Dhaka, Sept 21 (UNB) – JICA sees its relations with Bangladesh in the next five years “extremely important” as it is helping Bangladesh reach the next level of development with the completion of a number of mega projects, says a senior official at the JICA headquarters.
“JICA will continue its strong support towards infrastructure and social development sectors,” Director of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) South Asia Division Takahashi Akito told UNB at his office in Tokyo.
The JICA official laid emphasis on linking such infrastructure development to the economic growth “very efficiently.”
Explaining the importance of the next five years in Bangladesh-Japan relations, Akito mentioned the Vision 2021 target of Bangladesh, the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh-Japan diplomatic relations in 2022, 50 years anniversary of JICA volunteers in 2023, opening of Matarbari port and Matarbari coal-fired power project and other mega projects, including the opening of the much-hyped metro rail service.
“This period is very important for Bangladesh’s next stage of development,” said the JICA official who is looking into Bangladesh affairs in Tokyo.
Responding to a question, the official said Bangladesh is located in a strategically very important place and connectivity plays an important role. “We’re supporting to further strengthen the connectivity in the region.”
In the future, he said they hope to provide support for integrated development of Moheshkhali-Matarbari area to make it an energy and power hub in the region.
Moheshkhali-Matarbari area is the core area BIG-B (the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt) initiative which consists of logistic, power, energy and waterfront industry hub, said the official.
Highly appreciating Bangladesh’s economic progress over the past years, Akito said they are very proud to see Bangladesh as one of the most successful countries to achieve higher economic growth in the region.
The JICA official, however, said there are some challenges ahead for Bangladesh that need to be addressed to continue the growth trend and making the growth sustainable.
Citing sole dependence on readymade garment industry, Akito said the diversification of industry is one of the key issues to achieve further economic development.
In order to further promote Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the JICA official said the improvement of procedures to create an appropriate environment for foreign companies is essential.
He also laid emphasis on human development-boosting capacity to contribute to the need and the greater growth of the country.
Talking about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he appreciated Bangladesh government’s efforts and mentioned that almost all the projects are linked with the SDGs. “I hope your country will be successful and JICA will continue supporting Bangladesh to achieve such goals.”
Director of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) South Asia Division Takahashi Akito
As an international organisation, the JICA official said, they are closely watching the Rohingya situation in Bangladesh. “We should provide appropriate and quick support to the refugee crisis, through the ongoing projects.”
He said JICA and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) constructed a deep borehole and a water distribution system in Kutupalong camp.
This is the largest water supply system at the Rohingya camp which can supply safe water to nearly 30,000 people.
JICA, which started a “long and rewarding” relationship with Bangladesh by sending three volunteers in 1973, also supports the host community through local government, said the official.
Immediate past Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi, before leaving Dhaka, said Rohingya issue is not an isolated phenomenon, rather deeply related with growing nationalistic political trend and the world must find a solution for Rohingyas.
“It goes without saying that the Rohingyas are also victims of the prevailing egocentric nationalism or populism. Of course, I believe, the world can never be a jungle,” he said, adding that the civilised world must find a sustainable solution to bring justice for Rohingyas.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.
Benapole, Sept 19 (UNB) – The banned three-wheelers plying the Benapole-Jashore and Navaron-Satkhira highways are increasing risks of accidents.
Locals accused the highway police of turning a blind eye to the situation in exchange for bribes. Sometimes, police seize a couple of three-wheelers and file cases but these are just acts, they alleged.
Police denied the charges.
But during a visit to the area, the UNB correspondent saw ‘Mahendra’ (locally-made battery-run three-wheelers) plying freely from Bagachara to Navaron-Satkhira intersection of Sharsha to Benapole on the Jashore-Benapole Highway.
The Mahendras are leaving for Benapole and Bagachra every few minutes from a makeshift terminal at the Satkhira intersection.
Apart from it, engine-driven three-wheelers and battery-operated vans, Nosimon and Korimon, are also plying the roads.
More than a hundred illegal three-wheelers are operating on the Jhikorgachha-Laujani, Navaron-Nobinagar, Godkhali-Jhikorgachha and Beneali-Jhikorgachha routes.
Accidents are taking place almost every day. Locals say the unpredictable movement of these vehicles is increasing the risk of big accidents.
Some people who spoke to UNB alleged that the vehicles continue to operate by bribing the Navaron Highway Police. The monthly one-time bribes range from Tk 450 to Tk 5,500.
There was another allegation that money was extorted from drivers of these illegal vehicles by a certain group to allow them use streets in the municipal area.
Anisuzzaman, Administrative Officer of Jashore District Bus Owners Association, said they are facing financial loss because of the three-wheelers. “No action has been taken despite written petitions submitted to various administrative offices for stopping movement of these three-wheelers,” he said.
Navaron Highway Police Outpost’s in-charge Tito Kumar Nath said they are trying their best to stop the three-wheelers from plying the highways. “We’re also filing cases against these illegal vehicles,” he said, trashing allegations of accepting bribes.
Mohammad Farhad, ASP of Highway Police’s Jashore Circle, said more than 200 three-wheelers were seized in the last one month.
“We’re conducting drives to get these vehicles off the highways,” he said. “Action will be taken against members of highway police if they violate the law (by accepting bribes and allowing the three-wheelers ply the highways).”
Khulna, Sept 17 (UNB) – Although the government has lifted the ban on raw jute export, traders here are yet to start collecting jute fearing such a ban again, causing losses to them.
The traders said the jute export witnessed a sharp fall last year due to the ban on the export of uncut Bangla tossa rejection (BTR) and Bangla white rejection (BWR) varieties of jute.
On January 18, 2018, the government had banned the export of raw jute for an indefinite period to encourage the use of jute-made products in the country. It lifted the ban through a circular issued on May 29 last.
On November 3, 2015, the government imposed a similar ban for a month. It, however, extended the ban for an indefinite period later.
The ban was lifted on April 3, 2016 clearing the way for jute export.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), 1,379,290 bales of raw jute worth Tk 1,294.65 crore were exported in 2017-18 fiscal year. The export volume was Tk 1,187.53 crore in 2016-17 financial year.
In 11 months of the last fiscal year till May, raw jute worth Tk 770.91 crore was exported to different countries.
According to Bangladesh Jute Association (BJA), Bangladesh exports raw jute to 28-30 countries, including India, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Korea, Russia, Nepal, Cuba, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Of them, Pakistan, India and China hold a large chunk of the export volume.
Exporters and traders fear that they will face huge losses if the government suddenly takes any decision to ban the jute export again after collecting jute.
They said jure prices fall sharply once the ban is imposed on its export which ultimately hurts farmers.
Many traders also have to wind up their business for losses, they said.
Nazrul Islam, Manager of Mondal and Company, Uttara Pat Sangstha, said although the demand for jute has seen a rise in the global market, they are yet to collect raw jute fearing that the government might come up with an export ban again. “We’ll buy jute after observing the situation.”
Bangladesh Jute Association Chairman Syed Ali said the sudden export ban hits the farmers and traders hard. “So, traders will step forward after calculation.”
Dhaka, Sept 17 (UNB) – The government will import 1.4 million metric tonnes of refined petroleum for a six-month period (July-Dec) of the current year from seven state-owned companies of six countries through negotiations.
fuel-supplying companies are PTLCL of Malaysia, PTTT of Thailand, BSP Zapin of Indonesia, Enoc of United Arab Emirates (UAE), KPC of Kuwait and two companies from China — Petrochina and Unipec.
According to official sources, state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) has already completed the negotiations with the suppliers and the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase (CCPP) also gave its nod to the procurement proposal on August 21 placed by the Energy and Mineral Resources Division.
They said a similar quantity of petroleum products will be imported from international companies through an open tender process.
The annual demand for petroleum in the country is about 6.5 million metric tonnes of which about 5.6 million is imported refined fuel, the sources said.
They mentioned that the BPC follows such a policy as part of the government’s strategy to import half of petroleum products from state-owned companies through negotiations and remaining half from international market through open tender process to ensure a smooth supply of petroleum in the country.
Official sources said the planned import of 1.4 million mts of petroleum will cost approximately $819.306 million (equivalent to Tk 6923.11 crore).
Of this, $784.857 million (Tk 6632.03 crore) will be spent as value of the products while $34.449 million (Tk 291.08 crore) for premium which covers transportation and other charges.
the proposed import, official documents show, the diesel (gas oil) is 1.120 million mts (about 8.355 million barrel), jet A-1 is 145,000 mts (1.160 million barrel), petrol (mogas) 30,000 mts (258,000 barrel) and furnace oil 140,000 mts.
The BPC set the premium price at $2.95 for each barrel of diesel while $3.95 for each barrel of jet A-1, $4.90 for petrol and $28.25 for each metric tonne of furnace oil while the price of petroleum will be fixed on average of five days price as per bill of landing date.
As per the negotiation, the BPC will import 130,000 mts of diesel, 10,000 mts of jet A-1 and 40,000 mts of furnace oil from Malaysia’s state-owned PTLCL while Thailand’s PTTT will supply 60,000 mts of diesel and 20,000 mt of furnace oil.
Indonesia’s BSP Zapin will supply 90,000 mts of diesel and 40,000 mts of furnace oil, 30,000 mts of petrol and 15,000 of jet A-1 while UAE’s ENOC will supply 90,000 mts of diesel and 20,000 mts of furnace oil.
Kuwait’s KPC will provide 540,000 mts of diesel and 120,000 mts of jet A-1 fuel while China’s Petrochina 60,000 mts of diesel and 20,000 mts of furnace oil.
Another Chinese state-owned company Unipec will supply 150,000 mts of diesel, said the sources at the BPC.
Hili (Dinajpur), Sept 15 (UNB) – The Indian government’s clampdown on onion export is causing a fair bit of upset across the border as well, with Bangladeshi businessmen at Hili land port between the two countries left agonising over a sharp increase in its prices.
They said the prices have gone up to $852 per metric tonne following two hikes in the last two months.
It is apprehended that the prices of imported onion might go up to Tk 80-90 per KG as further time is needed for the entry of its newly-priced fresh consignments into the country.
Meanwhile, no onion-laden truck came from India through Hili land port as of 3pm on Saturday.
According to businessmen, the Indian government has withdrawn “export price” regarding onion export to Bangladesh one year ago. Since then, the country’s traders had been importing onion through Hili land port for at least $150 to 200 dollars without any export price.
As a result, the businessmen of the port used to sell onion at Tk 15-20 at the wholesale market here.
Panna and Anil Thakur, an Indian businessman at Hili, said, “Onion production was hampered due to flood in various Indian states, including Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Onion grows in plenty in these regions and so the prices go up whenever onion crisis is seen there. We came to know that the government has again decided to increase the onion price. Information is there that it has been raised to $852 dollars per MT.”
“It seems that the government has taken the step to discourage onion export to Bangladesh. Onion is selling at Rs 40-50 per KG at various places of India. We’re worried about its prices,” Thakur added.
Importer Mobarak Hossain at Hili land port said onion is imported from India at $350-400 per MT. So, different varieties of onion are selling at Tk 32-36 at the wholesale market here.
On Thursday last, onion was again sold at Tk 38 per KG, an increase by Tk 2. The price will be Tk 72 per KG if the new priced onion is imported. “So, we the businessmen are concerned regarding onion import... we don’t know what we’ll do.”
Morshedur Rahman, another importer, said the LC price of onion remained at $400 per MT as of Thursday and those onions were scheduled to enter the country on Saturday.