April has been a bad month for Bangladeshi garment factory owners and exporters. For a start, the Bangladesh Garment Manufactureres and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have been stung by widespread criticism inside and outside the country for failing to do anything about the sweatshop conditions - conditions which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of workers. An international day of action held on 11th April highlighted their infinite greed …and now they have decided to throw in the towel as far as the American market is concerned. They are on the verge of discontinuing lobbying in the US for dutry free access of readymade garments to the US.

Apparently the BGMEA have been employing lobbyists for about five years to try to crack the market. Most recently, from mid- 2004, they have been contracting Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg for the handsome amount of $25,000 per month. And the result has been a big Zero. Now the members of the BGMEA are fed up of spending such vast amounts on a monthly basis and they want to discontinue lobbying. What is interesting is the recent lobby scandal in which the government got embroiled has some bearing on this issue. According to this report, part of of the remit of the Washington Group and Ketchum ( two of the three lobbyists engaged by the government) was to gain concessions for textile exports to the US. What will happen now?

Well I have a few ideas about what the BGMEA could do with the money they will save. Let me just mention one - it is realistic and attainable. And really if the BGMEA members wish to preserve their riches, retain their privileged status gained off the backs of garment workers and indeed promote the industry, they should do it without delay: impose strict regulatory conditions on the industry re health and safety and prosecute without hesitation those employers ignoring such conditions.