December 25, 2014
On Tuesday, the Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid, returned after a successful six-day official visit to India at the invitation of his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee. During the trip, he held meetings with the Indian President, Indian Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Abdul Hamid went to see the Taj Mahal in Agra and also went to Jaipur before visiting Kolkata. On Tuesday, he visited Visva-Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore at Bolpur. During his visit, the Indian President hailed Bangladesh’s progresses in human development and the Indian PM Narendra Modi assured President Hamid that his government is working continuously for speedy resolution of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and Teesta water sharing issues.
Infrastructure and Mega Projects
As part of the AL government’s policy of modernizing Bangladesh’s rail communications and the Prime Minister’s recent directive to replace all meter-gauge rail lines with double gauge tracks, the top economic body of the government ECNEC has approved a mega project worth US$ 831.2 million to construct a new Akhaura-Laksham dual-gauge railway track. The project aims to improve transportation of passengers and cargoes in the crucial Dhaka-Chittagong route within the next five years. As part of the project, the existing 72 km long metre-gauge railway line will also be converted into to a dual-gauge with additional 40-km dual-gauge establishing for loop and sidings line. Of the total cost, US$ 703.3 million will come from the Asian Development Bank and European Investment Bank as loan and the rest from public exchequer.
In order to ensure the smooth monitoring and speedy implementation of the 1200 MW Matabari coal based power plant, the government has listed it as one of the ‘fast track’ development projects, which brings it under the direct supervision of the special committee headed by the Prime Minister herself. Progress of the mega power project, which is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is going on at full speed. The government has acquired already 1,500 acres of land, and the processes of fencing of the lands and appointment of consultant are underway. The cost of this project is estimated to be in the US$ 4.6 billion mark, making it Bangladesh’s largest power infrastructural undertaking.
Preparatory works of Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant at Rooppur is progressing at a satisfactory speed. Russia’s Atomenergoproekt, sister concern of state-run Rosatom, have floated tenders for engineering survey, environmental monitoring and development of project documents for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP). The contract value has been estimated at US$ 18.2 million and the selected bidder will have to complete the work by September 15, 2015. Construction of the RNPP is expected to start by the end of 2015. As part of the RNPP, two nuclear power plants of 1000 MW capacity each will be designed, constructed and commissioned by Russia for Bangladesh at Rooppur, Pabna.
The government will build the country’s third seaport at Payra, Bagerhat with its own funds. The Ministry of Shipping, for developing the necessary infrastructure and facilities of the new port, has undertaken a US$ 109.8 million project in this regard. Under this project, 6000 acres of land will be acquired for the port, a five-storied administrative building will be constructed, some vessels and survey boats will be purchased and a 5.6 km long approach road will be built along Patukhali-Kuakata highway. The operation of the seaport is expected to begin by 2017 after completion of the necessary works.
Growth and Development
Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves has hit a new height setting a record of over US$ 22.38 billion riding on the positive remittance inflow and increased export earnings. The reserves stood at US$ 22.38 billion at the end of the day on Thursday, which is the highest in the country’s history. Earlier, the highest reserve record was US$ 22.36 billion, recorded on November 5 this year. Bangladesh Bank officials said the rising trend of foreign exchange reserve was due to the growing trend in inward remittances and enhanced export earnings. They added that the $22.38-billion reserve is good enough to face any internal or external economic shock and also meet four months’ import bills.
According to a study by the government with support of WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, NGOs and others, Bangladesh has made phenomenal progress in cutting down maternal mortality rate (MMR) within the last decade. While the MMR was 550 per 0.01 million live births in 1990, in 2013 the number was slashed to 170 per 0.01 million live births. Stakeholders and experts have attributed this success to the various initiatives undertaken by the government and community healthcare service providers. The study suggests that different interventions including reduction of home delivery, emergency obstetric care and growing awareness among the women helped lessen the mortality rate.
The government has taken an initiative to boost use of renewable energy by introducing the first ever feed-in-tariff system. The move is designed to allow companies to commercially install solar plants on large government buildings. As part of the initiative, Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Ltd (RREL) has installed a battery-free solar power plant on the roof of Bangladesh Secretariat’s Building-2, on over 7,000 square feet of space. Under the 20-year contract, the plant would generate 50-kilowatt electricity and feed it to the national grid. The government aims to generate up to 2,000 MW power by installing solar panels on roofs of different government establishments in Dhaka and Chittagong.
In the wake of the recent oil spill, the government has stepped up efforts to make the 22 km long Mongla-Ghashiakhali channel functional within the next six months for the plying of ships in order to avoid vessels from travelling inside the Sundarbans in the future. The move, which is aimed at protecting the biodiversity of the world’s largest mangrove forest, will commence with the dredging of the said shipping route. The project has been entrusted to China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd, who will remove 2.8 million cubic meters of silt from the route at a cost of US$ 11.2 million. In a related development, the government has undertaken a massive project to conduct dredging across all rivers of the country to improve their navigability.
Social Justice and Equity
Under the ADB-supported Urban Primary Healthcare Services Delivery Project, the Government of Bangladesh is working with nongovernmental organizations in providing maternal and child-care particularly to poor urban communities. A maternity clinic run under this project is providing primary health care to the urban poor through public-private partnership. The maternity center, “Al-Haj Jahurul Islam Matri Sadan”, covers an area with a population of over 200,000 people, 40% of them living in 22 slums. The clinic focuses on slum dwellers and poor garment workers who came from impoverished rural areas to the city in search of employment. A key feature of the project is that 30% of services are free for people who earn less than $9 a month.
Funded by the World Bank, the government’s Income Support Program for the Poorest (ISPP) project will provide income support in the form of electronic cash handouts to about 600,000 poorest mothers for participating in activities that are aimed to improve their children’s nutrition and cognitive development. The project will benefit 10% of the poorest, or 2.7 million people in 42 of the poorest Upazilas in Bangladesh. Pregnant women and mothers of children below the age of 5 years from extremely poor households will be eligible to participate in the project. The transfers being electronic, as in payments being made directly through bank accounts in their own names via smart cash cards, would ensure that the right person is receiving payment in the right amount.
International and Regional Cooperation
A multi-billion dollar fund will be established to pull in resources from various parties to set up a thriving economic belt connecting Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar. This was announced after the conclusion of the second Joint Study Group meeting of the BCIM-EC hosted by Bangladesh this week at the seaside town of Cox’s Bazar. About 55% of the fund might come from various multilateral development partners while the rest are to be borne by the four governments and the private sector. It will cost about US$ 22 billion to build the proposed Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC), according to an initial estimate.
State Minister for Botswana President’s Office and Public Administration Dikgang Phillip Makgalemele has sought Bangladesh’s support for developing his country’s society and economy. The visiting dignitary was “surprised” to see Bangladesh’s agricultural and economic progresses and showed interest in learning from those successes. In the first visit by any top official of the African country, Makgalemele called upon Bangladesh’s entrepreneurs to set up factories in his country to help create employment. During his visit, the two countries discussed various issues for strengthening bilateral ties including holding foreign office consultations, visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders, and manpower export from Bangladesh.
A square will be named after Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the French municipality of Paray-Le-Monial. A stone sculpture of the founding father will also be built at that place to honour the life and legacy of the great man. The local authority took the initiative after the President of France-Bangladesh Economic Chamber Kazi Enayetullah informed them about the history, tradition and culture of Bangladesh and its founding father and requested the local Mayor to name a square or avenue after him. A bill was subsequently placed in the local assembly, which was unanimously approved. The site was selected in April and upon completion, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, will inaugurate the square and the sculpture.
Bangladesh has ranked the highest in terms of people's political participation among 33 developing and emerging nations. The survey, titled "Spring 2014 Global Attitudes Survey" by the US-based Pew Research Centre, shows 65% Bangladeshis have higher level of involvement in political affairs and 29% medium level, though the Asian region in general ranks the lowest in this field with an overall median of 24%. The report examines patterns of political participation in a variety of activities, including voting, protesting and online engagement in the surveyed nations.
Bangladesh Awami League Bangladesh Insight Archives