December 4, 2014
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today returned to Dhaka after concluding her three-day official visit to Malaysia. During her stay, the Bangladesh PM oversaw the signing of four deals with Malaysia aimed to enhance bilateral ties between the two countries in the sectors of manpower export, tourism, arts and culture. PM also addressed a meet of investors and business people in Malaysia. During her meet with the Malaysian PM Najib Razak, the latter expressed his intention to elevate the already warm ties between the two countries to ‘greater heights’. Talks were also held regarding car giant Proton opening plant in Bangladesh, Malaysia building low cost housing for the poor at the outskirts of Dhaka, Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries and the convening of a Joint Commission meeting next year to explore further areas of cooperation.
Bangladesh on the International Stage
Bangladeshi scientist Firdausi Qadri has been named a member of the UN’s high-level panel to advise on the proposed ‘Technology Bank’, dedicated to helping the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) advance out of poverty. The panel was constituted during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly and is mandated to examine the scope and functions of the proposed Technology Bank, its organizational aspects and its institutional linkages with the UN.
Bangladesh’s Captain Moin Uddin Ahmed has been elected the next Director General of the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO). The election was held during the 23rd session of the IMSO Assembly in London on Thursday. IMSO is an inter-governmental organization with 99 member states and its primary purpose is to oversee certain public satellite safety and security communication services provided by mobile satellite communication systems.
Growth and Human Development
According to a recent report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Least Developed Countries Report 2014”, Bangladesh received 45% of the total remittance inflow to the least developed countries (LDCs). The report said Bangladesh continued to be the largest recipient of remittances, receiving almost $14 billion in 2013. The report further stated that the country registered strong growth in export in the recent years, driven mainly by exports of labour-intensive manufactured goods. In a related development, remittance inflow into Bangladesh in the month of November 2014 increased by 14.70% to $1168.85 million compared to $1019.03 million the month before.
According to a new survey by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), people in Bangladesh are now living longer lives compared to even four years ago. Life expectancy rose to 69.4 years in 2012 from 66.8 years in 2008, an increase of 2.6 years in four years. The survey also recorded a significant drop in birth and death rates in the same timeframe. Experts attribute the progress to overall economic development, expansion of health services, better access to telecommunications and a rise in literacy rate.
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral resources Nasrul Hamid has said Bangladesh would import a total of 200MW of power from Palatana power plant in Tripura of India. 100MW will come in 6-7 months, followed by the remaining 100MW. The State Minister referred to his discussion with the Indian Premier Narendra Modi in Tripura on Monday, when the said power plant was inaugurated by the latter. The price of electricity sourced from this plant would be very cheap as it is fired by natural gas. Bangladesh is also currently in talks with Nepal and Bhutan regarding importing power from their hydropower projects.
Trade and Investment
Bangladesh government will form a business council with ambassadors from the EU nations and trade body leaders to boost exports to the European countries. The proposed council would help boost trade further and work towards removing barriers to trade and to help Bangladesh achieve middle-income country status faster. Bangladesh's export earnings currently stand at above $30 billion, half of which comes from the EU. The EU also wants to further increase imports of garments, pharmaceuticals, ships and ICT products from Bangladesh as they think the country is an important sourcing destination for them.
Two high-powered delegations from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will arrive in Dhaka early next year to scrutinize large scale investment prospects in the country, like the construction of a third seaport in Patuakhali and the proposed 285km long marine drive project. The delegations would include two big corporations from the UAE, namely, Dubai Ports World Authority and Mubdala Development Company. The Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina first raised the issues during her recent visit to UAE, followed up by formal proposals being sent by the government.
Social Justice and Equity
As part of the AL government’s policy of a wide-ranging social safety net programs, a new initiative will be launched whereby cash handouts will be provided to poor women, to ensure proper nutrition for their children and better health for them. Funded by the World Bank, the program will be run in the seven most poverty-prone districts and will provide cash handouts to pregnant women and women with infant children. Around 600,000 poor women in the seven districts will benefit from the project, which is expected to start formally from the next fiscal year.
To rehabilitate poor people living in slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh government has adopted an innovative program for rehabilitation. Under the project, the government will build housing projects where ownership can be obtained by paying daily micro installments over a long repayment period. The poor will be able to buy apartments in the project by making daily payments of Taka 260 (or around US$ 3.35) over a period of 20 years with a 10% service charge.
Under a reading habit development program of the government, in 2014, some 8,10,000 students of 6,680 schools of 125 Upazilas read extra curriculum books regularly. Financed by the World Bank, the program was launched in 2010 to develop reading habit of students from class 6 to 10. The government is encouraging students to read books as it not only help build a knowledge-based society but also helps make them creative and open their minds. Initiative is now being taken to convert most of the books into e-book. Owing to the success of the program, it is being extended to another 3,300 schools of 90 Upazilas next year.
The Access to Information (a2i) project under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has been playing a crucial role in facilitating the use of ICT in education in Bangladesh. So far, they have trained 20,500 secondary level teachers and provided the same number of schools with laptops, multimedia projectors, speakers, modems etc to enable teachers to use digital content in their classrooms. It is also working for establishing multimedia classrooms in secondary schools and training teachers in preparing ICT-aided educational contents on hard-to-grasp topics, and making electronic versions of primary and secondary level textbooks made available on the government’s NCTB website.
Bangladesh Awami League