August 24, 2017
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Bangladesh went up 28 notches in the anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CTF) index of the Basel Institute on Governance -- a development that will come as a pat on the back for the government. In South Asia, the country stood second on the league table while stood out as one of the 10 countries that made the most progress. The report said Bangladesh saw a big jump in its ranking due to the results of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Mutual Evaluation Report in October 2016. On the other hand, according to the central bank the country implemented all 40 of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering's recommendations and managed full compliance in six categories, near full compliance in 22 and partial compliance in 12.
A World Bank (WB) official has pinned hopes that Bangladesh has the potential to take its per capita income at a staggering US$50,000, through building skills and exploring the opportunities in technical sector. According to Dr Mohammad Mokhlesur Rahman, Senior Operations Officer of the World Bank if the country can tap into its potential, it can emerge out as a growing power in south Asia. Owing to a raft of prudent economic policies undertaken by Honorable Prime Minister (HPM) Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has been graduated to the lower middle income status while the country maintained a steady growth rate at above 6% over a space of last six years.
During a recent visit to flood affected areas in the countries, HPM Sheikh Hasina announced that the government would provide food assistance to the flood-affected families for the next three months until the next crops are harvested. The Premier also said the government would do everything possible to ensure their food, healthcare and other necessities. She added that it was her responsibility to ensure houses for every citizen, and the government of Awami League was working to provide homeless people with houses on khas land. At her directives, the government has allocated 21,900 metric ton (MT) rice, cash assistances and 55,000 packets of dry food for the flood hit people in 32 districts since August 9.
The 13th anniversary of the gruesome August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally has been observed with various programmes in a somber mood last week. On this day in 2004, the gruesome grenade attack was carried out on an anti-terrorism rally arranged by Awami League at Banbabandhu Avenue in the city at the directives of the BNP- Jamaat alliance government. The main target of the heinous attack was current Prime Minister and then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. At least 24 leaders and activists were killed and 300 others injured in the grenade attack. Moreover, evidence from the grenade attack scene was intentionally destroyed while a police investigation into the incident was diverted along other avenues.
Japan will continue its development assistance to Bangladesh in various sectors as it is already providing 600 billion yen for different mega projects. Outgoing Japanese Ambassador in Bangladesh Masato Watanabe came up with the remarks when he made a farewell call on HPM Sheikh Hasina at her office this week. The Ambassador focused more on economic ties between the two countries and laid emphasis on advancing that further.
INFRASTRCTURE AND MEGA PROJECT
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The railways ministry has initiated a move to convert the Parbatipur-Kownia railway track into a dual gauge one with India's second Line of Credit (LoC) to boost connectivity between Bangladesh and India. According to the seventh Five Year Plan, the government is planning to set up a 1,110-km dual gauge railway double track as both Bangladesh and India have put emphasis on boosting connectivity through railway network to facilitate movement of passengers and transportation of goods. On the other hand, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will invest a big sum of money to give a new lease of life to this sector through adding more locomotives, wagons and other equipment.
The government has moved to form a revolving fund worth over $394 million to meet initial import cost of liquefied natural gas (LNG) meant for catering a growing energy demand. At present, a large amount has been accumulated in the Energy Security Fund from higher-rated fuel sales to the public. Bangladesh plans to start LNG import by April 2018 to bring about a better energy mix against the backdrop of depleting domestic gas reserves. The country's first LNG-import terminal, with a capacity of 3.75 million tonnes per year, is being developed by US-based Excelerate Energy and is expected to be commissioned in April 2018.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
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Bangladesh Bank considers providing fresh agricultural loans to flood-hit farmers so that they can recover losses from damaged crops. The central bank is now working to identify the affected areas across the country where fresh loans and other facilities will be provided. The commercial banks were asked through a circular to provide fresh loans to the flood-hit farmers and accelerate loan disbursement under refinance schemes of Bangladesh Bank at a reduced interest rate. In 2014, the central bank provided agricultural loan facilities to farmers in 21 flood-affected districts.
Bangladesh's fish production recorded a 61% rise in last ten years and crossed the 4.0 million tonnes mark in the last financial year. Officials attributed the rise in production to quick introduction of modern technology in local fish farming. The provisional data of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) showed that the country's inland and marine fish production together rose to 4.01 million tonnes in FY 2016-17 from 2.49 million tonnes ten years ago in FY2006-07. On the other hand, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Bangladesh is the fourth largest inland fish producer in the world after China, India and Myanmar.
The government has strengthened the social safety net programme with an allocation over $6 billion which is 13% of the total budget. Following the inclusion of new beneficiaries, the total number of people under major social safety net programmes would stand at 8.6 million. Under the scheme, some 3.15 million people now receive $7 each a month. Around 1.1 million women currently receive Tk 500 each a month under the “Allowances for the Widow, Deserted and Destitute Women” while the government will increase the number of beneficiaries under the “Maternity Allowance Programme for the Poor” by 1,00,000 while the amount has been raised by $4. Some 75,000 more people will be entitled to get “Allowances for the Financially Insolvent Disabled” in the next fiscal.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT
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Works are progressing fast towards bagging US$ 60 billion earning from export by 2021. Under the able leadership of HPM Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is working to implement BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) and BCIN (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) connectivity. On the other front, Bangladesh has formulated a trade policy securing local industry, resulting in the country's self-reliance in cement, iron, paper, CI sheet and few other products.
The government aims to make processed food producers comply with set standards so that safe food could be ensured by 2021. Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) said it had taken up an initiative to get 2.5 million food business operators registered. This would allow them to be properly monitored and supervised. The BFSA is also taking strides to ensure risk-based food inspections to guarantee food safety, from farm to fork, said its officials at the first ever Bangladesh Food Safety Conference held this week.
The government has brought some major changes to the incentive structure for exports in order to achieve a higher overseas sales target set for the current fiscal year. Bangladesh Bank released an incentive structure for 2017-18, granting stimulus to five sectors for the first time and increasing existing rates for four. With the new additions, 27 sectors will receive 2 to 20% incentive on the price of the goods. The number of sectors entitled for the benefit was 22 in the last fiscal year. The incentive for export of crust and finished leather has been doubled to 10 % from existing 5% if the tanneries at Hazaribagh relocate to Savar.
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