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Opposition Candidate Mohamed Muiz Secures Surprise Victory in Maldives Presidential Runoff

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Maldives Presidential

In a surprising turn of events, Mohamed Muiz, the opposition candidate, emerged victorious in the Maldives presidential runoff held on Saturday, securing over 53% of the vote, as reported by local media. This election had taken on the character of a virtual referendum, determining whether India or China would exert greater influence over this Indian Ocean archipelago nation.

According to Mihaaru News, incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih garnered 46% of the vote, while Muiz clinched victory with a lead of more than 18,000 votes. Official results were expected to be announced on Sunday.

Following his win, Muiz expressed his commitment to shaping the country’s future and safeguarding the freedom of the Maldives. He called for unity, stating, “It’s time we put our differences aside and come together. We need to be a peaceful society.” Additionally, he requested that President Solih transfer former President Abdulla Yameen from prison to house arrest.

Muiz’s triumph was an unexpected one, considering he entered the race as an underdog and was named as a candidate closer to the nomination deadline, following the Supreme Court’s decision to bar Yameen from running due to his imprisonment on money laundering and corruption charges—charges that Yameen’s supporters claim are politically motivated.

“This result reflects the patriotism of our people and calls on all our neighbors and bilateral partners to fully respect our independence and sovereignty,” said Mohamed Shareef, a prominent official from Muiz’s party. He emphasized that it was also a mandate for Muiz to revive the economy and secure Yameen’s release.

Neither Muiz nor Solih managed to secure more than 50% of the vote in the initial round of voting held earlier in September.

During the campaign, Solih faced allegations from Muiz that he had permitted unchecked Indian presence in the Maldives. Muiz’s party, the People’s National Congress, is perceived as being strongly pro-China. Solih, however, maintained that the Indian military’s presence in the Maldives was solely for the construction of a dockyard under a government agreement and that it did not compromise the country’s sovereignty.

Muiz pledged that if elected president, he would remove Indian troops from the Maldives and work to rebalance the country’s trade relations, which he argued were heavily skewed in favor of India.

Ahmed Shaheed, a former foreign minister of the Maldives, suggested that the election results reflected public discontent with the government’s failure to meet economic and governance expectations rather than concerns about Indian influence. He stated, “I don’t think India was at all in the people’s minds.”

Muiz, an engineer by profession, previously served as the housing minister for seven years and was the mayor of Male, the capital, before being chosen as the presidential candidate.

In the lead-up to the election, Solih faced a setback when Mohamed Nasheed, a charismatic former president, broke away from the Maldivian Democratic Party and fielded his own candidate in the first round. Nasheed opted to remain neutral in the second round.

Abdulla Yameen, leader of the People’s National Congress, had aligned the Maldives with China’s Belt and Road initiative during his presidency from 2013 to 2018. This initiative aims to develop infrastructure projects, including railroads, ports, and highways, to expand trade and China’s influence across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Despite the campaign rhetoric, it is unlikely that Muiz will drastically alter the foreign policy stance of the Maldives. Instead, opposition to Chinese projects may diminish, potentially rebalancing the power dynamics in the region.

The Maldives, comprising 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean strategically located along major shipping routes between the East and the West, has seen significant political stability and economic growth in recent years. However, differing views on foreign influence continue to shape the nation’s political landscape.

With over 282,000 eligible voters and a turnout of 78% an hour before polling stations closed, this election marks a pivotal moment in the Maldives’ political history.

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Container rate surge enters longest stretch since the pandemic

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Container export

The spot rate for shipping goods in containers to Europe from Asia rose for a ninth straight week, the longest stretch of rising prices since the pandemic disrupted global supply chains in 2021.

The rate for a 40-foot container to Genoa, Italy, from China hit $7,029 over the past week, the highest level since September 2022, according to the Drewry World Container Index released Thursday. The cost to Rotterdam increased to $6,867. Both rates have essentially doubled since April.

For the busy trade route from Shanghai to Los Angeles, the rate rose for a seventh straight week, to $6,441.

While not all freight is moving at such elevated prices, the spot market for containers reflects the supply of available space on ships and the demand from importers. That balance has tightened during the past six months as vessels avoid the Red Sea, where Houthi rebels have attacked commercial traffic, including a bulk commodity carrier that sunk earlier this week.

Most container lines are taking the longer route around southern Africa, creating disruptions similar to those two or three years ago. Ryan Petersen, founder and chief executive officer of Flexport Inc., said “we’re right back almost to where we were during the peak Covid situation.” He’s seeing spot rates even higher than the numbers Drewry just reported.

“Right now, if you want to ship a container from China to here in the UK it will cost you about $10,000 unless you have a contract,” Petersen said during a Bloomberg Television interview in London on Thursday. “And by the way, most of those contracts that were signed at lower prices are not being honoured and they’re adding surcharges to them.”

Petersen said it’s hard to predict how long shipping prices will keep climbing, noting that carriers spent some of their record-high profits made during the pandemic on new vessels that are entering service through 2026, which should help ease the latest capacity crunch.

But he also said uncertainty about delivery reliability later this year is worrying some companies and motivating them to order now rather than wait. Among the threats is a dockworker strike at ports along the US East and Gulf coasts, which Petersen said might send container rates above their pandemic highs if cargo bound for those gateways is significantly disrupted.

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PM Sheikh Hasina Urges UAE Investors to Tap into Bangladesh’s Special Economic Zones

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PM Sheikh Hasina Urges UAE Investors to Tap into Bangladesh's Special Economic Zones

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called on United Arab Emirates (UAE) investors to invest in Bangladesh’s special economic zones. The request was made during a meeting with UAE Ambassador Abdulla Ali Abdulla Khaseif Alhmoudi at her official residence, Ganabhaban, this morning.

According to the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Md Nayeemul Islam Khan, the UAE ambassador assured the prime minister that his country would issue visas for Bangladeshi workers, ensuring they have jobs waiting for them in the UAE. The envoy emphasized the importance of preventing illegal migration from Bangladesh, a concern both countries agreed to address more diligently.

The UAE ambassador also mentioned that several UAE ministers are planning to visit Bangladesh soon to explore new avenues for strengthening bilateral relations. “We already have a very extensive and deep tie, but we are eager to take it to a new height,” Alhmoudi stated.

Alhmoudi highlighted that approximately 20,000 Bangladeshis travel to the UAE each month, with the UAE embassy issuing around 1,000 visas daily—500 directly and 500 through agents. He extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit the UAE, noting that UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum are eagerly waiting to welcome her.

In response to Sheikh Hasina’s appeal for UAE investment in Bangladesh’s special economic zones, Alhmoudi said that the visiting UAE ministers would discuss the matter further. The envoy also sought cooperation from the prime minister to expedite UAE investments in Bangladesh, including in the container terminal sector. Sheikh Hasina assured him that her government is accelerating processes across all sectors.

Additionally, Alhmoudi mentioned that a UAE company is in the final stages of negotiating prices to provide an Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) to Bangladesh’s civil aviation sector. The prime minister delegated the task to PMO Secretary Mohammad Salahuddin.

For security reasons, the US, EU member states, and other countries now require detailed passenger information from airlines before travel, known as Advance Passenger Information (API).

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Bata Shoe Reveals Impressive EPS Surge in Q1

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Bata Shoe

One of the listed companies, Bata Shoe Bangladesh Limited discloses its financial reports for the first quarter, (January – March 24).

The company’s earnings per share (EPS) was Tk 13.42 paisa in Q1 of the current financial year (January – March 24). EPS was Tk 9.96 (restated) paisa during the same period last year. As of March 31, 2024, at the end of the first quarter of the fiscal year, the company’s net asset value (NAV) per share stood at Tk 251.35.

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