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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: 023 - (27/11/07)

CYCLONE DEVASTATES BANGLADESH
A latest review in the Economist outlines the horrific situation in Bangladesh caused by Cyclone Sidr, which generated winds of 150mph and a five-metre tidal surge killing an estimated 10,000 people. News reports have recorded the devastation through reports and visual images of bloated corpses, flooded paddy-fields, and thousands mourning the lost of their loved ones. Bangladesh's Disaster Management officials said over 2,000 people are still reported missing while unofficial sources said the figure would be far above the Red Crescent 's earlier feared toll which could exceed 10,000.

THE CYCLONE'S IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY
The country's garment industry-which is responsible for three-quarters of total exports-has miraculously remained unaffected by the floods. The worst hit industries have been agriculture and shrimp farming. Various reports reveal that the cyclone has destroyed some 600,000 tonnes of rice. This follows the prior shortfall of 1m tonnes caused by severe flooding this year. 

WORLD RALLIES IN SUPPORT OF BANGLADESH'S FLOOD VICTIMS
The international community has garnered support of major nations to come to Bangladesh's aid in this crisis. Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, America and Germany have already pledged aid worth tens of millions of dollars. The UN World Food Program has delivered food aid to 650,000 people so far. This includes biscuits, parachuted into areas still cut off by broken roads and flooding. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) provided $100,000 immediately after the cyclone and deployed a five-person disaster assessment team to Bangladesh to assist with the relief and recovery efforts, a statement issued by the US embassy said. The government in emergency-ruled Bangladesh said they were yet to make any appeal for foreign assistance but the international aid agencies have already made steady commitments to provide short and long-term assistance to cyclone victims. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has ordered Navy ships, USS Essex and USS Kearsarge to sail towards Bangladesh so that US military forces can be better-positioned "in the event that the Government of Bangladesh requests assistance."(Economist)

While the international community has extended all its support to Bangladesh, in its neighboring country India, questions have been raised about whether New Delhi has made adequate contributions to Bangladesh's cause. In a report by Rediff, India, pledged a "paltry $1 million, or Rs 4 crore", to help Dhaka. The Ministry of External Affairs Spokesman, Pranab Mukherjee spoke to his counterpart, Iftikhar Ahmed Chowdhury and said that India is ever willing to send relief supplies to supplement the efforts of the government, but that there is no big mobilization of rescue and relief operations yet from India, which Bangladesh can reasonably expect. 

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE INADEQUATE
The Economist further states that in the long term, the current chaos caused by the floods raises some important questions for the country's economy and the state of its democracy. It has been argued, not very convincingly that the latest suffering may bolster the need for democracy restoration. But perhaps more problematic has been the effect on the economy. Food-price inflation which is one of the major de-stabilizing factors in the economy is suspected to climb even higher. 'Critics' (one can easily imagine who they might be), are claiming that the government is 'partly to blame' for this economic chaos primarily because its anti-corruption campaign has made the economy even more unstable causing a drop in investment. As an argument for non-investigation of corruption that sounds unconvincing and frankly absurd (see 'Power Sector' below). 

As regards, democracy restoration, the situation still appears bleak. While an election is scheduled for December next year, most of the country's top leaders are in jail, mostly on charges of corruption. Hence it is difficult to conceive of democracy restoration any time soon. But perhaps the democracy that may emerge might better deserve that name. 

BUSINESS

MOBILE PHONE INDUSTRY: SONY ERICSSON ESTABLISHES BASE
Sony Ericsson has launched its first ever exclusive store in Bangladesh. The store aims to offer consumers "a world class shopping experience". Some of the new in-store features include touch screen self-help product updates and interactive phone displays. Before deciding on the phone of their choice, customers can now have a greater hands-on experience with different phone models. In addition to the Sony Ericsson phones the store features a customer service centre - "Sheba". Current users of genuine Sony Ericsson phones with warranty can also enhance their phones here with the latest software updates. 

REPORT ON POWER SECTOR
A report by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on Bangladesh's power sector has made shocking revelations. The report has outlined how the country has lost TK 10,626 crores in 2005-2006 due to gross mismanagement, corruption and financial irregularities. Also, between 1994-2005, Tk 18,930 crore was lost through distribution leakage and pilferage and Tk 4,000 crore was lost through the purchase of six overpriced power plants between 1996 and 2006. This report points to the presence of vested interests in Bangladesh's power sector who thrive within the Power Development Board. The sustained corruption engaged in by these individuals has made the power sector suffer tremendously particularly in long term. In the short term, the power sector is thriving at the expense of the service sector and at the behest of corrupt politicians. The report's recommendations aim at improving the critical state of the sector to make it viable and service-oriented. Among others, the TIB recommends the appointment of an Ombudsman as a powerful watchdog, formulation of rules requiring all documents of major procurements, accounts be made public, and formation of an independent committee to review such documents. Moreover, the TIB suggests negotiating with the donor agencies for lucrative terms on loans by reducing the conditionality attached to setting up of power plants. 

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