Fruits adulterators to face death penalty

The High Court has directed police to sue traders using chemicals to ripen and preserve fruits under the Special Powers Act, 1974.

 

The criminal offence under the act carries maximum death penalty.

 

A division bench comprising Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim on Wednesday ruled that the use of chemicals to ripen and preserve fruits is illegal.

 

The judges ordered Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) and law enforcers to continuously monitor fruit depots across the country so that contaminated fruits cannot be stored or sold.

 

They directed National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Customs authorities to monitor border points like Benapole and Chittagong ports to prevent the import of contaminated fruits.

 

NBR and Customs authorities will conduct tests of fruits at border points to examine whether chemicals are mixed with imported fruits, the bench said.

 

The HC judges came up with the directives after holding hearing on a petition by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh woos Omani investors

Muscat: 15-member Bangladesh Trade Delegation led by officials of Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau, Ministry of Commerce, is currently visiting Oman offering investment opportunities in two-way trade in furniture and interior decor products.

The main aim of the delegation is to extend an invitation to Omani businessmen for the first Bangladesh furniture and interior decor Expo-2012 to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh during April 25-28, 2012. The expo will showcase furniture, furniture accessories, and interior décor products made of high class technology, blended with sophisticated hand curving, hand weaving and creativity of artisans and craftsmen.

Expecting a substantial increase in investment flows and enhanced export orders, a visiting official, Abdur Rouf, Deputy Director (Commodity-2), Export promotion Bureau, Ministry of Commerce of Bangladesh, said that the government has also taken numerous initiatives to promote exports.

At a function held yesterday to facilitate an interaction meeting between the visiting delegation and furniture dealers in Oman, Nurul Islam, Ambassador of People’s Republic of Bangladesh to Oman, said, “In recent years, Bangladesh has been devoting utmost efforts for attracting foreign direct investments (FDI) offering a host of lucrative incentives and benefits. We offer a strong local market, greater global market access and proven export competitiveness.”

‘We recognise foreign investment as the key driver and catalyst of economic growth and development to build the envisioned Digital Bangladesh. We have announced public-private partnership (PPP) opportunities in industrial and social infrastructure sectors to develop strategic relationships with investors. Omani investors are warmly welcomed to join hands with their potential Bangladesh counterparts, many of whom are present here,” he added.

According to Mohammed Khorshed A. Khastagir, counsellor (political) and head of chancery, Embassy of People’s Republic of Bangladesh, “Currently the bilateral trade between Oman and Bangladesh is miniscule, less than one million dollars. We are expecting to increase our exports through such exchange of business delegation, organisation of trade fairs as we have set target to organise a single country trade expo in December this year.”

Bangladesh to resume new gas connections to industrial users by April

Bangladesh will resume new gas connections to industrial users by April 2012, as supplies to the national grid are set to increase, Prime Minister’s adviser on energy issues Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said Tuesday.

The country had suspended new connections to industrial users since June 2009, as natural gas demand outpaced supply and existing consumers were not getting gas at adequate pressure.

“We will start giving new gas connections to industrial consumers from March-April on a limited scale,” Chowdhury said.

Natural gas production is expected rise by around 100,000 Mcf/day by April, when a number of new state-owned gas wells will start production in Fenchuganj and Salda fields, he said.

Chevron’s Maulovi Bazar gas field is also set to raise production by 30,000 Mcf/d by April 2012. A new gas compressor station at Muchai will start operations by then to supply the gas to the national gas grid, he added.

Chowdhury, however, did not say anything about resuming fresh connections to household consumers.

State-run Petrobangla stopped new gas connections to households since July 2010.

Chowdhury also suggested the business community set up new industries in the gas-rich northeastern region. “You will get natural gas and power connections there easily,” he said.

Industry owners have long been demanding new gas connections to run their factories. Demand for natural gas in Bangladesh is mounting in line with the steady GDP growth, which has been around 6% since 2003, the highest since independence in 1971.

Currently the government is struggling to meet the growing domestic natural gas demand as the overall output hovers around 2.06 Bcf/d against the demand for over 2.50 Bcf/d.

Hundreds of industries have been forced to shut and many reduced operating rates due to gas shortage.

Gas rationing has also been implemented and CNG stations being shut for four hours every day to cope with the shortage of natural gas.

Bangladesh to launch 20K sites for e-services boost

The Bangladesh government says it plans to launch 20,000 Web sites by 2015 in order to bring e-services to the masses as part of its Digital Bangladesh vision.

Local newspaper The Daily Star reported Monday that these sites will be developed and hosted by the government under the National Portal Framework (NPF) in districts, subdistricts, divisions, ministries and directorates, according to Anir Chowdhury, policy adviser for Access to Information (A2I) at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Scheduled to launch in July this year, the NPF is being developed both by the government and the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) to extend e-services and information to citizens, the report stated.

The Web sites are part of the government’s vision for Digital Bangladesh, and will contain various types of information and services including updates regarding the country, unions, social safety nets, and disaster warning. There will also be documents on land management and forums for farmers and fishery workers, said Chowdhury in the report.

According to Chowdhury, the government will finance training officials to operate and update the sites’ content. Content providers will also be able to update and share data, integrating them with current and future e-services.

Bangladesh H1 trade deficit rises 28 pct

Bangladesh’s trade deficit rose about 28 percent to nearly $3.9 billion during the July-December first half of the fiscal year, boosted by higher fuel imports, a central bank official said on Tuesday.

The trade deficit was about $3.05 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year.

Bangladesh earned $13.9 billion from July to December by exporting goods overseas while spending $17.8 billion on imports, the official said.

Fuel imports increased 68 percent to $2.42 billion in the fiscal first half, boosted both by rising prices and higher volumes.

The trade deficit may ease slightly in the rest of the fiscal year due to declining imports of grains, with a bumper rice harvest expected, and of luxury goods, said Mohammad Ibrahim Khaled, an economist and former deputy governor of the central bank.

The central bank has adopted measures to discourage luxury imports to ease pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

Khaled said the authorities should move to discourage imports and encourage exports to rein in the trade deficit.

“It is essential to narrow the trade gap to have a healthy economy,” he said. (Reporting By Serajul Quadir; Editing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

Bangladesh’s exporters lose fastest boat to China.

Bangladeshi exporters looking to gain from a direct shipping service to China have had their hopes dashed with the suspension this month of the first such link barely five months after it was initiated. They key problem – there are just too few goods heading China’s way.

“The ships which were coming from China directly to Bangladesh were going back with almost empty containers,” Rafiqul Islam, Bangladesh country representative of Singapore-based Pacific International Lines (PIL), told Asia Times Online.

The service loss is also a blow to the Bangladeshi government, keen to boost exports to rein in a trade deficit that widened more

than 25% in the five months through November compared with a year earlier.

The direct link meant goods took between 12 and 15 days, saving nearly a week compared with other routes, which take in a stop at Singapore. Vessels may even take “around 25 to 28 days to reach Chittagong, as there can be delays at the Singapore port”, an official of another Singapore-based shipping company told Asia Times Online.

The blow to Bangladeshi exporters comes at a time when shipping companies are raising rates around the world amid higher fuel prices and after incurring losses last year as international global trade growth slowed just when a large number of new vessels were coming into service. Maersk Line, the world’s largest container ship operator, this week reported a fourth-quarter loss of US$633 million and forecast a second sucessive full-year loss in 2012. Some vessels, their speeds reduced to save fuel, are now reportedly travelling slower than in the days of sail.

“This is happening due to the global economic situation,” said the official of one Singapore-based shipping company. “The demand for goods in the US and in Europe has reduced a lot and this is leading to severe losses for shippers, who are coming up with effective solutions to cut losses.”

PIL, which suspended the service for two months, may close it after that if exports from Bangladesh to China do not increase significantly. For the moment, “the company is going to withdraw three ships out of five from the route during February and March of this year,” said Islam. The remaining two will call at Singapore [from Chittagong] during that period.

PIL started the “landmark” shipping link last September 9, with five ships that sailed between Shanghai, Ningbo in nearby Zhejiang province, and Nansha in Guangdong province and Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh.

The decision to initiate a direct link from China to Bangladesh was “premature”, said Manjur Ahmed, adviser of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI).

“We import a lengthy list of items from China, but we do not export much to them, as their domestic consumption and production is quite high,” he told Asia Times Online.

Even so, immediately after PIL introduced its direct route, it immediately faced added competition for customers when Maersk introduced four vessels on the route – albeit including a stop-over in Singapore.

When each PIL vessel had a capacity of 1,200 to 1,500 twenty-foot equivalent units (or TEUs, an industry standard), only around 400 to 500 TEUs arrived from China. “If the same amount was going back, we would not have worried. But of late, around 100 TEUs hardly get filled,” said Islam. Even a reduction in container rent from $1,000 to $600 failed to boost business.

“On top of this, as the fuel price is increasing, our losses are piling up,” said Islam, who had earlier said PIL was incurring losses of nearly US$1 million per voyage.

“During February and March, we will continue to carry cargo between Bangladesh and China through transhipment via Singapore. Three ships will carry containers from China to Singapore and then they will be brought to Chittagong port through a feeder service. This will take maximum 15 days, compared with 12 days with the direct route,” said Islam.

“We will re-evaluate the situation after March. If the exports to China do not increase drastically, we will have to shut down operations on this route altogether.”

Importers in Bangladesh reportedly saved around $120 in freight cost per container with the direct link. These importers bring in around $7 billion worth of goods from China annually, including electronics, fabrics, machinery, raw materials and and fruit annually. Chinese goods accounted for nearly 21% of Bangladesh’s $33 billion imports in the 12 months to last June.

Exports are more limited, with China buying about $400 million worth of goods from Bangladesh, including raw jute, apparel and leather, last year. The direct link encouraged the export of around 150,000 bales of jute from the Khulna belt of Bangladesh. Exports of the material to China were worth $11.9 million between July to October.

The prospects of a direct link being renewed appear poor. “In the near future, there will be fewer chances for such links with China as our marketing network with the country is poor and there are no permanent buyers there,” FBCCI’s Ahmed said.

Among other big shipping lines, Maersk declared a cut in its capacity on the Asia-Europe routes last November. Around the same time, Orient Overseas (International) Ltd (OOIL) announced a cut in capacity on European routes by 20% as they had lost money during the third quarter of 2011.

France’s leading container shipping company, Marseilles’ CMA CGM, has increased freight rates for services for routes from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to the US East Coast.
Israeli container carrier Zim is increasing its rates between the Indian subcontinent and Europe, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region by US$750 per TEU effective from March 1. Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, MOL, Hanjin and United Arab Shipping Co (UASC) are also raising rates on Asia-Europe.

South-Korea’s Hanjin Shipping and 14 other members of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) announced on February 9 an increase in rates of $300 per 40-foot box in March. TSA members also decided to raise rates by $500 per container in annual contracts starting around May. Industry-wide losses totalled $5.2 billion in 2011, due to price wars and higher fuel costs, according to Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd.

Neurotransmitter key to financial loss response

Financial market traders and keen gamblers take note. Scientists have found that a chemical in the region of the brain involved in sensory and reward systems is crucial to whether people simply brush off the pain of financial losses.

Scientists say the study points the way to the possible development of drugs to treat problem gamblers and sheds light on what may have been going on in the brains of Wall Street and City of London traders as the 2008 financial crisis took hold.

“Pathological gambling that happens at regular casinos is bad enough, but I think it’s also happening a lot now at Casino Wall Street and Casino City of London,” said Julio Licinio, editor of the Molecular Psychiatry journal which reviewed and published the brain study on Tuesday.

“We like to believe we all have free will and make whatever decisions we want to, but this shows it’s not so easy,” he said in a telephone interview. “Many people have a predisposure to make certain kinds of decisions.”

For the study, a team of researchers led by Hidehiko Takahashi of the Kyoto University graduate school of medicine in Japan, scanned the brains of 19 healthy men with positron emission tomography (PET) scans after they had completed a gambling task.

“LOSS AVERSION”

The experiment showed that a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, called norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, is central to the response to losing money.

Those with low levels of norepinephrine transporters had higher levels of the chemical in a crucial part of their brain – leading them to be less aroused by and less sensitive to the pain of losing money, the researchers found.

People with higher levels of transporters and therefore lower levels of norepinephrine or noradrenaline have what is known as “loss aversion,” where they have a more pronounced emotional response to losses compared to gains.

Loss aversion can vary widely between people, the researchers explained. While most people would only enter a two outcome gamble if it were possible to win more than they could lose, people with impaired decision making show reduced sensitivity to financial loss.

“This research uses sophisticated brain scanning to improve our understanding of the way that our appetite for risk is linked to the way that chemical messengers operate in the brain,” said Derek Hill, a professor of medical imaging science at University College London who was not involved in the research but intrigued by its findings.

“It is quite preliminary work, but has many intriguing implications,” he said, adding this sort of imaging could in future be used to help test drugs to treat people who indulge excessively in risky behavior.

Alexis Bailey, a lecturer in neuropharmacology at Britain’s University of Surrey, said scientists now need to analyze known pathological gamblers to confirm whether they have higher levels of these brain chemical transporters than non-gamblers.

“Also there is a need to investigate if noradrenaline transporters are also increased in brain regions traditionally associated with decision making and emotional aspects of aversion such as the prefrontal cortex and amygdala,” he said.

1000 unions to get internet facilities

In its move to digitalise Bangladesh, the government on Tuesday decided to reach internet facilities to people of 1,006 union councils through optical fibre cable.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) cleared a project in this regard in a meeting chaired by prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

The project’s objective is to extend reliable, cheap and easily accessible facilities of information and communication technology, planning minister A K Khandker told reporters after the meeting.

The project styled, Developing Optical Fibre Cable Network in 1000 Union Parishad, will cost Tk 7.19 billion, he said.

A total of 11,060 kilometre optical fibre cable will need to be laid to connect the 1,006 council, the minister said.

The top economic policymaking body also approved five other projects, including one to give internet facilities to rural people through post offices.

Rural people will be able to communicate with their relatives abroad through web cameras and receive money from them quickly once the Tk 5.41 billion-project, titled Post-E-Centre for Rural Community, is implemented.

The four other projects cleared are to develop Jahangirnagar University at an estimated cost of Tk 790 million, create employment opportunities in upazilas or sub-districts with Tk 1 billion, secure food and livelihood with Tk 2.23 billion and set up farms to produce seeds in coastal districts of Barisal and Patuakhali with Tk 1.45 billion.

Finance minister A M A Muhith, agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury, shipping minister Shahjahan Khan, among others, attended the meeting.

PM to launch work for 3 bridges in Patuakhali

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is in Patuakhali to lay the foundation stones of three bridges named after her three late brothers – Sheikh Jamal, Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Rasel- on Saturday.

Hasina reached Patuakhali around 10:30am where she is set to lay the foundation stones of the three bridges and launch various development projects costing around Tk 2 billion.

The prime minister inaugurated the newly founded Rangabali upazila complex and later exchanged views with the local residents, our correspondent informed.

She will also inaugurate the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation financed 112-bed Juba Pantha Nibas ( Youth hostel) and Kuakata hospital with a 20-bed capacity. The prime minister will also lay the foundation stone of the newly formed Kuakata municipal office, he added.

Hasina will address a public rally at the Mozahar Uddin Biswas College grounds in Kalapara around 3pm organised by the local Awami League.

The Shaheed Sheikh Kamal bridge is on the Andarmanik river on Kalapara-Kuakate road, the Shaheed Sheikh Jamal bridge is on the Sonatala river at Hazirpur and the Shaheed Sheikh Rasel brigde is on the Shibbaria river at Mohipur.

“The approximate length of the 891.76 metre long Shaheed Sheikh Kamal bridge, the 482.37 metre long Shaheed Sheikh Jamal and the 408.36 metre long Sheikh Rasel bridge will be completed in three years with an estimated cost of Tk 1.47 billion,” the executive engineer of the Roads and Highways department of Patuakhali Kamalendu Majumder said.

Bangladesh-India ties on right track

The relationship between Bangladesh and India is on the right track, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni has said.

“We have good report card for the last three years,” she said at the two-day India-Bangladesh Dialogue here Sunday.

However, she admitted that “not all has been achieved”, bdnews24.com reported.

“But we have to work together and should not be discouraged over what we have not been able to achieve,” she said.

Former Indian high commissioner to Dhaka and special secretary of Indian foreign ministry Pinak Chakravarty said one should not be pessimistic due to some setbacks.

“We (Indians) are determined not to deter due to the setbacks,” he said.

The Bangladeshi minister said the relationship between the two countries is in a transformational phase due to political will of the top leadership.

“Earlier there was no political will but now we have political will, courage and vision to boost the relationship,” she said.

Chakravarty said: “This has been possible due to visionary leadership of the two countries.”

“Now we have entered into the implementation stage of agreements (signed between the two countries),” he added.

Pinak said India is grateful to Bangladesh for addressing security concerns.

“We are very happy with the security situation and grateful to the government of Bangladesh for providing cooperation in this regard,” he said.

On border killings, he said BSF (India’s Broder Security Force) has been strictly instructed not to open fire and they are trying to obey the order.

“You may not be surprised to know that since the order, there have been 153 attacks on BSF and one soldier was dead,” he said.

The minister said foreign investment is welcome but some measures must be taken for that.

“Investing in other countries is a manifestation of sovereignty and some mechanism will be developed to allow Bangladeshi businessmen to invest abroad,” she said.

Currently, Bangladeshi businessmen are not allowed to invest abroad.

Pinak said Bangladeshi goods enjoy duty- and quota-free access to India.

“The current export figure is about $500 million, whereas in my time (Pinak left in 2009) it was $60 million or $100 million,” he said.

Issues related to agriculture, food security, trade and investment, energy cooperation and border infrastructure connectivity were discussed in the conference organised jointly by Bangladesh Unnayun Parishad and India-based Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development.

Bangladesh-Russia $850 million aircraft purchase deal

Sources :A delegation of Russian defence exports giant Rosoboronexport is visiting the capital to give final shape to the proposed arms purchase deal of $850 million between Dhaka and Moscow, .

The six-member Russian side is led by Anatoly P Isaikin, chief of Rosoboronexport, sole state intermediary agency for export and import of military and dual-purpose products, technologies and services.

Rosoboronexport, which sold military hardware worth over $11 billion worldwide last year, has shown interest in supplying arms and ammunition after Moscow assured Dhaka of providing fund on suppliers’ credit.

The delegation called on prime minister Sheikh Hasina at Ganabhaban on the day, said the state-owned news agency, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.

The prime minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told the BSS that various issues relating to bilateral interests were discussed at the meeting. The prime minister recalled Russia’s contribution to Bangladesh’s war of independence and its post-war rebuilding activities, he added.

Ambassador-at-large M Ziauddin, prime minister’s principal secretary Sheikh Md Wahid Uz Zaman, PMO secretary Mollah Waheeduzzaman, prime minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad, prime minister’s special assistant Abdus Sobhan Golap and Russian ambassador in Dhaka Gennady P Trotsenko, among others, were present.

The Rosoboronexport chief arrived in Dhaka on Friday night by a chartered plane to have last minute parley on the proposed arms deal on suppliers’ credit.

His visit followed initial negotiations held late last year between officials of the two countries.

Major general Abdul Matin of the Armed Forces Division had led the six-member Bangladesh team at the two-day talks in Moscow in December 1-2.

KV Vyshkovskiy, director of state debt and state financial assets, led the Russian side that showed keen interest in providing state export credit to Dhaka for buying Russian military hardware over four to six years.

Finance minister AMA Muhith told New Age that ministries and divisions were negotiating with the state-owned credit agencies of foreign countries for loans.

‘There were many offers for loans, including suppliers’ credit, by Russia and China,’ he said.

The finance minister noted that the government would accept the loan deals which would benefit the country.

Sources said the proposed suppliers’ credit agreement would be the biggest defence procurement deal between Bangladesh and Russia.

Bangladesh rules out early transit facility.

Bangladesh yesterday ruled out granting early transit facility to India citing lack of adequate infrastructure to support it.
Announcing the decision, Finance minister A M A Muhith laid emphasis on the development of infrastructure for allowing transit facility to India, saying that existing infrastructures at home are not enough to support transit.
“Transit is important but the development of infrastructures is the basic and more important for making the transit effective,” he said while speaking at the inaugural session of a two-day dialogue on India-Bangladesh relations in Dhaka.
Two think-tanks Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad and Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, India, jointly organised the dialogue.
PKSF chairman Dr Quazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmed and executive vice- chairman of CRRID Rashpal Malhotra took part in the discussion.
Speaking at the programme as the chief guest, Muhith said transit facility between the two countries had been there since 1947 but it remained suspended for a very brief period during Indo-Pakistan war in 1965.
Rejecting the allegations that there is high possibility of carrying out fraudulent activities in the name of transiting goods, the finance minister said modern technology can check such activities very easily.
Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Sanjay Bhattacharyya in his speech laid stress on strengthening people-to- people contact between the two countries to stop border firing, smuggling and human trafficking.
Referring to recent border shootings by Indian Border Security Force, Bhattacharyya said smuggling, human trafficking and different anti-social activities were mainly responsible for such shootings.
He said India has been working to contain such firing in the border areas.