Tragedy spotlights Bangladesh’s garment trade, Pakistani prosecutor killed by gunmen, and Myanmar’s Muslims react to steady sectarian violence. Today is Friday, May 3, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
A woman holds a picture as she waits for news of her relative, a garment worker who is still missing after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, outside Dhaka, May 3, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Bangladesh’s garment industry examined. The death toll from last week’s building collapse in Bangladesh topped 500, bringing to light poor conditions in the country’s hefty garment industry:
Until now, there has been little pressure here to improve safety conditions and wages for the 4.5 million Bangladeshis working in the industry. That inertia stems, in part, from how deeply the industry has woven itself into the power structure. More than 30 garment industry bosses are members of parliament, accounting for about 10 percent of its lawmakers. Other owners, like Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the building that collapsed, have strong political ties: He was a local leader of the youth wing of the ruling party, the Awami League.
Western retailers also face heat for their role in the tragedy. Activists say that western companies secure the lowest cost by forcing local factory owners to compete for their business, forcing down wages in the impoverished country. Bangladesh ranked lowest in minimum wages in 2010, according to World Bank data, and one plant owner estimate that prices for their goods have fallen by 40 percent in the past two years. Nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse, including the building’s engineer, who warned the building was unsafe hours before it fell. Human rights say that factory owners have not been prosecuted in similar past cases.