October 30, 2014
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently concluded a three-day official tour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the invitation of Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. During her tour, Bangladesh signed three agreements with UAE on prisoners’ transfer, security collaboration and diplomacy. Talks were held successfully with Dubai Ports World authority to conduct feasibility studies on a deep-sea port at Payra, a marine drive in Chittagong and a Special Economic Zone for UAE investors. A separate MoU was signed to ensure security and rights of the Bangladesh women working in UAE and recruitment of up to 2000 female workers from Bangladesh each month. The two countries agreed to promote bilateral cooperation in higher education, culture and tourism, energy, climate change, blue economy, terrorism and security issues.
Bangladesh has been re-elected as an executive member of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)'s Council for a second successive term. ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs. The voting was held at Busan City of South Korea on Monday during ITU’s annual meeting. Bangladesh received 115 of the 167 votes, placing it in seventh position among the 13 council members from the region elected for four years (2015-18). This is yet another example of the culmination of the current government’s policy of building a technologically advanced “Digital Bangladesh”.
Trade and Investment
Bangladesh and 21 other nations have signed an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The signing ceremony took place last Friday at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. The new multilateral lender would fund construction of roads, railways, power plants and telecommunications networks in Asia to keep the region's economy growing. According to Dr. Ravi Ratnakaye, Director of UN-ESCAP, joining AIIB will be beneficial for Bangladesh’s long-term infrastructure financing options.
According to two recent Pew Research Center surveys, one on faith and skepticism about trade and foreign investment and the other on optimism about economic future , Bangladesh turned out to be one of the most supportive countries of free market among 44 countries surveyed, and the most free-market, trade-oriented country surveyed in South Asia. With an overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis holding favorable views on concepts such as free market, free trade and foreign investment, Alyssa Ayres of Forbes has termed Bangladesh a “Capitalist Haven”.
War Crimes Trials
Erstwhile Chief of Islami Chatro Shangha, predecessor to Jamaat E Islami’s current student wing, Islami Chatro Shibir, Motiur Rahman Nizami was the mastermind behind formation of the infamous killing squad Al-Badr, which aided the Pakistan Army in carrying out genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. After 42 years of long wait for the victims, the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh yesterday awarded him the capital punishment after having found him guilty in 8 of the 16 charges brought against him. The verdict   confirms that Nizami, who later became the chief of Jamaat, was involved in torture, abductions, rape, murder and systematic cleansing of Bangali intellectuals.
Social Justice and Equity
According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report published by World Economic Forum (WEF), Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in reducing gender gap, moving up from the 75th position in the 2013 Index to 68th position in the 2014 Index. Bangladesh is also featured as one of the top ten nations to have reduced gender inequality by political empowerment of women. This is a sparkling example of the successes of pro-women policies adopted by the current AL government under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina in the last five and a half years.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) has stated that since 2013, the government of Bangladesh has made important progress to ensure labour rights application and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industries. In particular the ILO noted the following improvements: amending law; strengthening freedom of association, collective bargaining and occupational safety and health; registering new trade unions; strengthening safety and factory inspections; adopting national occupational safety and health policy; creation of standards for safety inspections and establishing review panel for closures of hazardous factories.
Growth and Development
World Bank will provide Bangladesh with soft loans worth US$ 413 million for developing the country’s primary education sector. The assistance, which will be provided under the 3rd Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP), will aim to further increase the number of school-going children as well as remove social barriers and discriminations against primary education.
The preliminary draft of 'National Industrial Policy 2015' has been prepared with the aim of raising the stake of industrial sector to 40% of the national economy, which now stands at 28%. The preliminarily draft was prepared by coordinating the reports of three sub-committees formed by the ministry of industries in this regard and will be finalized soon following recommendations of all stakeholders. Increasing growth in industries sector is one of the principal components of the current AL government’s vision of achieving middle-income status by the year 2021 and achieving GDP growth of over 7%.
International and Regional Cooperation
The Third USA-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue was held in Washington on October 28-29, with the respective governments being represented by U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque. The delegations discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. The dialogue featured three working groups on development and governance, trade and investment, and security cooperation. Regional and international issues were also discussed.
Last week, Dhaka hosted a two-day international conference on ‘Global Economic Recovery and Asian Perspective’, which ended with a series of recommendations and calls for measures accordingly by the Asian countries in leading the global economic recovery following the 2008 global financial crisis. Another important three-day regional conference was hosted by Dhaka with participation of 12 Asia-Pacific LDCs to identify sectors that need more investment to flourish and help the 12 countries graduate to middle-income nations.
Digital Bangladesh
Bangladesh government has launched an aid web-portal titled “Aid Information Management System” or AIMS for better, efficient and transparent foreign assistance management. The government has developed the AIMS to increase capacity to coordinate and manage foreign development aid alongside maintaining transparency and mutual accountability. Bangladesh is one of the few countries to deploy a homegrown system, which is more economical, highly customizable and sustainable as opposed to standardized ones deployed in other countries.
Bangladesh Industries Ministry has taken an initiative to introduce e-filing systems at all levels of the ministry by the year 2015 for providing speedy services necessary to entrepreneurs and industrialists. As a test basis, e filing has already been introduced at two branches already.
Bangladesh Awami League