April 30, 2015
Ruling Awami League-backed all three mayoral candidates have clearly swept the city corporation elections in Dhaka and Chittagong. On the day, people were seen turning out in the centers with enthusiasm and law enforcers were guarding the centers and patrolling their vehicles on the streets that ensured lowest number of violence in any election of the country’s history. However, BNP’s announcement of boycotting polls following the start of voting, noticeable absence of polling agents and sloppiness while picking candidates give clear signs that the party could foresee its defeat for its violent campaign in the past.
In a monumental feat, Bangladesh has made a significant progress in improving maternal and child health, with a likelihood that the nation might achieve the MDG’s ahead of 2016. A newly released report of Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey-2014 revealed that more children are reaching their fifth birthday than ever before in Bangladesh. A target was set to reduce under-five child mortality to 48 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2016 from 53 in 2011. Bangladesh has already lowered the rate below 46. Similarly, the rate of stunted children has been reduced to 36 in 2014 from 41 in 2011, proving the visionary Awami League government's policy an example for the world to follow.
Moody's Investors Service, a global credit ratings agency, has once more projected Bangladesh's outlook as stable for the current year saying that the country's growth volatility is lower than almost all other countries they rated. In a press release, the agency said “Bangladesh's Ba3 foreign currency government bond rating reflects its track record of macroeconomic stability, a modest debt burden, and limited external vulnerabilities with an ample foreign reserve buffer.”
Global Financial Integrity (GFI) president Raymond W. Baker commended Bangladesh for securing a steady progress in the area of Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT). "You've made good progress and can perhaps benefit from our further cooperation and indeed serve as an example to other countries dealing with similar problems", said the GFI chief while talking with Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman during a panel discussion on illicit financial flows.
International and Regional Cooperation
The intensified diplomatic efforts of the Awami League government came to a success as the Indonesian government has shown deep interest to turn the existing bilateral ties stronger than ever. As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her Indonesian counterpart on the sidelines of the 60th Asian-African Conference Commemoration, both leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation, especially on trade-related issues. At the meeting, Bangladesh sought duty-free access for 129 goods while Indonesia also urged the PM to ensure duty-free access of goods like coal, clinker, pepper and edible oil to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has joined the global efforts by providing a wide range of assistances to turn around the lives of the earthquake-hit people of Nepal. At the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on Sunday, a C-130 cargo plane of Bangladesh Air Force has been flown to Nepal carrying six medical teams and ten tonnes of relief materials including medicines, tents, dry food, water and blanket. The foreign aircrafts with humanitarian aid for Nepal could also transit here en route to Nepal.
Thailand wants to further improve its economic ties with Bangladesh in sectors such as energy and infrastructure. The Thai energy minister expressed the country's interest to invest in base-load power generation and power transmission in Bangladesh by building coal-fired, gas-fired or oil-fired power plants. Moreover, the country is keen to work together with Bangladesh to put in place a formal anti-trafficking mechanism with the signing of a cooperation agreement soon.
Trade and Investment
Despite the BNP led alliance’s violent political campaigns, Bangladesh has managed to increase its industrial production in the first half of this fiscal year, thanks to the higher growth in pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, and cement sectors. The industrial production in the July-December period of FY2014-15 grew 10% from a year earlier, showed data released by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics recently. During the period, manufacturing output, which contributes about 20% to industrial production, rose 10% from a year earlier, while electricity output rose 10.8% and mining increased 10%.
Japan's Kobe Steel Group’s emergence in Bangladesh's welding market has once more proved that the country offers immense possibilities for the foreign investors. Kobe Steel will supply its welding products to the Chittagong-based firm, TSI Marine, which will sell the items in the local market. In their first year, they are aiming to sell 100 tonnes of welding electrodes in Bangladesh.
Growth and Development
Bangladesh’s economy is continuing to march ahead under the Awami League government. On Wednesday, country’s foreign exchange reserves reached US$ 24.09 billion for the first time. The central bank attributed the record reserves to a stable inflow of remittances and export earnings, satisfactory flow of foreign direct investment and foreign currency borrowing by the private sector. The reserves first crossed the $23-billion mark in February this year and are currently enough to meet import bills.
With a vision to accelerate the economic growth, the government has released the final tranche of cash incentives worth US$ 1.8 million for major exporters for the current fiscal year. Of the total amount, the jute and jute-product sub-sector will get US$0.4 million in the fourth installment while the rest will be allocated for the other sectors.
Social Justice and Equity
The people of Bangladesh are happier than any other South-Asian countries including India, reveals a new global report. The 2015 World Happiness report, prepared by Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which is a global initiative for the UN, ranked Bangladesh in 109th spot, placing India in at 117th spot. As indicators of happiness, the report takes into account GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices as indicators of happiness. This report is another testament to the vision and economic policies of the Awami League government.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a three-year 'Worker Empowerment Program' plan for Bangladesh to support the country’s labor rights, organizing union, and women empowerment in the readymade garment sector. Moreover, under this program, workers will get training on labor laws, provided with legal support, and find assistances in organizing and registering new unions.
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