September 25, 2014
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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is currently in New York, USA to address the 69th session of the United Nation (UN)’s General Assembly on 27th September. On the sidelines, she is scheduled to attend and address a number of important international conferences and bilateral meetings, including her maiden meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Speaking at the Climate Summit 2014 , the Bangladesh PM urged leaders of developed and large carbon emitting nations to help least developed countries fight climate change challenges. She reiterated her country’s firm commitment to low-carbon, climate-resilient development path and outlined the steps taken by Bangladesh so far in this regard. Addressing a high-level meeting of the ‘Global Education First Initiative’ (GEFI) , she requested the world leaders to invest in education, and not weapons, to ensure peace and non-violence.
Growth and Development
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According to one of the world’s leading management consultancy firm, A T Kearney, Bangladesh is one of the top countries in the world in terms of financial attractiveness for providing IT and software services. Bangladesh is ranked 26th among 51 countries examined by the firm which stated that the country has become a huge hub for freelance work via online marketplaces such as oDesk. In fact, Bangladesh has become the third most favorite destination for contractors on oDesk, behind only Philippines and India. The report points out Bangladesh’s vibrant youth IT entrepreneurial culture as one of its strongest points.
According to research published by the leading medical journal The Lancet and the World Health Organization (WHO), Bangladesh has been listed as one of the 10 “fast-track” countries that have made significant achievements in improving maternal and child health. Under-5 child mortality declined by 65% in Bangladesh between 1990 and 2011 while maternal mortality dropped drastically by 66% during the same timeframe. The government's priority on key initiatives to reduce maternal and child mortality, such as immunization, oral rehydration therapy and family planning, has significantly contributed to the success.
Bangladesh government has signed two Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with a Malaysian consortium for the construction of two coal-based power plants with a combined power generation capacity of 1320 mega-watts (mw) at Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar. 11,000 tonnes coal per day will be required for the proposed plant, which will be imported from Indonesia, South Africa, Australia and Mozambique. This is an important milestone for the government’s vision to generate 20,000MW of electricity by 2030.
Bangladesh’s shipbuilding industry is predicted to grow by at least 15% this year compared to the year before due to strong domestic demands, rising international orders following recovery of global economy after several years and the prospects of Blue Economy which opened up after Bangladesh’s recent maritime boundary wins against Myanmar and India. According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), export of ships rose by 7.35% year-on-year in the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Trade and Investment
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Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have started the process of adopting a historic Free Trade Agreement (FTA) during the second Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Trade that began in Colombo on 22nd September. Bilateral trade between both countries jumped by a strong 67% in 2013 to $ 139.23 million compared to $ 83.19 million in 2012. It is expected that with the implementation of the proposed FTA, this amount would surge to no less than $ 1 billion annually.
During the Bangladesh Foreign Minister’s recently concluded tour of India, both countries reached an agreement for establishing a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Bangladesh exclusively for Indian investors. India has welcomed the decision at a joint statement issued after the foreign ministers’ meeting last Saturday in New Delhi. Bangladesh has assured India of extending all “necessary cooperation” to Indian entrepreneurs interested to invest in the SEZ. Such a move will not only reduce the trade gap between the two countries but also increase Bangladesh’s exports to third countries.
Social Justice and Equity
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Bangladesh has urged the global communities to keep gender equity as a ‘stand-alone’ goal in the post-2015 development agenda. The Bangladeshi Foreign Minister made the appeal on Monday at New York during a high-level meeting of ‘Equal Futures Partnership’ on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. While apprising the participants of Bangladesh’s position on women empowerment, the FM stated that under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s watch , Bangladesh is committed to removing all political and social barriers to empowering women. Currently, Bangladesh is hosting a three-day Asia-Pacific conference on ending violence against women with the participation of lawmakers, civil society members and other stakeholders from the region.
An independent review by two former US Senators has revealed that Bangladesh has achieved “significant and laudable progress” in the effort to improve health and safety standards in garment factories. This has been possible due to the number of effective steps taken by the government in recent times. For instance, recently the government in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO) conducted a workshop for strengthening building and fire safety inspection systems in the RMG sector. By the same token, an agreement has been reached with the German federal government to undertake a major initiative to further improve occupational health and safety standards in factories.
Digital Bangladesh
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In order to facilitate access to public services, the government has launched two web portals with detailed information on the services provided by different government offices and government application forms respectively. The websites have been developed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under the Access to Information (A2i) program in order to ensure people's easy access to essential information. In a related development, the government has also launched a number of mobile applications to provide better services to the people and dividing the gap between the governors and governed. The applications deal with selected services provided by various ministries, divisions and directorates. Out of 100 planned, 25 have already been launched, with the rest to follow.
Bangladesh Awami League