October 16, 2014
According to a recent study by Washington based think tank Pew Research Center, majority of the Bangladeshis are optimistic of their children's economic future thanks to the steady growth the country has seen in recent years. The survey conducted as part of the Global Attitudes Report 2014, revealed that an overwhelming 71% feel their children will be better off than them in future in Bangladesh. According to lead economist of World Bank’s Dhaka Office, Zahid Hussain, the findings are not surprising given the optimism felt by the people from achievements made by Bangladesh in recent years regarding poverty reduction and human development.
MasterCard’s latest report shows that consumers in Bangladesh have a largely optimistic economic outlook despite the continued uncertainty in the global economy. According to the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence, consumer confidence in Bangladesh jumped 25.9 points in the first half of 2014 to 66.4 points from the previous six months, making Bangladesh the recorder of the biggest improvement among the 27 countries from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region covered in the study.
Social Justice and Equity
Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in several health indicators in recent years. According to the Bangladesh Urban Health Survey 2013, since 2006, the urban population has seen an increase of 11% in use of family planning methods, a crucial element for population control. The target of total fertility rate, 2 births per woman, has also been achieved ahead of time. Another important finding of the survey is that more than 90% of the urban population has access to a health facility within 2 kilometers.
Bangladesh has improved its position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2014, moving from 58 in 2013 to 57 in 2014. Significant improvements has been achieved by Bangladesh along with 9 other countries between the GHI of 1990 and 2014 regarding hunger levels, according to the Index released on Sunday jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.
Bangladesh has achieved astonishing progress in ensuring sanitation for all, as 97% households now use latrines, up from only 33% users in 2003. According to the joint study by WHO and UNICEF, the country has also seen a dramatic decrease in the number of people practicing open defecation with only 3% of the population now engaged in the practice. This is in sharp contrast to the figures in Bangladesh’s neighbor, India.
Bangladesh on the International Stage
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reached Milan, Italy on a four-day official visit to attend the 10th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit. Apart from addressing the Summit’s plenary and opening sessions, on the sidelines of the event, the Bangladesh Premier will hold bilateral meetings with the Prime Ministers of Italy, Greece, Sweden and Denmark. She will also attend a civic ceremony in her honor organized by the Bangladeshi community in Milan.
Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury has become the first Bangladeshi to be elected the Chairperson of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The election took place last Thursday at the 60th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Cameroon’s Yaoundé. Dr. Chaudhury will head the 35-strong executive committee of the CPA for the next three years.
Growth and Development
Singapore is interested to construct an independent city with all modern facilities at Purbachal, on the outskirts of capital Dhaka. The visiting Singapore Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Home Affairs Zulkifli Masagos conveyed the suggestion to the Bangladesh government. The top official of Asia’s financial hub also expressed his country’s interest to help Bangladesh build two power plants in phases having capacity of 700MW each under joint venture at Cox’s Bazaar. In a related development, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has offered Singaporean investors an exclusive economic zone in Mirasarai, Chittagong.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $492 million for infrastructure development in Bangladesh over the next three years to help boost regional cooperation. The amount will be provided as loans under the South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program, which finances key infrastructure projects in roads, railways, trade facilitation and energy in Bangladesh.
The government has plans to set up a 1,320MW coal-based power plant at Barapukuria coal mine in Dinajpur. The plant is likely to be set up at the northern part of Barapukuria and is expected to be complete within five years. In a related development, Bangladesh is expected to get at least 600 MW of additional power from India between December 2015 and June 2017 under stepped-up power sector cooperation between the two countries.
As part of its policy of building a technologically advanced Digital Bangladesh by the year 2021, the government has embarked on yet another project to build a Hi-Tech park. A 35-acre site has been selected at Bulanpur area under Rajpara at Rajshahi, where an IT village and agriculture biotechnology park named "Varendra Silicon City" will be established.
Construction of the much-awaited Dhaka Elevated Expressway will start at the end of this month. The 46 KM long expressway, one of the biggest infrastructure projects taken up by the AL government, aims to ease traffic congestion in the capital by connecting several key junctures. The project, costing more than $ 1.5 billion, is expected to be complete by 2016.
The country’s top economic body ECNEC has approved a $ 21.3 million project to improve safety measures at 144 accident-prone points on national highways. Under the project, the intersections on the highways and pedestrian crossings will be improved, road bends straightened, optical hindrances removed and signs, signals and road markings set up.
Economy, Trade and Investment
After more than a decade the World Bank has agreed to give budgetary support to Bangladesh. Apart from other development help, the multi-lateral lending agency will give US$ 500 million as budgetary support in the upcoming fiscal year (2015-16).
Bangladesh's export earnings in the first quarter of the current fiscal year (July-September) grew by 0.88% year on year to $7.70 billion. Inflation has dropped to a four year low in September 2014. Month to month inflation stood at 6.84% in September, which is the lowest since 2011, according to data released by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
Sweden based global apparel retailer H&M will increase its volume of business in Bangladesh as the country has significantly improved its safety and labour rights, according to the company’s visiting CEO Karl-Johan Persson. In a related development, Bangladesh is holding its second Denim and Jeans Exposition with the participation of 32 foreign companies from 14 countries. Increasingly, retailers are choosing Bangladesh to source trendy denim-wear at affordable prices.
Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects are crucial to the government’s target of achieving more than 7% growth in the current fiscal year. To that end, the PPP Office is now ready to invite tenders for three projects this year expecting investment of over $ 500 million in infrastructure and road communications development sectors. Feasibility study, viability gap study and other preparatory works have been completed on time to maintain investors’ confidence. 5 more such projects are on the pipeline, for which tenders will be floated next year.
Investors from China’s Yunnan province have expressed their interest to invest in various sectors of Bangladesh including hydropower, energy and mining. The intention was expressed by a visiting 13 member high-level delegation of the Department of Commerce of Yunnan.
Liberation War and History
A cross-country history project between India and Bangladesh, titled “India-Bangladesh History Project”, is underway to record facts and documents connected with the 1971 Liberation War. In a related development, students of US based Kean University have expressed their intention to research on the genocide which was committed against the Bangali population in 1971.
Bangladesh has recognized 'Biranganas', the war heroines violated by Pakistani soldiers and their local collaborators during the 1971 Liberation War, as freedom fighters. It was the nation’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who had first honored such women by terming them as ‘Biranganas’ and asking that he be personally considered the father of any such woman who was disowned by their families.
Bangladesh Awami League