Epstein on "The Way Forward in Bangladesh"

The Way Forward in Bangladesh
Richard A. Epstein
Defining Ideas
May 7, 2013

The most recent report from Bangladesh, at this writing, confirms that the death toll from the recent collapse of Rana Plaza, a garment factory in a suburb of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, is over 620 and still climbing. The Rana Plaza catastrophe comes on the heels of a smaller Bangladesh tragedy at Tazreen Fashions that claimed the lives of 112 people in 2012.

Most of the individuals killed in these two fires were impoverished women from the rural part of the country who earned the statutory minimum wage of $38 per month—a figure that had recently been raised by 80 percent. Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza, now faces a potential death sentence; the day before the plaza’s collapse, he had been informed that the building had developed cracks and should be evacuated, but he sat on this information. Bazlus Samad Adnan, the owner of New Wave Style, one of Rana Plaza’s largest contractors, sits in jail as well on lesser charges.

Major purchasers of goods produced in Bangladesh face fierce competition in their home markets, and enter into contracts with Bangladeshi firms that have strict timetables for delivery and strict quality control measures. But firms—like the fashion company Benetton, which subcontracted “orders from one of the manufacturers in Rana Plaza”—ended up paying a high public-relations price in the wake of the disaster. As a result, it has set aside funds to help the families of the deceased.

Faculty: 
Richard A. Epstein