Dhaka, Sept 5 (UNB) – A leading global tobacco company, Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT) tried for six years to enter into the Indian market but India denied accepting the foreign direct investment (FDI) in tobacco sector and Bangladesh should also refuse the FDI, said ruling party lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury on Wednesday.
Speaking at a tobacco study report presentation programme in the city, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, also the Honorary President of Inter-Parliamentary Union, decried Bangladesh’s accepting FDI in tobacco sector noting that not all FDI brings good for a country.
It is not possible to build up a tobacco free Bangladesh keeping tobacco industry as a profitable business, said the lawmaker.
The single largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh’s private sector was revealed in early last month JT said that it had agreed to purchase Akij Group’s tobacco business for $1.5 billion. The acquisition marks an aggressive push by the Japanese company into new markets as sales of its products in developed countries are shrinking as more people quit smoking.
Presenting a study carried out on 10 Asian countries including Bangladesh, Anti-tobacco campaigners PROGGA and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) said, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries where tobacco industry interferes most in policy development and implementation.
They presented the study while launching a report on implementation of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention in Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 at CIRDAP auditorium in the city today.
"Bangladesh presents a comparatively poor scenario (9th) among ten other Asian countries in Tobacco Industry Interference (TII) Index," said the report.
Progga conducted the study on 10 Asian countries in different time period using questionnaire developed by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and collected information about Bangladesh which are publicly available in different government organisations and websites.
According to the study Bangladesh scored 78 out of 100, which suggests that Bangladesh government has performed poorly in implementing the FCTC Article 5.3. The score of the other nine countries are Brunei 29, Philippines 39, Thailand 49, Cambodia 51, Malaysia, Lao PDR 60, Myanmar 60, Vietnam 72 and Indonesia 81.
According to the study, the lower the score, the better compliance it shows in regard to FCTC Article 5.3.
Bangladesh ratified the FCTC in 2004 which says, "In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law", said PROGGA Coordinator Hasan Shahriar while presenting the research findings.
According to the report, tobacco companies’ involvement in the formulation of tobacco tax measures has been observed. Meetings between high level government officials and tobacco company representatives took place while preparing the national budget and the supplementary duty on bidi was reduced.
The study has found evidences where tobacco companies have been granted special benefits which include allowing pictorial health warnings to be printed on lower half of tobacco packs, a 25 percent tax waiver by the NBR on export of tobacco products by factories located in the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) etc.
Unnecessary interaction between the policymakers and tobacco industry representatives increases the scope for industry interference in policy formulation, the report claimed.
While paying taxes is a legal requirement, tobacco companies are unnecessarily awarded for taxpaying, it said.
There has been a conflict of interest between the government and tobacco companies as the government owns 10.85 percent shares in British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB), said the report while adding that government officials are actively engaging in tobacco industry related CSR (corporate social responsibility) programmes.
The study report said, no measure was in place to ensure transparency in the events of meetings or any sort of communication between govt. officials and tobacco company representatives.
The report also pointed out that, the government has not nominated or allowed representatives from the tobacco industry in the delegation to the FCTC Conference of Parties (COP) and other relevant meetings and conferences.
Although the guidelines provide various preventive measures, the government has not put most of these measures in place to protect itself from industry interference.
The study report recommended the government to fully implement Article 5.3 guidelines and undertake different measures immediately to fulfill the requirements such as initiating awareness raising programmes about the obligation of the Article 5.3 from the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, disclosing all interactions with the tobacco industry and its representatives, and adopting code of conduct for all officials in dealing with the tobacco industry.
Speaking as chief guest, Planning Minister A H M Mustafa Kamal urged for intense engagement of general people to build awareness against tobacco in a sustainable way.
He also assured that the government will increase tax of tobacco products in the next budget to discourage tobacco consumption.
Apart from giving his critical view on JT’s FDI in Bangladesh, Saber Hossain Chowdhury also claimed that the involvement of government officials in BATB as an obstacle to reduce the tobacco industry interference in the country's policy making.
While presiding over the programme, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dhaka, Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique, said, multidimensional efforts are needed to build awareness among people against tobacco as well as considering the impact of any foreign investment in the country before accepting it.
Among others, Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Principal Coordinator (SDG Affairs) of Prime Minister's Office, Dr. Syed Mahfuzul Huq, National Professional Officer of World Health Organization (WHO) Bangladesh and Dr. Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiyan, Grants Manager of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) also attended the program.
Cox’s Bazar, Sep 5 (UNB)- A fire that broke out at a Rohingya camp in Chakmarkul area in Teknaf upazila early Wednesday burned down 14 houses.
The fire incident occurred around 3:30 am on the western block of the camp.
Locals and police doused the flame after one and half hours of frantic efforts around 5 am, said Dipankar Karmakar, sub-inspector of Whykong Police out-post.
Police said the fire might have broken out following gas cylinder explosion.
However, no casualty was reported.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Rabiul Hasan said the affected people were shifted to another camp and the burnt houses will be reconstructed with the help of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).
Dhaka, Sept 5 (UNB) – Bangladesh has said conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is increasingly attracting international attention, as scientific information reveals the richness and vulnerability of such biodiversity.
Bangladesh also noted that concerns grow about the increasing anthropogenic pressures posed by existing and emerging activities, such as fishing, mining, marine pollution, and bioprospecting in the deep sea.
Secretary (Maritime Affairs Unit) at the Foreign Ministry here Rear Admiral (Retd) M Khurshed Alam shared Bangladesh’s observation as head of Bangladesh delegation at the inaugural session of the intergovernmental conference (IGC) on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction in UN headquarters, New York.
The first session of the IGC on an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) began on Tuesday and will continue until September 17, said the Foreign Ministry here on Wednesday.
Delegates will consider a concise document, begin substantive discussions based on the elements of a package agreed in 2011 on marine genetic resources (MGRs), including questions on benefit-sharing; environmental impact assessments (EIAs); area-based management tools, including marine protected areas (MPAs); and capacity building and marine technology transfer.
The IGC is expected to draw on the recommendations from the BBNJ Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) that completed its work in 2017.
The PrepCom’s final outcome was adopted by consensus, but contains elements that “do not reflect consensus”―namely elements that generated “convergence among most delegations” and “main issues on which there is divergence of views.”
While the lack of consensus is largely seen as a reflection of the views of number of countries, delegations preferred avoiding the possible adoption of elements by voting, thereby signaling a commitment to negotiating a future international legally binding instrument (ILBI) with the goal of universal participation.
Although UNCLOS does not refer expressly to marine biodiversity, it is commonly regarded as establishing the legal framework for all activities in the oceans.
The IGC will meet initially for four sessions, with the second and third taking place in 2019, and the fourth in the first half of 2020.
Chattogram, Sep 5 (UNB) - Customs officials arrested a man along with gold bars weighing around 5kg at Shah Amanat International Airport in the port city on Wednesday.
The passenger, Md Gias Uddin, reached the airport on a US-Bangla flight from Muscat of Oman at 8:30 am, Assistant Commissioner of Airport Customs Mahbubur Rahman said.
Acting on a tip-off, customs officials searched the luggage of Gias and found a total of 45 gold bars which were kept hidden inside it.
The market value of the seized gold is approximately Tk two crore.
Dhaka, Sept 5 (UNB) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday asked Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ employees to work with utmost sincerity for brightening the image of the airlines and as well as the country.
"I want every single person in Biman to work with utmost sincerity so that it (Biman) must not have any 'bad name'," she said.
The Prime Minister said this while inaugurating the operation of newly inducted 787 Dreamliner 'Akashbeena' to Biman’s fleet at the VVIP lounge of the airport.
She put emphasis on quick delivery of passenger luggage using modern technology.
Sheikh Hasina also asked the officials concerned to give extra attention to security matters. "You must always give proper attention to the security matters of the airport."
In the recent past, she mentioned, some countries imposed sanction on Bangladesh (cargo ban). "One country withdrew its sanction as security at our (airports) has improved," she said.
Briefly describing various government efforts to improve the Biman service, the Prime Minister said the government has reached a purchase agreement with Canada to acquire another three Dash-8 Bombardier aircraft, aiming to increase domestic connectivity.
She said the government is working for developing the country’s airports, too. "By the time, the Cox’s Bazar Airport runway has been expanded, while the modernisation of Sylhet airport has been completed. The work on Terminal- 3 of Shahjalal International Airport will begin soon."
The Prime Minister said the work to construct a new airport in Bagerhat is on.
Hasina said connectivity is very important for a country. "Keeping that in kind, the government is working hard to improve air, rail, road and waterway connectivity."
She said a democratic process is continuing in the country and the country is advancing towards the path of development.
"Bangladesh has earned the recognition as a role model of development in the world, we’ve to move forward further, upholding the achievement," she said.
For the purpose, Hasina said, the government is implementing a five- year plan, a 10-year perspective plan while Delta Plan-2100 has also been approved to develop the country over the next one hundred years.
Hasina firmly mentioned that Bangladesh is marching ahead and sought the cooperation of all in maintaining the ongoing trend of development.
Civil Aviation and Tourism AKM Shajahan Kamal, Board of Directors of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Air Marshal (retd) chairman Muhammad Enamul Bari, Civil Aviation and Tourism secretary Mohibul Haque and Biman Managing Director & CEO AM Mosaddique Ahmed also spoke at the programme.
Akashbeena is equipped with inflight entertainment system and onboard Wifi. Biman will allocate 10 MB free Wifi for each passenger. Passengers can buy more data, if required.
The Dreamliner is a long-haul, mid-size wide-bodied, twin-engine aircraft. It has the capacity of 271 seats. The Dreamliner comes with state-of-the-art technology.