January 08, 2015
On Monday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the nation over radio and television on completion of her government’s one year. During her speech, the Premier outlined the context of the January 5, 2014 polls and the widespread destruction, including targeted attacks on minority population, carried out nationwide by opposition parties BNP and Jamaat in order to obstruct the democratic process. She highlighted Bangladesh’s successes in the national and international arena achieved under the leadership of the Awami League government since 2009, and particularly in the last one year. She also urged BNP to leave the path of violence and return to the peaceful democratic process. She concluded by expressing optimism for achieving her government’s vision of turning Bangladesh into a technologically advanced middle income country before 2021. The full text of her speech can be read here.
Governor of Bangladesh’s central bank, Dr. Atiur Rahman has been awarded ‘Central Banker of the Year 2015’ from the Asia-Pacific region for stimulating growth and stabilising economy. London-based Financial Times-owned magazine ‘The Banker’ announced the awards on Monday. He was adjudged so on the basis of his ‘special contributions’ to Bangladesh’s economy by way of maintaining stability, inclusive banking, green banking and corporate social responsibility. Dr. Rahman dedicated the award to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by saying that it was her entrusting of the responsibility of bringing the bank’s activities to the world’s attention that led to this award. It should be noted that in November last year Dr. Rahman received the ‘GUSI Peace Prize International 2014’ award in recognition of his work in establishing peace by reducing poverty in Bangladesh.
Over the last few days, BNP and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat, have been wreaking havoc on common people in the name of political movement. On January 5, BNP-Jamaat cadres set fire to eight vehicles, seven buses and one CNG-run auto-rickshaw, in Dhaka, Gazipur and Mymensingh. As BNP announced its indefinite blockade from January 6, three law enforcers were brutally assaulted, an innocent man was killed, and at least 17 vehicles were torched and many more vandalised across the country on the first day of the nonstop blockade by BNP-Jamaat. The current blockade programme is also causing hindrance to thousands of Muslim pilgrims from attending the second largest Islamic congregation in the world “Bishwa Ijtema”. The current destructive agitation movement by BNP-Jamaat is also hurting the economy. BNP-Jamaat blockade supporters have also targeted rail communications, removing fishplates from tracks, resulting in the derailment of a train in Moulvibazar, injuring 12.
Growth and Development
The remittance inflow into the country posted 10.35% growth in the first six months of current 2014-15 fiscal year, thanks to growing momentum of the country’s economy. The expatriates sent a total of $7.47 billion remittance in July to December of the fiscal year 2014-15 compared to $6.77 billion in the same period of the last fiscal. Foreign currency reserves of the country reached a new record on Wednesday with US$ 22.46 billion. The month of December also saw a new record for monthly export earnings. Last month, exports brought in US$ 2.84 billion, up 4.41% year-on-year. The total export earnings in the first half of 2014-15 fiscal year stands at $14.91 billion, up by 1.56% over the previous year.
As many as 326 million new books printed in four colours were distributed among more than 44 million students of primary- and secondary-levels including those from madrasas across the country on the first day of school, January 1st. As part of its overall inclusive education strategy, the Awami League government started the distribution of free books to students up to secondary level in 2010. This year the government has included in the list of free books two more books – Information and Communication Technology and Career Education of class IX and Work and Life-Oriented Education for class VIII. On December 30, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the free textbook distribution programme by handing over new books to the students. The books had been sent to all the schools well before the formal distribution that began on January 1.
Power and Energy
The Awami League government has achieved a number of successes in the power sector during the past six years. Power generation capacity more than doubled from 4,942MW in 2009 to 11,265MW currently, with around 68% of the population having access to electricity. Furthermore, the government has increased the number of power plants, transmission lines and distribution lines. Per capita power generation has increased. The country has the highest rate of solar home system installations in the world. The number of irrigation pumps has gone up and the number of consumers of electricity has also increased during the tenure of the AL government. System losses have been significantly reduced during this period. Some $5.2 billion was invested into the sector to set up 65 power plants from 2009 to 2014.
The government has decided to construct the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Moheshkhali by 2016 aimed at importing LNG to meet the growing demand for energy in the country. The terminal which will be built under Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) basis, is expected to supply 500 million metre standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) from the floating storage and re-gasification units (FSRU) by 2016. After approval by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, the government signed the deal with Astra Oil and Excelerate Energy Consortium which will set up the LNG terminal with installation of 91 kilometre gas transmission pipelines with 30 diameter from Moheshkhali to Chittagong. The contractor will implement the project on a BOOT basis for 15 years and it would be transferred to the government after the 15 years.
International and Regional Cooperation
Local trade along the Bangladesh-India border is set to receive a boost as the first border market, locally called ‘haat’, in the Indian northeastern state of Tripura and the third along the India-Bangladesh frontier, is likely to be inaugurated on January 13. The work for setting up of necessary infrastructure was completed two months back and now it is ready to be opened. Work on another ‘border haat’ at Kamalasagar in Tripura is on and this would be ready within a month. Earlier, two ‘border haats’ were set up in 2012 at Meghalaya’s Kalaichar (India)-Baliamari (Bangladesh) and Dalora (Bangladesh)-Balat (India). The border haats are allowed to sell agricultural and horticultural products, spices, minor forest products (excluding timber), fresh and dry fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry items, wooden furniture, handloom and handicraft items.
Bangladesh and India are all set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) within February this year to “carry out joint work” on oceanic research in each other's Exclusive Economic Zones of the Bay of Bengal. India’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and Dhaka University of Bangladesh are likely to sign the MoU on behalf of their respective sides. A delegation from DU is going to visit India soon to work on details of the MoU, and a workshop will also be held in Bangladesh from February 10 to 12 to brainstorm and chalk out the modalities of the research. The research is likely to focus on such areas as climate, material brought by rivers into oceans, changes in the oceans etc.
Digital Bangladesh
The government has planned a new roadmap for the country's telecommunication and ICT (information communication technology) sectors with the major objectives of ensuring broadband internet for all besides combating cyber crime and tackling environment issues. The roadmap will also aim at managing e-waste to make this sector green while creating massive job opportunities for young IT professionals by encouraging investments from locally and globally renowned IT firms. As a major breakthrough towards implementing the roadmap, the government had already joined with the second submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-5 while expecting to get the country connected to it by the first quarter of 2016, which will help the country boost the internet speed and always stay online.
According to a leading freelancer marketplace Elance-ODesk, Bangladeshi freelancers are on course to earn about $100 million a year by 2020 working from home. This is five times what the freelancers now earn from jobs outsourced by companies abroad. In terms of earnings, Bangladesh is now ranked seventh among 186 countries where online jobs are outsourced to. Currently, the country has around 550,000 freelancers registered with different freelance marketplaces. Bangladesh is emerging as a leading player in freelancing jobs due to its huge young population base and relatively good and competitive output. Flexible working hours, high income is attracting Bangladesh graduates, fresh out of college or universities, to pursue this career option.
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