Dress down every day, office workers ordered

Bangladesh instructs men to ditch their suits and ties in bid to save electricity

Loosen up and chill. That's the order that has been delivered to staff from the Government of Bangladesh, which, in an effort to save electricity, has ordered male employees to stop wearing suits, jackets and ties to work.

Bangladesh, like many countries in south Asia, has for years been struggling with chronic power shortages that have held back economic development and created misery for millions of people sweltering through the blistering summers.

Earlier this year, thousands of workers fought running battles with police on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, after severe shortages halted work and forced students across the country to sweat through their annual exams.

Now, in the latest of several initiatives to try to ease the situation, the Government of Sheikh Hasina has decided to set an example by amending a 1982 dress code for its staff.

According to those regulations, male workers – or at least those at a mid-ranking or a senior level – were required to wear suits and ties or else jackets, despite the long, hot summers when temperatures can often rise above 40C.

But the Government is hoping to reduce the need for energy-hungry air conditioners by saying that men can simply wear trousers and short-sleeved shirts. They will not even be required to tuck those shirts in.

"The point is that some people wear suits and ties and then have the air conditioning up high. That can use up a huge amount of electricity," said Ruhul Alam Siddique, a diplomat at the Bangladesh High Commission in India. "Accordingly, an order has been made to change the dress code. Now people can come in wearing trousers and shirts."

Mr Siddique pointed out that the alteration to the dress code, which will also apply to Government ministers, is the most recent of several undertakings of the Government, elected late last year, to try and address the power shortages.

This summer, for instance, it told its 150 million citizens to set their clocks forward by an hour in the country's first daylight savings effort. Officials estimated that by doing so, the total demand for power would fall by around 5 per cent.

The Government also said this week that from next year it intended to distribute for free almost 27 million energy-saving light bulbs with help from the World Bank. Mohammad Enamul Haq, the junior minister for power and energy, said the measure should save about 350 megawatts of electricity a day. But such measures can go only so far in alleviating the power shortages in a country that daily has to resort to cuts, particularly during the summer.

After years of under-investment, it is estimated that Bangladesh is able to produce only 3,800 megawatts of electricity a day, even hough demand stands at around 5,000 megawatts.

This huge shortfall exists despite the fact that only 45 per cent of the country's population has access to electricity. With the country's economy growing at around 6 per cent a year, demand is increasing annually by an estimated 500 megawatts.

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