Jul 30, 2015
Under the new 7th Five Year Plan, the government plans to cut further upper and lower poverty rates to 16.6% and 8.0% respectively by 2020. The government has also set its sight on bringing down the hardcore poverty to the zero level by 2030. The absolute poverty or upper poverty rate is estimated to be at 23.6% in 2015 and the hardcore poverty or lower poverty rate at 12.3%, according to data available with the General Economics Division (GED). The absolute poverty rate was 31.5% and hardcore poverty rate 17.6% in 2010.
Borrowers will get foreign currency loans only at around 4% interest, which at present stands at 10%, as the central bank moves to create a $500 million special fund to boost the investment situation. The loans will be distributed among private firms through three types of banks based on CAMEL rating. Export-oriented textiles, apparel and leather manufacturing sectors including upgrading of water usage, effluent treatment and waste management efficiency are the sectors expected to grow up with the initiative.
With the annual fish production marking an astonishing 5.8% growth, Bangladesh has yet again emerged as the fourth largest inland freshwater fish producer in the globe. According to a recent report, the annual production has increased to around 35.5 lakh metric tonnes in last fiscal year, up from 27.03 lakh tons in 2008. Creation of around 2,100 hectares of unused wetland, food and monetary support for the fishermen and extension of the fish catching ban period helped the country reach this milestone.
Prime minister’s ICT advisor Sajeeb Wazed has announced to initiate a varied assortment of initiatives to continue government’s efforts to build a Digital Bangladesh. IT Vocational Training Institutes will be built in all seven divisions and high speed internet connectivity will be set up all across the country. He also unveiled the government’s goal to connect 4,500 unions using fibre-optic links, adding 1,000 unions have already been connected. The pledges were made, on Sunday, at the launching of 500 mobile applications for facilitating government services.
To ensure electricity for all by 2021, the government has embarked on a five year plan to increase power generation by 12,853 megawatts (MW) over the next five years costing US$21.15 billion. To that goal, domestic gas will be replaced as the primary source of energy while the first nuclear-based power plant project will be commissioned and become operational. Already the daily production capacity has soared to over 7,500 MW bringing 74% of the population under electricity coverage.
Infrastructure and Mega Projects
Mongla seaport will undergo a major revamp and upgrade work as the government has undertaken a $255.62 million project aiming to enable the port to deal with transit trade of the region's landlocked countries in light of the deals struck recently. Starting from this year, the four year project will see construction of a container terminal, a container delivery yard, and a multi-storage car-parking yard while a feasibility study on the second shipping hub is already underway.
The construction of the country’s deep sea port received a major boost last week with the Indian government expressing its interest to build the port on the Bay of Bengal that requires over $ 3 billion investment. HR Wallingford, a UK based marine consultancy company, has been mandated to prepare a master plan for the port development. The Bangladeshi officials are likely to submit the port survey data and technical studies by September or October of this year.
The consultant proposal for the construction of the country’s second unit of the Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL) has drawn an overwhelming response from the international firms in likes of Chinese, French, Japanese and Indian ones. The US$1.5 billion project outline includes construction of 2nd unit of ERL and the installation of single point mooring in Moheshkhali with 110 km long pipeline. In addition, processing units, storage tanks, laying pipelines, distillation unit, and other associated facilities will be built.
Growth and Development
Pleased at the landmark progresses Bangladesh has attained on uplifting social and economic fronts, Thomas Heinrich Prinz , German Ambassador to Bangladesh, pledged to provide €200 million in aid to tackle climate change impacts, build energy security, and ensure good governance. The pledge came when the diplomat met Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina where the former praised Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman citing that he was a famed orator and German people hold high regards for him.
Thanks to the intensified diplomatic efforts as demonstrated by the government, around 1.5 million expatriates working in Saudi Arabia have sent $3.34 billion home in last fiscal year, accounting for 22% of the total incoming remittances. Moreover, as many as 76,007 female workers went abroad last year, up from only 37,304 two years back. The fruits of their hard work are paying off, as an incredible $15.31 billion in remittance was received in fiscal 2015 -- the highest in the country's history.
In a bid to tap into the immense potentials of the country’s tourism sector, the government has taken four landmark projects with an aim to provide the nature lovers with a wide range of modern amenities to make their trip more joyful. At Cox's Bazar a tourist zone, tourism resort and entertainment village and international standard tourism complex would be constructed while establishment of a five-star hotel and others facilities on Sylhet Motel compound will be ensured.
Social Justice and Equity
Readymade garment factories of the country, willing to maintain international standard, are likely to get a US$ 113-million fund as loan to improve their standard. Of the amount, International Finance Corporation will provide US$ 50 million while 63 million will be provided by French Development Agency, AFD. The entire amount will be spent for helping the insolvent and unsafe RMG units comply with the rules and regulations in line with the international standards.
While addressing the Girls Summit, British International Development Secretary Justine Greening commented that Bangladesh, for the first time, has initiated legal process to fight the menace of child marriage. The rate of child marriage, in the country, has been witnessing the downward trend, said Greening, adding that Britain is going to keep fighting the battle of establishing females' rights with the help of other countries, like Bangladesh, and campaigners.
Bangladesh, home to the world's second-largest mobile money company, is moving to consolidate the industry as it expands financial services to the rural poor. The central bank has proposed channeling all mobile transactions through bank-led companies with a minimum capital of $13 million. The move will bring underprivileged or underserved segment into financial flows. More of Bangladesh's 157 million people use mobile phones to transfer money than bank accounts.
Power and Energy
Impressed by Bangladesh’s successes in setting a global standard in establishing a successful OBA facility for renewable energy development, World Bank has signed a $15 million grant agreement with the government to increase access to clean energy for targeted rural areas. As many as 1.1 million people living in remote areas are expected to witness a major change in their course of progress. Investments will be facilitated in solar-pumped irrigation and adverse impact of diesel pumps will be reduced.
The cabinet has approved the draft of "The Petroleum Law, 2015" for more efficiently regulating import, storage and transportation of petroleum through making the existing law more time-befitting. In the proposed law, provisions have been kept to raise the punishment for violating the rules under the law in the case of petroleum production, refining, mixing, recycling or reusing.
Trade and Investment
Dutch electronics giant Philips has targeted to expand their footprint to over 10,000 touch-points in Bangladesh across top 20 cities in the next few years. New products focus on personal health that includes kitchen appliances, grooming, coffee, baby care products and air purifiers will be launched soon. Till date, the giant has established a strong retail footprint for products and is offering these in more than 1,000 touch-points, including traditional and modern retail, in all major cities.
Export target for the current fiscal year has been set at $33.5 billion, the amount being 7.38 % higher than the earnings last year. Earnings from exports rose 3.35% year-on-year to $31.2 billion last fiscal year. The industry awaits further investment with the Garments Village in Munshiganj, expected to come into being within the next three years. Meanwhile, a 45 member high power delegation is going to explore Latin American export market and strengthen trade relations.
Agriculture and Food Security
As part of stepped up efforts to ensure increased production in next seasons, the government is going to set up “Hilsa Development Trust Fund” for sustainable production of the national fish in the country. Owing to the introduction and rigorous implementation of a series of measures, the production of the Hilsa has now reached 3.85 lakh tonnes and more necessary programmes will follow. This year, the duration of the ban on catching brood hilsa was extended to 15 days.
In the recently unveiled agriculture and rural credit policy for 2015-16, the central bank has raised the farm loan disbursement target by 5.5% to Tk. 16,400 crore for the current fiscal year compared to the target last year. The target had been set on the basis of the private and specialised banks’ own targets, the net gross credit and advance of foreign banks, and total credit and advance of the nine newly established banks. A total of 31.94 lakh farmers received agriculture and rural credit in the immediate past fiscal year, exceeding the target set.
International and Regional Cooperation
Bangladesh and Maldives have reached an agreement to join global efforts to mitigate adverse impact of climate change. In addition, dwelling on the huge opportunities created in Bangladesh in blue economy sector, particularly after delimitation of the maritime boundaries, the state Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam has urged the Maldivian government as well as private entrepreneurs to use their expertise and invest in this sector in Bangladesh, especially in the deep sea fishing.
The government will construct border outposts along the 700km border with India to stop smuggling and ensure overall security. Talks are also under way to construct a ring road along the border with India, enhancement of capabilities of the coast guard and law enforcement agencies and renovation of the district prisons. In a related development, the Indian government has sanctioned around US$156.23 million for a 15-km India-Bangladesh railway project.
Digital Bangladesh
In a landmark step to build a Digital Bangladesh, the government is eying to transform Cox’s Bazar into a “digital surfing city” featuring a surfing institute and advanced high-speed internet facility. To that end, a memorandum of understanding has been signed. An ICT club will be built and Wi-Fi hotspot will be provided across the town. The city will be branded through radio, television, newspaper, social communication tools and a website. Digital connectivity will improve the lifestyle of the city dwellers and also support the local and foreign tourists travelling to the city.
With the objective to ensure no harassment of the passport seekers in rural areas and to ease the process further for obtaining passports, Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister's office (PMO) with the help of Department of Immigration and Passports, has taken the passport service to the grassroots. A passport-seeker now will not have to go to district passport office time and again as the service for obtaining passport is being provided at the Union Digital Centres (UDCs) throughout the country.
State-run Teletalk plans to invest US$511.24 million for the expansion of its 3G network across the country and roll out of its 4G or LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network, the global standard for high-speed data wireless communication through mobile phones and data terminals. Moreover, the mobile operator chalked out a design to reach up to Upazila and Union levels to materialise the government’s ICT vision 2021.A letter has already been sent to the concerned ministry in this connection.
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