Saturday, January 25, 2020 | ePaper

Mid East crisis also an economic concern for Bangladesh

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AS tension between the US and Iran fuel fears of war, any armed conflict between the countries is likely that will deal a blow to Bangladesh's export-import and overseas job market in the Middle East. It is also feared that oil prices have already started going up, and if it continues, global economy will witness a downturn. As Bangladesh heavily depends on migrant remittance and oil import from the Middle East, which has over half of the world's proven oil reserves, while the US is one of Bangladesh's largest export destinations, we must face economic slowdown. Middle East tension flared up after an US drone attack killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3, and Iran retaliated by attacking US bases in Iraq.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed concern over escalation of tension between the two countries, saying developing countries like Bangladesh would suffer if oil prices rise. If a war breaks out and it spreads across the Middle Eastern regions and prolongs, it will have adverse impact on our economy. On Wednesday, Iran, in retaliation of the attack on Soleimani, fired missiles on the US airbases in Iraq, heightening fears of a war. Immediately after news of the missile strikes on Wednesday, international benchmark Brent crude climbed more than 4 percent, reaching a session high of $71.75 per barrel - its highest value since September. In Bangladesh, the price of liquefied petroleum gas has increased by 20 percent at retail stores after the rise in oil prices in the international market. Bangladesh's total imports hit $65 billion a year and most of the imported items are commodities. Any rise in gas and oil prices will affect the prices and supplies of the commodities. The US demand for readymade garments from Bangladesh might go down as it would have to invest money for the war. The US imports RMG products worth more than $6 billion from Bangladesh.
The number of recruits by Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman has also decreased in recent months. Safety and security of our migrant workers in the Middle East would be a matter of serious concern. Bangladesh has not much to do at the moment other than ensuring migrants' safety in case there is a war. Our people need to be trained for the sectors, including hospitality, healthcare and care-giving to find out alternative destinations. The government should be cautious to face the economic slowdown.

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