September 11, 2014
The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently concluded a two-day historical official tour of Bangladesh, which was the first visit to Bangladesh by any Japanese Premier in 14 years. In what has been described as a ‘milestone’ for Japan and Bangladesh’s long standing friendship and partnership, the two countries reiterated their resolve to widen the already warm bilateral relationship under the framework of "Comprehensive Partnership" and had in-depth discussions on a number of bilateral, regional, international and multilateral issues of mutual interest, in particular Japanese investment in Bangladesh’s infrastructure development.
Bangladesh on the International Stage
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently honored the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her outstanding contributions to girls and women education by awarding her with a ‘Tree of Peace’. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova handed over the award to the Bangladesh Premier, on Monday in Dhaka. UNESCO awarded seven persons and institutions worldwide for contribution to literacy and education this year. The Bangladesh PM dedicated her award to the women, especially young girls, all over the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has conferred on Saima Wazed Hossain, global mental health advocate and daughter of current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the award of “Excellence in Public Health” in recognition of her contribution to public health in the national, regional and global level. The award was handed over on Wednesday by WHO’s South East Asian Regional Office (SEARO) Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh in Dhaka. Saima, who has been instrumental in spearheading the campaign on neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) and autism in the international and national level, is one of the two recipients of this newly instituted award.
Bangladesh Bank has been granted with the 'Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Policy Award' for promoting mobile-banking services in Bangladesh. The award was received at the 2014 AFI Global Policy Forum on Tuesday at Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. Since the central bank introduced the 'Guidelines on Mobile Financial Services' in 2011, more than 16.7 million people have opened accounts availing mobile financial services, and the number is growing by the day, with average daily transactions of TK 2.84 billion.
Growth and Development
Dr. Margaret Chan, Chief of WHO, has hailed Bangladesh’s healthcare system as being a model in the region. She praised Bangladesh’s overall health achievements and described its health leadership as “inspiring” that could serve as a lesson for other countries of the region. She was speaking at the inauguration of the WHO South East Asian Regional Organization (SEARO)’s meeting in Dhaka, on vector-borne diseases, and a separate Dhaka Declaration on vector-borne diseases, and a separate MoU being signed by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Thailand for collaborating to eradicate the deadly disease, Kala-Azar, on the sidelines.
Director General of UNESCO Irina Brokova has stated that Bangladesh is a model for developing countries for its rapid development in the education sector. She made the comment on the sidelines of the UNESCO’s International Literacy Awards function, which was hosted by Dhaka this year, and distributed by the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh has made remarkable strides in education and literacy, particularly for girls, since independence, and especially in the recent years under the visionary education policies and action of the Awami League led government.
Social Justice and Equity
The government has signed a US$15 million financing deal with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for a project to improve the living standards of people from the wetlands. The livelihood protection component of the project is expected to benefit 94,000 persons directly living in wetlands of 26 Upazilas of the country. The objectives of the project are to improve living standards and reduce vulnerability of the rural poor.
Bangladesh government has adopted a TK 2 billion project called "Ghore Fera Kormo Suchi" (Going Back Home Project) to rehabilitate urban slum dwellers to rural areas. The central bank has signed an agreement with Bangladesh Agricultural Bank for disbursing the amount as easy interest loans under the programme, designed to reduce the pressure of huge population on cities especially on the capital, Dhaka. Eligible borrowers can get Taka 20,000-40,000 for income generating projects besides Taka 50,000 for housing.
Trade and Investment
In order to showcase the immense investment potential that Bangladesh holds, especially for those from Asia, policymakers, economists and businesses from Bangladesh teamed up to organize Bangladesh Investment Summit 2014 at Asia’s business and financial hub, Singapore. The slogan of this summit was: “Unlocking Opportunities for Asia’s Investors”. Presenting the keynote speech, Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Dr. Gowher Rizvi stated that Bangladesh is currently the   most attractive investment destination in Southeast Asia as it has enjoyed a stable GDP growth for the last one decade.
A high-level trade delegation from the Netherlands representing ICT, food security, logistics, technology, waste management, water management and shipping sectors arrived on Monday to explore potential areas for collaboration with Bangladesh. Netherlands wants to make Bangladesh a hub for their IT outsourcing, apart from extending technological support and collaboration in the areas of flood and water management. Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) and Dutch Embassy in Dhaka hosted a B2B matchmaking event on September 9-10 at the BASIS premises participated by leading Dutch IT companies.
International and Regional Cooperation
Bangladesh has played host to this year’s Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) Forum, one of the world’s most prestigious telecoms event. Representatives attended the forum from 21 commonwealth countries consisting of telecom experts, ministers, high government officials and professionals. Speakers at the forum highlighted the need to have affordable and accessible Internet service for ensuring a country’s complete development. They also emphasized on making access to technology affordable to the underprivileged people along with enforcement of cyber security.
Netherlands has promised Bangladesh 30 million euros as aid for various development projects. The pledge came from a visiting official Dutch delegation during a meeting with Bangladesh’s Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed. A 15-member team from the Netherland’s International Cooperation, led by Deputy Director General Christiaan Rebergen, is currently touring Bangladesh for exploring various areas for collaboration. Additionally, Netherlands has promised to help Bangladesh tackle river erosion and flood management.
Bangladesh and India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for exchange of traditional medicines and experts and physicians for conducting trainings. Bangladesh’s Health Secretary MM Niaz Uddin and Secretary of India’s Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturapathy (AYUSH) Shri Nilanjal Shanyal, signed the MoU on behalf of their respective countries. Under the agreement, recognized institutions of the two countries will provide scholarships for education to each other.
Maldives will recruit more doctors and nurses from Bangladesh. The island nation will send their students for medical education in Bangladesh. In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the two countries on Tuesday. Under the MoU, Maldives will import medicines from Bangladesh through a government-to-government mechanism.
Bangladesh Awami League