Feb 25, 2016
According to the latest survey of Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), Bangladesh has continued to be an attractive destination for Japanese companies to do business due to its lower production costs and labour wages compared to those of 19 countries in Asia and Oceania. More than 67% respondents said they would like to expand their footprint in Bangladesh in the next one or two years, thanks to high growth potentials, reduction of cost, reviewing production and distribution network and an easy-to-secure labour force. In comparison to Japan, the cost of production in Bangladesh is less than half while it is 81.9% in China.
Bangladesh Police and the United States have framed an agreement to work together to curb terrorism through sharing intelligence, technology and training. This week, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat expressed their respective opinions in this regard during a courtesy meeting. The ambassador hoped cooperation from police of the two countries would help counter crimes like cyber offences, transnational organised crimes, money laundering, etc.
A young Bangladeshi engineer Sayeef Salahuddin has been named as a recipient of the US Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. This is the highest honour bestowed by the US government from the science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. A total of 105 people, including Salahuddin, have been named for the prestigious award this year. Salahuddin, an associate professor at University of California, Berkeley, received the honour for his work on low-energy microprocessors for computers.
Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves are expected to reach an all time high of a staggering $28 billion mark within a next few days. According to the data of the central bank, the reserves witnessed a 23.42% year-on-year growth, standing at $27.80 billion at the end of the third week of February, from $22.53 billion in the same month a year ago. Besides, this major driver of the reserve and export demonstrated strong 10.38% year-on-year growth last month when the total earnings from foreign trade surged to $3.19 billion, the second highest in the country's history.
The government has published a draft policy titled ‘National Psychological Counselling Policy 2016’, aiming to provide mental health counselling facilities for people from all walks of life. Psycho-social counselling services will be set up to address several aspects including family relationships, professional life and suicide prevention. Psycho-social counselling services for the mental health of professionals in philanthropic, social welfare organizations and communications, emergency service providing agencies, and rape and sexual assault survivors will be provided as well.
Growth and Development
Towards the fight to build up resilience against the adverse impacts of climate change, the government has proceeded with as many as 334 projects across the country under the Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF), apart from 63 schemes adopted in the private sector. Of the schemes, the work on 86 government projects under the $384 million worth CCTF fund has been completed while full swing progress are being made on various projects, including construction of costal embankments and cyclone tolerant houses.
The plan of building the first Floating Storage and Re-gasification Unit (FSRU) of the country at Maheshkhali is expected to gain real progress as a high-powered delegation from Astra Oil & Excelerate Energy Consortium is expected to arrive in Dhaka next week to sign the much-awaited deal with Petrobangla in this regard. To ensure a strong energy security for the country, the Awami League led government envisaged this scheme and is now putting in efforts to transform the goal into a reality.
Trade and Investment
This week saw the national parliament pass the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2016 in a bid to pave the way for Bangladesh to join the AIIB as a founding member. Last year, the country signed a memorandum of understanding and Articles of Agreement (AoA) on December 25 for joining this bank. Currently, Bangladesh has 6,605 approved shares of the bank, termed as being China’s own version of the World Bank and each of the shares is valued at $100,000.
Expressing a high note of optimism on the further expansion of the country’s RMG sector, German Ambassador to Bangladesh Thomas Prinz pinned hopes the bilateral trade cooperation between the countries will mark a remarkable growth within a space of a next few years. According to Export Promotion Bureau, Germany is the second largest single export destination for Bangladesh's garment products after the US, accounting for $4.33 billion in fiscal 2014-15.
The backward linkage accessories industry is expanding rapidly in Bangladesh, pushing up the country's export earnings significantly. The rapid growth of the country's ready-made garment industry has mainly helped in flourishing the sector. In the last five years, some 100 new units are being set up every year, raising the total number of accessory makers to more than 1,400.
Booming flower business, both internal trade and exports, has brought bonanza for growers and traders in Bangladesh, riding on its wider use in festivities. The country fetched more than $51.2 million from flower exports in last fiscal year. Flower exports that began almost 10 years ago have by this time captured markets of at least 10 major countries. The sector has also opened up job opportunities for thousands of unemployed youths, including the women folk while flowers are now cultivated on about 12 thousand hectares of land, mainly in Godkhali union of Jhiikorgachha upzilla under Jessore district and other 19 districts.
International and Regional Cooperation
India and Nepal signed an agreement that will, among other things, allow trade transit between Bangladesh and Nepal. Rail transit facility will be operationalised through Singhabad in India for Nepal's trade with and through Bangladesh, according to the letter of exchange signed after Nepal's Prime Minister KP Oli's talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. The transit between Nepal and Bangladesh will be through the Kakarbitta (Nepal)-Banglabandha (Bangladesh) corridor. It will simplify modalities for traffic of cargo between the two countries.
Bangladesh and Sweden signed a cooperation agreement on poverty alleviation, strengthening democracy, human rights, gender equality, and sustainable development. Swedish Ambassador to Bangladesh Johan Frisell and Senior Secretary of Economic Relations Division (ERD) Mohammad Mejbahuddin signed the agreement in the capital on behalf of their respective governments. The strategy came in line with Bangladesh's own development priorities as outlined in the 7th Five Year Plan for 2016-2020.
Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the initiatives on regional cooperation like BBIN and BCIM-EC will generate greater economic activities among neighbouring countries accelerating their development. HPM Sheikh Hasina came up with the view when visiting Indian Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha met her at her office. Once the sub-regional cooperation initiatives like the BBIN and BCIM-EC start functioning, the Bangladesh Premier said, these will create opportunities to generate more economic activities among the countries.
Digital Bangladesh
After the nationwide spread of 3G (third generation) mobile technology, the government has announced that it will launch 4G technology in Bangladesh within this year. The State Minister for Post and telecommunications Tarana Halim stated this this week. She also said that the government would expand Electronic Money Transfer Service (EMTS) to more 5,000 post offices across the country by March this year. Currently some 2,188 post offices are providing postal cash card services and 6,500 post offices would be brought under the service by this year. Moreover, a raft of measures is in the making to increase the revenue of the postal department.
For the second consecutive year, world’s largest hackathon Nasa Space Apps Challenge 2016 organised by USA’s space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is coming to Bangladesh. Along with over a hundred cities around the world, the competition is going to be held on April 22-24 in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. The winners will get the opportunity to participate in the final. It will open the door to employment and engagement in Nasa and other international agencies for Bangladeshis.
A significant portion of traditionalists and early starters are going to shift from “See online and buy retail” trend to the “digital aspirant” group for more than a couple of items in next 12 months, said a recent study by LightCastle Partners – a business management consulting firm. It mentioned that people are willing to move online for high-value purchase or leasing such as home or apartment as well. Traditional real estate businesses could consider this as an important indicator for some transformation.
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