THE gathering clouds in the political horizon of the country are worrisome for the people at large, though it may not be so to the political leaders. The latest developments in the polity have, thus, caused a serious concern in public mind. Business leaders and some economists again echoed early this week this haunting anxiety as they told this paper that the already stressed national economy would receive severe blows in the event of persistence of the current confrontational politics. Bangladesh can experience, they said, yet another period of economic slowdown leaving the poor to bear the brunt. "We are now at a cross-roads following the abolition of textile quotas… The economy can ill-afford to bear the losses on account of hartals", they warned. Will the political parties on both sides of the vertically rising political fence -- the ruling party and the opposition -- appreciate the grave challenges facing the nation and turn around for a reconciliation showing a concern for public weal?
The nation indeed faces a difficult time, and the challenges thrown by it are so grave that it will be hard to surmount. While the oil prices have climbed to its all-time record peak, the sagging Bangladesh Taka (BDT) floats hopelessly in the foreign exchange market with its value already depreciated too much too soon, to the chagrin of all concerned. And this has happened, quite oddly, at a time when the position of the US dollar has weakened in relation to all other major currencies in the global market. Even the currencies of India and Pakistan, two neighbouring South Asian countries, have gained against the US dollar.
Meanwhile, businessmen have complained about a host of unfavourable circumstances -- power crisis, soaring import costs of raw materials, intermediate products, machine and spares in terms of the local currency -- that have compounded their problems. What will happen to this import-dependent fragile economy with a largely undiversified export basket and that too having items, not very essential in nature? Supply disruption may lead to a situation where annoyed foreign buyers can at ease switch over to other competing countries for their procurements. Besides, work stoppages that disrupt economic activities, while the overhead expenditures remain unchanged, will invariably push up the costs of production, eroding the competitiveness of local products in the global market. It will be foolhardy to expect that foreign buyers would show mercy to local exporters and buy their products at inflated prices. The already injured economy of Bangladesh should not, therefore, be further strained from within at this critical time with unabated confrontational politics.
What will happen to this fragile economy if the current US-Iran war of words over the latter's nuclear programme unfortunately turns into a violent war of actions to drive the oil prices to newer peaks? The global economy will then face severe multi-pronged adverse chain-reactions. The least developed countries (LDCs) like Bangladesh have no cushion to fend themselves against such adversities. Already the Bangladesh economy is in quite difficult times because of the adverse effects of record high oil prices, if not anything else. Under such circumstances, the continuing chaos resulting from confrontational politics will cause a havoc for which the political parties across the current divide, will alone be held responsible. There will be valid reasons then for the apolitical poor people to think that rich politicians do not actually care for the state or for public sufferings but only for power.
It is unfortunate that the proposed dialogue between the government and the opposition on the issues of reforming the provision of the care-taker government and the Election Commission is yet to begin. All concerned -- barring, of course, those who continue to put their narrow partisan agenda above the interests of the nation -- would like to see the dialogue to begin to put a lid on the confrontational politics. The sooner, the better.