Bangladesh can draw more investment if corruption remains less prevalent: Peter Haas
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas today (March 21, 2023) said his country is committed to working with Bangladesh to eliminate corruption – enabling Bangladeshis to enjoy lives of dignity and drawing more international trade and foreign investment. “If Bangladesh can assure citizens and investors that corruption is less prevalent here than in other markets, it will attract more investment and help the country continue on the path of economic growth,” he said. Ambassador Haas made the remarks at an event, titled “Call to Action Against Corruption Summit”, at a Dhaka hotel, organized by Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) and Center for International Private Enterprises. The US ambassador said corruption exists, to one degree or another, in every corner of the globe, and they are all too familiar with what it looks like. Read More: Excited to see more Bangladeshi students are choosing US: Peter Haas “It’s trying to get a driver’s license and having to pay ‘speed money’. It’s knowing that if you want a passport appointment, it’s going to cost you extra. It’s needing to bribe the right official to register a plot of land you just purchased,” Haas said. Corruption is a parasite that feeds on the resources of a society and drains it of its strength and can devastate every level of business and government, he said. “Sadly, some notorious scandals have occurred in my own country,” said the US ambassador. Yet, he said, exposing corruption and holding perpetrators accountable have catalyzed economic growth in the United States and elsewhere. Read More: New US Ambassador Peter Haas arrives in Dhaka “When societies exert such efforts, they prosper. I am confident this can be the case here in Bangladesh, as well, and the United States is eager to help,” he said. Under President Biden, the US government has established the fight against corruption as a core national security interest, he added. “We support initiatives that help Bangladeshi businesses meet international standards and regulations, making them more competitive in the global market,” said the envoy. “By promoting ethical business practices, we can create a more level playing field for businesses of all sizes and encourage more foreign investment,” he added. Read More: Peter Haas nominated next US Ambassador to Bangladesh The US Agency for International Development, USAID, has partnered with Bangladesh’s Registrar of Joint Stock Companies to launch an online registration process for new businesses. This makes registering new businesses more transparent, faster, and more affordable, Ambassador Haas said. USAID has also worked with the Bangladesh National Board of Revenue to establish authorized economic operators. This endeavour empowers the private sector, instead of the government, to release shipments at ports, he said. As a result, Haas said, the process has become more transparent and raised the level of trust between the private sector and the government. Read More: Prevent corruption in every sector: President to ACC The US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) works with the Private Public Partnership Authority Bangladesh to conduct workshops to improve the legal and business environment of Bangladesh. CLDP also works with Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) to improve municipal governance by improving fiscal transparency. Under this program, CLDP invited over a DNCC delegation, including the mayor, to Miami in January. The US Department of Justice trains investigators and attorneys in the Anti-Corruption Commission on topics such as how to investigate and prosecute money laundering, how to use electronic evidence, and how to investigate financial crimes. “It has also fostered a relationship between Bangladesh’s Financial Intelligence Unit and the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre,” Haas said. Read More: All-pervasive corruption by AL destroys economy: Fakhrul “The United States is committed to holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions. This can take various forms,” said the ambassador. Just as US laws hold American citizens and businesses accountable for corrupt practices, there are US laws and penalties that apply to non-citizens who use corrupt practices in violation of the laws. “What can the Bangladeshi government do to reduce corruption? It could think about ways to empower institutions to tackle corruption and promote transparency and accountability in governance and business,” he said. One idea is to reduce the amount of cash that officials handle by replacing cash-based financial transactions with the government with online transactions, Haas said. Read More: Power tariff being raised frequently to manage corruption: Fakhrul “Citizens could pay bills, fines, and taxes electronically. Such a process would minimize the opportunity for bureaucrats to overcharge or misplace public funds into their own pockets,” he said. Haas recognized the important role a vibrant civil society and free media play in investigating and exposing instances of corruption. Bangladesh has many advantages that potential investors would find attractive, he said. “But as American business leaders tell me: multi-national firms have options on where they invest.” They will choose whichever country has the lowest levels of corruption, the fewest bureaucratic obstacles, the greatest respect for rule of law, and the best logistics infrastructure for their business, he added. Read More: BNP's complaints about corruption 'laughable': Hasan Mahmud
USAID Trade Activity to publish agro-export guideline for Gulf countries
Gulf countries present a distinct opportunity for Bangladeshi agricultural product exporters. However, due to Bangladeshi exporters' lack of knowledge about food safety and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, regulatory compliances, and customer requirements, they are not able to capture the opportunities to export fresh fruits, vegetables, frozen, and other processed foods products. The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-led Feed the Future Bangladesh Trade Activity will publish a guideline on food safety requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables, and processed food to gulf countries. The Activity validated the content of a guidance document with input from food business operators, regulatory bodies, academicians, and trade associations Monday. The first two Easy Export publications focused on Bangladesh's regulatory requirements for exporting fresh fruits and vegetables and exporting food products to the European Union. Many small and medium enterprises, universities, and exporters are using the guidelines to open new export markets. The third Easy Export publication elaborates detailed guidelines on complying with Gulf countries' food safety standards. The publication includes information on the importance and obligation to follow the food safety standards to export fresh fruits and vegetables and processed food to the Gulf countries, the necessary process to identify each step of the products, starting from production to processing, and distribution. Read more: IFC giving $32.5 million to ensure food security in Bangladesh The Trade Activity will publish the guideline within the coming weeks. The US government initiative supports Bangladesh to bolster economic growth and food security by improving trade facilitation, enhancing market access, and improving the business-enabling market. The Activity provides technical assistance, training, institutional strengthening, and other direct support to the Bangladesh government and non-governmental partners. It also promotes greater collaboration among the government, private sector, and civil society organisations.
Targeted awareness, outreach efforts 'essential' to prevent human trafficking, says Blinken
The US has said human trafficking is a crime globally that deprives millions of people of their dignity and freedom. "To properly tackle this crime, it will take a commitment from each of us to end human trafficking. Targeted awareness and outreach efforts are essential," said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. An estimated 27.6 million are now victims of trafficking worldwide. Read more: UN Special Rapporteur will assess rights violation in trafficking during official visit to Bangladesh This month is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time for people, organisations, communities, and federal organisations to join in "our efforts to combat all forms of human trafficking, including sex trafficking and forced labour," he said. The US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Fight Slavery and Trafficking in Persons Project organised an event last week to bring together government and civil society stakeholders to incorporate feedback from regional workshops into the revised National Plan of Action.
US programme awards fellowships to 23 young Bangladeshi political leaders
The United States Agency for International Development-funded Strengthening Political Landscape Program awarded certificates to 23 young political leaders from across Bangladesh at a Young Leaders Fellowship Program (YLFP) graduation ceremony in Dhaka. The graduates are active leaders of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, and Jatiya Chhatra Samaj. This is the 20th class of young leaders graduating from the YLFP. During four months of training, fellows gained a broad knowledge of politics, leadership, democratic practices, conflict mitigation, political party building, and working with the media. So far, 489 young political leaders have successfully completed the programme implemented by Democracy International. The YLFP aims to enhance the political skills of young leaders, advance their careers within their parties, foster empathy for their counterparts in other parties, and create professional relationships that can overcome the polarisation of the political landscape in Bangladesh. At the graduation ceremony, Awami League Cultural Affairs Secretary Sri Ashim Kumar Ukil MP, BNP Information and Research Affairs Secretary Azizul Bari Helal, Jatiya Party Joint Secretary General Golam Mohammad Raju, and Democracy International Chief of Party Dana L Olds presented certificates to the fellows. Read: Mahmuda gets USAID's Laura W. Bush Award Ashim said: "Once I led the student council at Dhaka University. Student politics is a leader-making factory. Democracy International is doing a remarkable job through this programme. I hope DI will continue its university-based training all the time." Helal said: "The politics of this country developed in the background of student politics. An essential aspect of student politics is the campus issues student politicians are working on across the student organisations of political parties with the help of Democracy International." "To be an efficient political activist, you need to acquire political knowledge. The beauty of democracy is showing kindness to all." Raju said: "The situation of sterility, political instability and making student organisations as an incumbent tale of mother political parties that was created in the student politics of the country after the 90s. But the training of Democracy International is helping to reduce this instability." Dana said: "You are the first group composed exclusively of university students. I am impressed with your innovative ideas to address political apathy among youth. You prove it's possible to build relationships across political parties for the benefit of all students."
USAID Trade Activity publishes Easy Export Series for Bangladeshi agro exporters
The USAID Feed the Future Bangladesh Trade Activity published the Easy Export Series for the Bangladeshi fresh fruit and vegetable, frozen foods, and processed food exporters to understand compliance with international food safety standards. On Monday, the Trade Activity launched the first of the series, ‘Food safety guidelines for exporting fresh fruits and vegetables to Europe’ at the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the capital. AHM Ahsan, Vice Chairman, Export Promotion Bureau was the Chief Guest of the ceremony where Dr Syed Md Rafiqul Amin, Director, Plant Quarantine Wing, Department of Agricultural Extension, and Professor Abu Noman Faruq Ahmmed, Chairman, Department of, Plant Pathology, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University were the special guests. The event was chaired by Mashuk Al Hossain, Deputy Chief of Party, Feed the Future Bangladesh Trade Activity. According to the Trade Activity officials, the Easy Export Series will be released quarterly, with the first module addressing Bangladesh’s regulatory requirements for exporting fresh fruits and vegetables; the second module will address the EU’s food safety requirements for the import of fresh fruits and vegetables. The third module will address international food safety requirements for food processors in GCC countries, and the fourth module will tackle the food chain traceability system. The USAID Feed the Future Bangladesh Trade Activity supports the Government of Bangladesh in bolstering economic growth and food security by improving trade facilitation, enhancing market access, and improving the business-enabling market. The Activity provides technical assistance, training, institutional strengthening, and other direct support to the Government of Bangladesh and non-governmental partners. It also promotes greater collaboration among the government, private sector, and civil society organizations.
Mahmuda gets USAID's Laura W. Bush Award
Mahmuda Rahman Khan has been chosen as the recipient of USAID's Laura W. Bush Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Global Women's Equality. USAID Bangladesh made the announcement on Tuesday. Mahmuda is USAID's longest-serving gender advisor in Asia -- and likely in the rest of the world. She has 17 years of dedicated, exemplary service. Mahmuda's many achievements include fostering collaboration with the government of Bangladesh (GOB) and other stakeholders to advance women's empowerment, helping the GOB develop its National Action Plan on Violence Against Women, integrating gender in its various Five Year Plans, initiating the Embassy's first-ever celebration of International Women's Day in 2006 -- and every year since. Read: Make world free from threat of nuclear weapons: Dhaka Mahmuda has worked tirelessly working to build the capacity of USAID and Embassy staff, as well as USAID partners, to integrate gender into their work. "Congratulations, Mahmuda! We are so proud of you and grateful for your contributions to USAID and Embassy Dhaka -- and to gender equality in Bangladesh," USAID Bangladesh said in a Facebook post.
Power Division, USAID sign agreement to cut carbon emissions
The Power Division and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cut carbon emissions in Bangladesh, helping ensure the country's energy security. Power Division Deputy Secretary Nirodh Chandra Mandol and Rebecca Robinson, acting director of the Economic Growth Office of the USAID, signed the MoU in Dhaka Sunday to implement the project "Bangladesh Advancing Development and Growth Through Energy (BADGE)." Under the project, $17.2 million will be spent to cut carbon emissions in the country, Power Division Secretary Habibur Rahman said. Read: AIBL signs agreement with Padma Diagnostic According to the Power Division, the project will also help increase the cooperation between the private sector and educationists in reducing carbon emissions. The BADGE project will also help improve regulatory oversight of energy systems by creating transparent and efficient energy markets, it added. Power Division Additional Secretary Md Mohsin Chowdhury, Bangladesh Power Development Board Chairman Mahbubur Rahman and Power Cell Director General Mohammad Hossain also spoke at the event.
US envoy Haas visits Rajshahi to promote education, economic engagement
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter D. Haas and USAID Mission Director Kathryn Stevens on Tuesday concluded a multi-day trip to Rajshahi from July 24-26 to promote US higher education and US government funded-exchange programmes, economic engagement, and law enforcement cooperation in the region. They met with local government leaders, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, US Department of State exchange programme alumni, students, and teachers. The delegation paid a courtesy visit to Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation AHM Khairuzzaman Liton to discuss the US government’s collaborative efforts in partnering with the government of Bangladesh through the Department of State, Department of Justice, and USAID programmes over the past five decades. Ambassador Haas and Mission Director Stevens attended a USAID-funded “Fight Slavery and Trafficking in Persons” project event to celebrate the formation of a counter trafficking task force including special tribunal judges. Applauding the work of the judges and the prosecutors, Ambassador Haas said, “The establishment of these tribunals and task force reflects the Government of Bangladesh’s sincerity in punishing the perpetrators of human trafficking.”
Afghan aid auditor accuses State, USAID of withholding info
The congressionally mandated watchdog for U.S. assistance to Afghanistan is accusing the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development of illegally withholding information from it about the American withdrawal from the country last year and current policy. Amid a spat over what the Biden administration believes to have been an overly critical report about the American pullout, the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, said the State Department and USAID were refusing to cooperate with his staff in violation of the law that created the office. Read: Afghanistan quake kills 1,000 people, deadliest in decades The allegations were made by in separate letters from Sopko to lawmakers and to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and by Sopko's general counsel to the top lawyers for each agency. The letters were obtained by The Associated Press. The State Department did not deny it had cut off cooperation with the watchdog. But it complained that the special inspector had not given the administration a chance to respond to its latest report covering the withdrawal that was released last month. The department said the report was unfairly negative and did not represent the administration's view of the events surrounding the collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban takeover. In his letters, Sopko was blunt, seeking immediate action from Congress, Blinken and Power to restore the cooperation his office has had with their agencies in the past. “I respectfully request that you direct State and USAID officials to cease their illegal obstruction of SIGAR’s oversight work and to provide the requested information and assistance without further delay,” he wrote to Blinken and Power. Sopko said his staff had requested numerous documents and interviews with officials who were involved in the chaotic withdrawal and aftermath last July but had been stonewalled for several months. He said those requests involved information about the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan nationals as well as ongoing humanitarian aid and questions about whether that assistance might be transferred to the Taliban. Read: 1.1 million Afghan children could face severe malnutrition “It is now evident that offices and staff who have cooperated with similar requests in the past were being silenced or overruled by officials opposed to SIGAR’s independent oversight,” Sopko wrote. The State Department said both it and USAID remain committed to assisting SIGAR's mission and would respond to the watchdog's allegations. But the department said it “had concerns about how some of SIGAR’s requests for information relate to their statutory jurisdiction." The department said it had responded to a SIGAR complaint in April by pointing out that much of the information it was requesting was already being provided to Congress and an internal review of Afghanistan policy being conducted by all agencies in the administration. State Department spokesman Ned Price did not have a direct response to the allegations in Sopko's letters but voiced the administration's unhappiness with SIGAR's last report, which concluded that the withdrawal had been poorly managed and that the collapse of the Afghan government and military had not been correctly predicted. “Our view is that the report does not reflect the consensus view of the State Department or the U.S. government," Price told reporters. "Many parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department, have unique insights and developments in Afghanistan last year that were not captured in the report and we don’t concur with many aspects of the report.” In addition, Price said the special inspector did not seek State Department input while drafting the April report and did not give the department the opportunity to review the draft before it was published.
US to provide emergency flood relief for people in northern Bangladesh:Envoy
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing over Tk 2.3 crore ($244,680) of emergency funding to deliver critical relief to families and communities hit hardest by floods.The emergency support is coming in response to record-level rainfall and catastrophic flooding across areas of northern Bangladesh. Read: Flood claims 22 lives in Sylhet division in 7 days, says divisional health director“Some of these areas have not seen floodwaters like this for over 120 years. The United States continues to stand by the government and the people of Bangladesh during these challenging times and will support our partners on the ground to deliver crucial assistance to people in areas most affected by the deluge,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Helen LaFave on Wednesday.