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PM Hasina asks nation to stay alert against anarchy ahead of next election

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday (6 January) asked the people to remain vigilant against the anti-liberation clique which has started plotting to seize power through the backdoor ahead of the next general election.

“I would like to urge everyone to keep a watchful eye so that none can snatch away the rights of the people through conspiracy. At the same time everyone should be alert so that none could create anarchy and damage the lives, livelihood and properties of the people in the name of movement,” she said.

The premier was addressing the nation on Friday evening through state-owned Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar, marking the 4th anniversary of her current government formed on January 7, 2019 following the 11th national election held on December 30, 2018.

Hasina said the next national election will be held at the end of this year or early next year. But the anti-liberation, power-hungry plunderers of public assets have already active in creating anarchy.

“Their aim is to create a chaotic situation and seize state power through the backdoor, and impede the progress of democracy too,” she said in her 25-minute speech delivered at 7:30 pm.

The premier, who is also the president of the ruling Awami League, said the conspirators have employed hired intellectuals and statement-givers at home and abroad with looted money to malign Awami League. “They are trying to mislead people by spreading libels, false and fake information through social media. Don’t be misled by their falsehoods,” she said.

She requested the political parties and institutions that believe in democracy and the rule of law not to allow and fuel any weird idea (mooted by the cliques ahead of the next election) that would undermine the constitutional process.

“We expect a free, fair and impartial election (to be held next time),” she said, adding that this is the first time a law has been enacted in Bangladesh to constitute an Election Commission.

She said the current Election commission has been constituted under that law through a search committee. “The Election Commission was given financial independence. The Commission is working independently and will continue to do so in the future. The government will continue providing all assistance to the Election Commission for holding fair and peaceful elections,” she added.

She said Awami League is a party of the people that believes in the peace of the people and the power of the people. “If the people make the party winner by voting for it, Awami League will continue to discharge the national responsibility of building the country. If they don’t make it the winner, then we will go to the line of the people. But wherever we are, we will serve the people,” she added.

On the occasion of the 4th anniversary of her current regime, the prime minister extended her sincere greetings and congratulations to the citizens at home and abroad. She also wished them a very happy Christian New Year of 2023.

Focusing on the progress of the country during her governments since 2009, she said the image of Bangladesh has become brighter in the world arena in the last 14 years.

“Today none treats Bangladesh as a country of floods, droughts and disasters. Bangladesh is now an emerging economy and a role model for development,” she said.

PM Hasina said Awami League has been in the charge of governing the country for 14 years in a row after the formation of government in 2009.

“Our country has progressed a lot. But we have to take it forward further. Achieving a developed and prosperous Bangladesh is our goal. After building Digital Bangladesh, our next goal is to build a Smart Bangladesh,” she said.

She said the use of robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, biological technology and digital devices will be ensured in all fields including the industrial, trade-business, health, education and agriculture sectors in a bid to build Smart Bangladesh, having smart government, smart population and smart industrial factories. “Emphasis has been placed on research in all areas,” she added.

The PM focused her government’s successes in bringing the cent percent population under electricity coverage, strengthening road and rail connectivity, increasing food production, implementation of different large projects including Padma Bridge, metro-rail, Bangabandhu Tunnel under Karnaphuli River, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Dhaka-Mawa-Jajira Expressway, Bangabandhu-1 Satellite, 16-km Dhaka Airport-Kutubkhali Elevated Expressway projects, and setting up 100 economic zones.

She said the prices of daily essentials including fuel have soared also in Bangladesh as it happened at abnormal rates in the world due to the Russia-Ukraine war following the Covid-19 pandemic, sanctions and counter-sanctions imposed by the Western countries and Russia.

“We are purchasing some commodities at higher prices and distributing those at lower prices to the people with limited incomes,” she said adding that 10 million families can purchase rice at Tk 30 per kg and edible oil, pulses and sugar at affordable rates through TCB’s fair price cards, while five million families can buy rice at Tk 15 per kg in a month.

The PM depicted the present scenario of Bangladesh in different social and economic indicators, comparing to the situation 16 years ago at fag end of BNP-Jamaat alliance rule.

She said the per capita income increased to US$ 2,824 now from US$ 543 in the 2005-2006FY, while poverty rate declined to 20 percent from 41.5 percent, the average life expectancy increased to 73 years from 64.5 years and the literacy rate to 75.2 percent from 45 percent.

She said the GDP increased to US$ 460.75 billion in 2021-22FY from only US$ 60 billion, the size of national budget to Tk 678,64,000 crore in the 2022-23FY from Tk 61,057 crore, the export earnings to US$ 52.08 billion in 2021-2022FY from US$ 10.52 billion, and the remittance inflow went up to US$ 22.07 billion in 2021-22FY from only US$ 4.80 billion.

She said the reserve of foreign currencies increased from only US$ 3.5 billion in 2005-06FY to US$ 48 billion in 2021, but declined to US$ 34 billion now due to the global economic downturn and high inflation. Still Bangladesh has a sufficient reserve to meet the five-month export expenditures, she added.

The PM said the allocation against the social safety net programmes rose to Tk 113,576 crore in the current fiscal year from only Tk 373 crore in 2005-2006FY, while the subsidy to the agriculture sector went up to Tk 40,000 crore from Tk 592 crore.

She said the electricity generation capacity has increased to 25,826 megawatt now from only 3,600 megawatt at the end of BNP-Jamaat regime and the population under the electricity coverage to 100 percent from only 45 percent in the same period. “We ensured electricity facilities to cent percent people in 2022. We illuminated all the houses,” she said.

Hasina said Bangladesh is currently the 41st largest economy in the world. Today, Bangladesh has graduated to a developing country from a least developed country, she said.

Noting that Bangladesh has attained a revolutionary development in the communication sector, she said her government constructed and reconstructed hundreds of highways as well as bridges over major rivers, including Padma Bridge, Bangabandhu Jamuna Bridge, Teesta Bridge, Payra Bridge, 2nd Kanchpur Bridge, 2nd Meghna Bridge, 2nd Gomti Bridge in the last 14 years in order to establish an uninterrupted road and rail connectivity.

PM Hasina said some 100 bridges were simultaneously opened in a single day in November last, while some 100 roads were inaugurated simultaneously in a day in December last.

“This is a unique achievement in the development history of the country,” she said, adding that some 718 kilometers of highways have been upgraded to four or above lanes in the last 14 years.

“Today, the people have started reaping the benefits of our visionary plans,” she said

Noting that Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of building an exploitation-and- deprivation-free Sonar Bangla (golden Bengal), she urged all to come forward to realize his dream by building a happy-prosperous non-communal Bangladesh.

“Let’s work to build a smart country and bring smiles on the faces of the common people of this country,” she told the nation.

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Container rate surge enters longest stretch since the pandemic

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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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Why $12.2b export proceeds pending abroad in 9 months of FY24?

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When the country is in dire need of dollars amid a fast erosion of its foreign exchange reserves, $12.2 billion of its total export proceeds remained pending abroad in the first nine months of the fiscal 2023-24 – taking the gap between export receipts and shipment value to a historic high.

Bangladesh Bank data shows that export shipment value, as reported by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), was $40.8 billion in July-March of FY24. However, export receipts through the banking channel were $28.6 billion. The gap of $12.2 billion was reflected in trade credit, a component of the financial account of the country’s balance of payment statement.

The widening gap between export realisations and shipment value has put pressure on the country’s financial account, as it is reflected in trade credit. The deficit in the financial account reached a record high of $9.2 billion in July-March, compared to $2.9 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year, according to central bank data.

Earlier in the FY23, export receipts fell short of the value of shipments by $12 billion, a historic high, raising concerns among the Bangladesh Bank. However, this figure may be even higher by the end of FY24 if the current trend continues.

When contacted, a senior executive of the Bangladesh Bank, involved in preparing the balance of payment statement, explained the rising trade gap, saying that they found a significant mismatch between the EPB-reported export data and the realisation of export proceeds.

The central bank is now working to find out whether export proceeds are not coming home or if there is a problem with the shipment value reported by the EPB, he said.

He added that if any mismatch is identified in accounting between the shipment and realisation values of exports, it will ease the pressure on the financial account.

When asked for an official comment on this matter, Bangladesh Bank Spokesperson Md Mezbaul Haque did not respond.

At present, trade credit reflects the highest negative value among all components of the financial account statement. Trade credit became negative $12.24 billion from July-March of FY24, compared to only $3.96 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Central bank data shows that trade credit has turned significantly negative from positive since last fiscal year, with a widening gap between export shipment and realised value.

In the FY22, trade credit was a positive $311 million, and the financial account had a surplus of $16.6 billion.

Though the unrealised export value is rising, bankers have been experiencing a general trend in export repatriation.

When speaking to the news reporter, a senior executive of a private commercial bank said that the export repatriation trend is normal in his bank. He emphasised, “If exporters do not repatriate their proceeds, how will they run their factories?”

While common factors such as time lag and export bill discounts can account for mismatches between shipment and realised values, a senior executive at the Bangladesh Bank noted that the recent trend of unrealised export proceeds is unusually high.

The mismatch between export shipment and realised value has been notably pronounced over the last two years since FY22, following Bangladesh Bank’s decision to devalue the taka amidst a rising dollar crisis.

In the FY22, unrealised export proceeds reached $8.4 billion, with export receipts lagging 16% behind the shipment value of $52 billion, as disclosed by Bangladesh Bank data in the publication titled “Export Receipts of Goods and Services.”

Central bank data demonstrated that unrealised export proceeds ranged from 10% to 12% of the export shipment value between FY07 and FY21, with figures varying from $1 billion to $5 billion.

Responding to queries regarding the escalating value of unrealised exports during a monetary policy announcement event in June last year, Bangladesh Bank Governor Abdur Rouf Talukder explained that some exporters were deliberately delaying the repatriation of export proceeds to capitalise on currency devaluation.

He mentioned that exporters were permitted to retain export proceeds in their Export Retention Quota (ERQ) account, with a six-month time lag existing between shipment and receipt.

However, he expressed optimism that the Bangladesh Bank’s issuance of a circular to deter gains from devaluation would contribute to reducing the unrealised export value.

Earlier in March last year, the central bank issued a circular stating that exporters would be paid based on the dollar rate on the 120th day of export shipment, even if the proceeds came later. However, this circular seems to have had no impact on export repatriation.

Later, in another circular issued on 20 May, the Bangladesh Bank revised that policy, allowing exporters to receive the dollar rate on the day of encashing export proceeds. As a result, exporters will have an opportunity to receive the current dollar rate even if they encash the export proceeds after the 120th day.

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Dhaka, New Delhi Forge Vision for Digital and Green Partnership: PM Sheikh Hasina

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced today (June 22) that Bangladesh and India have agreed on a shared vision for a digital and green partnership aimed at ensuring a sustainable future for both nations.

In a joint statement before the media following her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Hasina said, “Both countries endorsed the ‘Vision Statement’ to guide us toward a peaceful and prosperous future. We agreed to have a shared vision for ‘Digital Partnership’ and ‘Green Partnership for a Sustainable Future.'”

The bilateral discussions covered a broad range of topics, including water sharing from common rivers, security, and trade. Hasina emphasized the importance of India as Bangladesh’s major neighbor, trusted friend, and regional partner, highlighting the deep historical ties since Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971.

“Our relations with India are ever-growing at a fast pace,” Hasina noted. “Today, our two sides had very productive meetings where we discussed politics and security, trade and connectivity, the sharing of water from common rivers, power and energy, and regional and multilateral cooperation, among other issues of mutual interest.”

The Prime Minister added, “We agreed to collaborate with each other for the betterment of our people and countries.” She outlined a future course of action aimed at ensuring a smart Bangladesh by 2041 and a Viksit Bharat (Developed India) by 2047.

Hasina mentioned that several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were concluded and renewed, with announcements made for future collaboration. She noted that recent years have seen sustained high-level engagements between the two countries, including visits by the Indian president and prime minister to Bangladesh in 2021 to celebrate significant milestones in Bangladesh’s history.

Reflecting on her own diplomatic engagements, Hasina recalled her last bilateral visit to India in September 2022 and her attendance at the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September 2023 as the leader of ‘Guest Country’ Bangladesh. “I am now visiting New Delhi for an unprecedented second time in the same month, June 2024,” she remarked.

Earlier this month, on June 9, Hasina attended the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new cabinet alongside other world leaders, further underscoring the close engagement between the two nations.

During her current visit, Hasina will also meet with the Vice President and the President of India. She expressed optimism that these meetings will provide deeper insights into enhancing bilateral cooperation.

“This is my first bilateral visit to any country after Bangladesh’s 12th Parliamentary Elections and the formation of the new government in January 2024,” Hasina noted, thanking the Indian government for their warm hospitality.

In her concluding remarks, Hasina paid homage to the Indian heroes who sacrificed their lives during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971, expressing gratitude for India’s contribution to Bangladesh’s independence. She also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Bangladesh at his earliest convenience.

 

 

 

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