imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for January, 2008

Thursday
Jan 31,2008

Rub your hands all those of you with apartments in Gulshan…here is another giant moving into Bangladesh and driving up your property prices. Forbes reports that Vodafone is “looking at a number of options including the acquisition of any of the six mobile phone companies now operating in the country…We are excited by the growth possibilities in Bangladesh.” Oh yes….so are a lot of property owning NRBs!

Great I say if it helps reduces call charges. I don’t know what the situation is now, but even as recently as 2004 Bangladesh had the highest ( ie most expensive) call rates anywhere in South Asia and there were consumer protests about this including a demonstration if i remember rightly. The impact of liberalisation was overwhelmingly adverse for the consumer. The sequential release of licenses helped the first guys to make super profits and monopolise the entire sector. However things are changing. The regulator (BTRC) has recently been praised for price capping and other measures but derided (by Joe Bloggs at least) for proscribing VoIP.

Someone now needs to tell Steve Jobs that as the market for BMWs is now limited in the country ( chuckle, chuckle) “in the face of the government’s anti-corruption drive” - not a single damn sale last year - there must be a lot of cash floating about. And the iPhone is nowhere near as conspicuous as the 5 series. Potential owners can even hide it in their lungis?

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Wednesday
Jan 30,2008

The Clean Clothes Campaign have issued a press release regarding Mehedi Hassan, a field investigator for the Washington DC based Workers Rights Consortium. I blogged about the arrest yesterday. Here is the press release:

DEMAND RELEASE OF FACTORY INVESTIGATOR IN BANGLADESH

On January 24 Mehedi Hasan, a field investigator for the Washington
D.C.-based Worker Rights Consortium, was arrested by the Bangladesh
security forces.  Since then, Mr. Hasan has been held in detention and
authorities have refused to let his family visit him.  Hasan’s arrest
takes place in a context of severe repression by the military-backed
“caretaker” government.  Since January 12, 2007 the government has
banned political and trade union activities.  Both Bangladeshi and
foreign labor rights advocates have been put under surveillance,
interrogated and detained.

See also: http://www.cleanclothes.org/urgent/08-01-30.htm
——————————————————————
TAKE ACTION
——————————————————————
Please contact your embassy in Bangladesh and call for Mr. Hasan’s
immediate release and an end to the repression of labor rights activism.

To find the address of your embassy:
http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Bangladesh#3823

SAMPLE LETTER

Embassy in Bangladesh

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am contacting you to ask for your immediate intervention in the case
of Mehedi Hasan, a field investigator employed by the U.S. labor rights
organization Worker Rights Consortium.  Since January 24, Mr. Hasan has
been held in detention and authorities have refused to let his family
visit him.  I am deeply concerned about Mr. Hasan’s safety.

The arrest appears to be part of a broader campaign of repression by the
government against labor rights advocates in the wake of recent
demonstrations by apparel workers in Dhaka.  Both Bangladeshi and
foreign labor rights advocates have been put under surveillance,
interrogated and detained.

The Worker Rights Consortium is a Washington, D.C.-based organization
affiliated with 178 U.S. universities and colleges.  Mr. Hasan’s job is
simply to monitor compliance with labor rights codes of conduct in
factories producing clothing for WRC-affiliated universities.  His work
is an ordinary component of corporate social responsibility and an
important part of efforts to assure consumers that the goods they buy
are made under decent and fair working conditions.

I strongly urge you to call on the Bangladeshi government to release Mr.
Hasan immediately.  I also ask you to insist that the government lift
its ban on trade union activities and stop persecuting Bangladeshi and
foreign labor rights advocates.

Sincerely,

Worker Rights Consortium bother

  • Filed under: labour
Tuesday
Jan 29,2008

So what is all this about? Anyone know anything?

“There is no legitimate reason for Mehedi Hasan’s arrest and we call upon the government of Bangladesh to effect his immediate and unconditional release”

Authorities have arrested a Bangladeshi man who works for an American labor rights watchdog for allegedly instigating protests by textile workers in violation of emergency rules, a police official said Tuesday.

Mehedi Hasan, a field investigator for the Washington, D.C.-based Worker Rights Consortium, was arrested on Saturday at Dhaka’s Zia International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Bangkok, the official said.The official, who is involved in Hasan’s interrogation, cannot be identified because of local briefing rules.

Migrant Workers in the Gulf

  • Filed under: labour
Tuesday
Jan 29,2008

“Do they really cook cats behind the mall?” one journalist asks another on an-all expenses paid visit to Dubai.

“That’s what I’ve heard,” replies her traveling partner.

They are talking about foreign workers who reportedly sleep in the shadow of Dubai’s famous indoor ski slopes at the lavish Mall of the Emirates.

Read the whole article HERE

There has been a lot of press coverage given to the Abu Dhabi dialogue about migrant labour issues. Above is a little taster. I will be posting a few more things.

Sunday
Jan 27,2008

Suharto

Suharto’s daughter said: “We ask that if he had any faults, please forgive them”

“any faults.” The understatement of this century so far?  Surely matches the breathtaking revisionism of Le Pen’s statement about the holocaust being a “mere detail in the history of World War 2?”

Thursday
Jan 24,2008

Yes folks its time to give you a free mp3 download. Kamal Ahmed gives a glorious performance of this classic Ghazal. ( right click and select save link as).

We use this song in our documentary Swapnabhumi (about the plight of the urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh). Kamal, the singer, is from Adamjee “bihari camp.” During the making of a documentary, the nature of editing is such that you go over the footage multiple times.  During that entire period, we never tired of Kamal’s wonderful voice and the ghazals he sang. You will find this mp3 and at at least one other song in the web site for the documentary (almost finished!!).

Right Click this link and select save as. Or if you want to play in your browser just left click. And here is rough translation of the lyrics from urdu.
(please) embrace me, i am very sad

release me from the sadness of this world
i am very sad

embrace me

Now even beautiful sights spike my eyes like arrows
i’m weary of all crumbling relations

hand me some more burdens, i am very sad
embrace me

You have borne much sorrow in this world

but do not be sad
the eventide of sorrow is near

do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world
the sword of injustice will break
this wall of high and low will fall
i promise you my friend , do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world

who knows when this way, this condition will change
when this perod of torture, sorrow and trouble will change

take me from the world
i am very sad

embrace me, i am very sad
(please)embrace me

Why release “evil forces?”

Wednesday
Jan 23,2008

Only last august they were termed as  “evil forces.” The most “evil” among them was forced to issue a grovelling apology “to every single member of the ranks ranging from a soldier to the army chief” and yet today they are all free. What happened? Simple. What happened is what usually happens to those who start throwing around the term “evil” to deal with those who dissent and those who view things differently. Sooner or later, it catches up with them. And how are they who label people “evil” feeling tonight as the professors and students return triumphantly? As I have said before last august, the worst democracy is better than a ……… Indeed who are the evil FORCES?

Dhallywood Posters

Monday
Jan 21,2008

Dhaliwood posters

click picture to see more!

Peculiar graphic design, buxom wenches, explicit action, wanton violence - yes this caretaker government has had an impact on all of these! Dhallywood has been facing some serious restructuring with so-called “obscene” films finding it more and more difficult to surface. But as always there is a peculiar history…..the state’s involvement in both the production of such films in the first place and then their censorship is often overlooked! I will be discussing this more and more this coming year. So here is a little taster from my modest poster collection ( standing at about 500 now….!). I have uploaded a miserly eight for your delectatation and edification. No particular reason behind the choice - they are the first that came to hand. And they are by no means the best..nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Follow the link HERE.


Go East, my son

Saturday
Jan 19,2008

The sweet scent of moolah is bringing the great and the good ( or the rich and the bad if you prefer) to New York city for a conference entitled “Updated Investment Opportunities in Bangladesh.” The Asia Society is holding a panel discussion called “Bangladesh: Untapped Opportunities.” Here is the exciting blurb:

The Word Bank calls it the Bangladesh Paradox. The Bangladesh economy has steadily accelerated in recent years, with growth reaching 7% in 2006. The country scores particularly well on socio-economic indicators. Global banks and multilateral institutions present a highly optimistic outlook: Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Merrill Lynch have identified Bangladesh as a key investment opportunity. This impressive growth occurs in a climate of political restructuring. A caretaker government is implementing reforms toward privatizing many state-owned enterprises. The Dhaka Stock Exchange Index is at a 10-year high, up 66 percent this year, making it Asia’s top performer after China. And the stock market is expected to double in size in 2008.

Discover why market-oriented reforms, strong socio-economic indicators and highly favorable demographics are poised to render Bangladesh one of the world’s most exciting investment opportunities.

Friday
Jan 18,2008

G M B Akash’s 2008 porftolio is now there for you to see. Some great shots there but the ones re drug users look a little…… without any text? A little piece of reality with striking colours but without any conscience? Don’t know. Don’t get me wrong I am a keen amateur and I love photography but without context the photographer imposes his own preferences about style and composition and taste over and above the “condition” he is photographing?

GMB Akash 2008

Venture Capital in Bangladesh

Thursday
Jan 17,2008

Buoyed by the inclusion of Bangladesh in J P Morgan’s “Frontier Five” group of countries and also Goldman Sach’s “Next Eleven” group, Asian Tiger Capital Partners have launched themselves in Bangladesh complete with a bengal tiger as logo. Their blurb goes like this

Asian Tiger Capital Partners is one of the first financial institutions in Bangladesh focusing on private equity and venture capital. Asian Tiger Capital Partners invests in leading companies and works with management to grow and improve them and thereby create shareholder value.

I read more of their interim web site and find that they want to invest in companies with a strong domestic and foreign presence and also create joint ventures in sectors such as outsourcing. There are not many indicators what these companies are. I would have also thought there is an assurance problem here…and am quite surprised to learn that the World Bank ranks Bangladesh higher than India in terms of “Investor Protection.” The political analysis of Bangladesh is a little …em…glossy but this site is certainly one to watch though.

Tuesday
Jan 15,2008

Lonely Planet Guide on Bangladesh

If you drive around Dhaka, you will find street urchins and adults approach you with paperback books. Copyright is not a major headache in Bangladesh, and facsimiles of popular books will be on offer - just like the foreign DVD market. Anyway, a couple of years ago I let slip my high moral principles about intellectual property and bought a Lonely Planet Guide for 100 takas. I have lots to say about parts of it…but overall it was not that bad. I say this grudgingly because Lonely Planet guides are notoriously xenophobic in my opinion. Its guides to Ecuador, Peru and Colombia - my honeymoon destinations - were all full of xenophobic bilge. Anyway, I look forward to this new installment on Bangladesh. And just by chance, whilst using the social network browser Flock ( its damn good - try it!) I discovered these photos on Flickr from a recce trip by the Lonely Planet Guide photographer ( presumably). Take a look. Very interesting shots.

Lonely Planet Guide on Bangladesh?

Saturday
Jan 12,2008

Is it an effort to catch the headlines? Is it simply that Yunus is used to hyperbole? Or is he demented? What made him say the things he did in New York? He basically said that Bangladesh had made enormous strides and that if things kept on going like this….then BY THE YEAR 2030 Bangladesh WOULD BE A MODERN COUNTRY FREE FROM POVERTY.

Not since my fresher year have I heard such nonsense. I remember Montek Ahluwalia’s “inverted U” hypothesis of income inequality and development. A simple story told elegantly but totally unrealistically. All you development economists out there will know what I am on about. And we had a great time poking fun at the poverty of neoclassical economics. Yunus, unlike Ahluwalia, has no pretensions to base his argument on regression analysis or stats or comparative examples or history. He is just shooting his mouth off saying what he needs to for his own reasons. Give it a rest Mr Yunus. You are making a bloody fool of yourself.

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Friday
Jan 4,2008

I wake up this morning and my ever changing RSS feed reader tells me Libya is heading the UN Security Council. My first instinct is change my feed reader again. But no, it appears to be true no matter what xml I digest. My second instinct is to rub my eyes vigorously. Again that didnt change things either. The country which has sponsored terrorism in Scotland, Italy, Germany ( these are the ones I know of and there are plenty of other places I am sure) and has been involved in wars and conflicts in Africa and which has given succour to the killers of Sheikh Mujib is now the President of the world’s security council??? For fxxxx sake I say. Is there no limit to this? The rehabilitation of Gaddafi the nutter is now complete. Blair visited him. Then Sarkozy and now this.

Is there a positive side to this at all? Well, if it means we get to see more of Gaddafi’s Amazonian guard then at least that’s something…..?! For those who dont know….his personal bodyguard teams consists exclusively of leggy women, trained to use sophisticated weaponry and dressed, literally, to kill :- )