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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

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Area (sq.km)
144,000

Population
144,319,628

Capital
Dhaka

Currency
taka (BDT)

President
Iajuddin Ahmed


Update No: 006 - (29/06/06)

POLITICS
Last month, the Chief Election Commission opted to make a fresh electoral roll ignoring a High Court verdict which sparked much criticism and has created a negative image for the CEC just before the next general election, to the extent of jeopardizing its image. The demand for resignation of the chief election commissioner (CEC) has now become the primary subject in Bangladesh's politics with the opposition parties pledging to step up a stronger movement in coming weeks. People are disgruntled because even when the Supreme Court ordered the EC to cancel the new voters' list and revise the old one (prepared in 2000), the Chief Election Commissioner procrastinated and failed to comply with the order. Moreover, the EC's latest decision to revise the electoral roll without making door to door visits to enlist voter support was the cause for final outrage as it asked the people who were left out, to come to the local election offices to enlist their names. Legal experts and former election commissioners have been extremely critical of the latest decision by the EC calling it illegal. Those on the political side of the spectrum argue that the EC's decision is a ploy to delay the next parliamentary election that would indirectly benefit the ruling four-party coalition government which is currently facing hardships and public protests due to the increase in prices of commodities, shortage of electricity and a hike in fuel prices. The opposition has demanded the immediate resignation of the CEC and two election commissioners. There are also rumours alleging that the government is using the supposedly independent CEC as a body to serve its own interests. 

BANGLADESH AND INDIA
Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Bangladeshi opposition met with India's Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi to discuss a set of wide-ranging issues extending from regional security, terrorism and furthering relations between Awami League (AL) and India's ruling party Congress. The minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed told reporters that India enjoys very good relations with Bangladesh. Hasina's Political Secretary, Saber Hossain Chowdhury said she had 'substantive' discussions with Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee in a 'cordial and friendly atmosphere'. In addition to the issues mentioned above, measures to facilitate people-to-people contacts were also the focus of talks as a reflection of Hasina's commitment to free South Asia from the problems of poverty. During her interaction with Sonia Gandhi, traditional ties between Awami League and Congress and Indo-Bangladesh relationship dominated the discussions. The two leaders also talked about democracy in countries of the region and agreed that democracy is the best counter to all forms of extremism. Senior Congress leader Karan Singh was also present at the meeting Hasina had with Gandhi. 

BANGLADESH AND THE UNITED KINGDOM
The Department for International Development (DFID), of the Government of the United Kingdom, signed an agreement with the Economic Relations Division (ERD) of the Government of Bangladesh to help the improvement of transport networks in rural areas. A sum of seven million pounds sterling equivalent to eighty crore Taka will be given to Bangladesh in the coming fiscal year. The money will be used to purchase four thousand meters of equipment for one hundred bridges in rural areas selected on a priority basis. The Portable Steel Bridging Project is being implemented by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). The Bangladesh government will also add a sum of twenty crore taka from its own internal fund to the project. This project was mainly conceived to ease the pressure caused by the burgeoning movement of goods and people between rural and urban areas. The farming community needs an efficient transportation network to reach perishable produces to markets in cities and towns. As a wide array of road networks are being used for such purposes, the demand for constructing bridges has also gained importance. Most roads have to be connected across small rivers which require adequate infrastructure and the wherewithal to maintain the bridges. The use of steel bridges will accelerate the process and business community by allowing easy access through roads and bridges, thereby promoting and expanding economic activity. The major challenge that lies in the successful implementation of this project is the frequent delays in executing development projects. This problem must be avoided in order to increase efficiency and make the resources available to rural farmers at the earliest. 

ECONOMY AND BUSINESS
Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone maker intends to strengthen its network business in Bangladesh which is a great sign for business in Bangladesh. Rajeev Suri, Nokia's Senior Vice President for Asia Pacific Networks told a news conference in Dhaka that the company was strongly committed to the fast growing Bangladesh market. The major goal for Suri and his company is to make mobile communications affordable and accessible to the country's people. Nokia has also set up a headquarters in Bangladesh to oversee its mobile handset business in emerging Asian markets, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. Bangladesh introduced cell phones in 1992 and mobile connections outstrip fixed lines in Bangladesh. The number of current users has rose to 11 million in early 2006 from 200,000 in 2001, and analysts predict it will rise to over 20 million by 2007. There are only a million fixed-line phones provided by state-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board. According to Suri, Nokia seeks to ensure that the number of mobile subscribers globally, grows from 2 billion in September 2005 to 3 billion (half the worlds current population) by 2008, of which around 80 per cent will come from new growth markets. 
Bangladeshi companies and organisations have received 12.00 billion taka (1200 crore) spot orders in the recently-concluded Bangladesh single country trade fair in Riyadh of Saudi Arabia. The Bangladesh Business Community which organized the fair, made the revelation on the basis of information gathered from participating banks, insurance companies, real estate companies, pharmaceuticals, handicrafts, electrical cable manufacturers and food product companies. However, the Bangladeshi companies could not sign any memorandum of understanding (MoU) with any Saudi entrepreneur for investment, as there is no bilateral trade agreement at the government level. The fair was held from May 24th to 27th last at Riyadh Palace Hotel and 46 Bangladeshi companies and organizations participated in the fair. Another fair, of a similar kind, is scheduled to be organized in September this year in Jeddah. 
The Union commerce ministry in India plans to request the finance ministry to lift the ban on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Bangladesh. The Union Minister of State for Commerce in India, Mr Jairam Ramesh said that he would ask the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) to take up the issue with the finance ministry. Ramesh supports FDI from Bangladesh on the grounds that if India wants to invest in Bangladesh, then it should support FDI from Bangladesh. The Indo-Bangladesh Task Force was set up on June 4th, 2006 and now India has eased the entry of 16 duty free categories into the country which include iron ore, paper pulp, limestone, plastic and fruit pulp.

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