Nov 12, 2015
According to a study by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, over the last decade, 20% of the total population elevated to the middle income group, up from only 9% two decades back. One-fourth, or 25%, of the total population is set to be lifted up to the middle-class income category by 2025. Dependence on jobs is decreasing among people with 25% middle income group opting for doing business. Greater access to education, finance, IT, and private employment has been attributed to this finding.
A historic milestone was witnessed this week with the signing of the deal to launch the country’s first satellite, Bangabandhu-1. The government signed a $248-million deal with a French company for manufacturing and launching the satellite into space by 2017. Apart from obvious telecommunications advantages, it would improve weather forecast system and facilitate exploration of natural resources on land and in sea. Once launched, the satellite will reduce the bandwidth rent to zero, saving $14 million a year.
Towards the fight to free Bangladesh from the menace of poverty, vulnerability and marginalization, the government has launched a new National Social Security Strategy that will bring more than 30 million people under various social safety net scheme for their entire life involving around $11 billion. Prime goals include ensuring efficient use of resources, strengthening delivery system and securing a more inclusive form of social security. Currently around 5 million widow, physically challenged and elderly people are the recipients of monthly assistances under safety net schemes per month.
More than 80% of Bangladesh's garment factories supplying global retailers have been found to adhere to building code as well as fire and electricity safety standards, reveals an inspection by engineers of a government sponsored platform. Led by ILO, the platform assessed 1, 354 factories and shut down three while some 13 were marked for immediate remediation work. Some 471 of the factories were found to be not vulnerable at all, 640 not-too-vulnerable, 209 risky but not dangerous, and five were near danger.
Amnesty International (AI) has caused fury and rage in the minds of Bangladeshis with its latest statement that defended two war criminals and made derogatory comments on the Liberation War by saying that “pro-independence forces also committed serious crimes”. The government has sent a protest letter demanding immediate withdrawal of the statement and formal apology for the highly objectionable pronouncements. Newspapers too, have carried opinion pieces showing political bias of the organization.
Foreign ministers of a number of European countries have highly appreciated sustained progress taking place in Bangladesh, particularly in terms of disaster management, climate change adaptation and resilience, counterterrorism and basic health care. The appreciation came when Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali held separate meetings with his counterparts in Luxembourg. The FM invited his counterparts to take advantage of Bangladesh’s strategic production-logistic-manufacturing hub in the region.
Incredible economic growth in Bangladesh has continued to make key indicators yield positive and upward trends. Exports rose 21.15 % year-on-year to $2.37 billion in October on the back of improved garment shipments, the country's largest foreign currency earner, the Export Promotion Bureau said. Shipments of woven garments grew to $4.06 billion while knitwear export increased 2.7 %. Moreover, inflation continued to decline further, dropping 5 basis points to 6.19% from the previous month.
Giving a major boost to the nation’s march towards the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the government sanctioned an allocation worth around $84 million to four ministries for facilitating research work in order to enhance the country’s economic status by 2030. The Agriculture Ministry was allocated $37.4 million, Science and Technology $16.5 million, Health and Family Planning $10.3 million, and Education around $3 million.
With Bangladesh making its recent foray into the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Fund, the country is set to receive US$ 100 million worth of grant from GPE, first ever in its history, by this month to remodel, reshape and reform the existing primary education system. To be provided by the World Bank next month, this assistance will uplift the national progress as 19.6 million children are likely to get benefits from that move. Already, a meeting has been held among concerned officials in this regard.
The International Finance Corporation, private sector wing of the World Bank Group, has pledged to provide 20% of the entire project costs to construct the country’s second Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal at Matarbari on Moheshkhali Island in the Bay of Bengal. Re-gasified LNG from the planned terminal is expected to be supplied to gas-guzzling industries including power plants and factories. The onshore terminal will be capable of dealing with 3.5 million tonnes LNG per year.
As part of bringing in a wholesale upgrade in the railway sector, the government has rolled out the process to purchase 250 new passenger coaches and 10 engines spending more than $270 million for its fleet to make the train a low-cost, safe and quick mode of transport. Another project titled 'Western Bangladesh Bridge Improvement Project' was approved that involves replacing and constructing 61 small- and medium-sized bridges encompassing 4,715 metres in 24 western and south-western districts at the expense of more than $373 million.
While the works for the first metro rail project gaining full steam, another move is in the making to set up the second Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line across the capital. According to the pre-feasibility study report, from Kamlapur the journey to airport will be shortened to 23-minutes and only 39-minute is required to reach Purbachal. Moreover, the ADB has come up with US$ 1.0 billion investment proposal for constructing a new metro rail in the city.
An array of time-bound measures undertaken by the Bangladesh Bank to strive for turning development initiatives sustainable and inclusive has drawn global praise and lifted the country in the spotlight. This week, Neil Pierre, Chief of the Support and Coordination of UN Office of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), observed that such initiatives have lifted the country to stand by example before the world, saying that BB's socially responsible and innovative policies earned biggest successes regarding women empowerment, egalitarian social development and employment creations.
Scanning services for patients suffering from breast cancer have been decided to be made free of cost at the government hospitals across the country for December every year. This move coincides with the government’s vision to intensify campaign to drum up mass awareness against the deadly disease. Under the financial support of the UNFPA, the government has opened two centres each in 54 districts across the country for examination of ovarian and breast cancers.
Further expansion of the training programme on ICT has been envisaged to spread their benefits to the students and women staying in the remotest part of the country. The UK based Ernst and Young (EY) will provide quality IT training to the students of Rangpur University and three other colleges of Rangpur. In a related development, six buses equipped with ICT training materials will travel across the country to reach marginalized and underprivileged women aiming to increase their employability skills.
Forty-four municipalities have been brought under the Electronic Government Procurement (EGP) tender system to ensure public procurement activities are being done transparently through the digital system. Progresses are well underway to apply this EGP process in rest of the municipalities so that the procurement process will become ever more transparent and accountable. Already, most of the ministries have introduced this process putting an end to the misuse of public money.
Trade and Investment
Economic cooperation between Bangladesh and China has hit all time high resulting in an unprecedented level of rise in the bilateral trade in recent times. The combined trade with China stood at $9 billion in this fiscal year, up by 9.2 % from $8.28 billion a year before while Bangladesh’s earnings from export scaled to $791 million, up from $746.1 million. Moreover, the trade gap with India narrowed to $5.8 billion in the last fiscal year from $ 6.03 billion.
The government plans to organize an international investment summit in Dhaka next month with a view to showcasing private investment opportunities in key sectors and attracting fresh investments in Bangladesh. This two-day summit is expected to be held in the third week of December. Improvement of investment climate will be showcased and focus will be attached to place specific investment opportunities in the agribusiness sector, as well as in economic zones.
International and Regional Cooperation
United Arab Emirates (UAE) has shown keen interest to set up a world class standard hospital in Bangladesh. This was disclosed by UAE Ambassador to Bangladesh Dr Saeed Bin Hajar Al Shehi when he called on Health and Family Welfare Minister at his secretariat office this week. Rangunia in Chittagong has been selected primarily for establishing the hospital and an expert team of UAE has already visited the spot for preliminary inspections.
Bangladesh and the USA have agreed to work under a common strategy to counter extremism and terrorism in Bangladesh and South Asia. The decision was reached at a meeting in Dhaka between Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haq and the US Department of State's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs William E Todd. In a related development, Bangladesh Ambassador to USA Mohammad Ziauddin has told two US Congressmen that Dhaka shares the “same position” as USA on ISIS and condemns its activities.
Bangladesh Awami League Bangladesh Insight Archives