August 21, 2014
Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic 7th March speech of 1971 “This time the struggle is for our freedom….” has been selected as one of the most rousing and inspirational wartime speeches of the last 2,500 years by a new book titled “We Shall Fight on the Beaches: The Speeches That Inspired History” authored by historian Jacob F Field. The speech, which effectively declared Bangladesh’s independence, encouraged the Bengalis to start their nine-month long blood bathed struggle for freedom.
Peace and Anti-Terrorism
According to the Global Peace Index 2014 prepared by the Australia-based international research organization the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Bangladesh is safer than its neighbors India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bangladesh’s state of peace has been described as ‘medium’, securing it the 98th position among 162 countries covered in the Index while India ranked behind at 143, Pakistan at 154 and Afghanistan at 161.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of 21st August 2004, the day when the then opposition rally of Awami League was attacked with military grade grenades in Dhaka with the objective of eliminating the entire top leadership of Bangladesh’s oldest and largest political party, most notably its President, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 25 people, including AL leaders and activists, were killed on that fateful day. Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped with her life as activists formed a human shield around her. The fact that the perpetrators of this heinous act of political violence received express and/or tacit assistance from the then BNP Jamaat regime has now been revealed through investigations. The cases lodged in this regard are expected to be completed by August next year.
International Cooperation
Bangladesh is all set to join the development bank formed by BRICS nations, officially called New Development Bank. The Prime Minister has already consented to the Finance Minister’s proposal of joining this multilateral bank and the proposal would soon be placed before Cabinet for approval. Bangladesh is also moving fast to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. In October, Bangladesh is likely to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China in this regard.
The Malaysian government has decided to open all sectors for Bangladeshi workers seeking employment in the Southeast Asian nation. This was told by the visiting Malaysian Human Resources Minister Richard Riot Anak Jaem. The Minister also added that Malaysia will recruit 12,000 more workers from Bangladesh for the plantation sector in the coming days.
Trade and Investment
Bangladesh’s bilateral exports saw considerable growth in the last fiscal year. Earnings from exports to USA grew by 18% during this period; while exports to China saw a robust 63% increase, from US$ 458.118 million in 2012/13 to US$ 746.198 million in 2013-14. In fact, exports to China have quadrupled in last 4 years. During the last 5 years, exports to Sweden have doubled from US$233 million to US$ 422 million. On a related note, Bangladesh’s pharmaceutical sector saw steady growth in exports in 2013/14, with an increase of 15% throughout 2013/14 and a phenomenal rise of 31% in the first month of current fiscal year.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) will extend its financial support to Bangladesh’s growing private sector in addition to their existing public sector financing. ADB has taken a policy to raise its investment to 50% of the total portfolio for private sector development up to the year 2020 among member countries. Since 1989, ADB has provided US$ 297.3 million in loans for 10 projects in Bangladesh’s private sector.
Growth and Human Development
The current government in 2009 embarked on the monumental task of setting up 12,537 community clinics throughout Bangladesh. The US$ 350 million project has already managed to garner widespread public satisfaction. A recent survey shows 82% people of various localities avail the services of these clinics, with an average of 35 persons visiting the clinics in a day. More importantly, 80-98% users expressed satisfaction regarding services there. The government has now undertaken another major public health initiative, whereby pregnant women would be able to receive round-the-clock services in each of the 4,000 Family Welfare Centers (FWC) across Bangladesh.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed two agreements with the government to give Bangladesh US$111 million in loan to support the country's efforts to improve farmland irrigation systems and also to tackle river erosion. The funds will be used to support the government's Irrigation Management Improvement Project designed to realize the full production potential of large-scale irrigation schemes and is expected to be completed by June 2019.
Bangladesh Awami League