May 7, 2015
A recent survey, conducted by the US-based Pew Research Centre, revealed that Bangladesh has outperformed major developed countries including US, UK, India and China in terms of providing support for the free market system. Among 44 countries, Bangladesh was ranked second only to Vietnam as most pro-capitalist country. Eighty percent, or four in every five, of surveyed people in Bangladesh expressed their support for free markets.
At a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, has hailed Bangladesh’s progress in combating terrorism saying other countries could follow the same path. Besides, the US ambassador in Dhaka has also come up with resounding praises for the country’s efforts to counter violent extremism. “Moderate Bangladesh is a difficult place for transnational terrorists to operate,” said the ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, on Tuesday, while speaking at a conference titled “Countering Violent Extremism in Bangladesh: Phase Zero’ in Hawaii.
International and Regional Cooperation
India’s upper house of parliament (Rajya Sabha) passed constitution amendment bill on the much-talked-about Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh to settle decades-old boundary disputes between the countries. That victory is another testament to the Awami League led government’s visionary diplomatic policies. The exchange of enclaves will end the decade long hardships of the enclave inhabitants’ and fulfill their major humanitarian needs.
The fourth Bangladesh-US Partnership Dialogue concluded in Dhaka last week with a renewed pledge to work together on issues of both national and global interests and advancing common goals in development, trade, security and regional integration. Meanwhile, the country will soon deliver the second coast guard cutter to Bangladesh. In addition, both countries are working on the process of signing the extradition treaty, a move to repatriate the convicted killer of the father of our nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
New German ambassador to Bangladesh, Thomas Prinz expressed his interest to expand the scopes of investment in Bangladesh. In addition, the newly appointed ambassador also highlighted sectors such as education and public welfare to receive more assistance from his country. Currently, Germany is the largest destination for Bangladesh products in the European countries with $ 4 billion euros earned from exports.
Development and Infrastructure
Government has decided to establish a 'National Emergency Operation Centre’ (NEOC) to deal with emergencies during any disaster including high intensity earthquake. Apart from the NEOC, as many as 393 units would be constructed in 37 coastal upazilas to implement Cyclone Preparedness Programmes (CPP).
In a bid to establish faster communications link between the southern Bangladesh and the rest of the country, government approved setting up of an airport in Bagerhat, a southwestern district. The airport would play a vital role in the development of the country's tourism sector while sending and distributing relief materials would become easier in case of any natural calamities in the entire southern region of the country. Construction of the proposed airport, around 20 kilometers off Khulna city, will start in July this year and be completed by June 2018.
Power and Energy
Over the last week, the country marched another step forward towards the Awami League led government’s vision to make electricity for all by 2021. On Wednesday, the country witnessed highest ever electricity generation of 7,850 megawatt (MW) against a demand of 7,700 MW. Bangladesh’s capability to generate power has increased threefold to 11,000 MW in last six years. Days back, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated four power generation plants and two transmission projects through videoconferencing that will enable the country to generate 315 MW additional powers. In a related development, a joint venture between Summit Group and General Electric of the US has started a test run to supply 240 MW of electricity to the national grid. Meanwhile, In another development, the Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Shipping Ministry to construct a jetty and a channel for another 1200MW coal-fired power project.
In a monumental step, on Monday, the cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, passed a draft law to form a company to operate Bangladesh’s proposed first nuclear power plant, giving the project a legal foothold. Under the Act, Nuclear Power Company of Bangladesh will be set up, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission will own the plant while the Nuclear Power Company will run it.
As part of stepped up efforts to secure energy security of the country, the government devised an initiative to give international oil companies a chance to explore for onshore gas in Bangladesh. Lifting a two and a half decades ban on international companies, state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Ltd (Bapex) announced to award several gas blocks to international oil companies through bidding, and retain the rest.
Trade and Investment
The Digital Investment Summit began in Dhaka with an aim to attract global and local investors in telecom and information communication technology sector. The first of its kind in the country, the summit showcased the prospects of foreign investment in the sector, found ways to attract investment and build Bangladesh as an ICT destination. Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed, ICT affairs adviser to the PM, inaugurated the summit while top officials and representatives from the leading telecom operators and vendors from a number of countries including China and Norway also took part at the programme.
According to a new report, commissioned by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, Bangladesh still remains the first choice for apparel sourcing after China. Currently, Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporter after China with a 5 percent share in the more than $450 billion global apparel market.
Country’s exports of Knitwear look set to witness a meteoritic rise as the Japanese government offered a duty-free facility for Bangladesh. This new facility will also be applicable for knitwear product even made of imported fabrics, while, in 2011, Japan relaxed its GSP rules of origin 3-stage to 2-stage for knitwear. With intensified diplomatic efforts, the Awami League led government pushed up the country’s readymade garment export to Japan to a staggering $ 572.27 million in the fiscal year 2013-2014, up from $ 74.33 million five years back.
Digital Bangladesh
In an effort to transform the young generation into a skilled Information Communication and Technology (ICT) based manpower, the Awami League led government has introduced country’s first ever “One student and one laptop” scheme for the university students. At the launching event, on Sunday, Sajeed Wazed Joy, ICT advisor to PM, handed over laptops to as many as 250 students of Dhaka University, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and Sylhet’s Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. Addressing the programme, Sajeeb Wazed said that the government was in the process to connect 118 universities of the country through fiber optics and make them free Wi-Fi zones.
Despite the violent political campaigns of BNP, country’s daily average financial transaction through mobile banking has reached a new height. In March, the country witnessed the transaction scaled to the mark of staggering $51 million, proving the Awami League government’s policy an example for the world to follow.
Social Justice and Equity
On Wednesday, a new initiative was launched to provide financial support for underprivileged children living in urban slums. As part of a pilot initiative, 500 slum children will receive cash assistance for 18 months through mobile phone cash transfer. Moreover, the government has taken up two projects at a cost of $ 28 million to provide slum-dwellers and low-income people with the chance to own their own apartments by paying around $3.5 daily installments.
The World Bank (WB) will provide $200 million worth of assistance to help improve livelihoods of the poorest population in rural part of the country. The project aims to benefit approximately five million rural poor by providing livelihood support and enabling access to market through business partnerships. In addition, it will raise nutrition awareness, share agricultural knowledge and focus on enhancing youth skills so that they can take advantage of employment opportunities, the World Bank said. It will also fund small scale rural infrastructure.
A separate welfare fund for export-oriented workers was formed in a bid to face any emergency situation and provide them with insurance coverage. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed made the announcement after a meeting with owners of different industrial sectors at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment. Every exporter will contribute 0.03 percent of his or her total yearly export earning to the fund.
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