Dhaka, Jan 18 (UNB) – Although the government expressed the hope before the December-30 election to achieve 10 percent GDP growth by 2021, noted economists have said it will be very difficult to achieve it within the time but it is possible in five years.
They said 10 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will be within the reach in the next five years if some obstacles can be removed as soon as possible.
Attaining the target depends on how quickly Bangladesh can resolve the challenges, the economists said suggesting that foreign and local investments be increased and the activities of Economic Zones should start immediately.
In an exclusive interview with Nikkei Asian Review published on December 19 last, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh's strong economic growth will not just continue, but accelerate. "In the next five years, we expect annual growth to exceed 9 percent and, we hope, get us to 10 percent by 2021," she had told.
“To achieve 10 percent GDP growth is not impossible but challenging,” AB Mirza Azizul Islam, former finance adviser to a caretaker government, told UNB.
“Many countries have achieved the double-digit growth. We can also do but we’ve to overcome many challenges. We should resolve those first. Export earnings have to increase, priority should be given to remittance utilisation and investment must be enhanced,” he said.
Mentioning that the transport development will play an important role to this end, Mirza Aziz underscored the need for giving more emphasis on that.
He also said the country’s private sector will have to come forward to achieve the target.
According to the Prime Minister’s recent statement, Bangladesh will be a middle-income country in 2021, the year when the Golden Jubilee of the country’s independence will be celebrated. In 2041, the country will emerge as a developed one when the poverty rate will come down to zero.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh will be the world’s 26th largest economy by 2030, according to the projection of leading multinational bank HSBC.
Commerce Ministry sources said the government set the export target at $ 39 billion for fiscal year 2018-2019, 7.14 percent higher than last year’s $36.66 billion, following a proposal sent by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) recommending a $40 billion export target.
Economists are largely happy with the country’s economic progress in recent years. They are optimistic that the economic growth will further increase rapidly in the seemingly stable environment following the 11th national election.
Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled, former Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank, said 10 percent GDP growth could be attained within the next five years if the investment is increased, particularly foreign one.
There are reasons for being optimistic that foreigners will now be more interested to invest here seeing the peaceful environment prevailing after the election, he said.
“Foreign investors face hassle in our country in various ways, especially at the airport. This must be sorted out. They’ve to be provided with more facilities, including quick service. Then they’ll be more interested to invest here and this will play a role in achieving the goal,” he said.
Some experts laid emphasis on skilled human resources. They said there are more than 16 crore people in the country who should be viewed as assets rather than a burden for the country.
To make that happen, they said, they must be imparted with requisite skills suited to the job market. If that can be done, the country’s productivity will increase across various fields and remittance also can rise, the experts said.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said 10 percent GDP growth is not impossible for Bangladesh. “Even though we haven’t yet reached 8 percent,” he said underlining the need for overcoming the barriers to the economy towards achieving the goal.
“First of all, we’ve to address institutional capacity. Then the investment ratio has to increase. The investment-GDP ratio must increase to over 35 percent where private sector’s contribution should be 27-28 percent and easing of doing business and logistic facilities should be enhanced,” he said.
He also emphasised the need for investment to groom quality human resources and implement the proposed Economic Zones fast.
Dhaka, Jan 17 (UNB /IPS) - As a country with a large coastline, the adverse impacts of saltwater intrusion are significant in Bangladesh. Salinity mainly affects land and water in the coastal areas.
With the consequence of climate change, it gradually extends towards inland water and soil. This scenario of gradual salinity intrusion into the coastal areas of Bangladesh is very threatening to the primary production system, coastal biodiversity and human health, said researchers.
The total amount of salinity affected land in Bangladesh was 83.3 million hectares in 1973, which had been increased up to 102 million hectares in 2000 and the amount has risen to 105.6 million hectares in 2009 and continuing to increase, according to the country’s Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI).
In the last 35 years, salinity increased around 26 percent in the country, spreading into non-coastal areas as well.
“Salinity which is rising in the coastal areas of Bagerhat, a southwestern district, is casting a huge impact on the environment. Production of various crops has declined due to excessive salinity in soil,” advocate Mohiuddin Sheikh, president of Rampal-Mongla Embankment Implementation Committee, told UNB.
Once huge coconut and betel trees were there in the area, but has decreased dramatically, he said adding, “The production of sessional vegetables has also declined. Since the late 80s, the effects of salinity in Rampal and Mongla areas have been hampering the local ecology.”
The locals, however, blame unplanned shrimp cultivation as the main cause of salinity, said the Mohiuddin adding, “Due to decrease in sweet water and fall in saline water flow from the ocean, the salinity has increased in the region.”
Studies conducted by the World Bank, Institute of Water Modelling and World Fish, Bangladesh between 2012 and 2016 have quantified the effects of increasing salinity in river waters in coastal Bangladesh, including the areas in and around the Sundarbans – the world’s largest mangrove forest that straddles the coast of Bangladesh and India.
The broad categories of climate change effects that hit the coastal areas of Bangladesh are changes in temperature and rainfall pattern, sea-level rise, change in frequency and intensity of cyclones, storm surge, changes in river and soil salinity.
More alarmingly, researchers from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Bangladesh (icddr,b) have noticed an unexpectedly high rate of miscarriage in a small village of Chakaria, near Cox’s Bazaar, on the east coast of Bangladesh.
As they investigated further, scientists reached the conclusion that climate change might to be blamed.
Khulna region member of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) MA Savur Rana, a resident of Singarbunia village in Rampal upazila, said, “Once farmers used to harvest Aman (a paddy season) paddy in vast croplands of their areas. But, due to excess salinity, Aman paddy has become extinct.”
This has caused a huge impact on the lifestyle of the local people, he mentioned.
Between 2012 and 2017, the icddr,b scientists registered 12,867 pregnancies in the area they have been monitoring for last 30 years. They followed the pregnant women through until the end of the pregnancy and found that women in the coastal plains, living within 20km of the coastline and 7m above sea level were 1.3 times more likely to miscarry than women who live inland.
This difference, the scientists believe, is to do with the amount of salt in the water the women drink — the increase of which is caused by climate change.
Another recent study conducted by the World Bank indicates that climate change will cause significant changes in river salinity in the southwest coastal region during the dry season (October to May) by 2050, will likely lead to shortages of drinking and irrigation water and cause changes in aquatic ecosystems.
Changes in river salinity and the availability of freshwater will affect the productivity of fisheries. It will adversely affect the wild habitats of freshwater fish and giant prawn. In addition, the salinity increase may induce a shift in the Sundarbans mangrove forest from Sundari (the single most dominant and important species, with the highest market value) to Gewa and Guran.
Estimates from the research indicate that Bagerhat, Barguna, Barisal, Bhola, Khulna, Jhalakati, Pirojpur, and Satkhira districts will be affected most adversely.
This study also identifies soil salinisation in coastal Bangladesh as a major risk from climate change. In the coming decades, soil salinity will significantly increase in many areas of Barisal, Chittogram and Khulna districts. It projects a median increase of 26 percent in salinity by 2050, with increases over 55 percent in the most affected areas.
Due to the rise in soil salinity, Chittagong and Khulna districts are likely to witness the highest within-district additional migration, estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 migrants per year, said another study titled “Coastal Climate Change, Soil Salinity, and Human Migration in Bangladesh”, jointly conducted in 2018 by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Ohio State University.
“These two districts also contain the second and third largest cities in the country. Districts without large cities like Bagerhat, Bhola and Feni will generally expect smaller within-district flows, between 5,000 and 15,000, but larger out-of-district flows, particularly to districts with large cities,” said Ohio State University’s Joyce Chen, the co-authored of the study.
Meanwhile, after two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries on December 15 agreed on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming.
The deal agreed upon at UN climate talks in Poland enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
But to the frustration of environmental activists and some countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators delayed decisions on two key issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them.
The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it.
(UNB Bagerhat Correspondent Bishnu Proshad Chakrabortty contributed to this story.)
Dhaka, Jan 16 (UNB) - The government has once again slashed tax at source to 0.25 percent from the existing 0.60 percent for exporting goods to give some relief mainly to the RMG exporters following the recent hike in the wages of garment workers.
The Internal Resources Division has issued a statutory regulatory order (SRO) signed by its Senior Secretary and National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan to this end. The new measure came into effect on January 1 last.
Following the issuance of the SRO under clause 44(4) of the Income Tax Ordinance 1985, the new rate will be applicable for all the export items, excluding jute goods.
From now on, exporters will have to pay Tk 0.25 instead of Tk 0.60 as tax at source for exporting goods worth Tk 100.
On September 5, 2018, the government reduced the rate from 1 percent to 0.60 percent following demand from businessmen.
A senior NBR official, preferring not to be quoted, said the cut in the tax rate for exporters, especially the RMG ones, came as they accepted the government's proposal to increase the wages of their workers.
"Although we’re apprehending a significant fall in the revenue collection from this sector, we’ve reduced the rate as the garment owners demanded so to raise the wages of their workers. The government is always sincere about workers’ welfare," he said.
The official also mentioned that the new rate will improve the compatibility of Bangladeshi products in the world market.
For fiscal year 2018-19, the government has set a revenue target -– tax and non-tax revenue -- at Tk 339,280 crore. Of the total amount, the NBR has been tasked to source Tk 296,201 crore.
Income tax and other direct taxes will contribute Tk 102,201 crore while import and export tax Tk 32,589 crore, VAT Tk 110,543 crore, supplementary duty Tk 48,766, excise duty Tk 2,091 while turnover tax contribute Tk 11 crore.
The government on Sunday announced a revised pay structure for the garment sector following directives from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The wages of garment workers under grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 out of total seven grades were adjusted freshly.
The minimum wage under the 6th grade has been increased to Tk 8,420 from Tk 8,405 which was Tk 5,678 in 2013 while that under the 5th grade to Tk 8,875 from Tk 8,855 which was Tk 6,042 in 2013.
A 4th grade worker will now get Tk 9,347 instead of Tk 9,245 as minimum wage against Tk 6,420 in 2013 while 3rd grade one will get Tk 9,845 instead of Tk 9,590 which was Tk 6,805 in 2013.
The minimum wage under the 2nd grade has been increased to Tk 15,416 from Tk 14,630 which was Tk 10,900 in 2013 while that under 1st grade to Tk 18,257 from Tk 17,510 which was Tk 13,000 in 2013.
On November 26 last, the government published a gazette notification fixing Tk 8,000 as the minimum wage of garment workers.
Dhaka, Jan 15 (UNB) – The government is likely to revoke three more solar park projects in the private sector as the implementing agencies have failed to make any progress though the deadlines of the projects expired.
The government has already issued ‘Event of Default Notice (EDN)’, the initial process to terminate a contract, to the sponsors of the projects to this end, Power Division Joint Secretary (Renewable Energy) Mohammad Alauddin told UNB.
The three projects are 32 MW Sunamganj Solar Park, 50 MW Mymensingh Solar Park and 5 MW Lalmonirhat Solar Park.
Earlier, the government cancelled the 200 MW Teknaf Solar Park project as US firm SunEdison failed to implement it as per the schedule.
However, the executing agency has moved the international arbitration challenging the government’s decision.
Sources said state-owned Power Development Board (PDB) signed a contract with Edison-Power Point & Haor Bangla-Korea Green Energy Ltd to implement the 32 MW Sunamganj Solar Park by August 15, 2017 while the 50 MW Mymensingh Solar Park was awarded to Hetat-Detrolic-IFDC Solar to set up the plant by April 19, 2018 and Green Housing and Energy Ltd (PV) Power Patgram was scheduled to install the 5 MW Lalmonirhat Solar Park by January 29, 2018.
Under the agreements, the PDB was supposed to purchase electricity from the projects at different prices for the next 15 years.
But all the sponsors failed to implement the projects as per the schedules, a PDB official said, adding that their failure has prompted the government to issue the EDN.
“Actually, the EDN is the initial process to cancel a contract with a project sponsor. If they fail to respond to the notice, the government will then move to terminate their contracts and cancel the projects,” said a senior PDB official.
Another PDB official, however, said of the three companies, Edison-Power Point-Haor Bangla had appealed for extending time which was granted, but there was no substantial progress in the project. He said Hetat-Detrolic-IFDC Solar had also sought time extension.
Officials said the issue was discussed at a Power Division review meeting on November 11 with Power Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus in the chair.
The meeting asked the project directors concerned to submit reports in the next review meeting to be held within a three-month period from the previous meeting on their further actions regarding the projects, said a source present at the meeting.
Dhaka, Jan 14 (UNB) – In the mazelike streets of Old Dhaka, the rooftops of high-rises display a show unlike any other. Starting with the iconic kite flying in the afternoon, the festival, marking the end of Bangla month Poush, keeps getting brighter as night descends.
Residents of this particular area of the capital celebrate the southward journey of the sun from the tropic of Capricorn to the tropic of Cancer. The festival, which usually takes place from January 14-15, is also known as Makar (Capricorn) Shankranti.
The afternoon sky, swarming with colourful kites of various sizes, offers an unforgettable sight.
As the sun bids farewell to the day, ‘fanoosh’ (colourful paper lanterns) dot the sky like small fireflies. The celebrations turn merrier when people are greeted with pithas and traditional cuisine.
In this age of social media, colourful images of the festival attract people from all over the capital to Old Dhaka.
Many people like Jagannath University student Ullash Chowdhury, work throughout the day to prepare kites. Ullash says he considers Shakrain as something closer to his roots.
“I was born in Old Dhaka and have grown up enjoying this annual festival. The kites, high pitched music and other features of this time is a break from our routine lives,” he says. “The festival also gives us a chance to strengthen our bonds with families and friends.”
For Wari resident Sheikh Humayra Kabir, Shakrain is a special occasion to meet and catch up with her cousins. She says it is something only enjoyed by ‘Puran Dhakaiyas’ (residents of Old Dhaka).
This century-old festival has been growing in popularity among people, mainly because of kite flying. Mohammadpur resident Ratul, a university student, speaks excitedly about the new experience. “I have never seen so many kites together in my life,” he says.
The hospitality and merry nature of the Old Dhaka locals left a lasting impression on him. “I will be back next year,” Ratul says, hoping to have a similar jubilant experience.
Scholars say Shakrain’s history can be traced back to almost 250 years. The festival of mainly kite flying took place in what is now Old Dhaka.
Kite flying competition remains a salient feature of the celebrations. Loud music and rooftop DJ parties add new colour to the old tradition.
The colours of Shakrain shines brighter across different parts of old Dhaka as the night sets in. The light shows, paper lanterns, and fireworks that illuminate sky as rooftops are abuzz with music and fire-breathing stunts – are all means to keep the heart of an Old Dhaka heritage beating.