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The rape of the country continued right up until the Pakistani army surrendered a month ago. In the last days of the war, West Pakistani-owned businesseswhich included nearly every commercial enterprise in the countryremitted virtually all their funds to the West. Pakistan International Airlines left exactly 117 rupees ($16) in its account at the port city of Chittagong. The army also destroyed bank notes and coins, so that many areas now suffer from a severe shortage of ready cash. Private cars were picked up off the streets or confiscated from auto dealers and shipped to the West before the ports were closed.
Ruined Gardens. The principal source of foreign exchange in Bangladesh$207 million in 1969-70is jute; it cannot be moved from mills to markets until inland transportation is restored. Repairing vital industrial machinery smashed by the Pakistanis will not take nearly as long as making Bangladesh's ruined tea gardens productive again. Beyond that, the growers, whose poor-quality, lowland tea was sold almost exclusively to West Pakistan, must find alternative markets for their product. Bangladesh must also print its own currency and, more important, find gold reserves to back it up. "We need foreign exchange, that is, hard currency," says one Dacca banker. "That means moving the jute that is already at the mills. It means selling for cash, not in exchange for Indian rupees or East European machinery. It means getting foreign aid, food relief, and fixing the transportation system, all at the same time. It also means chopping imports."
The Bangladesh Planning Commission is more precise: it will take $3 billion just to get the country back to its 1969-70 economic level (when the per capita annual income was still an abysmally inadequate $30). In the wake of independence, the government of Bangladesh, headed by Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed, has instituted stringent measures to control inflation, including a devaluation of the rupee in terms of the pound sterling (from 15 to 18), imposing a ceiling of $140 a month on all salaries and limiting the amount of money that Bengalis can draw from banks. Such measures hit hardest at the urban, middle-class base of the dominant Awami League, but there has been little opposition, largely because most Bengalis seem to approve of the moderately socialist course laid out by the government. Last week Nazrul Islam announced that the government will soon nationalize the banking, insurance, foreign trade and basic industries as a step toward creating an "exploitation-free economy."
Not the least of the new nation's problems is the repatriation of the 10 million refugees who fled to India. As of last week, Indian officials said that more than 1,000,000 had already returned, most of them from the states of West Bengal and Tripura. To encourage the refugees, camp officials gave each returning family a small gift consisting of a new set of aluminum kitchen utensils, some oil, charcoal, a piece of chocolate, two weeks' rations of rice and grain and the equivalent of 50¢ in cash.
Within Bangladesh, transit camps have been set up to provide overnight sleeping facilities. The government acknowledges that it will need foreign aid and United Nations assistance.