Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013

Political strife setting economy back: Mozena

Dan W Mozena

Dan W Mozena

The confrontational politics of recent months must be stopped if the country wants to become a middle-income country, the US ambassador to Bangladesh said yesterday.
“I often speak of Bangladesh’s potential to be Asia’s next tiger. But, Asian Tigers can emerge only from an environment that fosters growth, promotes investment, encourages risk and produces success,” said Dan W Mozena during his visit to Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE).
“But the strikes, violence and turbulence of the past several months have the complete opposite effect,” he said, adding that the political turbulence creates losses of $200 million a day.
He cited the new troughs the DSE has witnessed in recent days, and it is “largely because political unrest is undermining investor confidence”.
On Sunday, DGEN, a key index of DSE, plummeted to 3,610 points — a 40-month low.
The US ambassador said it would be understandable if buyers and investors take their “business and investment dollars elsewhere” after the 22 days of hartals the country has had so far this year.
“This is not how to build an Asian Tiger. Bangladesh simply cannot afford such losses to continue month after month. The strike, the violence and turbulence of recent months must stop.”
He suggested the major political parties to engage in dialogue to address differences, and “how best to ensure that the coming elections are free, fair and credible”. Mozena also touched upon the subject of working conditions at garment factories.
“In America, in Europe and around the world, consumers, governments, and buyers are increasingly concerned. In America, these concerns are manifested in the ongoing review of whether Bangladesh is qualified to receive trade benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).”
Although a public hearing last week in Washington underscored the important progress Bangladesh has made in addressing the concerns, more remains to be done, he said.
“I urge the Bangladesh government and industry to engage deeply over coming weeks, before the actual review discussions begin in late May, to institute the needed reforms,” he said, adding that loss of GSP would send a negative message to the world.
Mozena also urged the government to tackle the serious infrastructure and other constraints such as inadequate ports, roads, railroad, power and energy supplies, corruption, deficient rule of law, political stability.
Kh Asadul Islam Ripon, managing director of City Brokerage Limited, said positive economic indicators brought about $300 million of portfolio investment in the past three months “despite all the odds”.