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Bangladesh inflation picks up for first time since July on political unrest

Source: Reuters - Thu, 5 Dec 2013 08:35 AM
Author: Reuters
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DHAKA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's annual inflation rate rose in November, ending a declining trend since July, as political protests against upcoming elections cripple the supply chain.

November's rate was 7.15 percent, up from 7.03 percent in October, the statistics office said on Thursday, with higher prices for both food and non-food items.

The country has been rocked by violent protests and a series of shutdowns and transport blockades led by the main opposition party, which is demanding the prime minister step down and next year's election be held under a non-party administration. More than 60 people have been killed since last month.

Food prices in November were 8.55 percent higher than a year earlier, an increase from October's 8.38 percent pace. The non-food inflation rate rose to 5.08 percent in November from 5.02 percent the previous month.

Officials fear inflation could go even higher this month amid supply disruptions ahead of elections slated for Jan. 5.

"We don't see a respite from the ongoing unrest. So there is no surprise if inflation climbs further this month," a senior official at the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics said.

Further nationwide disruptions are expected on Saturday after the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former premier Begum Khaleda Zia, announced another 72-hour road, water and railway blockade.

At an emergency meeting on Wednesday night the ruling party Awami League decided to stick to the polls as planned with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in power, rejecting the opposition's demand for her resignation.

The BNP has rejected any attempt to hold an election until it is satisfied a neutral interim administration is in place without Hasina.

Both heirs to political dynasties, Hasina and BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia have rotated as prime minister for most of the last 22 years amid unending enmity, set against an all-too-familiar background of violent protest in one of the world's poorest countries.

Economic growth is expected to slow to less than 6 percent in the year to June 2014 from 6 percent the previous year as political uncertainty and turmoil ahead of elections take their toll. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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