Dhaka, May 25 (UNB) – An exclusive economic zone for Japanese investors is going to be developed at Araihazar upazila in Nayaranganj alongside Dhaka-Syhet Highway.
Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) will sign a joint venture agreement with Sumitomo Corporation of Japan for development of the proposed economic zone, official sources at BEZA said.
According to them, the new economic zone will be developed on 1,000 acres of land of which the government has already acquired 500 acres in phase-1 while the remaining 500 acres are under the land acquisition process as part of phase-2.
The location of the economic zone is 37 km away off Gulshan in the capital and it will be named as Bangladesh Special Economic Zone (BSEZ).
The sources said the proposed economic zone is being developed exclusively for Japanese investors as the follow-up of a decision taken during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan in May 2014 and Japanese Prime Minister’s counter visit to Bangladesh in September the same year.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) has already approved a Tk 2582.17 crore project to this end and Japanese multilateral donor Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is financing the project.
When Beza moved to develop the project following the Ecnec approval, JICA advised it to invite expression of interest from experienced Japanese investors to develop the proposed economic zone. Especially, the officials said, those Japanese firms were invited for the project which have vast experiences to develop such projects.
Leading Japanese firm Sumitomo Corporation responded to the BEZA’s invitation and came up with its own proposal to develop the economic zone.
At one stage of the negotiation between the BEZA and Sumitomo, both signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to move ahead with the project under a joint venture.
After long negotiations, now both the sides—BEZA and Sumitomo—have decided to form a joint venture company which is known as a special purpose company (SPC) to develop the economic zone in joint venture.
BEZA officials said the SPC will mainly be appointed to develop the proposed economic zone after a tripartite agreement between BEZA, Sumitomo and SPC.
In the proposed SPC, the Sumitomo Corporation will have 76 percent stake while the remaining 24 percent will be held by BEZA.
Government document in this regard shows that the BEZA and Sumitomo have already prepared a joint venture agreement (JVA) for the project. When it was sent for vetting to the law ministry, BEZ was advised to ensure rationalisation risk-sharing factor.
“The sharing of risk between the two parties should be rational and be based on their risk-sharing capacity,” the Law Ministry said in its vetting.
Following the advice, BEZA amended the draft JVA agreement which was placed at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affair (CCEA) on May 22.
The committee has approved in principle the BEZA proposal which was placed by the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office as BEZA is under the PMO.
BEZA officials said they will now move on to sign the JVA with Sumitomo Corporation once the CCEA is approved.
Dhaka, May 25 (UNB) - UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and prominent South Korean actor Jung Woo-sung has laid emphasis on a ‘strategic support’ plan for the Rohingya people and their host community in Bangladesh amid the absence of a political solution to Rohingya crisis.
“Although there was a great support from the Bangladesh government as well the host community, I still see a lack of political solution for the Rohingya refugees,” he told UNB in an interview during his second visit to Bangladesh to see the Rohingya situation on the ground.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar with around 741,000 fleeing Myanmar since August 2017, officials say.
Despite living in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya people lost their citizenship following a change in Myanmar laws in 1982.
Talking about his role in helping these vulnerable people, the UNHCR envoy said there are people who do not even get to know about them as the conflicts continue other parts of the world.
“There’s a need for everyone to know about these problems globally. So, my role is to share the stories to people in Korea and around Asia and the plights of refugees, which I believe, may lead to a solution for them,” said Jung who has undertaken extensive awareness and fundraising activities for Rohingyas that he has met in Cox’s Bazar twice.
He thanked the government of Bangladesh and the local community expressing his deep respect for showing the generosity by giving Rohingya people shelter safely.
The UNHCR Goodwill envoy expressed satisfaction over the progress made so far though he still sees a lack of political solution for the Rohingya people.
Responding to a question, he said the number of “persons of concern” (refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and returnees) globally was 45 million. “Now in 2019, the number has increased deeply to almost 70 million.”
According to UNHCR 2018 data, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
Back in 2017, the UNHCR envoy said, his first visit to Bangladesh to meet the Rohingya people was planned because Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, expressed deep concerns over the crisis while visiting South Korea, which needed a deep attention from Asia as well as the world.
“So, he asked me as Goodwill Ambassador to help spread the urgent request of the Rohingya refugees. And that’s why I had visited Bangladesh. It was immediately after the mass influx and my impression about the Rohingya refugees was - it was in a state of chaos,” the envoy said sharing the memories of his first visit.
“Luckily, I could reunite with the two families I met in 2017, supported by UNHCR to identify them,” he said.
This time the two families met him very willingly, he said adding that the elderly mother of one of the families spoke quite freely and expressed satisfaction and gratitude about the life and the living conditions in the camps.
A Joint Response Plan (JRP), launched in February 2019 in Geneva, has estimated US$ 920 million funds to meet humanitarian needs of Rohingya people and vulnerable Bangladesh host community in 2019. As of mid-May, only 18 percent of the required fund is managed.
Asked how celebrities contribute to the benefits of the refugees, Jung said the UNHCR and other partner agencies have their specific needs to support the situation. “I’ve never seen a situation or an emergency situation that was fully funded.”
He said for him as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, it is his role to ask individuals and people to continue raising funds and give funds for the refugees. “And celebrities like me could also personally make donation.”
Jung, however, said it is important that they do not force people to donate or support refugees, but continue to persuade them. “It’s very important to continue the support for them. This brings me back to Bangladesh for my second time.”
The film star said he is very happy to hear that there are many fans in Bangladesh. “And I’m actually honoured to know of it,” he said adding that he is not sure through which movies or films the fans got to know of his work.
“But, I’ll continue my career as an actor and, I think, I have my obligations to continue pleasing the fans,” Jung, also a film producer and director, said.
Responding to a question, he said his new movie is expected to be there sometime around September. “I also have many other films lined up. I hope, you’ll get to see them and you won’t be disappointed.”
Faridpur, May 25 (UNB) - Only three doctors have been working in Boalmari Upazila Health Complex to serve around five lakh people of Boalmari and its adjoining upazilas for the last six months, making it very difficult for many villagers to have access to healthcare.
Shortage of other manpower and necessary equipment are also hampering the services at the health complex, the lone hospital for the residents of Boalmari and nearby Saltha, Muhammadpur and Alfadanga upazilas.
According to the hospital authorities, over 300 patients visit the outdoor facility of the hospital every day.
Although the hospital has 50-bed facilities, 60 to 70 patients remain admitted here regularly, resulting in severe disruption in administrative activities and causing enormous sufferings to service-seekers.
Though there are 21 posts of doctors, only three are currently providing treatment to the patients here. Among them, Dr Gias Uddin Ahmed is working as a child consultant while Dr Soumitra Sarkar and Dr Shantanu Bhattacharya as medical officers.
Besides, two sub-assistant community medical officers are serving the patients at emergency and outdoor departments in the absence of duty doctors.
According to hospital insiders, health and family planning officer Dr Tapan Biswas provides medical support to patients in addition to performing his administrative duties.
When it comes to cleanliness issue, the situation is even worse.
Among the five posts of cleaners in the hospital, four are lying vacant. There is no ward boy in the hospital for over a year. Except an office assistant and an MLSS, the rest of the posts have been lying vacant for long.
Besides, the posts of cashier, accountant and statistics officer have been lying vacant for years.
The lone X-ray machine has been lying inoperative in an abandoned building for the last 10 to 12 years. And the ultrasonogram and ECG machines have been lying unused for 2-3 years, also for lack of manpower.
Marjina Begum, a resident of Saltha upazila who came to visit the hospital outdoor, said,” We can’t afford medical expenses at private clinics, but we aren’t getting proper medical services here.”
“Immediate posting of necessary doctors and other staff can improve the situation at the hospital,” said another patient who was undergoing treatment there.
Dr Tapash Biswas, health and family planning officer of the upazila, said doctors currently working at the hospital are facing tremendous pressure ever day due to manpower shortage.
He further said, “We’ve informed the higher authorities about the manpower crisis several times, but no step has been taken yet.”
Dr Tapash, however, hoped that things may improve if the recent declaration of upgrading the hospital to a 100-bed one is implemented soon.
Dhaka, May 24 (UNB) – Complaints about poor service quality against ridesharing companies are piling up because of mismanagement and careless attitude of drivers, users and experts say.
It is in stark contrast to the lofty promises with which the ridesharing services entered Dhaka’s market to provide quality services in a city known for its chaotic traffic.
Urban experts say the government should have strong monitoring, rules and regulations in place to force these companies ensure better services for commuters.
They also observed that most of the drivers, especially motorcyclists working with ridesharing companies, drive recklessly flouting traffic rules and causing accidents.
On April 25 last, BRAC University Fahmida Haque Labanya died after a covered van crashed into a recklessly driven motorcycle in College Gate area. She had hailed the motorcycle using Uber’s app.
During investigation, police found reckless driving – by both the Uber biker and the covered van driver – was the main reason behind the accident. Police also found that motorcyclist Sumon Hossain used fake address and information when registering with Uber.
Uber launched on-demand ridesharing service in Dhaka on November 22, 2016. Later, many local companies, including Pathao, Obhai and Shohoz.com hit the city streets offering same services.
Commuters, who regularly use ridesharing services, told UNB that they are disappointed with the quality of services.
Major complaints include reckless driving, drivers misbehaving with passengers and demanding extra money, refusing to go to the desired destination of commuters, and telling commuters to cancel trip request after wasting time and.
“Most drivers use apps of different ridesharing companies simultaneously and they chose their favourable trip,” said private bank employee Jahangir Alam.
Moinuddin Khan, a journalist, said that some of the vehicles used by ridesharing service providers are unfit. “They go out of order halfway through and sometimes the drivers refuse to turn the AC on,” he said, adding that most drivers lack navigation skills.
Tatini Haque, a private company executive, said that Uber and Pathao drivers often pestered her for extra money. “Many of them misbehave with me when I refuse,” she said.
Sometimes the companies charge abnormal fare, she said. “I hailed a car using Uber app to travel to Purana Platan from Mailbag. It showed a bill of Tk 150 but I was charged Tk 260 during my return trip.”
The other big complaint is about helmets. Most of the helmets provided are described as ‘toy helmets’ by many. Users said the helmets are used only avoid police cases.
Ridesharing companies still operating illegally
Urban expert and architect Iqbal Habib said ridesharing companies are running their services as per their whims as the government has no control over them.
“They are doing business illegally without any license and monitoring of the government. They also have no accountability since they’re not registered with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA),” he said.
Habib said the government made guidelines for ridesharing services last year but is yet to make it effective.
The guidelines stipulate that ridesharing companies and the owners of the vehicles used for the services must have enlistment certificate from BRTA.
A BRTA official, wishing anonymity, said 16 companies, including Uber, Pathao, Host International, Golden Rain Limited, Obhai Solutions Limited, Rider Rideshare Inc Limited, Pickme Limited, Easier Technologies Limited, and Computer System Network Limited, have so far applied for BRTA certificate.
“None of them has been given a certificate as they failed to fulfill the conditions. But the companies are in talks with government to relax the conditions,” he said.
According to information provided by ridesharing companies who applied for BRTA certificate,1,04,389 motorcycles and 18,253 cars are being used to provide services.
Urban expert and former UGC chairman Prof Nazrul Islam said ridesharing companies initially got overwhelming response from commuters. “But the companies are earning bad names for mismanagement and bad attitude of its driver partners.”
He said strong government monitoring and strict enforcement of laws are needed to restore discipline. “The driver partners of ridesharing companies often flout traffic rules and mainly bikers have now become the cause of accidents.”
Prof Nazrul said ridesharing companies should register drivers through proper assessments and provide them necessary training before deploying them. “They should also give importance to customer complaints and take steps to resolve them,” he said.
Joint Commissioner (Traffic-South) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mofiz Uddin Ahmed said they are working to bring a change in the traditional attitude of drivers.
About the illegal operation of ridesharing services, he said BRTA is supposed to deal it. “We only check whether the vehicle has valid documents or not.”
Contacted through email, Uber spokesperson said they keep a close watch on their driver partners and take action if they get complaints about violation of rules, regulations and guidelines.
In case of any isolated incident or unpleasant experience, the spokesman urged the riders to use Uber’s in-app feedback method to inform them about the actions that jeopardize the safety of driver-partners and riders.
Brahmanbaria, May 24 (UNB)- A bridge by definition exists to connect two places, to allow seamless communication despite changes in terrain that may have otherwise required a change of vehicle.
Against this there is a singular image of a bridge as a standalone structure, like some commissioned sculpture, with no roads leading to it, neither any going away, even as the main bridge structure stands tall over the Pagla River in Krishnagar union of Brahmanbaria.
With no approach roads on either side though, it is rendered worthless and the Tk 14 crore spent on it would seem to have been a total waste of public resources.
On a recent visit we found locals were still forced to cross this stretch of the Pagla River by the traditional boat costing Tk 10 each.
When the decision was taken to build it, mostly it was meant to benefit the people of Krishnagar, Borail and Birgaon unions
Locals said it would form the most important connecting route for the people of the three unions to reach the Sadarupazila, and from there on to the district town.
The construction of the main structure of the bridge in Krishnagar area began in January, 2016 and ended in June 2018.
Hasan Enterprise won the contract for the main structure of the bridge from the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) under its Rural Transport Improvement Project (RTIP-2).
“We have got the bridge for the noble initiative of former MP of Brahmanbaria-5, FayzurRahman,” they added. FayzurRahman was a 1-time MP for Awami League from 2014-2018 who failed to secure the AL nomination in the last election.
Locals also said work has been done on the approach roads on both sides of the bridge, but ultimately not connected to it.
MdNurul Islam, Nabinagarupazila engineer said there was some ‘complexity’ with the purchase of land connecting the bridge on both sides.
“But that has been solved and soon the approach road construction will be completed,” he added.
The current MP for NabinagarEbadulKarim Bulbul said the issue will be resolved “after consulting with the project implementation authority and others concerned.”