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BANGLADESH


 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2004 2003 2002 Ranking(2004)
GDP
Millions of US $ 56,844 51,900 45,500 54
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 440 400 390 175
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Bangladesh



Update No: 001 - (30/01/06)


Politics
The Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia recently told the Jatiya Sangsad (the people's parliament) that her government would put on trial all those responsible for widespread corruption during the tenure of the past Awami League government. According to her, "preparations are on to publish a white paper on acts of corruption and a three-member team of consultants has been formed to work on the planned document." The Prime Minister also said that the government had begun investigations into specific acts of corruption. Referring to her party's election promise to eradicate corruption from the society, Khaleda said her government would combat corruption and injustice to safeguard the interest of the people and the peace of society. In her words, "public wealth embezzled through corruption will also be recovered." She also recalled that the Bangladesh National Party headed by her in the previous term had also taken action against persons involved in corruption during the Ershad regime, many of whom were punished. 

The opposition party, Awami League's President, Sheikh Hasina, has also stated that the current BNP-Jamaat regime was moving towards its own defeat due to excessive misrule and misdeeds. According to her statement, "people are already scared of its nearly two-month rule marked by terrorism, murder, rape and price-hike of essentials." Hasina also stated that the alliance government since assuming power has been trying to destroy the Awami League's activities through "terrorism, oppression and killings." 

Bangladesh and the European Union
The European Union has offered to help Bangladesh in its fight against terrorism declaring it to be an international problem. In the recent past, Bangladesh has suffered a wave of bomb blasts, including suicide bombings, which the government blamed on Islamist militants fighting for introduction of sharat law in the Muslim democracy. Nikolaus Scherk, leader of the EU delegation believes that terrorists are receiving funds from abroad and the threat of terrorism should be addressed globally as it is a global problem. Scherk is the Director for Asia Pacific at the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs representing the EU Presidency. He further believes that the continuing (everpresent) disagreement between the government and opposition parties was damaging to Bangladesh. The main opposition Awami League party wants the government to resign for failing to tackle Islamist militancy and has threatened to boycott and resist parliamentary elections due in January 2007. But the government led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia has vowed to stay on in power until its term ended. The EU is a major trading partner of Bangladesh, buying nearly half of its garments and shrimps and EU countries also provide loans to the country. 

Bangladesh - US relations
US Deputy Secretary of State, Christina Rocca, has said that the greatest challenge for Bangladesh is to fight terrorism. Recent terrorist related attacks have claimed around 30 lives. Rocca said that the United States was offering the Bangladesh security forces technical assistance and training to help capture the militants. Rocca urged the Bangladeshi government and leaders to hold free and fair elections at the end of this year. Her remarks came in the context of the EU delegation's report which warned that political confrontation was jeopardizing the vote. 

Economy and business
Bangladesh's Grameen Bank (GB) (grameen means village in Bengali) has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity. The Grameen bank provides credit to the poorest masses in rural Bangladesh which acts as a cost effective method to fight poverty and unemployment. As a result of the efforts and banking procedures of the Grameen bank, the socio-economic situation of many of the poor has improved significantly. Hence, this bank has played a pivotal role in the uplifting of the rural masses and its efforts are not directed towards the middle or upper-middle classes. Professor Muhammad Yunus who is the founder of "Grameen Bank" and also its Managing Director claims that if sufficient financial resources are made available to the poor people on terms and conditions that are appropriate, then "millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder." As of July 2004, the bank has 3.7 million borrowers, 96 percent of whom are women. It has 267 branches and provides an extended reach to 46,000 villages, covering more than 68 percent of all the villages in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank's critical impact on poor farmers and poor borrowers has been documented in many independent studies carried out by external agencies including the World Bank, the International Food Research Policy Institute (IFPRI) and the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).

In other economic news, according to the International Tribune, the prestigious American financial firm, Goldman Sachs, included Bangladesh in a list of 11 developing countries that has the maximum potential of emulating the long-term economic success of countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia. This came as a surprise to many Bangladeshis and others, especially since the country has one of the highest records in the world of poverty, overpopulation and unemployment. Moreover, the country is frequently affected by floods which have a devastating impact on its economy. If that were not enough, simultaneously corruption is rampant in political and economic institutions throughout the nation, slowing down the pace of development. 

Given such a difficult situation why should anyone care about investing in Bangladesh? According to Andy Mukherjee, there seem to be three reasons which could allow for opportunities for investment. First, Bangladesh appears to have managed a decent level of economic growth despite all its hardships and reverses. It has maintained an economic growth of nearly 5 percent. Second, almost 35 percent of Bangladeshis are now aged 15 years or younger and will soon enter the work force. Compared with three decades ago, when women, on average, produced six children, the fertility rate has dropped to below three children. This means that new workers will not have quite so many young dependents to care for. Household incomes and savings will rise, provided there is enough capital to employ the labour productively. Third, despite existing corruption in many institutions, the judiciary could be made to support a modern economy if only politicians would agree to create one. Bangladesh is also competitive on labour costs. Garment workers in Dhaka earn 39 U.S. cents an hour, while the hourly wage for sewing and stitching in coastal China is 88 cents. 

What Bangladesh needs is to open up to foreign trade and investment so that better paying jobs lead to a bigger middle class, which also might bring new players into national politics. Practical policies would reduce the wide gap between Bangladesh's "promise and performance."

In a separate venture, Thai Airways International's management takeover of Shah Amanat International Airport, in Chittagong, Bangladesh, has been delayed following a request from Biman Bangladesh Airlines amid fears of financial losses. Bangladesh's internal politics and resistance from Biman officials have caused the delay as they felt that the management of the airport should not be handed over to a foreign organization. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the state minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism, said the ministry was reviewing the terms of the 10-year contract with the Thai national carrier at Biman's request. Biman officials are worried that the takeover by THAI would result in financial losses. 

The 2nd Bangladesh International Motor Show, organized by Bangladesh Automobiles Distributors Association (BADA), is scheduled to be held at China-Bangladesh Friendship Conference Centre from April 24 this year; reports UNB. BADA organized the first edition of the Bangladesh International Motor Show in May 2003. The decision to organize the second version of the four-day automobile show of brand new cars was taken at the BADA general meeting at Spectra Convention Centre here Tuesday. The primary objective of the motor show is to create awareness about new cars which are environmentally-friendly. 

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