Emergency rule boosts Bangladesh garment exports: Industry

Emergency rule boosts Bangladesh garment exports: Industry

DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh’s garment exports are booming thanks to a new, stable business climate under the country’s state of emergency, officials said Wednesday.

The nation’s exports of knitted and woven items rose by nearly 17 percent to a record 10.7 billion dollars in the financial year to June 2008.

"We had an image as a strike-prone country. Buyers from all over the world used to worry a lot about whether our manufacturers could meet shipment deadlines," Export Promotion Bureau chief Shahab Ullah told AFP.

"But the state of emergency brought much-needed stability as there have been hardly any strikes."

The garment export growth rate in the last financial year was up only marginally from the previous year’s 16 percent rise.

But industry officials said the headline figure masks a big achievement considering exports fell 5.37 percent in the first quarter of the last financial year, amid concern about the country’s political outlook.

It took a while for buyers to realise that Bangladesh could be a stable supplier of garments and after that "export orders jumped," Ullah said.

"To buyers, stability means a lot," said Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury Parvez, head of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, which covers 4,200 factories.

Chowdhury said global buyers — mainly from the US and the European Union — started looking towards Bangladesh from October.

Exports leapt by 51 percent year-on-year in January and by more than 20 percent in the other months until the end of the financial year.

A state of emergency was imposed in Bangladesh in January 2007, banning strikes after months of bitter political and industrial unrest that left dozens killed and closed factories and ports.

The military-backed government has promised elections in December 2008 after it completes political, electoral and economic reforms.

Garment industry officials said they hoped the industrial climate would remain stable after democracy is restored.

Constant general strikes paralysed the country amid a duel between Bangladesh’s two main rival political parties, the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party, before the imposition of emergency rule.

The garment trade accounts for 40 percent of all industrial jobs in Bangladesh, with women making up more than 80 percent of the workforce.

Some 40 percent of Bangladesh’s 144 million people live below the poverty line. Poor households spend nearly 70 percent of their income on food.

Garments, which make up three-quarters of the impoverished country’s export earnings, helped boost total exports by 16 percent to a record 14.11 billion dollars in the last financial year.


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