Nov 23, 2017
Last week saw Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi come in Bangladesh extending a call for lending out full support to Bangladesh in its effort to be a middle income country by 2021. The envoy said that China has been actively participating in the big infrastructure projects in Bangladesh and has also provided some concessional facilities in the process. On the other hand, Bangladesh is penning a $554 million loan deal with China to build a deep-sea single point mooring with an aim to cut the time and cost of offloading fuel oil from tankers.
Bangladesh economy maintained its growth momentum in fiscal year (FY) 2016-17 mostly driven by industrial output which grew by a record 7.2%, up from 7.1% in previous FY. The industrial output witnessed record high growth mainly for higher credit flow from private sector banks and financial institutions. On the back of the strong domestic demand and growing electricity generation, the industry sector, the main driver of total output growth, remained buoyant and witnessed a strong growth of 10.5% in FY17.
Foreign ministers of Germany, Sweden and Japan, alongside a European High Representative visited the refugee camps in Ukhia upazila in Cox’s Bazar. During a recent visit to Bangladesh, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono assured that Japan would support return of displaced Myanmar nationals back to their homeland. Reiterating his country’s commitment to stand for Bangladesh, the envoy said that Japan will continue to be a development partner of Bangladesh in its course to become a middle income country by 2021. Moreover, another pledge was made that Japan will provide more $18.6 million assistance to the priority areas for the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.
Pope Francis appreciates Bangladesh's inter-religious harmony and cultural diversity, which he will celebrate during his visit here next week. Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of the world's 1.29 billion Catholics, will visit Bangladesh during November 30-December 2 after his two-day visit to Myanmar and is expected to shed light on the refugee crisis caused by armed and communal conflicts in Rakhine State. During his visit, the Pope will visit the National Martyrs' Memorial in Savar and Bangabandhu Museum in Dhanmondi.
The government has planned to construct a dual-gauge railway line from Sirajganj to Bogra through funds from the US$ 4.5-billion 3rd Indian Line of Credit (LoC). Stretched for around 90-km line (including 11.35 kilometres loop line), the line will be built from Captain Mansur Ali Station (Sirajganj) to Bogra to cut nearly 112 km travel distance with the northern districts. The railway line will not only create a new corridor for the northern districts but also provide scopes for establishing regional railway connectivity with the neighbouring countries. Besides, the corridor will directly link Chittagong Port with the capital, thus facilitating business and trade activities within the country and with other countries.
Plans are laid out to introduce the productivity level system to assess the performance of various sectors and sub-sectors. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and National Productivity Organization (NPO), a department under the industries ministry, have already prepared a draft report in this regard. To help increase the productivity in various sectors and sub-sectors, a number of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) are going to be signed between the NPO and different trade bodies. NPO will sign another deal with Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) next month which will be followed by a good number of deals with FBCCI, DCCI, BCI and BAPA.
Owing to successful labour diplomacy on the part of the government, more than 100,000 Bangladeshi women workers have secured overseas jobs in the last ten months to October. Statistics showed that in the January-October period, around 100,136 women workers went overseas with employment. Of them, some 66,773 workers went to Saudi Arabia, up from 57,604 in 2016. Jordan has become the second-largest recipient country of Bangladeshi female workers recruiting 17,400 (17.4%) female migrants, followed by Oman 7,879, Qatar 2,775, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2,712 in the last 10 months.
The United Nations Children's Fund and the government have jointly introduced a “multidimensional poverty measurement approach” complementing the traditional income poverty method for evidence-based policy advocacy for children. The aim is to introduce the CMPI as official poverty statistics and build a common language around it. It is one of the six studies that the Unicef and the government have been conducting. The study will enable Bangladesh to measure the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. It will also help assess the impacts of social protection on children, complement poverty measures and provide an important source of additional information for public policy.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide Bangladesh with a loan of $300 million to help upgrade the Dhaka-Northwest international trade corridor to boost regional business. This project will help boost trade along the second busiest road artery in the country, and further strengthen regional connectivity, alongside it will also help bring down transport costs, make the sector more competitive and make transportation between Dhaka and north-western Bangladesh more efficient.
A plan has been laid out to for sustaining the growth in three major export-oriented sectors—textile, apparel and leather industries. The initiative will focus on strengthening the capacity of the state, businessmen and civil society to enhance social and environmental standard in those industries. The scheme will be implemented in Dhaka and Chittagong at a cost worth over $7 million. German development agency GIZ will provide the lion’s share while the government will bear the rest amount. These three industries are the driving force the country economic development as 13% of total industrial output comes from the sectors, involving around $4 million people.
Bangladesh Bank (BB) has created a US$240 million refinancing fund for providing loans to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at low interest. Under the refinance scheme, banks and financial institutions (FIs) can provide maximum 90% of the total project cost and borrower will have to bear the rest of the cost, according to a recent circular issued by the central bank. The circular also said the highest tenure of a mid-term loan will be three years and that for a long-term loan will be five years. The refinancing scheme will be applicable to the projects outside Dhaka and Chittagong metropolitan areas.
The World Food Programme (WFP) under the United Nations (UN) will continue its support to ensure food facilities for the Rohingyas, the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, until they will be rehabilitated to their own country. The WFP has been giving the support from its existing budget. It will be given till February, 2018. The budget would be allocated during its upcoming budgetary allocation. At present, there are around 1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh. Of them, around 6.5 lakh Rohingyas entered recently while the rest had been sheltered here in Cox's Bazar from 1978.
The government will devise comprehensive guidelines to facilitate international cooperation in investigation into money laundering and terror financing by the law enforcement agencies. Given that currently the country's law enforcement agencies cannot seek international cooperation except the government's help, works are underway to take new strategies to curb money laundering and terror financing. Currently, there are Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2012 and Anti-terrorism Act, 2009 in the country.
Bangladesh Postal Department has been awarded with "ASOCIO-2017 Digital Government Award" of Asian-Oceanian Computing Industry Organization (ASOCIO) in Malaysia in recognition to reaching multidimensional digital services to the rural people. State Minister for Post and Telecommunications Tarana Halim handed over the award to the Prime Minister this week. In addition, Bangladesh Postal Department got another "Silver Award" of the AFACT as runners up in the eAsia Award Competition for its eCommerce-related service "Postal Cash Card: Banking for Unbanked People."
The government has recently appointed US-based management firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to help persuade leading global ICT companies to invest in Bangladesh. The government has given BCG a target to bring 50 global ICT giants in the next two year. The government has targeted to earn up to $1 billion in foreign currency next year and $5 billion by 2021. And after 10 years, Bangladesh wants to be at the same level of Vietnam. Bangladesh earned about $800 million in foreign currency this year. The ICT sector is enjoying tax holiday since 2014 with the government declaring 12 incentives for hi-tech parks in 2015 and 10 percent cash incentive on export earnings last year.
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