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Key Economic Data 
  2004 2003 2002 Ranking(2004)
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: 004 - (02/05/06)

Nearly 150 people were injured in Bangladesh when police used batons and fired teargas shells to disperse activists during an opposition-sponsored strike this month. The strike paralysed transport, offices, schools and business across the country. A 14-party opposition alliance led by former Prime Minister Sheika Hasina, chief of Awami League, called the strike to persuade the government to accept demands for electoral reforms, improve law and order, reduce prices and improve supplies of electricity and diesel. Violence was reported from half a dozen districts including Narayangaj, 20 km (13 miles) from capital Dhaka, where stone-throwing activists fought pitched battles with police, burned tyres and damaged nearly 40 vehicles during the second general strike in three days. Hasina told a party meeting that her party was keeping our fight on for "flawless democracy, justice and an end to torture of political rivals." Prime Minister Khaleda Zia also said that she would not give up power until the last day of her five-year tenure and asked Hasina to face her in the next parliamentary election in January 2007. This protest in and of itself is a positive sign for the preservation of Bangladesh's democratic values. The fact that the opposition can provide an alternative to the existing government is necessary to maintain a more democratic state. 
But a contrasting argument has been made in a recent World Bank Report which states that the criminalisation of politics and a confrontational relation between the two major political parties of the country has provided extremist religious groups with an opportunity to indulge in a series of violent incidents in Bangladesh. The Report states that more recently, extremist religious movements have taken advantage of the discord in the secular political leadership through a series of violent incidents. The report titled the "Country Assistance Strategy" also points out that "the political environment may become more difficult as the country approaches its fourth consecutive democratic elections, which should take place in early 2007." The report identifies the political use of civil servants, high election expenditure of candidates and the absence of intra-party practice of democracy as some of the root causes behind corruption as well as obstacle to flourish of democracy. The Report further describes Bangladesh's political system as "highly centralized and that "in the absence of elected regional governments that exercise real political power, a change in power at the Centre leaves virtually nothing for the losers." Patron-client networks further feed the mistrust existing between the two political parties. Moreover, the Parliament has been ineffective in its role as a check on the executive and the opposition has preferred to mobilize public support in the streets through frequent hartals or protest demonstrations. 

The US and Britain have urged politicians of Bangladesh's ruling and opposition parties to resolve their differences over electoral reforms, through dialogue and ensure violence-free elections next year. The new US Ambassador Patricia Butenis, in her first press conference since arriving in Dhaka over three weeks ago, said Washington had no recipe to settle political differences or electoral reforms in Bangladesh, but pointed out that a continued dialogue was needed across the divide. Butenis declared that America's intentions were to ensure that every step was taken to prevent violence and to promote fairness so that all these decisions could be made for a very well- organized, violence-free, peaceful elections." Her comments came in the wake of the protest demonstrations led by the opposition alliance, Awami League. On the opposition demands for reforms of the electoral process and the Election Commission, Butenis said that there was no direct recipe for success. All that could be done was to "encourage government and opposition to continue to work together to resolve their differences" and to that end the United States will provide assistance to Bangladesh to fight terrorism and hold free and fair national elections early next year. Butenis also said that the US welcomed the arrest of top two Islamist militants blamed for a spate of bombings in Bangladesh last year, and hoped that authorities would bring the two and their supporters to justice soon. Butenis said the US was giving training and technical assistance to Bangladesh to tackle terrorism as well as help draft legislation against money laundering and terror financing.
Separately, American General Hank Stackpole visited Bangladesh to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Operation Sea Angel. General Stackpole led a huge humanitarian relief operation in the aftermath of the devastating cyclone. Stackpole's contribution was important for the improvement in bilateral relations between the US and Bangladesh. Operation Sea Angel was conducted between May 10 and June 13, 1991. It was one of the largest military disaster relief forces ever assembled and sent to the aid of the people of Bangladesh in the wake of the destruction of the tropical cyclone Marian. Cyclone Marian was one of the most catastrophic natural disasters. Marian's 140 mile-per-hour wind and an eight-metre tidal wave devastated Bangladesh, killing nearly 140,000 people and leaving over five million people homeless. Operation Sea Angel was launched with involvement of 7,000 US soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. And owing to US relief efforts, American troops were credited with saving as many as 200,000 lives.
China delivered eight F-7BG fighter jets to Bangladesh as part of a 16-plane deal. The jets were delivered to the Bangladeshi air force in a ceremony in southwestern China's Yunnan province on March 28. The two nations signed a deal for the purchase of the 16 planes in June 2005, with the other eight aircraft to be delivered by the end of this year. The F-7BG is an updated version of the former Soviet Union's Mig-21. China happens to be the largest supplier of military hardware to Bangladesh. In the past, it has sold 65 fighter planes and 39 helicopters to Bangladesh's air force. 

Turkey will consider duty-free access for Bangladesh products to its market and has agreed to enhance trading and economic cooperation between the countries according to Foreign Secretary Hemayet-uddin. "Turkey has taken note of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's call for granting duty-free access for Bangladesh products like RMG, footwear and leather goods. This, in effect, should have a positive outcome on the meeting of the Joint Economic Commission. The Foreign Secretary also said that a high-powered business delegation from Ankara was expected to arrive in Bangladesh next month to explore the potential for investment in textile, leather, construction and other sectors. Bangladesh's investment market and cheap workforce have become attractive to Turkey, which wants to do more, economically, in this region. Hemayetuddin also added that the Bangladesh-Turkey Joint Economic Commission last met in 1992 and since then, this will be the first time, in years, that talks will be held in Ankara in October to evolve a mechanism for enhancing two-way trade and investment.
The two-day session of the seventh meeting of the International Jute Study Group (IJSG) was convened in Dhaka this month to prepare a new strategy for developing the jute market by formulating appropriate strategies. Inaugurating the session, Textile and Jute Minister Shajahan Siraj said that large-scale use of jute in producing high value added diversified products could open up a new horizon for jute sector. Secretary General of IJSG Sarwar Kamal also spoke at the opening session with chairman of council Jean Romnician, Bangladesh, India, Switzerland and 25 member states of European Community are the members of IJSG established in 2002. IJSG is an intergovernmental body, implementing jute reinforced polyolefines for industrial applications which hopes to enable the production of composite materials for various uses like cloth hangers, crates, buckets, furniture, automobile panels etc. After the fourth session of the council, IJSG implements projects worth US$25000 a year.

Energy prices hit the poor
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked the government to quantify its loss in energy subsidies for not adjusting fuel, power and gas prices with the international market. IMF has also asked the government to identify possible measures to mitigate the impact on vulnerable population groups if prices are adjusted and asked it to prepare a report in this regard as conditions for releasing the 6th instalment of Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities (PRGF) loan by April 30. A seven-member team led by Thomas R Rumbaugh, adviser to the Asia and Pacific Department of IMF is due in Dhaka toward the end of this month to review Bangladesh's performance in fulfilling the conditions for releasing the loan. Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS)'s Research Director Zaid Bakht said there is no way to mitigate the sufferings of the vulnerable groups if prices of fuel, especially of diesel and kerosene, are raised.  

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