Both the major political parties in Bangladesh have been equally active in using general strikes (hartals) as a means of protest, costing the nation a staggering 3-4% of Gross Domestic Production (GDP) annually, revealed a report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Dhaka on Thursday. The report, titled ‘Beyond Hartals: Towards Democratic Dialogue in Bangladesh’, also noted that only fewer hartals and more dialogues could reduce poverty in Bangladesh. UNDP country representative Jorgen Lissner presented the report at a press conference held at a city hotel.
“When in opposition, political parties are usually denied adequate chance to voice their views. The opposition is frequently sidelined in parliament and their social mobilization activities are curbed,” said the report. The report also put forward a number of short-term and long-term alternatives to hartal. It encouraged whichever party in opposition to voice its concerns through peaceful methods and, at the same time, encouraged the regime in power to allow greater space for ‘culture of democratic dialogue’ to take hold and grow in Bangladesh. The press conference was also addressed, among others, by Samson H Chowdhury, chairman of Squire Group and Yasmeen Morshed, chairperson of Scholastica.