May 12, 2016
Banking giant HSBC has termed Bangladesh as a growth market, as the country with a booming economy is offering huge business opportunities. According to Stuart Tait, head of global trade and receivable finance of the British Bank, the country has made out its name as an important destination for trade finance within Asia Pacific and within the group. During his recent visit to Dhaka, the expert met a number of leading business leaders in the areas of apparel, pharmaceuticals and others and found the climate of corporate Bangladesh very optimistic as well as open and highly conducive.
Earnings from exports in Bangladesh have gained a 9.22% growth to $27.63 billion in the better part of first three quarters of the current fiscal year. According to latest data released by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), this advancement went 1.95% higher against the targeted $27.10 billion while the earning for the same period last year was in the amount of $25.2 billion. With a meteoritic rise being witnessed in all the key economic sectors, hopes run high that the total earnings would set a new record by the end of this fiscal year.
A wholesale reform in the technical education system is well underway, aiming to ensure enrolment of 20% at secondary and higher secondary levels by 2020 and 30% by 2030. Now the World Bank (WB) has provided $100 million in funding for an ongoing Skill and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), run by the government. This fund will be spent on ensuring vocational skills for 420,000 students and helping them find better jobs at home and abroad. Launched in 2010, the project already provided stipends to over 110,000 diploma students across the country as well as nearly 77,000 youths received free six months' vocational training in 38 trades.
A complete overhaul has been made, over the last six years, in the gambit of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in Bangladesh to transform the climate into ever more conducive towards foreign businesses, opening up the prospect to secure around $1.5 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) per year. Currently, contracts on seven PPP projects have been signed which started fetching investment worth $1.3 billion, along with a good number of PPP projects being on the cards. Once they go operational, all the projects will take the inflow of FDI at $6 billion in the next five years, a direct fruition of the time bound investment policies under the Awami League led government.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat has asserted that US, Bangladesh and India stand on the same thread when it comes to counter the rise of terrorism and to maintain the security and stability in this region. Her comments came just a few days after Nisha Desai Biswal, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, paid a visit to Bangladesh, describing the visit as a productive one. During the stay of the US envoy, HPM Sheikh Hasina reiterated her government’s unwavering commitment to stand as a bulwark between the country and terrorist groups and extremists.
Infrastructure and Mega Projects
Full swing progresses are going on to construct the major mega projects to change the course of national progress. Works to construct the Padma Multipurpose Bridge has marked 33% progress as the country’s biggest undertaking till date has been fast tracked under the direct supervision of HPM Sheikh Hasina. Construction of Karnaphuli tunnel and the Dhaka elevated express way and other projects have also made noteworthy progress, rising hopes that those projects will be completed well ahead of the stipulated time.
A complete transformation will be made in communications within 2018, as Dhaka Metrorail project will be completed and two-lane roads will be turned into four-lane in phases by this time. Construction of four-lane Gazipur-Tangail road has already started and for this five flyovers and 26 bridges will be built. The government will start work on July or August under Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) arrangement, a regional motor vehicle agreement, paving the way for movement of both people and goods among the four SAARC member countries.
Growth and development
A large number of projects worth $21 million are being rolled out for modernising the handloom industry of the country to meet the growing domestic demand and also compete efficiently in the world market. Under the scheme, a handloom village on the outskirts of Dhaka will be built by 2018, financial assistances will be provided for ensuring a flow of capital, resuming production and improving the lives of the people involved in the sector. Ten training and two market promotion centres would be set up while plans are laid out to develop training centres, showroom-cum-selling centres and a microcredit distribution programme, aiming to develop the lifestyle of tribal weavers.
In last two weeks the government’s top economic policymaking body has endorsed a number of projects to uplift the lives of the people. A project to dredge the river channel between Pashur and Mongla port was given a go-ahead nod so that the vessels from India can travel through it to Rampal Power Plant. Moreover, another project has been taken up to build regional passport offices in 17 districts for the ease of the rural people. Besides, four other projects, devised to push up the national growth, received approval.
Trade and Investment
According to Hun Kim, director general of the South Asia department of the lender, Bangladesh will remain a priority for the Asian Development Bank in its lending expansion plan for the next five years. During a recent visit to Bangladesh, the expert said Bangladesh has been on a higher growth trajectory and it’s capacity to utilise aid has increased significantly compared to its South Asian peers. In reference to the consistent growth rate at above six percent as achieved by Bangladesh, the DG said Bangladesh is a success story but it is not fully recognised; it is doing everything right in the region.
Bilateral trade ties between Bangladesh and Nepal will yield a significant rise as the countries have reached a consensus to widen the cooperation to make business easier through enhancing connectivity. During the third commerce-secretary level meeting between the countries, Nepal has expressed interest in using Chittagong port and railways routes in Bangladesh to carry their transit goods. On part of Bangladesh, a proposal was placed seeking duty free access for as many as 56 goods to the Nepal market.
This week representatives from Bangladesh and India gathered at the first ever meeting of Joint Working Group (JWG) to explore and bolster the ways to shore up joint efforts towards reaping the benefits of the blue economy. An agreement was also made for implementing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Blue Economy and Maritime Cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean Region. Mutual consent was also endorsed for exploration and proper management of the natural resources of Indian ocean, especially, fisheries and aquaculture, renewable ocean energy, seaports and shipping, seabed exploration and minerals, marine biotechnology, research and development, tourism, ocean knowledge clusters and SIDS and LDCs.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has referred to amicable and deep cultural and historical ties between Iran and Bangladesh, saying his country is ready to boost cooperation with Bangladesh in different economic, political, cultural and trade fields. The announcement was made when the Bangladesh Ambassador to Tehran held a meeting with the Iranian President. At the same meeting, the new Bangladesh Ambassador Mujeebul-Rahman presented his credentials to the President and described the two countries’ relations as being friendly and brotherly and called for further ties in various political, economic, trade and infrastructural areas.
The first joint working group (JWG) meeting on the establishment of an Indian Economic Zone in Bangladesh has been held in Dhaka this week. According to a statement issued by the High Commission of India, discussions pertained to cooperation in the modalities or framework to set up Indian Economic Zones in places such as Bheramera and IT SEZs in Keraniganj and Mirsarai for mutual benefit. Both sides agreed on regular meetings to monitor the progress.
Social Justice and Equity
Expenditure under the social safety net programmes, including allowance for the elderly and widows, will see a 19% rise in the next fiscal year. At present, a good amount has been allocated for the 18 programmes under the social safety net, which will be increased by more than $10 million in fiscal 2016-17. Of the schemes, the biggest is the one for the elderly, whose count of beneficiaries will be increased by 5% or 1,50,000 people in the next budget. At present, the total number of beneficiaries for old-age allowance is 3 million.
Owing to the vigorous campaign, as introduced by the Awami League led government since 2009, a total of 123,629 people across the country received the government-sponsored legal assistances in seven years from 2009 to 2015. Of them, 9,160 legal aid-seekers were given legal assistances in 2009, 11,266 in 2010, 12,568 in 2011, and 15,450 in 2012. The number of legal aid-seekers is increasing rapidly under the government's vision to secure access to justice for all.
Power and Energy
The country's power sector is going to get further boost as 500 megawatt electricity is likely to be added to the national grid by this June, raising the total power generation capacity to at least 15,000 MW. Under the able and prudent leadership of HPM Sheikh Hasina, the power generation capacity has more than doubled from 4,942MW in 2009 to 14,539 MW till date. Moreover, the country has the highest rate of solar home system installations in the world and the system losses have been significantly reduced.
The Power Development Board (PDB) has taken up a mega project at a cost of around $140.8 million in order to bring a radical change in power distribution system in greater Chittagong. The project includes construction of 1,150-kilometre-long transmission line, facelift of old lines, installation of 14 new substations and enhancement of power generation capacity of eight substations. Besides, the coastal island Sandwip, which remains out of the reach of PDB electric supply, would also be connected with the national grid through submarine-cables for the first time under the project.
Bangladesh Awami League Bangladesh Insight Archives