they have set for the next government, Huq said the use of children under-18 in political programmes should also be banned.

“We want a truly democratic government that will build a society free from hartal, corruption and extortion to boost the economy,” he said.

He also placed a 56-point agenda for the next government for the development of 21 sectors.

The agenda, prepared on the basis of suggestions from the chambers, trade bodies and business houses, covers sectors including energy, food security, foreign direct investment, transport and industrial infrastructures, and revenue.

Huq said the business community wanted the government to extensively focus on poverty reduction.

“The next government in its first 100 days should also finalise the coal policy and start negotiations with coalmine-area people on their rehabilitation,’ says the agenda.

Huq called on the government to launch ‘Invest in Bangladesh’ campaign to attract more FDI.

“The Bangladesh Bank should launch at least three packages to attract foreign remittances in productive investments.

The business leaders also emphasised increased public-private partnerships in every sector saying the business community and political parties together can accelerate growth.

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