December 18, 2014
Bangladesh on the International Stage
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution titled "Culture of Peace" proposed by Bangladesh on Tuesday. Since 2001, Bangladesh's Permanent Mission in the UN is placing the resolution every year and it is also being adopted unanimously each year. Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr AK Abdul Momen said the main spirit of the resolution was to increase tolerance that would reduce global tensions. The resolution aims to increase the participation of people, particularly women and youth, in running the state. The slogan of this year’s resolution is "Peace will come if intolerance and hatred of the people are reduced”.
Bangladesh has signed an International Cooperation Agreement with Geneva-based CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) to develop science and technology research in the country. The AL government’s Vision 2021 aims to see a Bangladesh advanced in science and technology by the year 2021. The agreement with CERN is a direct result of having such a vision for the country. It is hoped that the agreement would enable teachers, students and researchers to benefit immensely from the enrichment in science and technology based knowledge. CERN runs the world’s largest laboratory in fundamental and quantum physics in Geneva, Switzerland.
Growth and Development
Bangladesh is one of the only 9 countdown countries already on track to achieve the primary target of the 5th Millennium Development Goal (MDG), improving maternal health, by 2015. It is also the only low-income or middle-income country with two large, nationally representative and high-quality household surveys focused on the measurement of maternal mortality and service use. The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in Bangladesh fell from 322 deaths/100,000 live births in 1998-2001 to 194 deaths in 2007-10, an annual decrease rate of 5.6%, slightly higher than the required 5.5% to achieve the MDG in 2015. Additionally, some other positive changes occurred during this period: fertility rate decreased and proportion of births associated with high risk to the mother fell; income per head increased sharply and the poverty rate fell; and the education levels of women of reproductive age improved substantially.
The World Bank has approved approximately $1.1 billion for three major development projects in Bangladesh that would benefit almost 36 million by improving the quality of primary education, building coastal communities’ resilience to natural disaster, and increasing the nutrition and cognitive development of children from the poorest households. The projects aims to create opportunities for the poor by using cash transfers for mothers to promote better nutrition at home, helping children take advantage of pre-primary education under the primary education program and providing school infrastructure in vulnerable coastal zones.
Bangladesh government and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are about to undertake a project to give rural micro-entrepreneurs better access to financial services and markets. The two parties signed a $40 million loan agreement on Thursday that will provide financial services and technical training to 452,000 rural women and men. The project titled “Promoting Agricultural Commercialization and Enterprises” will put in place mechanisms to link smallholder farmers and micro-entrepreneurs to markets and create jobs for the rural poor. In addition to providing financial services and training, the project will also facilitate sustainable businesses opportunities in the agricultural sector.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated Bangladesh’s first ever coast guards’ training centre and base ‘Agrajatra’ at Patuakhali district. The base, which is situated in the Pautakhali-Mirjaganj highway in Itbari area, has been built by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 23.68 acres of land with an expenditure of over $5.5 million. The training centre includes 19 buildings and seven different structures. It is hoped that the training centre would play a vital role in training coast guards to ensure the safety of fishermen and in securing the naval and sea routes of Bangladesh.
Infrastructure and Mega Projects
Bangladesh government has signed a deal with two foreign companies from Spain and Korea, to set up a natural gas based 383 mw combined cycle power plant at Bibiyana, Sylhet to meet the target of electricity generation set for the year 2021. According to the deal, the project cost has been estimated at US$ 388.96 million and will be financed by state run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) from its own resources. The power project will get gas directly from the Bibiyana gas field, and hence the electricity production cost in the project will be only TK 1.13 kilowatt per hour (kw/h). The project’s gas turbine, steam turbine, generator and other main equipment will come from Germany, Belgium, USA, Spain and China. The plant’s energy efficiency is expected to be 53.37%.
The government has undertaken a project to construct the 13 km long Shantinagar-Jhilmil flyover at a cost of US$ 128.1 million with a view to establishing a direct and uninterrupted link with the capital Dhaka. Appointment of project director and other necessary groundwork are underway, with a view to completing the project by the year 2019. The government is envisaging materialization of the project under Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). Since assuming power in 2009, the AL led government has undertaken and completed several mega communications projects, including a number of flyovers. Several other similar projects are on the pipelines.
Trade and Investment
Bangladesh government has signed a MoU with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to train up garment industry workers in order to enhance their productivity. Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity (B-SEP) Project of the government will implement the initiative, with the aims to develop the private sector-led vocational training systems for the RMG sector and provide financial support to the industry-led initiatives for developing and implementing vocational training systems. Under the deal, B-SEP would implement the development activities of the Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry (CEBAI), which was launched by BGMEA last week to improve productivity through research and development and aid in the government’s target of earning $50 billion from RMG exports by 2021.
In the next four years, Bangladesh will be able to earn US$ 5 billion from exporting leather, leather goods and footwear along with creating 200,000 new jobs in the sector, riding on the back of product diversification and value addition. The sector earned a record $1.3 billion of exports in fiscal year 2013-14 and set a target of $1.5 billion for the current fiscal year. Leather exports accounted for 4.29% of the country's total exports worth $30.17 billion in 2013-14, registering a massive 28% growth. According to market insiders, the leather sector holds the most promise for Bangladesh’s export earnings after the garments sector.
International and Regional Cooperation
Officials and experts have gathered in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh from Wednesday for the two-day second Joint Study Group meeting of the Bangladesh China India Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor. Agenda of the meet includes discussing the “objectives, scope and modalities of cooperation” in a number of sectors that the four countries agreed before. The meeting will also consider the studies to be presented by each country, outlining their own “perspectives and expectations” in this regard. The first joint study group meeting was held in Kunming in December last year. The ongoing meeting is being attended by among others, 33 officials and experts from Beijing, eight from New Delhi and three from Nay Pyi Taw.
The World Bank has come forward to help Bangladesh improve its regional and transportation facilities with neighbouring India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. In this regard, a high-level delegation from the multilateral lender has already visited Bangladesh and held talks with various government authorities of the country. The initiative is part of the institution’s integrated approach for boosting regional trade and connectivity among the South Asian countries. Through the undertaking, the World Bank aims to improve the capacity of the customs points at the land, river and sea ports, transportation facilities including roads, railways and waterways and intra and inter-regional cooperation.
Bangladesh and Bhutan are jointly planning to set up an organization called, ‘International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Institute’, aiming to expand the tourism sector and create skilled manpower. A project proposal is currently being prepared to that end. According to the Chairman of the Bangladesh Foundation for Tourism Development HM Hakim Ali, the institute will initially train up students at a Dhaka hotel, and will soon move to their own premises for running the training activities. The concerned authorities are also in discussion to utilize a SAARC fund for this project. A delegation, led by the chairman of Bhutan International School of Hospitality and Tourism recently visited Dhaka and held discussions on the subject with their Bangladeshi counterparts.
Bangladesh Awami League