Don’t Boycott The Bangladesh Textile Industry

Calls to boycott Bangladesh’s garment industry would ruin the economy and workers’ lives.

In the wake of another tragedy in the Bangladesh garment industry which took the lives of hundreds of people and injured many more, some are calling to boycott the Bangladeshi textile industry.

Those people are saying that if the local government and local businesses would not treat employees adequately and provide them with safe working conditions, let’s punish them by imposing a boycott.

Fortunately, there are others who point out that the boycotting industry — which accounts for 80% percent of the country’s exports and employs millions of people — is not a solution. In fact, it would worsen the situation.

Businesses such as the Canadian Loblaw Inc., which had its garments for its Joe Fresh clothing lines produced at the collapsed factory, announced that they are setting up a fund to assist victims. More importantly, they are looking at ways to work with the local government and businesses to improve workers’ conditions and to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Hats off to these socially responsible businesses and its leaders, whose initiatives, we as consumers, should support.

Unfortunately some companies indicated they are pulling out their business from Bangladesh. It is very sad and troubling, and to me it echoes the issues with cotton harvesting in Uzbekistan.

Critics point out labor violations during cotton harvest and call to boycott Uzbek cotton.

Twenty-two years ago after the collapse of the USSR, Uzbekistan was left with ineffective economic infrastructure that was built to rely on other Soviet republics. Without relying on international aid, Uzbekistan not only was able to stand on its own, but it achieved progress. Of course there is room for improvements, but Uzbekistan’s workers conditions are better than in Bangladesh. There are regulations and safety standards in place. Strict building codes and so on.

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Cotton still is a major revenue source for Uzbekistan. Those funds are used to provide social services such as pensions, health care, education and other essentials services.

Boycotting or running away would not solve any issues. It would have huge negative impact on the economy and people’s lives.

Hopefully, more companies, consumer and leaders would recognize that the solutions will come with a collaboration of all parties.

Sheerzod Juraboyev is a co-founder of the Canadian-Uzbek Association, an organization, based in Toronto that aims to build cultural and business ties between Canada and Uzbekistan. Read other articles by Sheerzod.