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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


Area (



taka (BDT)

Iajuddin Ahmed

Update No: 009 - (02/10/06)

Bangladesh's main opposition party Awami League is beginning a nationwide agitation to 'resist' the appointment of Justice K.M. Hasan as chief of the caretaker government, a move that has given rise to fears that it could lead to a political deadlock ahead of the January elections. The differences between the government led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the opposition alliance widened in the last few months giving Bangladesh a little over a month to decide whether its 15-year uninterrupted run of parliamentary democracy shall continue smoothly or meet with a politico-constitutional deadlock. By Oct 27, when the tenure of the Zia government will end, Bangladesh will have to put in place the chief of a caretaker government acceptable to all parties, and an election machinery, to conduct the parliamentary elections. The government and the opposition have failed to negotiate on 'electoral reforms'. Differences persist on the autonomous body that conducts elections. Chief Election Commissioner M.A. Aziz has been embroiled in public spats over preparation of electoral rolls. The opposition says Hasan is partisan, having been an activist of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party and cannot be trusted to hold free and fair polls. Many believe that the elections could be postponed if stalemate persists. It has only added to speculation as to who would 'benefit' from it, making a dialogue that much more difficult. The Daily Star says formation of the next caretaker government could prove difficult, as 'efficient and neutral persons' might hesitate to become its advisers. Bangladesh has had three parliaments since 1991. However, prospects of a political breakdown have revived fears that the parliamentary process itself might be under threat in the young nation that has witnessed phases of martial law rule from 1975-1990. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) team headed by former US minority Senate leader Tom Dashle, has highlighted Zia government's efforts to curb extremism, but notes that there is widespread distrust of the government machinery, the election body and the police. While Left extremists have always taken advantage of a weak government, Islamist militancy has been on the rise in the last five years. The parliamentary elections in 2001 and its aftermath witnessed unprecedented violence against religious minorities and political dissidents. The trend has persisted since with the country witnessing increased political violence, including attempts on the life of the Leader of the Opposition, Sheikh Hasina (2004), and bomb explosions across the country (August 2005).

Separately, this month, at least 50 people, including a magistrate and two policemen, were injured in clashes between security forces and opposition activists were protesting the police beating of a local MP during a previous demonstration. The clashes erupted in northern Nilphamari district when activists from the main opposition Awami League tried to enforce a half-day general strike to protest police beating of local MP Asdauzzaman Noor, who has been hospitalized, during Tuesday's demonstrations in Dhaka, the private ATN Bangla channel said. Police used batons to disperse stone throwing activists that left the magistrate, two policemen and 47 others injured, the report said, adding tension prevailed in the district. A similar strike was also enforced in western Sirajganj district to protest the police action on former Home Minister Mohammad Nasim, a lawmaker from the Awami League, but there were no reports of violence. Nasim has also been hospitalised with a broken arm and heart condition, ATN Bangla said. More than 150 people were injured on Tuesday in fierce clashes between police and activists from the Awami League-led 14-party opposition alliance in their bid to lay a siege of the office of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. The opposition is demanding electoral reforms to ensure a free and transparent vote, but Zia has rejected the demands by accusing her rivals of trying to foil the polls. 

UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group said the prospect for free and fair general elections in Bangladesh are looking bleak with only a month to go before the caretaker government takes office. Lord Avebury, vice-chair of the group, made the comment while chairing a seminar on 'Bangladesh: Logjam on the Road to Free and Fair Elections' in the House of Lords on September 27. "The US National Democratic Institute (NDI) has already referred to the incompetence and bias of the Election Commission (EC), all four of whose members were previously activists of parties belonging to the coalition government," a House of Lords press release from London said. Referring to the manipulation in preparing the recent voters list, Lord Avebury said, "This is mass-produced fraud which must be exposed and corrected. The NDI too, commented on the 'rampant and escalating violence' of recent times, including the assassination of former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria, the attempt on the life of British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury; the multiple grenade attack on the Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina, the suicide bombing of two judges, and the simultaneous explosion of 500 bombs all over the country in August 2005. In addition, he also mentioned about 800 people killed by the Rapid Action Battalion forces during encounters and shootouts, but not a single person has been captured or injured in those incidents. (NEWS SOURCE: The Daily Star)

The value of letters of credit (LCs) opened against imports during first three weeks of the current month fell significantly due to impending political uncertainty ahead of general election. The value of LCs opened against imports stood at US$1.012 billion as on September 21 last indicating a lower import compared with that of the previous two months. Bangladesh Bank (BB) officials estimated the value of LCs against imports might reach US$1.312 billion by the end of the current month. In August, the value of LCs was worth $1.454 billion against $1.323 billion in the previous month. "It is difficult to say when imports will again pick up as some non-economic factors are closely related to it," a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB) told the FE. He also said most of the entrepreneurs are closely watching the current political situation. Sources, however, said the opening of LCs against imports of petroleum products and chemicals and chemical products, including fertilizer, marked a significant fall while sugar import jumped. Besides, the import of capital machinery has almost stagnated mainly due to the prevailing political deadlock. The country's opposition parties have been campaigning for reforms in the system of caretaker government. According to the BB's statistics, the value of LCs for imports of capital machinery stood at $239.32 million during the July-August period of the current fiscal against $234.70 million of the same period of the previous fiscal. The value of LCs for petroleum products stood at $118 million between September 01 and 21 last while the total LCs were worth $211 million in August and $200 million in July, sources in the central bank said. The value of LCs for sugar import rose to $41 million during the period under review. But the total value of LCs for sugar import was $14 million in August and $10 million in July, the sources noted. Imports of consumer items, including pulses, onion, spices and dry fruits, increased during July-August period of the current fiscal ahead of the holy month of Ramadan. 

The Bangladesh government appears to have denied permission for a US$1.0bn-plus open-pit coal mine to be built in the country, in response to violent protests over the proposed project, says the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), reports UNB. 
Media reports indicate that Asia Energy, a UK firm, will no longer be able to develop the mine in the northern Bangladeshi town of Phulbari. If true, the abandonment of the project would mark a further blow to the country's foreign investment prospects, coming just a few weeks after Tata Group, an Indian conglomerate, suspended its plans to invest US$2.5bn in steel, power and coal sectors. "Political factors are also likely to present an obstacle to such deals going ahead," it says. The government's reported decision on Phulbari came about in response to a general strike and almost a week of demonstrations that resulted in several deaths as protesters clashed with security forces. "At the heart of the dispute are claims by opponents of the project that it would create severe environmental damage and displace over 100,000 people," the EIU said. Asia Energy, however, has claimed that the environmental impact would be lower, that far fewer residents would be displaced and that those who were displaced would be resettled and compensated. "The irony of the situation is that the mine, if built, could generate revenue for Bangladesh. It would also produce fuel for electricity generation that might help the country to reduce its chronic power shortages. Although Bangladesh has abundant natural gas reserves, electricity generation per head is among the lowest in the world," it said. There is huge unmet commercial demand for energy, and the lack of reliable sources of electricity has deterred foreign investment and held back economic growth. There are frequent power cuts, and factories are often forced to run fewer shifts or to opt for their own expensive generators, driving up the cost of production. Around 85% of households have no electricity, according to the report.

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