Business is slowly getting back on feet in the country now that the BNP-led 20-party alliance has taken a back-foot, may be temporarily though, from nearly three months of violent anti-government campaign featuring non-stop blockade and almost regular hartal (general strike).
But the impact of what many see as a far-reaching political crisis looks set to last for years due to the
fallout of disrupted economic activities and countrywide blockade.
Besides, more than 100 people have been killed and hundreds more injured by pro-Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activists using petrol bombs and arson attacks on vehicles across the country.
BNP and its alliance partners have ceased the hartal from this week to allow themselves a breather to
prepare for City Corporation elections in Dhaka and Chittagong, due on April 28. Hectic campaign for
party-backed aspirants for posts of Mayor and
Councillor in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) stared even before nominations had been filed with the Election Commission.
People welcome a respite from months of unrest called for by BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and enforced by her followers as small businesses including the footpath trade and backstreet sale of essentials have increased and are expected to rise further during the month before the city polls.
What would be the scenario like after the polls is uncertain - as Khaleda Zia's alliance has threatened to go back to a full-blast anti-government movement inclusive of blockade and hartal if the voting in city polls was not free and fair (and the results did not go in favour of chosen contestants).
Meanwhile, threats and counter-threats are raging between BNP and ruling Awami League, which both have fielded candidates to test popularity in the two main cities - Dhaka, the seat of administration and Chittagong, the principal hub of business.
Asadulla, a shop owner at Eastern Mollika in the capital, said that sale of goods now was around 70 per cent of a normal time and the trend is positive. The sale in January-February was about 40 per cent of normal time, he added.
"The situation has improved a lot."
SA Kader Kiron, President of Bangladesh Shop Owners Association, told The Daily Observer, now every shop has re-opened and the sale has gone up. "We hope the negative effect of the BNP-led unrest will be over soon."
Abul Hashem, edible oil and sugar businessman, told The Daily Observer, "Sale is going up from last week. Despite some fear still persisting, people are carrying on businesses enthusiastically."
Bishwajit Saha, General Manager of City Group Ltd said, "The product supply and sales have increased across the country."
Former President of Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association (Barvida) Habib Ullah Don said, 6,400 vehicles were stuck at Chittagong and Mongla ports at the beginning of February but at present the number has reduced to 5,000.
Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) sources said, almost Tk 1,50,000 crore have been lost in 85 days for turmoil by the BNP-led 20 party alliance. More than 100 people have been killed and hundreds more injured.
Apparel sector suffered a loss of Tk 50,000 crore, transport and communication sector Tk 22,500 crore, retail and wholesale businesses Tk 25,000 crore, real estate Tk 15,750 crore, agricultural and poultry Tk 15,518 crore, tourism Tk 12,500 crore and manufacturing incurred a loss of Tk 7,000 crore during the period.
FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed said the national economy was facing a "disaster" due to the ongoing political turmoil.
"Economic losses the nation sustained in last two and a half months due to political violence surpass more than half the country's annual budget," Akram Uddin added.
The country's business community, especially the small businessmen, are the worst sufferers of the ongoing political violence, said the chief of the apex business body.
He urged the BNP chairperson to "stop the killing of innocent people and destroying the economy".
Zahid Hussain, lead economist of World Bank in Dhaka office, said the "standard definition of political instability is the propensity of a government collapse either because of conflicts or rampant competition between various political parties. Also, the occurrence of a government change increases the likelihood of subsequent changes. Political instability tends to be persistent."
"The current political unrest is going to leave a long term negative impact on the total economy of Bangladesh." he told the Daily Observer.
Apart from the direct loss to the formal economic sector, the blockade poses a big threat to the country's image on the global market, said Atiqul Islam, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).