Dhaka Metro Rail project update : First tender for metro rail on January 31

Dhaka metro train

The first tender for pre-qualification of rolling stock (coach and locomotive) for the 20.1-km-long much-expected metro rail will be floated on January 31, said Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader.

The minister made the statement while briefing the journalists at the secretariat yesterday.

A total of 24 new locomotives and 144 coaches will cost Tk2,700 crore, said source in the ministry.

As per the rules, the estimated cost must be approved by Japan International Cooperative Agency (Jica), the major financier of the project, and then the Metro Rail authorities before the tender is floated.

The Metro Rail authorities are yet to approve the cost. They still need more time to verify it.

Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary MAN Siddique,
also the Metro Rail project chairman, said: “We hope to get the approval by the time.”

Meanwhile, about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project Road Transport and Bridges Minister said: “The construction work of the project will begin in December this year and to be completed in November 2017.”

“Commuters can travel from Gazipur to Airport in only 40 minutes,” he said.

On Monday parliament passed an amended Metro Rail Bill, 2015 in a bid to curb traffic jam in the capital with providing quick and modern transport service to commuters.

Under the first tender, 24 locomotives and 144 coaches will be procured from manufacturers and suppliers. The 24 trains each having six coaches will run from Uttara to Bangladesh Bank.

The first part of the construction may end by December 2019 while the whole project to be completed by 2024.

The metro rail will run from Uttara Third Phase to Bangladesh Bank via Pallabi, the west side of Rokeya Sarani and Farmgate, Hotel Sonargaon, Ruposhi Bangla, TSC of Dhaka University, Doel Chattar and Topkhana Road.

The route was supposed to be extended up to Sayedabad from Bangladesh Bank through Atish Dipankar Road.

The Jica has committed to provide Tk16,594.59 crore while the government Tk5,390.48 crore.

A Japanese consortium is currently working on the detailed design of the project. It is also carrying out a topographical, traffic and geo-technical surveys in different parts of the project.
Metro Rail Act passed in parliament
Jatiya Sangsad on Monday passed the Metro Rail Act, 2015 which is aimed at providing fast and improved mass transport service in Dhaka city.

This act will give a legal framework to the overall activities of the proposed Metro Rail Project, including its operations, control and regulations.

Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader moved the bill in parliament that was passed by voice vote.

According to the act: “The government has taken initiative to build mass rapid transit (MRT) for easing traffic jam and rendering fast and improved mass transport service in Dhaka city. A specific law is needed for construction, operation and maintenance of the country’s first metro rail.”

The law will be effective in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Manikganj, Gazipur and Narsingdi districts initially. The government shall include other districts in the list by issuing gazette notification in the second phase.

It has kept a provision of Tk 1 crore fine and 10 years’ imprisonment for operating metro rail without license or illegal handover of license for operating Metro Rail.

The authorities concerned will fix the rate of passenger fare against metro rail service following directives of the government from time to time. There will be a seven-member committee to fix the fares.

There is also a provision of one years’ imprisonment or Tk 500,000 fine or both for creating obstructions to running metro rail and unauthorised entry into the reserved area of the metro rail.

The punishment for breaching the security of the metro rail and its passengers is five years’ imprisonment maximum or Tk 50 lakh fine or both.

For unauthorised printing of Metro rail tickets or pass, selling, distorting and producing fake tickets is ten years’ imprisonment maximum or Tk one crore fine or both.

If any employee of the Metro rail misuses it or its equipment that person will have to face one year’s imprisonment or Tk five lakh fine or both.

For travelling on metro rail without ticket or pass, the punishment will be a fine maximum ten times the price of the actual fare or six months imprisonment.

The punishment for not maintaining technical standard regarding anything of the metro rail, will be five years’ imprisonment maximum or a Tk 50 lakh fine or both.

For not having the insurance of Metro rail, its passengers and third party the punishment will be maximum ten years’ imprisonment or Tk 10 crore fine or both.

There will be separate committees for issuing licenses of metro rail and fixing the fares.

Executive Director of the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority will be the head of the committee for issuing license. The proposed law also kept provision for constructing and operating the metro rail under PPP basis.

The Cabinet on 10 November approved the draft of the Metro Rail Bill, 2014.

The Metro rail or Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line 6) is a priority project of the government and the Tk 220 billion project to build Dhaka’s first metro rail is expected to be complete by 2019.

A public limited company named Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) will operate the Metro Rail while the DMTCL will be supervised by the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority.

The proposed route of the MRT Line-6 is Uttara 3rd Phase to Bangladesh Bank via Pallabi-Rokeya Sarani-Khamarbari-Farmgate-Hotel Sonargaon-Shahbagh-TSC-Doel Chattar- and Topkhana Road.

There will be 16 metro rail stations under the project. The stations include Uttara (North), Uttara (Centre), Uttara (South), Pallabi, IMT, Mirpur 10, Kazipara, Taltala, Agargaon, Bijoy Sarani, Farmgate, Sonargaon, National Museum, Doel Chattar, Bangabandhu National
Stadium and Bangladesh Bank.

According to the government, the metro rail will be able to carry some 1800 passengers every four minutes, transporting an estimated 60000 people every hour

Welcome Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernica -US Ambassador to Bangladesh

Marcia-Stephens-Bloom-BernicaWelcome Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernica -New US Ambassador to Bangladesh arrived in Dhaka on Sunday to begin her assignment.

She has replaced Dan W Mozena who retired on completion of his tenure in Bangladesh.
Ambassador Marcia Bernicat is going to start her tasks in Bangladesh at a critical period of bilateral relations, especially after reservations expressed by America about the 5 January 2014 elections.

On 17 November, the US Senate confirmed the nomination of Bernicat as 15th US ambassador to Bangladesh. Accordingly, she took her oath in Washington DC on January 6.

“I look forward to joining the US Embassy, Dhaka team and learning all about the people, rich culture and traditions of Bangladesh,” Marcia Bernicat tweeted on 25 November.

Bernicat said earlier that she would work hard to support efforts to promote accountability and strengthen human rights and democracy in Bangladesh

Foreign investment in Bangladesh : Niko dispute

IN the era of globalisation, foreign private investment plays an important role for the economic and infrastructure development of developing countries, particularly Bangladesh. Bangladesh offers generous opportunities and environment for foreign investment under its liberalised legal policies and principle of compliance with international norms and principles concerning foreign private investment. One of the impediments in encouraging foreign private investment is legal restraint as to the settlement of disputes arising out of investment contract.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Bangladesh has adopted a number of policies to increase the inflow of foreign investment. Ratification of the 1965 Conventions on the Settlement of Investment Dispute between States and Nationals of other States (ICSID Convention), (hereinafter Washington Convention) by Bangladesh fulfills its commitment to the protection of foreign private investment in Bangladesh. The ICSID Convention entered into force for Bangladesh on April 26, 1980.

Bangladesh has also concluded a number of bilateral investment treaties (BIT) with several countries in order to promote foreign investments in its territory. At present, Bangladesh has concluded 29 BITs — 24 of which have come into force. The Foreign Private Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act 1980 is an investment protection statute in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is also a member of the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention), and the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985 (amended 2006).

Bangladesh’s commitment to fair and equitable treatment for foreign investment has again been reflected in the recent decision given by International Central for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID) in the arbitration proceeding initiated by Niko against Petrobangla.

The government had decided to develop marginal or abandoned gas fields in Bangladesh. Niko, a company incorporated under the laws of Barbados, proposed to carry out this development. Niko evaluated three such abandoned gas fields and concluded that two of them, the Chattak and the Feni fields, were sufficiently favourable to continue with a work plan.

With the approval of the government, Niko concluded a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) on October 16, 2003, with the Bangladesh Petroleum & Production Company, Limited (BAPEX) to develop those gas fields. The development of the Feni field was successful and gas supplies from two wells started in November 2004. The first dispute arose between Niko and Petrobangla as to the price of gas. BAPEX and Niko (the Joint Venture Partners) began to negotiate a Gas Purchase and Sale Agreement (GPSA) with the Bangladesh Oil Gas and Mineral Corporation (Petrobangla). Niko requested a price of $2.75/MCF and the buyer (Petrobangla) offered $1.75/MCF. On December 27, 2006, a GPSA was concluded where the price was fixed at $1.75/MCF. Petrobangla made some payments but much of the gas delivered remains unpaid for. As of April 1, 2010, it owed Niko and BAPEX $27.16 million and $8.55 million respectively. Niko served several reminders to Petrobangla for payment for the gas produced by Niko.

The second dispute that arose between Niko and Petrobangla and the government was over compensation for the damages caused by two blowouts that occurred during drilling in the Chattak field on January 7, 2005, and another on June 24, 2005. The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA) and others introduced a petition in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, High Court Division, against the Government of Bangladesh, Petrobangla, BAPEX, Niko and others, seeking inter alia a declaration that (a) the Joint Venture Agreement (AVA) reached between Niko and BAPEX was invalid; and (b) an injunction against Petrobangla restraining payments to Niko in respect to the Feni gas field.

The court issued the injunction against Petrobangla but denied the requested declaration on May 5, 2010. In May or June 2008, Petrobangla and the government of Bangladesh commenced legal action in the Court of District Judge, Dhaka, against Niko and others, seeking compensation on the order of Tk. 746.5 crore as damages for the two blowouts (the Money Suit). These proceedings are still pending.

As a result, the following three disputes arose between Niko, Bapex and Petrobangla and the government:

Niko claimed payment (payment claim) for the outstanding invoices for the gas delivered to Petrobangla;

Petrobangla and the government claimed compensation for the damages occurred due to the blowouts;

Niko sought a declaration that it was not liable for damages in relation to the blowouts (the compensation declaration).

Niko served a Notice of Arbitration on Petrobangla on January 8, 2010. Niko decided to refer these two particular disputes (payment claim and compensation declaration) for arbitration under the ICSID Convention. The ICSID Tribunal was constituted for the arbitration of such disputes, and proceedings began on December 20, 2010. The Tribunal delivered its decision on Niko’s payment claim on September 11, 2014, based on the argument and evidence before it. The Tribunal decided that Petrobangla owed Niko $ 25,312,747 plus Tk. 139,988,337 as per Niko’s invoices for gas delivered from November 2004 to April 2010, and Petrobangla must pay simple interest on Niko’s invoices at the rate of six month LIBOR + 2% for the US Dollar amounts and at 5% for the amounts in BDT.

But the present decision is not implementable due to the pendency of injunction given by High Court Division in the BELA proceedings; prohibiting payment to Niko by Petrobangla. The order of injunction given by High Court Division reads: “This order of injunction shall remain in force till disposal of the money suit or till amicable settlement amongst the parties, whichever is earlier.”

In the Tribunal’s decision, it invited the parties to seek an amicable settlement with respect to the modalities for implementing the present decision (payment claim).

The participation in the arbitration proceedings of ICSID by Bangladesh for the settlement of investment dispute between Niko and Petrobangla should be encouraging to foreign investors. Previously, Bangladesh complied with the decisions delivered by ICSID that involved substantial monetary awards against Bangladesh.

Compliance with the decisions given by ICSID in the Niko case will demonstrate Bangladesh’s positive attitude towards its commitment for the protection of the interest of foreign investors with the terms and conditions of BITs and the ICSID convention. This will be particularly important for those interested in investing in the growing marine resource sectors and energy sectors in Bangladesh. At the same time, the decisions of the ICSID Tribunals reveal the areas in which Bangladesh can build greater investor confidence. It is hoped that there shall be an amicable settlement between the parties as to payment claim owed to Petrobangla and compensation for damages caused due to blowout as per decision of ICSID. If this is done, it will increase the inward flow of foreign direct investment in Bangladesh as it will give confidence to foreign investors. The government should put emphasis on such an important issue.
Foreign Investment in Bangladesh

Bangladesh urged Malaysian investors to Invest more in Bangladesh

Bangladesh yesterday urged Malaysian investors to take up new investment ventures in the fast-growing manufacturing, services and infrastructure scoters to help the country reach newer heights of development.

Dhaka also sought technological support from Kuala Lumpur as it has developed expertise in the area.

Officials and entrepreneurs of Bangladesh made the call while addressing the inaugural session of a three-day trade show — “Showcase Bangladesh2014”, which began at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) in collaboration with Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia, Malaysia South-South Association, Malaysia External Trade Development

Cooperation and Malaysian Industrial Development Authority hosted the event for the third time.

Speaking at the function, Malaysian Deputy Minister for International Trade and Industry Dato Lee Chee Leong said there is much that Bangladesh and Malaysia can do for further expansion of bilateral trade and investment. “Events like Showcase Bangladesh provide us with a good platform to explore the business potential,” he said.

Malaysia’s investment in Bangladesh is currently concentrated on energy and telecommunications sectors, he pointed out. “The involvement of Malaysian companies in Bangladesh can be further expanded.”
Several areas like infrastructure, power generation, telecommunications, education and hospitality have been identified as potential sectors for Malaysian involvement and investment in Bangladesh, mentioned Lee Chee Leong.

He said Malaysia would be an ideal gateway for Bangladeshi companies wanting to expand their businesses in the region as Malaysia will assume the chairmanship of Asean next year.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia Atiqur Rahman said Malaysia is among the top 10 investors in Bangladesh, but there is enough scope for further investment.

Relocation of labour-intensive industries, including the textiles and textiles accessories; furniture processing and agro-processing industries, from Malaysia might be the most promising options, said the diplomat.

BMCCI president Nasir A Choudhury, secretary general Raquib Mohammad Fakhrul, treasurer Syed Almas Kabir, chairman of the fair organising committee Syed Nurul Islam and former BMCCI president Syed Moazzem Hossain spoke, among others.

About 60 Bangladeshi companies from banking and insurance services, readymade garments, textiles, infrastructure, ICT and telecom and other sectors have joined the showcase with their products and services.

Partnerships for development: A shared responsibility

UN DayEVERY year on October 24, we celebrate UN Day, commemorating the founding of the United Nations. Since joining 40 years ago, Bangladesh has experienced significant gains in economic growth and human development. In 2000, world leaders met at the UN Headquarters in New York for the Millennium Summit, which introduced to the world the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals would guide development progress towards meeting basic needs and increasing quality of life for all. Bangladesh has become one of the best performing least developed countries (LDC) in MDG attainment, particularly for the goals on maternal mortality, child mortality, poverty reduction, and primary education. Nevertheless, there is still much to be done in the areas of gender empowerment and equality, nutrition, and environmental sustainability. This UN Day, the UN in Bangladesh shines the spotlight on MDG achievements and gaps through seven plays based on each of the human development goals of the MDGs, and performed in the seven divisions of Bangladesh. However, there is often one goal that is forgotten about — MDG 8: A global partnership for development.

What does MDG 8 currently look like?
Around the world, MDG 8 has had mixed success. Targets selected covered official development assistance (ODA), a fairer trade system, evening the competition in agriculture among countries, debt relief and services, and access to medicine and technology. While MDG 8 aimed to “untie aid,” development assistance is not immune from political realities, and can be influenced by shocks in a globalised economic system. Over the past years, ODA in Bangladesh has hovered around approximately $1.8 billion per year. Due to Bangladesh’s strong economy, this development assistance is declining as a percentage of the country’s gross national income even as absolute numbers of this assistance have increased, highlighting that the country has the lead role in its own development, and is better positioned to define the scope of development cooperation.

South-South cooperation and the intersection of global, national, and private sector actors
In Bangladesh, the UN has supported several initiatives in South-South cooperation between developing countries in areas of health, cultural preservation, social protection, homegrown school feeding and volunteerism in disaster management. Bangladesh and the UN are also members of substantive coalitions that identify regional priorities and mobilise on these issues together. As Bangladesh has a large migrant worker community, the UN in Bangladesh is active in the Colombo Process, which is a regional consultative process on the management of overseas employment and contractual labour for countries of origin in Asia. As a relatively nascent initiative, key achievements have included high level regional meets, a training curriculum for labour attachés of sending countries, agreed upon programmes and policies to ensure the safety and welfare of migrant workers, and implementation of recommendations at national level such as compliance of recruitment agencies in countries signatory to the Covenant of Ethical Conduct and Good Practices of Overseas Employment Service Providers.

In order to implement global agreements and protocols, it is also important to cast a wider net for development partners. An example of a multi-faceted partnership was Bangladesh’s approach to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, which set out to eliminate “ozone depleting substances” that contributed to global warming. The partnership approach had three dimensions: the first was a global multilateral fund that resourced the implementation of various initiatives to meet Montreal Protocol targets; the second was strong government regulation and enforcement, along with UN capacity building initiatives and institutional strengthening of the Department of Environment; and the third was proactive private sector partnerships and compliance to phase out the use of substances harmful to the environment in their production methods. As a result, Bangladesh is phasing out the substances that contribute to ozone layer depletion, and it serves as an example of the efficacy of a partnership that involves a multitude of actors with the shared commitment to fulfill development objectives.

Partnerships for development: a national and global imperative
Although these are only two examples amongst many, they do illustrate that development is foremost a national imperative as much as it is a global one. While important, partnerships are not limited to financing but to find solutions together to meet development aspirations. Bangladesh’s performance in the MDGs has proven that political will, a strong local NGO community, civil society, and donors can work together effectively. This is apparent in the Local Consultative Group mechanism that brings together the different actors in the country’s development landscape, providing the policy environment and platform for sustainable and effective development partnerships to flourish. Beyond indicators and targets, MDG 8 is essentially a goal about shared responsibility. The MDGs were created to address the most pressing development issues in the world at the time, and as a result the world has seen the poverty rate halve well before the 2015 deadline. This UN Day serves as a timely reminder that we are all partners in development, that there is still work left to do, and that it is crucial to ensure that we maintain MDG momentum through delivering on the commitments made across all sectors both at national and global levels.

The Bangladesh Development Update: Economy Progressing, but Below Potential

Bangladesh Young GenerationSTORY HIGHLIGHTS
Bangladesh continues to make progress on human development and reducing extreme poverty.
Political uncertainty and weak competitiveness are dragging acceleration of private investment and growth.
To sustain growth in the near- and medium-term, private investment need to increase significantly along with improving the quality of public investment.
The Bangladesh Development Update October 2014 notes that the economy is gradually recovering from prolonged disruptions, aided by political and macroeconomic stability. The challenge now is to consolidate this by accelerating economic growth in an inclusive and sustainable manner. Economic activities in FY14 suffered a setback due to political turmoil, declines in remittance and private investment. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has estimated a 6.1 percent GDP growth for 2014, compared to 6 percent last year.

Progress in poverty reduction and shared prosperity is visible. The poverty incidence, based on national poverty line ($1.13 per capita per day), is projected to decline from 31.5 percent in 2010 to 24.47 percent by 2014. Employment and wage growth appears to have boosted shared prosperity — increased the income of the bottom 40 percent. The UN Human Development Report 2014 says, Bangladesh graduated from Low Human Development (LHD) category to Medium Human Development (MHD) category in 2013.

Overall macroeconomic stability maintained though inflation is still high. Inflation increased to 7.4 percent in FY14 from 6.8 percent in FY13, driven by food price increases. This was due in part to the supply disruptions caused by political unrest in 2013. Stable international oil prices and exchange rate as well as prudent monetary management reduced non-food inflation to 5.5 percent in FY14 from 9.2 percent in FY13.

Despite a lower trade deficit, the current account surplus narrowed in FY14 because of a decline in remittances and an increase in services account deficit. The surplus in balance of payment increased from US$5.1 billion in FY13 to US$5.5 billion, creating an excess supply of foreign exchange. Bangladesh Bank (BB)’s interventions in the foreign exchange market limited nominal appreciation of taka. The real exchange rate appreciated by 8.5% in FY14 relative to FY13 due to small (2.7 percent) nominal appreciation and higher domestic inflation relative to international inflation. Foreign reserve increased to US$21.6 billion in June 2014.

Monetary management was challenged by fast reserve accumulation. BB managed to keep reserve and broad money growth within target by stepping up sterilization operations. BB’s net domestic assets and reserve money targets were met. Private sector credit growth remained subdued at 12.3%. BB increased Cash reserve ratio (CRR) from 6% to 6.5% in June 2014.

Financial sector is not out of the woods yet. Credit and risk management status is unsatisfactory in banking sector. Asset quality in the state-owned commercial banks (SCB) deteriorated in FY14 due to political unrest, poor lending decisions and change in loan classification standards. BB has started implementing the new provisions related to lending and bank’s exposure to stock markets. This should prevent excessive risk taking by the banks.

Fiscal policy is affected by revenue collection and development budget implementation shortfalls. The overall fiscal deficit in FY14 was a modest 3.1 percent of GDP. Public debt as a share of GDP is declining. However, there is little improvement in the quality of the Annual Development Plan (ADP) expenditures. Yet, the size of ADP in FY15 is envisaged to increase by 34 percent relative to the FY14 revised ADP.

Overall pace of structural reforms is slow, but there has been significant progress in the garments industry towards improving working conditions for factory workers, amendments to the labor and the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) laws, government’s capacity in assessing factory safety and agreement on common standards to assess structural building safety. Speedier progress is needed in the implementation of the new VAT law, liberalization of exchange regulations, infrastructure management, and financial supervision.

Growth and inflation outlook is favorable for 2015. Political stability since January, increase in remittance inflows, expected recovery in exports following a weak start, and a buoyant consumption demand than last year, bode well for growth in FY15, which is projected at 6.2 percent. Macroeconomic stability, improved governance in banking system, market development for long term financing, trade liberalization, and stronger attention to efficient implementation of infrastructure investments remain key factors in this process. Underlying inflationary pressures are expected to maintain a downward trend on continued policy restraint. Achieving this will depend on international price trends, domestic supply conditions and macroeconomic policies.

What needs to be done in the near term to sustain growth?

Stronger attention is needed to complete the transition in garments including implementing wage increases and the new labor legislations, recruiting more factory inspectors and completing building inspections followed by remediation measures such as relocation of closed garments factories. Priority should be on completing the ongoing road development projects, i.e. Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh highway; Double Tracking of Dhaka-Chittagong Railway; the Padma Bridge; Dhaka metro rail; and the two Bibiyana gas field based power plants. Immediate action should be taken to enact the Public Private Partnership (PPP) law, and awarding contracts for building Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

UN rights experts urge Bangladesh to halt the execution of opposition party leader Muhammad Kamaruzzaman

Justice GavelTwo United Nations human rights experts today urged the Government of Bangladesh to stay the execution of Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, leader of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, condemned to death for crimes against humanity.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on summary executions, Christof Heyns, and on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, expressed serious concern at reports that Mr. Kamaruzzaman could be executed as early as Thursday 6 November 2014 at midnight.

Earlier this week, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court confirmed Mr. Kamaruzzaman’s sentence to death handed down by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal on 9 May 2013.

The International Crimes Tribunal is a special domestic court with the jurisdiction to try and punish any person accused of committing atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, in Bangladesh, including during the country’s 1971 independence war.

The UN human rights experts have on several occasions expressed alarm regarding serious violations of fair trial and due process guarantees in the judicial proceedings before the Tribunal that were reported to them.

“In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, capital punishment may be imposed only following a trial that complied with the most stringent guarantees of fair trial and due process,” the experts noted. “Any death sentence executed in contravention of a Government’s international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution.”

“A person sentenced to death must also have the right to seek pardon or commutation of his sentence,” Mr. Heyns and Ms. Knaul stressed.

The UN Special Rapporteurs also reiterated their calls that all the defendants before the International Crimes Tribunal, including the Appellate Division, receive fair trials.

European retailers pin high hopes on Bangladesh garment

Bangladesh's apparel sector

Bangladesh’s apparel sector will continue to thrive due to retailers’ growing confidence and the country’s ability to supply garments at competitive prices, said officials of Foreign Trade Association, a Brussels-based platform mainly of European retailers.

The platform with 1,400 active members has different wings such as Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) and Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI).

“My guess is that Bangladesh’s garment sector will continue to grow. But it depends on how its competitors are doing. The buyers have good links with Bangladesh and a good relationship with the factory owners,” said Lorenz Berzau, managing director of BSCI.

Berzau along with Christian Ewert, director general of the association, was in Dhaka recently to see progress of a training programme on compliance in the garment sector.

The BSCI gives guidelines to the members on different issues, Berzau told The Daily Star at The Westin Hotel on October 23.

The association has continuously been running the training programmes as the retailers also have a responsibility towards sustainable business practices, he said.

Both the officials spoke about the prospects and problems of the country’s $25 billion garment sector that has been going through major reforms since the Rana Plaza building collapse in April last year.
“Bangladesh needs responsible entrepreneurship as garment is already a mature industry. If garment owners become more responsible, they will one day not require any foreign firm to coach them on compliance issues for sustainability,” Berzau said.

The BSCI, on behalf of Foreign Trade Association and the retailers, has been working with garment factory owners, managers and workers to improve their compliance with labour laws, workers’ rights, fire safety and environmental issues, he said. In Bangladesh, the BSCI held seven training programmes on fire safety, which were attended by more than 100 people from 110 factories this year. Around 230 people from 150 factories participated in eight programmes last year.

On price hike by retailers, Berzau said the retailers are probably ready to pay more, but they need to know that the extra amount will go to workers.

The government, employers and trade unions should regularly review workers’ wages, he added.

Berzau said, to help the sector grow further, Bangladesh needs a reasonable approach to compliance, including important issues like management styles, health and safety, wages and working hours.

On changing the management styles, the BSCI gives training to owners, management teams and workers on how to improve industrial relations to ensure a safe workplace, he said. “Industrial relations have improved a lot in Bangladesh. The incidents of unrest in the sector declined a lot over the years. We are continuing motivational training programmes in Bangladesh.”

“The key message is that we are working for greater capacity building and responsible business among retailers, factory owners, management and workers,” said Ewert of the Foreign Trade Association. Currently, Bangladesh is the second largest apparel supplier worldwide after China. Bangladesh exported garment items worth $24.5 billion in fiscal 2013-14 and the export target for the current fiscal year has been set at $26.90 billion.

Bangladesh, Belarus Relation – Opens New Friendship corridor

Bangladesh Belarus  RelationBangladesh and Belarus Monday signed a dozen of deals and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for cooperation in a number of areas, including business and investment, agriculture, education, and science and technology, reports BSS.
Representatives of the two countries signed seven deals and five MoUs in presence of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Belarus’ visiting PM Mikhail Myasnikovich.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Belarus counterpart Mikhail Myasnikovich witnessed the signing of the pacts, which are expected to boost better understanding in all fields and open a new chapter of bilateral exports.
Earlier, two prime ministers held bilateral talks at the Prime Minister’s Office.
At the meeting Sheikh Hasina sought expanded market of Bangladeshi products in Belarus.
“Our Prime Minister urged Belarus to import an increased volume of readymade garments, jute products, frozen food, ceramics and other exportables during her talks with the Belarus premier,” a senior foreign ministry official familiar with the talks said.
The Belarus side assured Bangladesh of extending her hands to ensure expanded entry of Bangladeshi products to Customs Union between Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia founded in 2010 as the three countries opted for economic integration removing all customs borders.
Sheikh Hasina, he said, noted with satisfaction that despite the past two decades of diplomatic ties with the former Soviet Union state, Dhaka- Minsk relations grew rapidly in the past 10 months with several engagements and exchanges.
The official said the Belarus premier told Sheikh Hasina that his country was interested in long-term cooperation with Bangladesh as it already proposed installation of plant of its world reputed Minsk Tractor Factory in Bangladesh and finalised several other investment projects at private sector level.
The two premiers, he said, expected the two countries will be able to give a tangible shape the proposals for enhanced cooperation for mutual benefit ahead of the first meeting of Bangladesh-Belarus Joint Commission, set for next year in Minsk.
The meeting held a day after Myasnikovich arrived in Dhaka on a three-day tour yielded a dozen of bilateral pacts, including seven agreements and five MoUs in areas ranging between investment promotion to military technical cooperation as well as collaborations in the fields of agriculture, education, science and technology and think tanks.
Earlier :Belarus offers $15mn for Bangladesh’s apparel industry development

Belarus has offered Bangladesh $15 million as long-term assistance for the development of readymade garment sector.
Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail V Myasnikovich made the offer during a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the UN Headquarters on Wednesday morning (local time).

Hasina is in New York to attend the 69th UN General Assembly.

Later, briefing reporters, her Media Advisor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said the prime minister had emphasised boosting cooperation in investment and trade.

He said Myasnikovich congratulated Hasina on her election as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister for the third time.

He said the Belarusian prime minister showed interest in exporting potash to Bangladesh and import pharmaceutical and agricultural products.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Hasina along with other heads of state and government attended a reception hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Apart from joining a luncheon hosted by the UN secretary-general, the prime minister is scheduled to attend a high-level meeting of the ‘Global Education First Initiative’ (GEFI) at the UN headquarters later in the day.

She will address the UNGA on Saturday.

Hasina will also meet her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that day on the sidelines of the UNGA.

She will spend two days in the United Kingdom before returning home on Oct 2.

Bangladesh and China : Full use of ties can boost development

Akbar Ali Khan, former advisorIf Bangladesh and China can fully utilise their friendship, then both the countries will benefit in all sectors, including economy and culture, said speakers at a seminar yesterday.

Speakers were addressing the seminar titled “Rise of China and Sino Bangla Relation” at a hotel in the capital.

Bangladesh Cultural Academy Foundation organised the programme marking the 65th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and the 39th anniversary of Bangladesh China Diplomatic Relation.

Qu Guangzhou, charge d’ affairs of the Chinese embassy, said China is always with Bangladesh, and it wants to develop the bilateral relationship.

He further said that his country has become one of Bangladesh’s important trade partners, and that the Chinese government encourages export of goods to China.

Akbar Ali Khan, former advisor to a caretaker government, said China has shown great development in its economic sector.

He said the reason was the country’s great leadership, and urged Bangladesh to follow China’s example.

He further urged countries in Asia to develop connectivity among their people to see real development in the area. BNP standing Committee member Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman, former minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yousuf, former vice chancellor of Dhaka University Emazuddin Ahmed, President of the Communist Party Bangladesh [CPB] Mujahidul Islam Selim and Chinese Economic Councillor Wano Zijian, among others, also spoke in the seminar.