The globally famed Bloomberg news agency has praised Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her “timely reform steps” to negate the impacts of the worldwide economic crisis in Bangladesh, predicting the initiatives to elect her government for the fourth straight term in the next general elections.
“She is expected to win a fourth straight term in the elections,” BSS reports quoting Bloomerg’s article, which simultaneously suggests Sheikh Hasina “needs to push more reforms to receive all funds.”
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is widely expected to win a fourth straight term in national polls expected by January 2024 — not least because many of her opponents are behind bars or ensnared in legal cases”.
Bloomberg published the article against the backdrop of Bangladesh’s receipt of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans which it attributed to the South Asian country’s timely reforms to maintain economic stability ahead of the next national election.
The article commented that Sheikh Hasina’s victory was expected not merely “because many of her opponents are behind bars or ensnared in legal cases” but due to her success in ensuring economic stability.
Following is the full Bloomberg article headlined “Bangladesh Leader Bets IMF-Mandated Rigor Will Pay Off in Polls” with two sub-heads:
Sheikh Hasina needs to push more reforms to receive all funds
She is expected to win a fourth straight term in the elections
Government leaders across the world have often balked at implementing reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund for fear of being penalized at the ballot box. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina isn’t one of them.
Her quick execution of IMF mandates have stood out in South Asia where Pakistan is still fiddling with fuel subsidies just as it inches closer to reviving a bailout. Sri Lanka has delayed local municipal polls as it raised taxes and interest rates to clinch IMF funds last week.
Bangladesh, which in July became the last of the three countries to ask for IMF support, was the first to get loans approved after swiftly raising energy prices. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made no apologies for the move.
“Gas and electricity supply can be provided if all agree to pay the purchasing costs,” she said a week $4.7 billion in IMF loans were secured on Jan. 31. “How much subsidy can be given? And why should we continue subsidies?”
Such comments are typically unheard of as elections approach: All three nations face key votes over the next 18 months. But unlike leaders in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, PM Sheikh Hasina is widely expected to win a fourth straight term in national polls expected by January 2024 — not least because many of her opponents are behind bars or ensnared in legal cases.
“If the ruling party manages to maintain economic stability, that could preempt anger or public sentiment that works against the government,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute. “PM Sheikh Hasina certainly has the credibility to pull this off.”
In contrast, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif polled low in a survey ahead of elections later this year and has been blamed by voters for the economic crisis. While Sri Lankan leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has pushed through reforms, he depends on the support of a party run by a powerful clan and will need to seek a new mandate in presidential elections due September 2024.
PM Sheikh Hasina is banking on her government’s move to go to the IMF to show to markets and voters that she has prevented the $460 billion Bangladeshi economy from going the way Sri Lanka has with a default. Pakistan is also facing the prospect of a default.
Bangladesh went to the IMF as it grappled with an energy crisis with commodity prices soaring last year due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, while the rising costs of imports widened the trade deficit. The local currency depreciated by a fifth and reserves fell to the lowest in three years.
By winning access to IMF funds, Sheikh Hasina’s government is gaining some time to fix the economy before the elections. Signs of a weakening economy could well trigger public anger against the premier who has overseen growth of more than 6 pecent on average for the past 14 years though it slowed to about 3.5 percent during the pandemic.
The first review of the IMF program is set for the second half of 2023, and Bangladesh Mission Chief Rahul Anand sees the authorities “taking comprehensive steps” to unwind subsidies and move to a market-driven exchange rate.
Bangladesh has received $476 million under the facility so far. Further disbursements depend on the government ensuring reforms for the financial sector, ranging from the central bank pursuing an independent monetary policy to reducing non-performing loans and spurring climate change funding.
Tipu Munshi Emphasizes Joint Effort for Commodity Price Control Amid Global Instabilities
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi underscored the pivotal role of controlling commodity prices, emphasizing its special importance in the upcoming general election as a key aspect of the Awami League’s manifesto. While addressing concerns about global challenges impacting price control, the minister pointed out the government’s successful efforts to maintain reasonable prices, acknowledging the limitations imposed by the global context.
Speaking at an event organized by the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection and Debate for Democracy at the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC), Tipu Munshi provided insights into the government’s commitment to ensuring affordable daily necessities for low-income individuals. He highlighted ongoing programs aligned with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directives, aimed at providing essential items at lower prices to mitigate the hardships faced by the economically vulnerable.
The minister acknowledged the abnormal increase in product prices globally due to factors such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tipu Munshi stressed the significance of a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors in effectively managing and controlling commodity prices, especially in the face of global uncertainties.
Concluding his remarks, Tipu Munshi emphasized the collective strength of consumers, stating that neither the government nor any syndicate holds ultimate power; rather, the united force of the common people is the most influential. He called on consumers to remain vigilant, asserting that no force can endure if the public remains united.
FBCCI Urges Govt to Extend Income Tax Return Deadline Amidst Implementation Challenges
In a letter signed by FBCCI president Mahbubul Alam, the trade body emphasized that taxpayers faced challenges due to the recent implementation of the new Income Tax Act-2023. The complexities introduced by the new tax regulations, coupled with delayed releases of income tax circulars, have created difficulties for individuals and businesses in preparing their tax returns within the stipulated timeframe.
The FBCCI’s letter further highlighted that various trade bodies have approached them, expressing concerns about the limited time provided for taxpayers to comply. Additionally, the ongoing political situation and the imminent general election have contributed to the constraints faced by taxpayers in meeting the November 30 deadline.
Under the provisions of the new Income Tax Act, there is a mandatory requirement for taxpayers to submit their income tax returns within the designated income tax day. The FBCCI, in light of Section 334 of the Income Tax Act-2023, has formally requested the NBR to extend the deadline for the submission of income tax returns until December 31, 2023.
The FBCCI’s appeal underscores the need for flexibility in recognizing the unique challenges posed by the current circumstances and aims to provide relief to taxpayers who require additional time to comply with the new tax regulations.
Singapore’s GDP growth in Q3 driven by construction and services sectors.
The third-quarter performance of Singapore’s economy exceeded expectations, registering a robust 1.1 percent expansion. This growth was propelled by the construction industry and the services sector, particularly tourism. The data from the trade ministry surpassed the anticipated 0.8 percent and marked a significant improvement from the preceding three months.
In response to the positive momentum, officials have revised the full-year forecast for 2023. They now anticipate the economy to grow by 1.0 percent, adjusting from the earlier estimated range of 0.5-1.5 percent. The decision is influenced by improved performance in the US economy since the previous forecast in August. However, officials cautioned that inflation-fighting interest rate hikes may pose challenges in the coming months.
The ministry projected that growth in the US and eurozone would moderate due to the cumulative effects of monetary policy tightening. Similarly, China’s growth is expected to decelerate further due to ongoing weaknesses in its property sector, domestic consumption, and subdued external demand. Despite sluggish global demand for electronics, one of Singapore’s major exports, there are indications that the downturn may be stabilizing.
Continued growth in tourism arrivals is anticipated to support aviation and tourism-related businesses. Taking into account the overall performance of Singapore’s economy in the first three quarters of the year, along with the latest external and domestic developments, the GDP growth forecast for 2023 has been narrowed to around 1.0 percent.
Looking ahead to 2024, the ministry foresees a growth range of 1.0-3.0 percent. However, potential downside risks include high inflation and an escalation of conflicts, such as those between Israel and Hamas or the war in Ukraine. The confluence of these factors could impact business and consumer sentiments, leading to a potential slowdown in global growth and trade.
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