Oct 22, 2015
This week the Awami League government approved its Seventh Five Year Plan for further development and progress of the country. The plan outlines the economic aspirations of the government till 2020. Among others, the plan envisages achieving 8% GDP growth, expansion of electricity coverage to 96%, $21.1 billion remittance earnings, drawing 21% contribution from manufacturing sector to GDP, raising export earnings to $54 billion and FDI to $1.6 billion, apart from creating 12.9 million new jobs.
Amazed by the standing of Bangladesh in the top league of nations with high growth rates, World Bank Chief economist Kaushik Basu highly acknowledged the progresses made in the country’s overall economic achievement and particularly in social sectors such as education, health and human development. In an interview, he said it had been difficult to feel the same way 10 years ago about Bangladesh. He particularly lauded how Bangladesh’s economy flourished even during a global economic downturn.
According to a visiting delegation of the Commonwealth Secretariat (COMSEC), Bangladesh has been one of the developing worlds’ biggest success stories as regards preventing early marriage, controlling population and establishing gender equity. The team found that representation of women in both public and private sectors of Bangladesh are highly satisfactory while high praise was bestowed for the country’s march in fighting the menace of hunger and poverty.
The World Bank, in a recent report, has forecasted that Bangladesh would see its economy registering 6.5% growth this fiscal year, and pinned hopes that the government could achieve the target of securing 7% growth with a surge in the private investment. Zahid Hussain, WB’s Dhaka office Lead Economist said that Bangladesh’s economic condition was stable now thanks to the stability in microeconomic indicators, controlled inflation, high reserves of foreign exchange, and less public borrowing.
According to a research by Credit Suisse, an international financial service organization, people of Bangladesh have their amount of economic wealth increased by threefold in the space of last 15 years, while that of adult citizens has doubled. Country's adult population was 70.2 million in 2000, which grew to 100.7 million by mid-2015 and correspondingly, they commanded a wealth worth $237 billion in 2015, up from 78% billion, with the per capita wealth of adult population increasing from $1,069 to $2,201.
Infrastructure and Mega Projects
With fast track progresses being made in materializing the dream of having major infrastructure undertakings a reality, target has been set to make four mega projects, including Padma Bridge and the Dhaka elevated expressway, operational in the next five years. The government has fast-tracked eight projects to improve infrastructure and increase power and gas supply. In a related development, main piling work of the Padma Bridge is set to start at the end of December this year.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has recently signed in Dhaka a loan agreement worth €135 million with the government of Bangladesh to further improve the railway communications of the country. The move came following a government’s broader programme to upgrade the 321km rail corridor between Dhaka and Chittagong by 2020. Fresh boost will also be infused in facilitating the rail connection betweeen landlocked Bhutan, Nepal and the northeastern states of India with the Chittagong Port.
Growth and Development
In Bangladesh, politics and the young people came a bit closer this week as a result of an innovative interactive discussion session titled “Let’s Talk” between the latter and the HPM’s ICT Advisor Sajeeb Wazed. Organized by Centre for Research and Information (CRI), the event saw the youth politician discuss candidly with around 250 youths the crucial topic of sustainable development goals (SDGs). The discussion featured a wide array of topics like climate change, urban management, governance, and education etc.
One year into the initiation, a government project has started to reap benefits in the nation’s march to transform as many as 1.5 million people into a skilled workforce for meeting the growing demands in key industries by 2021. Framed in three phases, some 260,000 people are expected to be equipped with training at the end of the first one in December 2017. For the project, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will fund US$350 million while government will provide US$200 million and US$30 million from SDC.
Within the first three quarters of this fiscal year, the number of employment opportunities outside the country marked a rise of 22%, growing to 376,477, compared with the number in the first nine months of 2014. Manpower exports to Qatar and Iraq has got momentum presently. In addition, following the signing of the recent deal with Saudi Arabia, outflow of workers also went up. In a related development, plans are laid out to employ some 70,000 youths in the next 10 years at the Kaliakoir Hi-Tech Park.
Trade and Investment
The first ever offshore bonds, worth US$1.0 billion, in Bangladeshi taka will hit the global market in the next six months. The government recently approved the proposal from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to raise development funds from the external money market. Under the programme, IFC will issue the maiden taka-linked bond on the overseas market and bring the proceeds back home to finance investment in Bangladesh. The bonds will be listed on the London Stock Exchange.
A mammoth scheme has been rolled out by the government to set up 100 new economic zones across the country to pour in more foreign investments. To that end, areas have already been selected and investors are authorized to set up their own power plants. Moreover, a set of incentives for investors in economic zones and high-tech parks has been announced recently, including complete tax-waiver facility on their dividend incomes and capital gains from transfer of shares and on payable royalties.
Social Justice and Equity
Works are underway to ensure every school child in the country starts their new year with a new set of text books being distributed in their schools free of cost. Initiated in 2010, this government move has seen so far 1.6 billion copies of free textbooks being handed over to the children in the very first day of a new year. Around 334.5 million books will be printed for the next academic year. Steps like these have ensured that Bangladesh achieves 100% enrollment rate and gender parity in primary education.
Some 10,000 families, who have been affected or displaced by the adverse impact of climate change, are going to get houses and financial assistances through a special rehabilitation project. Under the scheme, the government will set up "Cluster Villages" where each dwelling house will have a plinth area of 300 square feet and a five-ring sanitary latrine for a family. This project will be mainly implemented in areas where government khas land is available. Every such village will have a multipurpose hall.
Power and Energy
Owing to the current government’s emphasis on renewable and green energy, plans are underway to install another solar plant, capable of producing 10 MW power, in the island of Monpura. To be set up by next year, this plant will meet the growing demands of 80,000 families in the entire region at a reduced cost and give the clean energy to the habitants. Current renewable power generation capacity is 411 MW whereas the government has planned to generate 1,740 MW electricity from solar plants by 2021.
The country’s coal and natural gas reserve stand respectively at 3,565 million tonnes and 14.088 trillion cubic feet (tcf) as of mid-October 2015. Addressing a press conference this week, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said that currently 75% people have access to electricity and 300,000 to 350,000 power connections are being provided on a monthly basis. He added that a master plan has been chalked out to generate 20,000 MW in future to meet the energy demands.
International and Regional Cooperation
Started in 1988 with participation from a handful of 15 military observers, peacekeepers of Bangladesh have set a gold standard in making the world a safer planet with the country currently accounting for the highest number of troops in the UN missions, finds a research by Centre for Research and Information. Showing the prominence of Bangladesh in peacekeeping, a Bangladeshi Major General was recently appointed deputy force commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur.
Bangladesh got a historic approval by the UN to host the first ever UN affiliate institute on its soil. The 197th session of the UNESCO Executive Board has sanctioned the country’s proposal to grant International Mother Language Institute (IMLI) of Dhaka the status of Category II Institute of UNESCO. Given the Institute's unique emphasis on mother tongue and multilingual education, IMLI will serve as a hub of knowledge and research and contribute towards new forms of learning in the region and globally.
Agriculture and Fisheries
Bangladesh has been breaking new grounds in attaining food sufficiency with their farmers currently producing around 5% of the global rice output yearly. With a large number of agricultural workforce coupled with an increasingly mechanized farming system, the nation now eyes to rid the country of the menace of poverty and hunger by 2030. In a related development, genomes of 186 Bangladeshi rice varieties have been sequenced in Beijing Genomics Institute, opening up new opportunities for varietal developments.
Fish farming in Bangladesh has again received global attention as the country continued to maintain its status of being the fourth highest fish producing country in globe for the third consecutive year. Farmed fish production was 2 million tonnes in 2013-14, up from only 0.8 million tonnes in 2001-02, while the overall production increased by a staggering 88% within a decade. High quality fish feed, fry production and widespread superior breeding technology have contributed largely to this milestone.
Digital Bangladesh
Bangladesh is only the second country in the world to have launched the trial run of biometric registration for mobile sim cards to make the registration ever more transparent. Prime Minister’s ICT advisor Sazeeb Wazed started off the system by registering his own sim card. Subscribers would be able to register using the new system at the customer care centers of the mobile phone operators from Nov 1 while the final registration process using the system will start from Dec 16 next.
In yet another effort by the Awami League government to transform the country into a Digital Bangladesh, the long awaited Software Technology Part went operational this week. Inaugurated by the Prime Minister’s ICT Adviser, the park housed in a twelve story building in Dhaka, is expected to bring in a thriving boost in the world of software business. There are over 2,000 software and IT-enabled service companies in the country right now, earning an increasingly large amount of foreign exchange.
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