Dhaka, Oct 16 (UNB) – Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo has said China and Bangladesh will emerge as “great partners of win-win cooperation” taking the relations to a next level through greater cooperation in core areas as it expects a stable political environment in Bangladesh.
“I do hope Bangladesh will have a very smooth general election and the political situation will remain stable during the whole election process,” he said in an exclusive interview with UNB.
Apparently putting emphasis on the continuation of stable political environment, Ambassador Zuo said China would respect the choice to be made by Bangladeshi people.
“I also hope the friendship between China and Bangladesh will last forever,” he said adding that lots of opportunities have emerged in Bangladesh-China relations that can be explored through joint efforts.
Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh in October 2016, Ambassador Zuo said the two leaders -- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Xi -- elevated the bilateral relationship to strategic partnership of cooperation with the historic visit.
“This has created opportunities for greater cooperation…both the countries have opened a new chapter in their relations,” said the Ambassador.
He said efforts are on to take cooperation and collaboration between the two countries to core areas -- economic and commerce, investment, cultural and people to people contact -- to the next level.
Ambassador Zuo, who arrived in Dhaka in February 2018 taking up his new assignment here, said since the visit of Chinese President to Bangladesh, the cooperation in commerce and trade between China and Bangladesh as well as people-to-people relationship have reached a newer height.
Talking about the much-hyped Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he said Chinese President Xi put forward the BRI in 2013 and it got a very positive response from all over the world.
The BRI wants to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and realise diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries.
It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea route.
“In terms of development assistance and investment, we’re now in a very good shape,” said the Ambassador adding that they look forward to fully availing of the opportunities created by the State visit of President Xi and bring more results for the people of the two countries.
Stressing the importance of people-to-people contact, the Chinese envoy said enhancing people-to-people exchanges and connectivity is one of the key components of strengthening China-Bangladesh strategic partnership of cooperation.
The Ambassador laid emphasis on deeper cooperation among the media organisations of the two countries saying that the media have an important role to play in promoting the relations.
“I would like to stress the importance of the role of media. I believe both the traditional and new media can help build a bridge between China and Bangladesh when we look at economic cooperation and many other aspects,” he said.
Highlighting cooperation in education sector, Ambassador Zuo said China wants to promote cooperation in the areas of education and scientific research.
“Every year over 3,000 Bangladeshi students go to China for education. I believe this is an important part of our relations. I hope we can together promote collaboration in this area,” he added.
Ambassador Zuo, who has a PhD in Management, said he also looks forward to promoting communication linking youths and women.
The Chinese side invited 150 Bangladeshi youths to China for half a month youth camp and the programme went very well, he mentioned.
“I hope we can have more communication between our female members,” said the Ambassador.
He also talked about initiatives to promote greater collaboration and communication in the areas of culture, arts and tourism.
The Chinese Ambassador laid emphasis on building an effective platform of discussion and sharing to further enhance the practical economic cooperation between Bangladesh and China.
In 2017, the bilateral trade value reached US$ 16 billion, 5.8 percent higher than the last year, with China remaining the number one trade partner to Bangladesh; the engineering contracts signed between Bangladesh and Chinese companies reached US$ 10.4 billion, the second in the South Asian region.
During the first half of this year, the bilateral trade value stood at US$ 9.35 billion, with a growth rate of 17.6 percent year-on-year; the contracts signed are worth US$ 3.57 billion, a growth rate of 8.6 percent year-on-year.
Ambassador Zuo said Bangladesh is a very prosperous country that generated some world famous artists and writers, and recalled the rich works of great poet Rabindranath Tagore.
“He (Tagore) is a very famous figure in China, too. Before I came here I had gone through his great poem the ‘Golden Bengal’. That piece of work gave me a deeper understanding about Bangladesh,” he said.
Sylhet, Oct 15 (UNB) – When many people cannot earn enough to support their families even doing decent jobs, Bipul Chandra Das, a tea seller in Bishwanath upazila stands out from the rest.
Bipul has carved a reputation for himself by offering tea to those who call him over the phone.
Popularly known as ‘Tea Babu’, his unique livelihood fetches enough to feed his four-member family, serving tea from dawn to dusk in Puran Bazar area of the district for the past 10 years.
"Most of the shopkeepers of the old market area know my phone number, they call me and order tea over phone. I rush over to serve tea to them and it works like a cycle,” Bipul said.
Selling only liquored tea at Tk 5 per cup, he earns Tk 600-700 per day selling tea, down from TK 1200-1500 during his tea-peddling heydays, but still a hefty income nevertheless.
“The profit multiplies in winter season as the sale goes even higher,” Bipul went on saying.
Bipul himself prepares tea at a small congested cubicle attached to a two-stored building in old market area and brings it to the callers as soon as they order tea over their phones.
Unfortunately, his base offers no space for tea lovers, hence he wanders around the area and sells it on request over phone.
While this reporter caught eye on him entering a decorator shop beside police station with two tea cups on a tray, Bipul's phone rang out, ordering another five cups of tea from a nearby shop.
"Babu has become popular for his raw tea as he possesses a good hand in making it and makes sure that his tea reaches shop timely," said Akhter Ahmed, an ardent fan of Bipul's tea and a trader at Puran Bazar.
Moulvibazar, Oct 15 (UNB) – All preparations have been completed to celebrate Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindu community, in 842 mandaps in the district.
Durga Puja begins on Monday and will end on October 19 through the immersion of idols in rivers or water bodies across the country.
Sculptors were seen giving the final touches on the idols of Durga and other deities on Sunday. All the puja mandaps have already been decorated with grandiose lightings.
The biggest puja mandap of the district was set up at Saiyerrpur Trinoyani Shibbari in the district town where around 30-foot Durga idol was installed which is 25 feet in height as well as a giant stage was set up in the guise of spectacular Shiva Linga to welcome the devotees.
Pradip Das, General Secretary of Trinoyani Shibbari Puja Mandap, said like every year, their mandap will come up with a different theme this time while idols depicting the pantheons of Ramayana and Mahabharata will be presented before the visitors.
There are 50 idols at Harijon Puja Mandap in the district.
Like previous occasions, district’s oldest temple Panchgaon Puja Mandap in Rajnagar upazila is set to attract visitors with fire-coloured (Agniborna) idols.
Hindu devotees in Kulaura upazila will throng different puja mandaps, including historical Kadipur Durgabari, during the holy occasion, Pradip added.
Sumesh Das Jishu, General Secretary of Sadar Upazila Puja Celebration Parishad, said the number of puja mandaps in the district has increased this year.
Besides, some 150 families are arranging puja in their individual homesteads, he said.
Police Super of the district Mohammad Shahjalal said a four-tier security arrangement will be in place across the district to ensure smooth celebrations of this year’s puja.
Dhaka, Oct 15 (UNB) – When Bangladesh Post Office launched a new money order service in the form of Electronic Money Transfer Services (EMTS) back on March 26, 2010 – the state-run postal department was the pioneer in particular segment of money remittance business.
In a gap of just eight years something must have gone wrong that today EMTS appears running out of steam as some of its counterparts from the private sector doing fantastic.
With people remitting lesser amount of money now through EMTS, the government has decided to reduce the EMTS service fees to keep this service alive at a time when private rivals doing aggressive marketing with reduced fees and greater accessibility.
Post and Telecommunication Ministry recently sent a proposal to the Finance Ministry seeking to cut the service fees as the amount of money people remit through EMTS dropped from Tk 2,161.49 crore in 2012-13 financial year (FY) to just Tk 118.22 crore in 2016-17 FY.
"To stay afloat in the market, the Post and Telecommunication Ministry has sent the proposal to reduce its charges," a senior official of the Finance Ministry told UNB.
In the proposal the Post and Telecommunication Ministry sought to cut fees for remitting Tk 1000 from current Tk 18.50 to Tk. 10. It also proposed to re-fix the rate at Tk 20 from Tk 74 for remitting Tk 4000, Tk 25 from Tk 92.5 for remitting Tk 5000 and Tk 50 from Tk 185 for remitting Tk 10,000.
It also proposed to reduce the fees to Tk 100 from Tk 370 for remitting Tk 20000, Tk 150 from Tk 555 for sending Tk 30,000 and Tk 250 from Tk 925 for sending Tk 50,000.
A senior official of the Postal Department said that this service was introduced on March 26, 2010. At the initial stage the service gained huge popularity among the consumers. People started to send money through this service as this service was very much convenient for them.
But this service faced tough challenge while the private mobile banking system started to provide their service as the rate of service fees comparing to the other market players are high. As a result the people diverted their interest to those private mobile banking system, he said.
He also mentioned that the private market players have huge number of agents across the country while people can open their personal account for sending and receiving money through their personal mobile phone numbers. They don't need to go anywhere for receiving money. They just need to go to the agent for cash out. People can even pay their shopping bills by sending money from this account.
On the contrary, though Bangladesh Post Office has in excess of 9,000 facilities all over the country it offers EMTS from 2750 post offices only.
What is EMTS?
The regular paper based money order service of the post office seemed a time consuming, expensive and inefficient approach of remit money to any part of the country. There was a demand for quick transfer of money to locations where the beneficiary can collect and use it instantly. With this perspective in view, Bangladesh Post Office launched a new money order service named Electronic Money Transfer Service (EMTS), commonly known as Mobile Money Order Service. This fulfilled the expectations of people to remit the desired amount of money to their near and dear ones so as to utilise when they need.
According to Bangladesh Post Office’s official site, “This (EMTS) is mobile as well as web based remittance service available in all important post offices of the country. The sender can send the money within a minute and recipient/beneficiary can collect it instantly. Both sender and recipient get confirmation of the remittance and disbursement as soon as it is made in their mobile phones.”
This service is available in all important post offices of the country. Presently 2750 post offices provide the EMTS which is covering all district, upazilla/thana and important/busy rural post office locations. Every month hundreds of post officials are being trained and the service is expanded to those locations, stated the official site of Bangladesh Post Office.
Dhaka, Oct 14 (UNB) – With their relations now at a newer height, Bangladesh and India can dominate any sub-regional or regional grouping by continuing close coordination between the two countries, says an international relations analyst.
“Together we’re the giants in BBIN & Bimstec. We can dominate any sub-regional or regional grouping,” said former Indian Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Krishnan Srinivasan.
BBIN is a sub-regional cooperation among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, while Bimstec stands for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec).
Through close coordination in all fields, he said, Bangladesh and India can together transform the landscape of the two countries, South and Southeast Asia.
The expert said India will soon be the 5th largest global economy, and Bangladesh will beat India in achieving the middle-income status.
In his recent paper presented at Cosmos Dialogue, Srinivasan said the current developments between Bangladesh and India are referred to as a golden age.
“Golden ages have come and gone, but there definitely are positive achievements in recent years on trade, land and rail connections, power supply, investments, lines of credit, exchange of visits, cultural and educational ties," he said.
The former Indian foreign secretary said the issue of water sharing is naturally emotive in Bangladesh, a deltaic country afflicted by floods and droughts and mentioned that India is required to understand Bangladesh’s needs.
Bangladesh and India reiterated their commitment to further strengthen the bilateral relations on the basis of friendship, trust and understanding for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.
Considering the vision of Bangladesh to become a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041, a senior official told UNB that the two countries agreed that a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in the coming days covering goods, services and investment would provide a sound basis for substantial enhancement of trade and commercial partnership.
Officials concerned of the two countries have already been directed to undertake a joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral CEPA, said the official.
Director of Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore C Raja Mohan, who also spoke at the Cosmos Dialogue, thinks Bangladesh requires defining the country’s interests keeping the ever-changing geopolitical and regional scenarios in considerations.
“The question is how you define your interests,” said the Indian scholar based in Singapore stressing that the two countries require building trust at all levels.
Raja Mohan said they are going to see the formation of new geography and one of the most critical elements is the rise of Bangladesh itself and transformation of its economy.
He said the growing economy of Bangladesh is going to have significant implications for South Asia.
Mohan said the change of geography around them will have at least five important consequences for bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India, including the argument of Bangladesh is India-locked. “In fact, Bangladesh can be a land bridge between India and China.”
Shedding light on politics, he said, “You’re free to elect whom you want. Today, in your country, you can elect any one. I’ve been advocating with India to deal with whoever is in the government. You can’t do the management of somebody else’s domestic politics.”
He thinks large countries have no choice but to deal with whoever is in power across the border and across the world.
“Sometimes it comes with problems, sometimes it comes with no problem. Democracy is not a gift that somebody else will give you,” Raja Mohan said adding, “Let’s be pragmatic.”
Diplomatic sources in New Delhi said India’s political parties and civil society members have good wishes for the current government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina but they want to see the people of Bangladesh to decide on it.
Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on many occasions, said the next national election is an internal matter of Bangladesh and India will not make any comment on that.