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PM Sheikh Hasina Invites Bhutan to Establish Economic Zone

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BAngladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has extended an invitation to Bhutan, offering the opportunity to establish an economic zone within Bangladesh for the benefit of both countries.

During a meeting between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema, held at the Claridge Hotel in the UK, PM proposed the creation of the “Bhutan Economic Zone” in Bangladesh. Welcoming the Bhutanese royal couple upon their arrival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, accompanied by her sister Sheikh Rehana, expressed her willingness to facilitate the establishment of the economic zone.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen later briefed reporters on the 50-minute meeting, where the PM informed King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck that Bangladesh had already allocated economic zones to India, Japan, and South Korea. In response to the Bhutanese king’s desire to develop an administrative economic zone in Bhutan while prioritizing environmental preservation, PM suggested Kurigram as a potential location for the proposed economic zone.

Highlighting Bangladesh’s commitment to fostering communication and connectivity with neighbouring nations, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasized that Bangladesh serves as a vital hub, offering Bhutan access to two ports and the Syedpur International Airport.

Foreign Minister Momen revealed that the Bhutanese royal couple highly praised Bangladesh’s remarkable economic progress under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. During the meeting, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck expressed his aspiration for direct transit routes through both Bangladesh and India. In response, Prime Minister Hasina expressed her willingness to engage in discussions with India, if necessary, to facilitate Bhutan’s transit requirements.

The Bhutanese monarch also highlighted the special bond between Bhutan and Bangladesh, as the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Bhutan had both studied in Bangladesh. The king expressed a desire for private visits to Bangladesh, which Prime Minister Hasina warmly welcomed, assuring them of her open-door policy.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss personal and family matters, as the Bhutanese king and queen consider Prime Minister Hasina their maternal aunt. Notable attendees at the meeting included Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Md Tofazzel Hossain Miah, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, Prime Minister’s Speechwriter M Nazrul Islam, and Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem.

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UK inflation holds at 2% in June: official data

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Britain’s inflation rate held steady in June after returning to the Bank of England’s target the previous month, official data showed Wednesday, confounding expectations for another modest slowdown.

The Consumer Prices Index was unchanged at 2.0 percent in June from the same level in May, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement, compared with market forecasts of 1.9 percent.

“Hotel prices rose strongly, while second-hand car costs fell but by less than this time last year,” said ONS chief executive Grant Fitzner.
“However, these were offset by falling clothing prices, with widespread sales driving down their cost.

“Meanwhile, the cost of both raw materials and goods leaving factories fell on the month, though factory gate prices remain above where they were a year ago.”

Analysts said the data could cause the Bank of England to sit tight for a while longer before starting to cut interest rates.

“The chances of an interest rate cut in August have diminished a bit more,” said Paul Dales, chief UK economist at research consultancy Capital Economics.

Last month, the BoE kept its key interest rate at a 16-year high of 5.25 percent, despite slowing inflation in May.

Britain’s newly elected Labour government welcomed news that inflation remained at the BoE’s target level.

“It is welcome that inflation is at target,” said Darren Jones, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in a statement.

“But we know that for families across Britain prices remain high… (which) is why this government is taking the tough decisions now to fix the foundations” of the UK economy, he said.

Labour, led by new Prime Minister Keir Starmer, has pledged immediate action to grow the economy after the centre-left party won a landslide general election victory to end 14 years of Conservative rule.

Later on Wednesday, King Charles III will read out Labour’s first programme for government in a decade and a half, when the UK parliament formally reopens following the July 4 election.
Elevated interest rates have worsened a UK cost-of-living squeeze because they increase borrowing repayments, thereby cutting disposable incomes and crimping economic activity.

The BoE began a series of rate hikes in late 2021 to combat inflation, which rose after countries emerged from Covid lockdowns and accelerated after the invasion of Ukraine by key oil and gas producer Russia.

 

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China’s economy grew less than expected in second quarter: official data

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China’s economy grew 4.7 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2024, official data showed Monday, less than analysts had expected.

“By quarter, the GDP for the first quarter increased by 5.3 percent year on year and for the second quarter 4.7 percent,” Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement.

The figures were much lower than the 5.1 percent predicted by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Retail sales — a key gauge of consumption — also slowed to just two percent in June, the NBS said, down from 3.7 percent in May.

The world’s second-largest economy is grappling with a real estate debt crisis, weakening consumption, an ageing population and trade tensions with Western rivals.

Top officials are meeting in Beijing on Monday for a key plenum, with all eyes on how they might kickstart lacklustre growth.

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Concerns Mount Over Revenue Loss as South Asia’s Largest Land Port Curtails Operations

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Bangladeshi officials are grappling with fears of revenue loss as the largest land port in South Asia, situated along the India-Bangladesh border, has ceased operations for 10 hours each day since July 11.

The Petrapole Land Port in India, crucial for trade between the two nations, has been shutting down from 6 PM to 8 AM daily, without providing any explanation for the closure, according to officials from the Benapole Land Authority in Bangladesh. This unexpected halt has left Bangladeshi authorities and traders in a state of uncertainty, as there is no indication of when the operations might resume to normalcy.

Industry insiders warn that this disruption could lead to a significant revenue shortfall at Benapole port due to decreased imports, adversely affecting Bangladeshi importers with delayed product deliveries.

Rezaul Karim, Director of Traffic at Benapole Land Port Authority, emphasized that while Benapole has been maintaining 24-hour operations, Petrapole’s recent restrictions are hindering cargo truck movements after evening.

“We have inquired with the Petrapole port authority about the reasons for halting trade services after evening. They responded that the matter is under discussion with relevant authorities,” Karim said.

Sultan Mahmud Bipul, Secretary of Benapole C&F Agent Association International Checkpost Affairs, highlighted the fiscal implications of this disruption. “Benapole port has set a revenue target of Tk6,705 crore from imported goods for the fiscal year 2024-25. If the 24-hour import facility remains discontinued, it will severely impact our revenue targets,” he noted.

Ziaur Rahman, General Secretary of Benapole Landport Importers and Exporters Association, pointed out the severe impact on trade, particularly with perishable goods. “Traders dealing with perishable food products are incurring the biggest losses due to this halt. The inability of goods trucks to enter after evening will widen the trade deficit,” Rahman remarked.

As the situation unfolds, the Benapole Land Port Authority and associated trade bodies continue to seek clarity and resolution from their Indian counterparts to mitigate the economic repercussions of this operational disruption.

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