FREE GEOPOLITICAL NEWSLETTER

Albania  

For current reports go to EASY FINDER

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: 065 - (26/04/13)

Summary: On the political front, while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led Opposition parties increase unrest and violence over the 1971 war crimes trials and the anti-blasphemy laws, the government threatens to ban the Jamaat if it acts like a terrorist group.

In another shocking development, a new radical Islamist group called Hefajat-e-Islam, held a rally in central Dhaka with as many as half a million supporters to declare its demands for a new anti-blasphemy law. The group has put forward 13 demands, viewed by liberals as Taliban-inspired, threatening the government with a siege on May 5 unless the demands are met. The demands, however, are contrary to the constitution of Bangladesh and include death penalty for anyone guilty of blasphemy; barring women from working with men; banning all cultural activities that defame Islam; reinstating pledges to Allah in the constitution; banning women from mixing freely with men and making Islamic education mandatory. According to analysts this agenda would amount to the "Talibanization" of Bangladesh.

April was a politically turbulent but economically crucial month for Bangladesh. After having spent a lot of political and diplomatic energy, Bangladesh decided to put aside US$ 0.88 billion from the 2013-14 national budget for the 6.15 km long railroad bridge on the Padma river. Considered as being an unnecessary risk by many in the Opposition, the government of PM Sheikh Hasina seems to be determined to undertake a major chunk of funding of this project before it’s funding from the World Bank became controversial. Moreover, Dhaka signed its biggest ever joint venture agreement with India involving investment US$ 1.6 billion for the 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant that is expected to be operational in the next five years

Finally, the ruling coalition announced Abdul Hamid as its presidential candidate after the post became vacant with the death of former president Zillur Rahman.


Bangladesh takes steps to build Padma bridge
After having spent a lot of political and diplomatic energy, Bangladesh decided to put aside US$ 0.88 billion from the 2013-14 national budget for the 6.15 km long railroad bridge on the Padma river. Making up for at least one-third of the project costs at current prices, the Awami League (AL) led government of PM Sheikh Hasina is determined to build this project. Once completed, economists say the bridge could boost national GDP growth by 1 per cent every year. In January this year Bangladesh withdrew its request for funding from the World Bank (WB) on the US$ 2.9 billion bridge that will connect 21 districts in the south and southwestern regions to the country's mainland. This rupture with the WB came after teo years of tussle and when the latter suspended its proposed US$ 1.2 billion line of credit alleging corruption in the allocation process of the project that was awarded to SNC Lavalin, a Canadian construction company.

The WB agreed to review its decision and resume funding once Bangladesh ordered its Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to conduct an enquiry into the corruption allegations. This, however, could not be carried forward as disagreements crept in over the method in which the probe was being conducted. The ACC had apparently left out two ministers of the AL government from the list of those charged in the corruption case. The WB banned SNC Lavalin and its 100 affiliates from bidding for WB projects for its "misconduct" in the Padma bridge project. With general elections barely a year away, PM Hasina fell out with the global lender and asked Finance Minister AMA Muhith to withdraw the funding request. Hasina's stance drew criticism from the Opposition, with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) saying that the government is taking an unnecessary risk by trying to do the project on its own.

Muhith initially said Bangladesh could count on at least three countries to provide funding for the project: India, China and Malaysia. India had offered US$ 200 million out of its previously pledged US$ 1 billion line of credit from 2010. The Chinese and Malaysians however quickly came back with comprehensive funding offers. Both agreed to bring in funds to finance the bulk of the project cost, and offered easy payback over 20 years after the bridge was completed. The Chinese offer was the most attractive as they had promised to help complete the bridge within three years. But in an unusual display of confidence, Bangladesh has decided to forgo the foreign financers. Many feel that the Hasina government is taking a huge risk by deciding to go ahead with the project with the country's own resources. But if it succeeds, the Padma project will be a major turnaround for Bangladesh.

Turmoil Over Proposed Anti-Blasphemy Law
Hefajat-e-Islam, a newly floated radical pro-Islam movement seeking to impose Shariah law in the country, held a rally in central Dhaka with about half a million supporters to declare its demands for a new anti-blasphemy law. The group has put forward 13 demands, viewed by liberals as Taliban-inspired, threatening the government with a siege on May 5 unless the demands are met. The demands, however, are contrary to the constitution of Bangladesh and include death penalty for anyone guilty of blasphemy; barring women from working with men; banning all cultural activities that defame Islam; reinstating pledges to Allah in the constitution; banning women from mixing freely with men and making Islamic education mandatory. This agenda would amount to the "Talibanization" of Bangladesh.

PM Hasina took a firm stand against the protesters, saying, "They have demanded it. Actually, we don't have any plan to [bring in the law]. We don't need it. They should know that existing laws are enough." Calling Bangladesh "a secular democracy," she told said that each and every group has the right to practice their religion freely and fairly. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, has backed Hefajat-e-Islam’s protest. Jamaat’s leaders are on trial for war crimes committed during the country's independence struggle in 1971, and two of its senior leaders have already been convicted by a special tribunal. The Jamaat is threatened by the demands of another ongoing protest, known as Bangladesh's Shahbag movement, which rails against Islamic war criminals belonging to the Islamic party, calling for justice to be served.

Hasina government threatens to ban Jamaat
The Bangladesh government may consider banning the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) if armed cadres of the Islamist party continue to indulge in violence and terrorist acts, the country's Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasanul Haq Inu claimed recently. The Jamaat, a constituent of the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance, is a registered political party. Its cadres have been on the streets, indulging in violence, to protest the conviction of some of its leaders by the war crimes tribunal for killings and rapes committed during the 1971 war of liberation. According to Inu, the Jamaat as a political party has to abide by the Election Commission's directives. The Bangladesh Election Commission can ban the Jamaat if it violates rules, so can the courts and the government. The Hasina government is also watching how a case in the Bangladesh High Court challenging the registration of Jamaat as a political party will turn out. If it practices terrorism, then the government will positively be considering banning the Jamaat. Adding that the government wanted inclusive and participatory politics, Inu made is clear that the Hasina government hopes that Jamaat will take care of its armed hooligans. In order to counter the Islamist parties like the Jamaat and the Hefazat-e-Islam, the Bangladesh government is asking all the scholars and ulemas to come out with the real and practical teachings of Islam.

Bangladesh, India sign biggest ever joint venture for power plant
Bangladesh signed its biggest ever joint venture agreement with India involving investment US$ 1.6 billion for the 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant that is expected to be operational in the next five years. The largest investment project that Bangladesh has ever had, the energy project is expected to accelerate the growth rates of Bangladesh. According to government officials, the event reflected development in sub-regional cooperation. The two countries signed three deals under a pact floating Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (PvT) Ltd. to run the plant at Rampal of Bagerhat, a district in Southwest Bangladesh. Two other pacts – Power Purchase Agreement and Implementation Agreements – were also signed recently between the two South Asian countries.

Under the agreements, 70 per cent of the investment would come as loan from the market while the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and India's National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) would provide the rest of the amount equally. The deal came against the backdrop of Bangladeshi plans to provide access to power to all by 2021. The country would require 24,000 MW to achieve its target. With current generation of over 6,000 MW, about half of the population has access to power. Bangladesh and India also earlier agreed to swap electricity while a deal was expected to be signed in next few months to import 500 MW from India while construction of a cross-border transmission line was underway.

Ruling coalition names Abdul Hamid as presidential candidate
Bangladesh’s ruling coalition has named Speaker of the National Assembly Abdul Hamid as its candidate for the post of the country’s president. According to highly placed sources, PM Hasina’s ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) party decided to the nomination in a meeting of its parliamentarians in mid-April. Hours after the meeting, a senior AL leader collected a nomination paper for Hamid for the post of the President of People ‘s Republic of Bangladesh. The nomination paper will be submitted to the Election Commission as per the poll schedule. According to the rules set by the Election Commission, presidential aspirants will have to submit their papers before April 24, as the elections are scheduled for end of the month. The position was vacant after the death of President Zillur Rahman in March this year. Abdul Hamid was made the acting president since then. In the history of democratic Bangladesh presidential elections were held just once in 1991 when there was more than one candidate. Ever since the trend has been that ruling party candidates have become presidents without competition.

PM Hasina’s ruling coalition has two-thirds majority in the 300-seat parliament in which 50 seats are reserved for women. While there is talk of another candidate being supported by the Opposition, there seems to be widespread acceptability of Abdul Hamid. The President is the ceremonial head of Bangladesh and doesn’t exercise any control over the functioning of the state. However, the President’s role is crucial once the ruling government’s term is over as the executive authority of the post increases at that time. Given the ongoing political crisis in the country and the general elections slated for early 2014, the incoming President will have to steer Bangladesh through a critical political phase. It is widely believed that a veteran politician like Hamid could help the ruling and the opposition parties to reach consensus on disputed issues. A war hero, Abdul Hamid was elected as member of Bangladesh Parliament six times – in 1973, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2008. The veteran politician was also elected as a member of parliament in the 1970 national elections when Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan. 


 

 « Top  

« Back

 


 
Published by 
Newnations (a not-for-profit company)
PO Box 12 Monmouth 
United Kingdom NP25 3UW 
Fax: UK +44 (0)1600 890774
enquiries@newnations.com