Books on Bangladesh
Update No: 024 - (21/12/07)
This report specifically outlines some of the challenges that Bangladesh faced in 2007 and will continue to deal with in 2008 in the aftermath of those challenges Primary issues center around the nature of problems currently facing Bangladesh, the role of the international community in providing succour to Bangladesh's millions through foreign aid, and, the growth of investment opportunities in certain specific sectors of Bangladesh's economy. While the problems seem insurmountable now, there are areas where Bangladesh could work on moving ahead. The next year may look grim for the country but there are opportunities that the country could utilize to improve its standing in the international system.
IMPEDIMENTS IN BANGLADESH'S RECOVERY
Most of the country's concerns relate to issues of poverty, unemployment and the cyclone that ravaged Bangladesh's coast recently which has left the country in an even more deplorable state. First, poverty levels continue to remain high with 60 million people who live on less than $1 a day. Second, the country is greatly overpopulated with 150 million residing in it. Third, there is and has always been widespread corruption, there is indeed a culture of corruption. Fourth, the country faces a political crisis with its democratic fabric being rudely challenged. Finally, the frequent instances of floods have made the lives of ordinary Bangladeshis fraught with hazards.
The government has been incapable of providing its citizens with relief largely because of the rampant corruption evinced within government officials. Apparently, bribes are necessary for everything from getting a driver's license to opening a vegetable stand. Bangladesh has been consistently ranked among the world's most corrupt nations, according to the Berlin-based watchdog group, Transparency International. About 2-3 percent of its economy, or around $1.5 billion, is estimated to be lost annually to corruption. Moreover, the interim government has found it necessary to incarcerate two of the country's former prime ministers on corruption charges, as well as a host of their associates and family members. An Associated Press report, however, states that on the positive side, incomes are rising, infant mortality is falling and the economy is growing. The question is whether the positives outweigh the negatives and are adequate to retrieve Bangladesh from political and economic strife. Even though Bangladesh's military-backed government has launched a campaign to crush corruption, a lot more has to be accomplished.
In addition to all the problems mentioned above, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has placed Bangladesh on a list of 37 countries facing food crises and requiring foreign aid. Food price inflation skyrocketed by over 11 percent every month from July to October 2007. In the urban areas, this inflation rate was over 12 percent. According to the latest data of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), prices of most of the essential food items shot up by 6 percent to 116 percent over the last one year. Of them, price of the main essential item rice rose by 40 to 50 percent. The FAO has urged the government and international community to take immediate measures to help the poor countries hit hard by dramatic food price increases. Government reports indicate that the cyclone and two consecutive floods in 2007 have together caused a shortfall of 1.4 million tons of rice. While Bangladesh usually imports around 2 million to 24 million tons of food grains a year, the shortfall will only allow imports worth 3.5 million tons.
BRITAIN EXTENDS FOREIGN AID
The British International Development Minister Douglas Alexander has recently announced that Britain will provide 200 million U.S. dollars to Bangladesh. The new funding will be used for cyclone repair, climate change adaptation, urban slum improvement and technical skill training in the South Asian country. Of the new funding, $ 6.3 million will be spent on repairing houses and cyclone shelters and 60 million U.S. dollars to help Bangladesh adapt to the impact of climate change. Britain will give 120 million U.S. dollars to benefit 3 million people in 16 poor urban areas under Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction Program and more than $ 25 million to help out-of-school children gain basic education and vocational skills to improve their chances of employment.
FOREIGN ASSISTANCE IN COMBATING CYCLONES
Finland has agreed to cooperate with Bangladesh's meteorology department to improve the country's capacity to handle natural disasters. Ambassador Asko Numminen of Finland met with Foreign Adviser Dr. Iftekahar Ahmed Chowdhury of the Bangladesh caretaker government. Chowdhury has received the idea well, stating that Bangladesh would be happy to work together with Finland on this. Ambassador Numminen praised the government for the handling of cyclone Sidr and its consequences. He praised Bangladesh's role in the international forums, particularly in peace-keeping and peace-building. Chowdhury responded by stating that "Bangladesh values its relationship with Finland, as she does with other Scandinavian countries and wants to build these connections into an effective partnership for global peace and development."
POWER SECTOR REFORM
The World Bank has signed two agreements this month to install solar home systems in power-hungry Bangladesh to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable energy. The World Bank has signed the "Emission Reductions Purchase Agreements" as Trustee for the Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF). Under these agreements, Grameen Shakti and Infrastructure and Development Company Limited (IDCOL) can claim benefits for carbon emission reduction for about 970,000 and 227,000 solar home systems installed in Bangladesh respectively. Grameen Shakti, the pioneer in solar power systems in the country, is affiliated with the micro credit organisation, Grameen Bank, which along with its founder Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006.
The World Bank projects will provide solar electricity to a large number of households that are not connected to the electricity grid and ordinarily use kerosene and diesel.
Only 30 percent of Bangladesh's 140 million people plus, have access to the national electricity gird.
FOREIGN NATIONS VIEW HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD FAVORABLY
Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom are sponsoring an international conference and have invited Bangladesh to attend the two-day event in February 2008. Dutch ambassador Ms. Bea Ten Tusshcher, British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury and German ambassador Frank Meyke met Foreign Adviser Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury at his office to formally invite Dhaka to attend the conference in Germany on February 18-19. After the talks with the foreign adviser, Ms Bea Ten Tusscher told newsmen that during the discussion they lauded the government for its decision to form a Human Rights Commission. According to Dr. Iftekhar, the general situation on human rights in the country has improved and the provisional government's efforts will continue for further improvement of the situation. British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury responding to questions expressed the hope that Bangladesh would be remembered for holding free and fair general elections in 2008 as per the roadmap already announced by the government.