Feb 04, 2016
While the global economy slumped in the face of economic meltdown, Bangladesh has secured a stunning 6.55% growth in the last fiscal year, resulting in its graduation to the lower middle income status only forty four years after the country’s independence. With a record rise in per capita income, coupled with positive outlook for key economic indicators, majority of the people are optimistic about becoming a higher middle income nation by 2021. Given the government’s policies to promote the uplift of businesses, the country is projected to emerge as the 23rd most prosperous nation in the globe by 2040.
Bangladesh has been elected member of the World Food Programme's executive body, the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, for three years (2016-2018).The election was held at the UN headquarters yesterday and all UN member states unanimously elected Bangladesh as member of the executive board. Through this election, the world community's confidence on Bangladesh's development in the agriculture sector has been boosted while the outcome stands as a recognition of the leadership of Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina over the last seven years as the country has achieved massive success in the area of agriculture and food production.
Former Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh, H.E Chai Xi, translated “The Unfinished Memoirs” of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman into Chinese language. The great leader penned this during his time in jail from 1967-69, while he also chronicled the historical events he experienced standing in the forefront – famine, communal riots in Kolkata and Bihar, partition, Pakistan central government's discriminatory attitude and the Agartala conspiracy, among others. This week the book was handed over to Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Given that the government has put overseas employment as a thrust sector since 2009, the country has managed to employ over 3.4 million workers and registered $ 92,100.23 million remittances within a space of last seven years. Signing of a number of instruments with different countries along with strong presence of the country in the international stage helped expand the manpower landing horizon. To develop a skilled workforce, 47 vocational training centres, four institutes of marine technology were set up while another project seeking to set up over 400 upazila-level vocational training centres is in progress.
Infrastructure and Mega Projects
Aiming to remodel, revamp and modernize the entire railway system, a mega plan has been devised and is being implemented worth around $30 billion that would spread the network through every district over next fourteen years. Currently, a total of 341 passenger trains are operating daily on different routes while an inter-country passenger train –Moitree Express is operational with India. Talks are going on to introduce another train in the said route while three more projects have been rolled out to transform domestic outmoded lines into dual-gauge lines.
Given the completion of soil tests and utility services identifications, officials of the country’s first ever metro rail project pinned hopes that the construction work of the mega project will start in March next. To that goal, a number of engineers and workers are hard at work while it is set to be completed by 2020. Once operational, this ambitious $2.5 billion project will ease traffic congestion in the city through an improved, faster, comfortable and time-bound public transportation service.
This week HPM Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the country’s first World Trade Centre (WTC) in Agrabad Commercial area of Chittagong. A member of the World Trade Centers Association in New York, this 21-storey center will house bank branches, exhibition halls, shopping mall, food court, conference rooms and other modern amenities. During her visit to the port city, the HPM also opened the Kadamtali Flyover and Bangabandhu Avenue and laid foundation stone of a 16.5-km elevated expressway and launched three other projects, giving the city a major facelift.
The government has proceeded with an initiative to set up a super-specialty hospital in the capital for the treatment of complex illnesses. To be built on the land of the country’s only public medical university, the 300- bed hospital will incorporate an emergency medical care center, gastroenterology and hepatobiliary center, child and mother healthcare center, cardio and cerebrovascular center, kidney center, intensive care unit and central diagnostic center, besides a pathology department.
Trade and Investment
Investment proposals, both local and foreign, amounting to $2.81 billion have been registered with the Board of Investment (BoI) during the October-December period of 2015, marking a 48.96% rise over the previous three months. As many as 402 investment proposals were released in the third quarter of 2015, while some 372 investment proposals involving $1.88 billion were registered with it during July-September period of the same year. A number of factors and steps taken by the government has resulted in this upsurge of investment interest, including regular exhibitions and summits to attract investment, both domestic and foreign.
Country’s biggest trade fair ended this week with a record 147% jump in export orders from the previous year. Businesses bagged around $30.15 million from the month long Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF), reflecting the business friendly environment now prevailing in the country. With Bangladesh reaching its export target last year, target has been set to earn $60 billion by 2021. Last year, a new export policy was formulated while several other schemes were put in place to draw the attention of the international businesses.
Several thousand salt producers are happy seeing profits for the first time in three years after the government took up a policy discouraging import of salt. As of January 8, salt production stood at 74,035 tonnes, which was 40,000 tonnes during the same time last season while the actual production stood at 16.27 lakh tonnes against the target 16 lakh tonnes. About 5,00,000 people are engaged, directly and indirectly, in salt production and marketing, including 55,000 marginal salt producers. In 2011, a new National Salt Policy was introduced by the government.
International and Regional Cooperation
An announcement has been made to host the 136th assembly of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Bangladesh in March 2017. Over 2,000 representatives including speakers, deputy speakers and lawmakers, from the 168 member countries will take part in the assembly. To this goal, an inter-ministerial preparatory meeting was held in the capital this week. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, an Awami League lawmaker, is the current President of the union while ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury, another Awami League lawmaker, is the President of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.
The foreign secretaries of Bangladesh and India have held a meeting in New Delhi to review the progress made towards implementation of agreements since India’s Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Dhaka last June. The Dhaka-New Delhi relationship is termed at its best now with a “landmark” year of 2015 when the decades-old land-boundary agreement issue was settled. The Bangladesh side laid focus on water issues, especially the Teesta river water sharing agreement, apart from discussing other bilateral matters.
Social Justice
Plans are laid out to construct 372 cyclone and flood shelters with $114.92 million in flood and cyclone-prone areas in the country. To build up resilience against the disaster, the government has constructed 100 cyclone shelter centres with $25 million and 100 flood shelter centres with $6.21 million. Owing to the government's efforts, the country has 55,000 Cyclone Protection Plan (CPP) volunteers and they are equipped with necessary training and equipment and have been kept ready to carry out campaigns during any cyclone and other natural disasters.
Lives for girls and women living in the riverine island areas marked a rapid change as the number of maternal and neonatal deaths and child marriage has been reduced to the minimum in recent times, thanks to the government sponsored growing social awareness campaign against child marriage in the riverine areas. Launched a decade back by the government, the Chars Livelihood Programme (CLP) has become a role model in ending extreme poverty in these areas, while different other organizations also played a crucial role.
Power and Energy
HSBC Bangladesh will arrange a $333 million credit facility for Bangladesh Power Development Board to implement its 416-megawatt Ghorasal Third Unit Repowering Power Plant Project in Narsingdi. The government will provide a sovereign guarantee for the project, which will take three years to complete. Target has been set in motion to bring every people under electricity coverage, taking the power generation capacity to 24,000 MW by 2021. In accordance with the government’s promise, currently 74% people have been brought under electricity coverage till last year.
Works are going on aiming to brining the country's 70% residential areas under the network of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) within 3 years. Installation of the LPG gas line in residential areas will allow the users to use the gas with relatively low cost and with this, the prevailing domestic gas issue will also be eased. Moreover, a move is under way to develop the renewable energy sector through formulating a master plan. Meanwhile, a 3-day solar exhibition has also been organized in the capital to showcase the country’s stellar progress in this regard.
Digital Bangladesh
According to recently released data by Bangladesh Bank, mobile banking in the country continues to grow fast, scaling a new height last year with 53% growth year-on-year. In 2015, the industry saw $204.09 billion in transactions through mobile phones -- the amount being more than half the country's national budget. Earlier in a report USAID said Bangladesh has a rapidly growing mobile financial service industry, accounting for more than 8% of the total registered mobile money accounts globally. Currently, 28 banks have approval for offering mobile financial services.
Works have started to turn the national database enlisting pensioners' detail into electronic pensioning (e-pensioning), screening out fake annuity-seekers and plugging loopholes of irregularities. Launched on a pilot basis, as many as 28,000 pensioners enrolled themselves on the first day. In addition, the government is set to introduce online system for income tax returns submission, processing, and tax payment on July 1 this year. Process has started to fit 649 income tax circle offices with the required technology.
An online-based learning platform, Muktopaath (free-learning), the first ever open source knowledge platform in Bangla, has been launched aiming the spread the fruition of technology across the country. Access to Information Programme (a2i) under the Prime Minister's Office is undertaking this unique ICT based educational venture. This was officially launched by the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina while she inaugurated the country's most prestigious book event, Ekushe Boi Mela.
Bangladesh Awami League Bangladesh Insight Archives