March 23, 2015
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India's Reliance Group is investing $3 billion in Bangladesh to set up four power plants with a total power generation capacity of 3,000 megawatts (MW). Initially the Group will invest $1.5 billion and it will be gradually raised to $3 billion. The plants will be Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)-based for which the Group would build a floating LNG terminal and import LNG themselves to supply it to the power plants. Two proposed locations for the plants are Meghnaghat and Maheshkhali. A committee has been formed to earmark the sites and consider the primary technical aspects.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has praised the role of Bangladeshi law enforcers in combatting terrorism. Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali stated that Mr. Kerry made the comment during the FM’s US visit in February. In a related development, visiting Deputy Director of US Department of State (South Asian Regional Affairs) Neil Kromash commented that Bangladesh enjoys an advantageous geography that makes it an 'ideal hub' for connectivity and promoting pan-Asian connectivity.
Growth and Development
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Owing to the sustained efforts by the farmers and the government, Bangladesh is now the seventh top potato producer in the globe surpassing countries like Poland, France and Holland. Bangladesh's potato production increased nearly three times by achieving 14% output growth on a year-on-year basis since 2000. According to FAOSTAT, an agro data provider under UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bangladesh achieved the rank with 8.6 million tonnes of production in 2013.
Majority of the public and some selected private universities would be connected with a high-speed data communication network within next six months under the BdREN (Bangladesh Research and Education Network) programme of the government with support of World Bank. In a related development, the State Minister for ICT Division has stated that the government will offer courses and degrees in the proposed Digital University in Gazipur keeping in mind the needs of technology-based jobs.
INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL COOPERATION
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A meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) on Monday finalized a draft deal to set up power grid connections for electricity trade among its seven member countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. It is hoped that this initiative will go a great extent in ensuring energy security of the region, as it will enable the member states to share their surplus electricity with each other via the grids.
Japan is set to recruit at least 10,000 Bangladeshi workers soon, primarily for its construction, care-giving and nursing sectors. A visiting Japanese delegation held a meeting at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment on Monday to discuss the recruitment of workers from Bangladesh. In order to tap into the Japanese labour market, the ministry concerned has already taken a work-plan, which includes amending the existing guideline of sending technical interns to Japan.
Bangladesh will get $50 million credit from the Development Bank of Belarus to procure equipment and motor vehicles for construction and maintenance services needed by the country’s city corporations and municipalities. The loan will be repaid over eleven years at a low interest rate of 1%. Moreover, the Development Bank of Belarus will give a three-year grace period for its credit programme. This development follows a long negotiation between the two countries in this regard.
SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUITY
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The government has created employment opportunities for 5,000 poor women in 12 southwestern districts of the country through its Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP). Implemented through the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), the $158.7 million project started in 2013 with priority to create income opportunities for rural women by hiring them as day-labourers for infrastructure development. The project will continue till 2018.
The government has launched a pilot project of a telephone 'helpline' for garment workers to help resolve their grievances related to workplace safety or worker rights. The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) will run the helpline (0800 44 55 000), which has been established with the support of International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Norwegian government. In the initial phase, the helpline will help workers in Ashulia, to be spread nationwide gradually.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT
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Bangladesh will sign a deal with Sri Lanka for promotion and protection of investors of two countries. The agreement titled “Capital Investment, Development and Protection” is expected to be signed within a short time. According to the proposal, the two countries will promise to protect the interest of their respective investors and both countries will get the most favoured national treatment, transfers of investors business profit, and facilitation of returns and payment to their own countries.
Owing to such measures taken by the government as trade fairs, Bangladesh’s exports to Kuwait has increased by more than 133% to $35 million in the last three years. Following the success of the first Bangladesh Trade Fair, the second such fair will be held in April this year. The sectors represented in the fair will include: overseas employment firms, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, banks and insurance, garments and textiles, leather goods, real estates, tourism, food and ICT.
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