Aug 20, 2015
Bangladesh and India will be able to do ‘great things’ if their mutual markets could be tapped together, according to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She made the comment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two leaders met in New Delhi on Wednesday. The meeting was held after the Bangladesh Premier attended the funeral of Suvra Mukherjee, the wife of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee. Both leaders were pleased with the progress in implementing the Bangladesh-India-Bhutan-Nepal (BIBN) Motor Vehicle Agreement and the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA). PM Sheikh Hasina welcomed her Indian counterpart’s proposal to hold a joint exercise on combating natural disasters with other South Asian countries.
Bangladesh’s incredible march, under the prudent leadership of Sheikh Hasina, towards transforming the nation into a technologically advanced one led the country to set yet another milestone on the global stage. This time, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has decided to award the Bangladeshi premier for her contribution towards harnessing the potential of ICT for sustainable development. She was selected in recognition of her government’s achievements in ensuring effective use of ICT for sustainable development of Bangladesh.
According to the latest statistics as revealed by the central Bank, Bangladesh has registered an upward rise in the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) with global businesses making an investment worth $1.7 billion last year, up from $1.52 billion in 2013-14. Over the last six years, after assuming power in 2009, Bangladesh has turned into an important business hub with the government’s visionary policies and incentives resulting in spurring up foreign investment.
Taking a giant leap forward in uplifting the progress of the nation, the government has initiated the construction work on the 20-kilometre long elevated expressway at a cost of US$ 1.16 billion. This long awaited expressway is expected to become operational before the Prime Minister inaugurates the Padma Bridge project in 2018. Once completed, the expressway will connect the northern and southern parts of the capital linking the Shahjalal International Airport with Jatrabarhi's Kutubkhali area via Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Moghbazar, and Kamalapur areas.
Foreign currency reserves of Bangladesh have hit an all-time high, crossing the $26 billion-mark on last Monday. The reserve of $26.03 billion, up 17.8% year-on-year, is enough to meet the country's import bills for more than seven months. Export earnings, remittance, foreign direct investment and private sector's foreign-sourced loans have attributed to this attainment that has empowered Bangladesh to withstand any internal or external economic shock. This achievement is yet another testament of the current government’s policies and commitments.
Institute of Microfinance (InM), a microcredit think-tank, in a recent study, shows, Bangladesh has reached yet another milestone in making its financial services inclusive, higher than ever, with four in five households gaining access to financial services. Access to financial services, including insurance, stood at over 79% in 2014, compared to 77% in 2010. Experts have pointed out improvements in the networks of banks and microfinance institutions, coupled with a booming mobile banking segment, have contributed to this success.
Bangladesh National Under-16 Football Team defeated India National Under-16 in the final match and clinched the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-16 Football Championship 2015. About 25 thousands spectators at the gallery, equal numbers standing outside of the stadium, hundreds and thousands of fans before the TV screen or listening to the live commentary in radios were amazed at the sporting performance of the Bangladeshi players. In the crucial tie-breaker, Fahim, Jahangir, Atik and Saad scored for the hosts.
Bangladesh has emerged as the most lucrative destination for global investment in South Asia, as Japan has showed interest to build a new economic zone in Narayanganj while their earlier proposed one in Gazipur got the approval to begin the construction work. Japan is set to fund a project undertaken to upgrade more than 60 bridges in the country's western zone like eastern zone aiming to ensure smooth traffic. Meanwhile, about 291 acres of land has been allocated to develop a special economic zone for Chinese investors.
Road connectivity of the country’s port city will scale to a newer height as the government has embarked on a series of mega projects aiming to give the city dwellers a respite from the busy traffic and ensure smooth movement. To that end, three MoUs’ were signed with three Chinese enterprises to build a 21 km long expressway from Shah Amanat International Airport to Lalkhan Bazar at a cost of US$ 323 million. Involving US$ 90.7 million, constructions of three more flyovers have been gaining major steam that will give the city a new facelift.
Dutch minister for infrastructure and environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen, has expressed deep interest of his country in extending financial assistances in the development of deep seaports in Bangladesh including the likes of Paira and Chittagong port and the surrounding plots for harbour development on Ramnabad channel. To that end, the governments of Netherlands and Denmark have already formed a consortium to help fund and construct Paira deep seaport in Patuakhali district.
Country’s march to fulfill the promise of realizing Digital Bangladesh by 2021 took another stride as industrial parks have been planned to set up on the sites of half a dozen state-owned enterprises. Now the authorities are trying to resume the operation of the closed state-owned entities in light of the government's decision. To this end, a project involving US$ 19.43 million was taken to reopen Chittagong Chemical Complex Ltd that secured over 52 % progresses.
Growth and Development
Owing to the progresses Bangladesh has made towards meeting the conditions attached by the World Bank earlier, fresh hopes have ignited that the country would get another amount of US$250 million as budgetary allocation form the global lender. Reportedly, major conditions have already been fulfilled while MoUs have been signed with state banks. Earlier, WB promised to provide Bangladesh with $500 million fund for major reforms in nine areas including public fund management, banking, energy, transport, ICT, public private partnership and migrant workers.
With the graduation to the lower middle income status, Bangladesh is now eyeing to rid the nation of hunger and poverty forever. Adding a new impetus to that initiative, US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat announced that the USAID will launch a new $180 million five-year phase of its Food for Peace (FFP) program this year to face food insecurity of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Bangladesh. That assurance came at a programme titled “USAID Food for Peace Program in Bangladesh, 2010-2015: Exploring Successes and Challenges”.
According to Export Promotion Bureau, leather and leather goods became the second highest contributor to national exports after garment as Bangladesh exported leather and leather goods worth $1.13 billion in 2014-15, compared with $1.12 billion in the previous fiscal year. Target has been fixed to export $1.21 billion from the sector in 2015-16, which is 7.28% higher. Meanwhile, in the wake of duty and quota-free access for some products, Bangladesh’s exports to Indian markets have marked a 15.45% rise, scaling up to $527 million in last year.
The government’s plan of building 8,400 apartments in the capital for the lower income people got a major boost as the Malaysian government has finally reached a consensus on draft master agreement in this regard. The master agreement covers all major aspects of the scheme including financial matters, mode of payment, timeframe, type of infrastructure and facilities. Modern amenities like solar system, rainwater harvesting and Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) will be available for the habitants of these flats to be built by Malaysia in Dhaka.
International and Regional Cooperation
Amid a surge in the presence of fake currency rackets, Bangladesh and India are planning to carry out a joint drive against currency counterfeiters and smugglers once respective criminal databases are prepared and shared. Till date, Bangladesh has prepared its own database and the drives await the completion of the Indian one. Those decisions were taken following a two-day meeting of a joint task force with India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) where a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed in this regard.
The manpower landing horizons for Bangladesh will take a major step as Japan is keen to recruit a huge number of workers to furnish all-out preparations for smoothly holding the Summer Olympic and Paralympics, due in Tokyo in 2020. In terms of easy availability and affordable wages, Bangladesh has drawn the preference of the Asian giant that requires as many as 6 million workers in this respect. Japan showed the interest when foreign ministers of both countries met in Nepal.
Social Justice and Equity
According to a new survey administrated by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Bangladesh became a shining example in reducing child malnutrition among the developing countries, especially in the Asian region. From 59 % in 1990, the child stunting figure slid to 41% in 2011 and further reduced to 36% currently. Dr Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI headquarters, said that as Bangladesh has successfully halved hunger in a period between 1990 and 2014, he is highly optimistic the country can end under-nutrition by 2025.
In a bid to foster women entrepreneurship, the government has devised a plan that will bring around 9,000 new women entrepreneurs across the country under banking services within this year. In pursuance of that goal, Bangladesh Bank issued a circular asking every branch of banks and non-banking financial institutions to finance at least a woman entrepreneur each year. It further directs that the selected women entrepreneurs be trained for their capacity building on business and banking activities project.
Under a World Bank funded project titled 'Integrated Component for Vulnerable Group Development' (VGD)’, the government has undertaken a TK US$ 0.39 million special project to financially empower about 21,000 ultra-poor women across the country. Monthly cash assistances and 30 kg of rice will be provided to the beneficiaries that will make the ultra-poor women financially solvent and it is envisaged as an effective tool for improvement of their livelihood and will contribute to ensuring their food security.
Agriculture and Food Security
Projecting Bangladesh as a focal country, a global initiative would be launched in the United States in November to end hunger and under nutrition by 2025. Compact2025 -- the programme designed by the Washington-based global food policy think-tank International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) -- aims at achieving global food security and nutrition by 2025, five years ahead of 2030, the year set for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Awami League government has beefed up huge efforts in boosting fish production through proper utilization of water bodies and cash incentives so that the country retains its position as the fourth largest fish producer in the globe. To encourage diversification and boost production of protein, the government announced to reinstate a tax concession for fish farming that will make the first US$12,956 income from the sector tax-free. Incomes up to US$ 25,000 from poultry and duck farming will be declared as tax-free too.
Bangladesh has started to make headways to rejuvenate its past glory of Golden Fiber and to take the earnings to a newer height. Last week, steps were initiated to prepare the draft of the first ever independent jute policy. The government is also set to procure raw jute on comparatively fair prices from various sources aimed at removing the alleged anomalies. As many as 3 million people of the country are dependent on jute cultivation and production with a total of 26 jute mills currently being in operation.
Climate and Environment
A new deal was struck between BUILD and UNDP which would oversee a wide range of measures being implemented towards sustainable green growth and environment friendly business by facilitating public private dialogue. Institutional mechanisms would be set up and efforts are underway to initiate research into the effects of climate change on Bangladesh and the firms will be conducting advocacy for reform proposals through PSDPCC for environment-friendly business.
Bangladesh, host to the fastest growing solar homes system in the globe, will set up solar power plants capable of generating 900 MW of electricity. A renewable energy policy has been framed for the development of green energy and a target has been set to generate 5% electricity (800 MW) by 2015 and 10% electricity (2,000 MW) by 2020 from renewable energy resources. The government is considering development of renewable energy as one of the important strategies adopted as part of Fuel Diversification Programme.
Trade and Investment
Bangladesh plans to conduct export to India from Gujarat where businessmen plan to build a warehouse, in what is seen as a way of bridging a yawning trade gap between the two countries. Business people say trade from the Gujarat hub may start early next year. They hope to increase the volume of export at least to US$1.0 billion from next fiscal. The Indian government has agreed to provide 50 acres of land to build a warehouse from where merchandise, especially apparel items, can be sent directly to retail shops across India.
Bangladesh has turned into a textile chemical exporter from importer in recent years, helping the country save and earn millions of foreign currency. Presently, the country is exporting hydrogen peroxide, a major chemical used in the bleaching and sterilising process in textile and paper and pulp industries, to half a dozen countries including India, Nepal, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In the fiscal 2014-15, over $7 million worth of the chemical was exported. Interestingly the country had to import such products until 2010 even.
A wax statue of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been put on display at Kolkata's and India's lone wax museum, Mother's Wax Museum on Friday, a day before India's Independence Day. Modeled after London's Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, this houses statues of prominent personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Param Hansa Dev, et al. Now Bangladesh's Founding Father has also found a place there.
Bangladesh Awami League Bangladesh Insight Archives