June 30, 2016
Bangladesh's foreign exchange reserves have reached a new height, crossing the $30-billion mark. The reserves are the highest in the country's history and enough to meet import bills for at least eight months, according to central bank data. A strong remittance flow and a steady growth of exports helped the reserves go up. When the present government took power in 2009, the reserves were hovering at around $6 billion, but a favourable economic environment has been restored on the back of visionary and prudent policies by the Awami League led government.
Japan, one of Bangladesh’s largest development partners, has signed an agreement with Dhaka on releasing the largest ever soft loan for six mega projects which include power, road communications and disaster management. Signing of the 37th Japanese Yen Loan Package is deemed to provide fresh momentum for Bangladesh towards becoming a middle income country. The funds will be utilized for the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit project, Jamuna Rail Bridge, Cross-Border Road Network, Matarbari Coal Fired Power Plant, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Promotion Financing, and Disaster Risk Management Enhancement projects.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Ambassador Tom Shannon said his country is proud of its relationship with Bangladesh following remarkable achievements in socio-economic front. The US envoy highlighted that the USA was looking forward to deeper engagements in the days to come while addressing the fifth annual Partnership Dialogue between Bangladesh and the US held in Washington, where both countries took resolve to enhance the mutual cooperation on multifaceted sectors.
Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction work of the first-ever metro rail service in the capital and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Gazipur. To be completed by 2019, the $2.5 billion MRT Line-6 metro rail service will provide an improved, safe, faster and affordable but modern means of urban public transport service. For the rapid transit, six flyovers, 4.5 km elevated BRT lane from Uttara to Tongi and 16km flat grade will be constructed around the capital, aiming to shorten the journey between Gazipur and Dhaka Airport to 20 minutes.
Growth and Development
Bangladesh’s top economic policy-making body has cleared a $132 million project aimed at improving the quality of higher education. The project will facilitate the formulation and revision of educational strategies, streamline recruitment, raise management skill of colleges, and improve Honours and Masters courses. The World Bank will offer a loan of $102 million for the project, while the rest will come from government funds. The projects include the establishment of a technical school and college in 100 Upazilas and another for the setting up of a medical college in Faridpur.
A number of instruments have been struck between the World Bank (WB) and the government where the former announced to offer $200 million in loan to support the latter's efforts for further development of the country's health and housing sectors. Under the project, which will be completed in December 2021, low-income people would be provided with affordable housing, and would be given capacity building training on maintaining a decent living. Under the second agreement, the WB would provide additional funding of $150 million to help strengthen the country's health system and improve health services, particularly for the poor.
Social Justice and Equity
With an aim to build the capacity of government officials on climate change issues, the government yesterday signed a deal with International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) to initiate knowledge based programmes under “Learning Hub Events.” Under the MoU, ICCCAD will facilitate different knowledge sharing programmes including seminars and symposiums, on a monthly basis, with the collaboration of Economic Relations Division (ERD) of Planning Commission and the IIED.
Envisaged, supervised and implemented by HPM Sheikh Hasina, an initiative has been rolled out to rehabilitate 2,05,000 destitute people of 50,000 homeless families in the next three years. To this end, the leadership of HPM saw 254 cluster villages formed to rehabilitate 10,703 homeless families in 61 districts in the last five years as well as 247 multipurpose halls were constructed to impart training and run income-generating activities. Rehabilitation of the homeless is one of 'specific initiatives' of HPM Sheikh Hasina's social justice campaign.
China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has pledged to provide Bangladesh with a loan worth $165 million for the 'Power Distribution System Upgrade and Expansion Project'. The project is designed to expand electricity coverage by providing 2.5 million new service connections in rural areas, and to upgrade two grid substations and convert 85 km circuit overhead distribution lines into underground cables in northern Dhaka.
Bangladesh’s power plants have set a new record of power generation, generating 8,942 megawatt, which is an all-time high, according to Power Development Board. Within a space of a week, the highest generation capacity has been broken twice which stood as a testament to government’s vision of lighting up every houses across the country by 2021. Power generation has more than doubled in the past seven years since the current government took charge in 2009.
In a gesture of friendship, Bangladesh has started sending 10,000 metric tons of rice to Nepal for the recent earthquake victims. At the directive of HPM Sheikh Hasina, the first of the nine rice laden trucks was set out while the rest are scheduled to reach the Himalayan nation by next couple of weeks. Still reeling from the shocks of its worst ever earthquake, the people of Nepal will find this assistance a step forward in turning around their lives. Earlier, Bangladesh sent rice to Sri Lanka as humanitarian assistance.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven sought Bangladesh's support for the Swedish candidature in the election to non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for 2017-18. The Swedish premier made the request when he talked to his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina over the phone this week. During the discussion, the Premiers agreed to co-chair a UN high-level summit on Addressing the Large Movement of Refugees and Migrant slated for September 19 next at the United Nations in New York.
Bangladesh and Slovenia have agreed to cooperate in the areas of trade, energy, science and technology, agriculture and light industries. Praising Bangladesh's spectacular growth in agriculture, textiles, pharmaceuticals and energy, the Slovenian leaders underlined that the two countries could collaborate in renewable energy and power generation, small scale high-tech industries and other sectors. The praises came when State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. ShahriarAlam, called on Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia Karl Erjavee and President of the Slovenian National Assembly Milan Brglez last week.
Digital Bangladesh
State run telecom operator Teletalk signed a deal worth $39.2 million with Chinese equipment vendor Huawei to expand its network for both 3G and 2G at all upazilas, growth centres and educational institutions. Under the agreement, the state-owned mobile operator will establish 685 new 2G base stations and 559 new 3G sites. The operator will also upgrade its core network in the next 18 months with its own funds. Hopes run high that the implementation of the project would help Teletalk expand its coverage in the remotest corners of the country.
The government and Microsoft signed an agreement this week for ensuring cyber security in the country. As part of the agreement, Microsoft will inform concerned authorities in Bangladesh about any probable cyber threat and also lend cooperation to the government to defuse any such threat. Given that Microsoft has the mechanism globally to keep a strong vigil on probable cyber threats and attacks, this step will empower Bangladesh to move ahead in its fight against cyber terrorism.
Bangladesh Awami League Bangladesh Insight Archives