January 01, 2015
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has greeted countrymen, expatriates and citizens across the globe on the eve of the New Year. She urged all to build a hunger-free, non-communal, prosperous and peaceful Bangladesh being inspired with the spirit of Liberation War. She termed 2014 as a glorious year in the history of the nation for overall development, maintaining democratic trend and inspiring the nation with the spirit of Bangladesh’s founding principles. She highlighted the strides Bangladesh made under her government in the last one year in terms of international recognition, economy, infrastructure and power. She reiterated her determination to bring all war criminals to book and execute the verdicts. The Prime Minister prayed to almighty Allah for happiness, prosperity and peace of all in the New Year.
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recently concluded visit to Bangladesh is expected to elevate the already warm relations between the two countries to newer heights. During his visit, it was agreed that China will help Bangladesh construct the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar rail line, set up a coal-based power plant and a rice research centre, and explore energy. China responded positively to Bangladesh's proposal for a road from Chittagong to Kunming via Myanmar. China also assured helping Bangladesh with securing memberships in the SCO and APEC forums. Bangladesh agreed to work with China to expedite implementation of BCIM-Economic Corridor. China promised to stand by Bangladesh during its “emergency needs”. Through the FM, PM Sheikh Hasina invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Bangladesh in 2015, marking the 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
2014: Year in Review
In continuation of the progress and achievements made by Bangladesh under the previous AL-led government from 2009-2013, 2014 was a year when the country kept up its momentum. According to a publication by Centre for Research and Information (CRI), Bangladesh maintained its march forward in several indicators including among others, economy, poverty reduction, digitization, power, infrastructure, RMG, education, agriculture and food security, health, social safety, women empowerment and labour welfare. Other areas where visible development was noticed includes countering terrorism, managing disasters, supporting youth entrepreneurs, prioritizing disability issues, sports and culture.
2014 is being considered as one of the most successful years for Bangladesh in terms of broadening its ambit of international and regional relations and cooperation and securing international recognition for its domestic successes. It was also a year when Bangladesh took charge of leadership roles in a number of reputed international forums. CRI, in its publication, “Bangladesh on the International Stage in 2014” looks at some of these successes in depth. In particular, the publication deals with government to government cooperation, regional cooperation, Bangladesh’s leadership on the international stage, performance at international forums, position in various international reports and indexes.
According to Bangladesh’s central bank, the country's foreign exchange reserve marked 24% increase in the outgoing year 2014 while the remittance inflow rose by nearly 10%. Both are major indicators of a country’s economic and financial health, and stand testament to Bangladesh’s consistent economic performance under the AL-led government in 2014. According to the latest data, the country’s foreign exchange reserve stood at US$ 22.34 billion on December 23, 24% higher than US$ 18.04 billion recorded on December 23, 2013. The reserves reached an all-time high of US$ 22.38 billion on December 18, 2014. As regards, remittances, by December 26, Bangladeshi people living overseas sent home US$ 14.71 billion against US$ 13.22 billion last year, marking 11.27% rise on year-on-year basis. The country also saw the highest ever inflow of monthly remittance in July this year with US$ 1.49 billion.
Bangladesh’s export earnings rose by 14% to US$ 27.5 billion in the 11 months of the calendar year 2014 compared to the same period last year. According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Bangladesh earned US$ 27.5 billion from January to November 2014, which was US$ 24.17 billion for the same period in 2013. During the same period, Bangladesh’s export earnings from the RMG sector rose by nearly 5% to US$ 22.25 billion in January-November 2014 compared to the same period last year. According to the EPB, Bangladesh fetched US$ 22.25 billion in 11 months of 2014, which was US$ 21.22 billion in the previous year.
Bangladesh’s agricultural sector saw robust growth in the year 2014, with record production of major crops and better prices for farmers. The agriculture and service sectors saw 3.35% and 5.58% growth in 2014, up from 2.4% and 5.5% respectively in 2013. Exports of agro-based products also saw a 15% growth in 2014, with earnings worth US$ 615 million. Major crops like boro, wheat, jute, potato, ginger and summer vegetables witnessed record production. Besides crops, poultry and fisheries also saw record growth with production increasing at all time highs for both. Farmers received higher prices for their produce in 2014 compared to 2013.
Bangladesh’s telecom and ICT sectors passed a significant year in 2014 achieving remarkable progress in technology and services and thus capturing world attention. Number of mobile users reached 120 million at the end of November. Some 45 million people are using internet when around 600,000 freelancers are working in the IT sector, generating nearly $300 million from outsourcing in the past 11 months. Washington based ITIF noted that use of ICT products among the mid-income people of Bangladesh increased by 81%, by 167% among higher income people and 52% among lower income groups. Unprecedented expansion has been seen in users of mobile banking and public services through ICT. On the international stage, Bangladesh was elected member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Council for the second time, and won the WITSA Global ICT Excellence Award and ITU e-Governance award.
Growth and Development
South Korea will provide Bangladesh with US$ 11.7 million in grant assistances for two separate projects. According to an agreement with the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, Korea will provide US$ 8.5 million grant assistance for a project which aims to reduce avoidable blindness in Bangladesh by providing accessible and sustainable eye care services with proper quality control to the population in accordance with the National Eye Care Plan of the Government. Under another agreement, Korea will contribute US$ 3.2 million for a project which aims to enhance the capacity building of Bangladesh government's officials and modernize their working environment.
A total of 42,500 youths, including women, will be provided with jobs under the third phase of government’s National Service Programme (NSP). The government has fixed a budget of US$ 84.8 million project, which is part of the AL government's election pledge of creating job opportunities. Under the programme, job opportunities would be created for around 42,500 unemployed youths in 17 Upazilas of 17 districts. The programme will start in January 2015 and continue till December 17 of the same year. Jobs for around 16,036 unemployed were created in the second phase of the programme in eight Upazilas, while in the first phase, 56,054 unemployed youths aged between 18 and 35 years were employed after a three-month basic training on ten modules in 19 Upazilas.
Social Justice and Equity
Under the Emergency Assistance for Food Security Project, Bangladesh government is receiving financial and technical assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) in ensuring 5 million poor and vulnerable people have better access to food. It operates with the aim to reduce the poverty levels of low-income groups. The focus of the project has been to improve access of the poor to food, income and livelihood support. It has so far assisted in relieving the immediate fiscal pressures because of a rise in safety net expenditures. It also assisted in sustaining the external balance, aggravated by higher import costs for food grains.
The government has undertaken an initiative to implement an integrated micro credit programme at villages under the existing rural social services scheme to build a ‘poverty and beggar free Bangladesh’. The 12 existing interest free micro credit prgrammes of the government under eight separate departments will be brought under one umbrella to check overlapping of loans and duplication of programmes. The scheme would first be introduced in seven Upazilas from seven divisions as a pilot project. Beneficiaries of these villages would decide for themselves which profession they want micro credit for. Clusters would then be created according to their chosen fields, and training would be provided by resource persons. Disbursement of loans would only follow after undertaking such training.
Trade and Investment
Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ to facilitate inflow of Japanese investments in Bangladesh and foster business partnerships between entrepreneurs of the two countries. Under the arrangement, Bangladesh government will cooperate with the Bank to provide Japanese entrepreneurs with information related to foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities in Bangladesh, and communicate about the country’s upcoming industrial projects. In return, the Bank will provide every possible support to bring investment into Bangladesh. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ is the largest bank in Japan, and serves as the core retail and commercial banking arm of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
During the Chinese Foreign Minister’s recently concluded visit to Bangladesh, 5 areas were prioritized for Chinese investment in Bangladesh. They are commerce, agriculture, industrial development, energy, and infrastructure development. Mr Wang Yi, on behalf of his government, also proposed the signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Bangladesh and China to boost bilateral trade, to which Bangladesh has assured to look into. Fruitful discussions were also held at the highest levels regarding the setting up of an exclusive economic zone for Chinese investors in Bangladesh pursuant to a MoU signed between the two countries earlier.
Digital Bangladesh
According to a study of the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), the apex global body of the GSM-based mobile operators, Bangladesh will be one of the global powerhouses in terms of Internet penetration by 2020. By then, 39% of the country’s population will be using Internet, making Bangladesh the 10th largest Internet using country in the world. Currently, there are about 42.5 million Internet users in Bangladesh. By 2020, Bangladesh will have 66.7 million active Internet users, with only China, India, USA, Brazil, Nigeria, Japan, Russia, Indonesia and Pakistan having more. In a related development, Bangladesh is all set to usher in the next generation of mobile technology in 2015, with 42.5 million people or nearly a fourth of the population using internet in the country expected to be brought under 4G coverage.
Bangladesh is going to set up a Digital University at the hi-tech park in Gazipur to expedite development by fostering ICT education. On Monday, the Cabinet approved the draft Digital University Act in principle. The university, which will specialize in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) based education, will be a public university named after Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The university plans to draw teachers from home and abroad with attractive salary and allowance structure. It will provide distance and online education. Two ICT entrepreneurs, nominated by the vice chancellor, will be on the academic council as well. In a related development, in order to make higher education more accessible, all courses of Bangladesh Open University (BOU) would soon be made available online.
Bangladesh Awami League Bangladesh Insight Archives