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Unrest in Bangladesh fails to sour country’s economic outlook

Over the past week, a series of mass protests in Bangladesh have resulted in the deaths of at least four civilians and, by some counts, the arrest of more than 1,200. Protesters have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to the policies of current Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Opposition leaders in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, the Nationalists’ primary Islamic ally, have demanded a caretaker government be installed to oversee the country’s upcoming 2014 general elections. The use of a caretaker government to facilitate general elections is a standing tradition of 15 years that has been terminated by the Hasina government.

Despite this civil unrest, Bangladesh’s manufacturing sector and general economic outlook have remained resilient. In a January 13 report, the US credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s gave Bangladesh a sovereign credit rating of “BB-“, citing the country’s strong prospects for growth and donor-sponsored initiatives to lower its national debt as indicators of a stable economic future.

Past instances of civil unrest have failed to waylay Hasina’s sedulous attempts to bring foreign investment to Bangladesh. In the past year, Hasina has outlined plans to continue turning Bangladesh into an “economic hub” by extending open transportation rights to neighboring countries and pushing for a reduction on US apparel and textiles tariffs.