October 02, 2014
In a program to commemorate Bangladesh’s 40th year in the UN, world leaders came out with resounding praises for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, UN Under Secretary General Ameerah Haq, United States Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova praised Sheikh Hasina for her invaluable contribution to world peace and security side by side with stellar development in Bangladesh. They lauded the Bangladesh Premier for her firm stance against terrorism and militancy and achievement of a number of millennium development goals (MDGs) by Bangladesh under her watch.
Bangladesh on the International Stage
Bangladesh has won the 'Global ICT Excellence Award' at the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) held in Mexico’s Guadalajara on Wednesday in the 'Public Sector Excellence' category. The World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) made the award. A committee comprising of experts from 80 member-countries selected the awardees in recognition of their innovative work in the information technology sector.
Bangladeshi scientist Dr Mirza Mofazzal Islam has been honored with a prestigious global award for his contribution to increasing food security by using radiation technology. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) jointly awarded him along with other global scientists at the general conference of the IAEA.
Growth and Development
In its Asian Development Outlook 2014, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has predicted that in the current fiscal year, Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would grow at 6.4%, a figure 0.2% higher than their earlier prediction. It also stated that export and remittance earnings would continue to rise in the current climate of political stability.
A visiting delegation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that Bangladesh has made considerable progress in consolidating its macroeconomic stability. It noted with appreciation that foreign exchange reserves have continued to increase and have reached adequate levels, inflation has declined, and fiscal deficit is contained and public debt is on a downward path.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), demand for Bangladeshi products is on the rise both in the domestic and international markets. Between June 2013 and June 2014 the growth of demand for Bangladeshi products rose from 42% to 48% in the international market and from 50% to 55% in the local market. It thinks at the end of the current fiscal year the trend will remain positive.
In order to diversify energy sources and implement its master plan of generating 24,000 mw of power by 2021, the government has embarked on the mission of setting up a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)-based combined cycle power plant, first of its kind in the country, in Khulna. Under an agreement with Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), this 750-850 megawatt capacity power plant will be implemented by 2021.
The government has signed a $30 million deal with Swiss company ABB for strengthening Bangladesh’s power transmission system. Under the deal, 4 new substations will be built and 6 substations will be expanded to enhance transmission capacity and boost power supplies. It is estimated that 450,000 households will receive new power connections through this program, and carbon emissions be reduced by almost 2.5 million tons per year.
Social Justice and Equity
Australia will provide $32.6 million aid for the education sector of Bangladesh in the current fiscal year. The aid would mostly be used for the uplift of primary education, but would also include help for secondary schools, groups of young women, ethnic minority children and children with special needs.
Leading apparel and footwear buyers and retailers who source from Bangladesh, have teamed up to make the country's factories environmentally sound as part of a global initiative. They have come together under the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) program, which aims to help lead the industries towards lowering discharge of such chemicals by 2020.
Trade and Investment
After Glodman Sachs and Deutsche Bank AG, now New York based Merrill Lynch has shown interest in investment opportunities in Bangladesh. Industry insiders say factors such as stable economic outlook, relative calm in the political field and vast youth population are attracting the top global fund managers to set their eyes on Bangladesh.
The government has prepared the draft of an incentive package for attracting foreign investment in special economic zones. Around 20 types of incentives will be on offer, mostly customs, VAT and income tax-related. The aim is to give foreign investors in Bangladesh the same incentives or more as neighboring or competitor countries.
Czech Republic has shown interest in investing in Bangladesh’s fertilizer, sugar, communications and civil aviation sectors. In a related development , Bangladesh has decided in principle to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Czech Republic. Bangladesh’s exports to Czech Republic increased from US$74.23 million in 2012-13 to US$112.10 million 2013-14. With the signing of the FTA, exports earnings are expected to rise further.
International and Regional Cooperation
Maritime cooperation between Bangladesh and USA has enabled Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Cost Guard to cut down the threat of piracy at the Bay of Bengal by 70%. Consequently, shipping insurance rates have been brought down by 40% and Chittagong is no longer listed as a ‘high-risk seaport’.
South Korea has agreed to import more Bangladeshi products and hire a greater number of Bangladeshi workers from now on. The assurance came as Bangladesh Commerce Minister led a 29-member trade and business delegation to the Southeast Asian nation in the last week of September. Bangladesh earned $344.81 million from exporting products to Korea in the 2013-14 fiscal year. At present around 72 Korean companies are operating in Bangladesh with a combined investment of more than $600 billion.
In order to boost bilateral trade and investment, Bangladesh has sent a proposal to Sri Lanka for signing a coastal shipping agreement between the two countries. The move is part of the ongoing negotiations in this regard, which started during the Bangladesh Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Maritime Connectivity though Coastal Shipping held in Dhaka on April 2014.
Connectivity between Bangladesh’s capital and India’s Northeast is likely to gain momentum, as trial runs of buses between Dhaka and India’s Shillong and Guwahati will start from this month. Better connectivity is likely to boost tourism, trade and healthcare in the region as well as facilitate people to people contact.
Bangladesh Awami League