October 23, 2014
Bangladesh Prime Minister at 10th ASEM Summit
During the 10th ASEM Summit, the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina upheld the modern image of Bangladesh at the global stage. The Bangladesh Premier made powerful statements about the country’s position on terrorism, climate change, migration, connectivity, MDGs and post-2015 development goals. In addressing the issue of terrorism, the Bangladesh PM urged the world community not to confuse terrorism with Islam or to judge terrorists on the basis of religion or nationality. On climate change, the PM reiterated her country’s commitment to low-carbon and climate resilient development. On migration, the Bangladesh Premier urged the world leaders to include the issue in the post-2015 development agenda.
On the sidelines of the ASEM Summit, the Bangladesh PM held a number of meetings with her European counterparts. In meeting the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the latter expressed her satisfaction over the prevailing political situation and stability in Bangladesh and highly praised the role of Sheikh Hasina in settling the maritime disputes with India and Myanmar. As the Bangladesh Premier met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders stressed on the need to strengthen socio-economic relations between the two countries. The PM also held a number of important bilateral meetings with the Prime Ministers of Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Greece and projected Bangladesh as an ideal spot for international investment. The Italian Prime Minister assured of encouraging more investment in Bangladesh, while the Netherlands Premier showed interest to invest in Bangladesh’s mega projects, including the proposed deep-sea port at Sonadia.
Bangladesh on the International Stage
Bangladesh has won membership of the UN Human Rights Council for the third time in an election held at New York on Tuesday. Bangladesh won 149 votes to secure a place in this 47-member inter-governmental body dedicated to promoting and defending human rights worldwide. According to the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, AH Mahmood Ali, this once again proves that the country is on the right track under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been invited to speak at the reputed Oxford Union in England. Founded in 1823, this debating society is one of Britain’s oldest university unions. The Bangladesh PM was the first Bangladeshi Prime Minister to speak at this prestigious society in 2011 when she gave a speech on world peace.
Member of Parliament (MP) Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who hails from Bangladesh Awami League, has been elected President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU is an international organization of parliaments of 164 countries. In a voting which took place last Thursday at Geneva, Saber Chowdhury had to defeat three other candidates and secured 169 votes as opposed to 95 by his nearest rival.
Growth and Development
According to the latest Development Update released by the World Bank, Bangladesh has continued to progress on human development and reducing extreme poverty. The Update notes that Progress in poverty reduction and shared prosperity is visible. World Bank also predicts substantial growth for Bangladesh’s industries and service sectors in the coming days. Noting the growing domestic trade, the World Bank forecasts growth in the industries sector to be 9.5% compared to the 8.4% last year and 6.1% growth in the service sector compared to 5.8% last year.
A latest study on Bangladesh's social and economic development by UK government and USAID showed that extreme poverty level would come down to almost nil (2.4%) by 2030 even if the economic growth rate remains similar to those recorded since 2000. The study also acknowledged that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress over the past two decades, lifting millions out of poverty and sustaining expanding levels of economic growth.
Bangladesh is the second best performer in South Asia in achieving the SAARC Development Goals (SDGs) and tops the list in reducing overall fertility rate. According to the Bangladesh Country Report 2013, the country achieved significant progress towards eradicating poverty, largely due to robust economic growth. The report evaluated Bangladesh’s performance in comparison with other SAARC countries in poverty alleviation, health, education and environment.
The European Union has said that Bangladesh has made “encouraging progress” in factory safety and labour rights issues. EU Commissioner László Andor noted that since 2013, there has been much progress in strengthening freedom of association, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, creation of new trade unions and carrying out labour, fire and building safety inspections. Similar comments were made by the World Bank in its latest development update that Bangladesh has made significant progress in improving working conditions for factory workers, amending labour and EPZ laws, increasing government’s capacity in assessing factory safety and structural building safety.
The government of Bangladesh with financial assistance of World Bank (WB) is implementing a project which will create 30,000 direct jobs in country's IT and ITES sectors. The project has been launched to enhance the growth of Bangladesh's IT/ITES industry for employment generation and export diversification. It also aims to establish basic e-governance foundation to support public sector modernisation.
Trade and Investment
With financial assistance from World Bank, Bangladesh’s central bank will launch a special fund to help boost Bangladesh’s exports. Under the $500 million scheme, exporters will be able to take low-interest, long-term loans. Negotiations with the World Bank regarding the matter have reached its final stages and the fund is expected to be set up in the next three to six months.
The Foreign Grant Regulation Act 2014 has nearly been finalized, which aims to attract more FDI in the economic zones, especially from China, Japan and India primarily through relaxing tax and citizenship issues. Under the new law, there will not be any limitation on the amount of inward FDI in the economic zones; local investors will be able to take over assets and industries owned by foreign firms; foreign investors will enjoy elongated tax holidays and duty exemptions; and be able to repatriate their entire income.
Global thread and zip manufacturing giant Coats will open its third manufacturing industry in Bangladesh. Coats has been strengthening its foothold in the country with the growth of the garment sector and wants to expand further. Currently, it has two thread manufacturing companies in Bangladesh—one in Gazipur and the other in Chittagong— where 1,600 workers and experts are employed. It now plans to plans to establish another zip factory in Chittagong.
Bangladesh Awami League