Sahara Group set to become Bangladesh cricket sponsor

India’s business giant Sahara Group is set to become the new sponsor of the Bangladesh cricket team after offering $9.4 million over four years in a tender process that ended on Wednesday, officials said.

“We are delighted to announce that Sahara has appeared the highest bidder to become new sponsor of our national team,” Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president AHM Mustafa Kamal told reporters.

“They have offered $9.4 million for four years. We will soon formally announce them as our sponsor,” said Kamal, without giving any further details.

Officials said Sahara offered more than double their nearest rivals Robi Axiata Ltd – a joint venture between Malaysia mobile phone operator Axiata Group and Japan’s leading mobile phone service provider NTT Docomo Inc – which offered $4.28 million.

Bangladesh’s top mobile phone operator Grameenphone, the team’s previous sponsor and the only other bidder, offered $3.2 million, said the officials.

Grameenphone paid the BCB 100 million Bangladesh takas ($1.22 million) for a two-year deal, which expired in December 2011.

Sahara, which also sponsors India’s national cricket team, recently entered the Bangladesh market through its subsidiary Sahara Matribhumi Unnayan Corporation Ltd.

The company said it has a primary investment plan of about $120 million for a township-housing scheme near the capital Dhaka.

Sahara, which sponsors India’s men’s and women’s hockey teams, was co-sponsor of the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi. ($1 = 81.8750 Bangladesh takas)

Founder fearful about future of Bangladesh’s Nobel-winning micrelender

Prof Muhammad Yunus, founder of Bangladesh’s Nobel-winning microcredit organisation — Grameen Bank (GB) — yesterday urged stakeholders and government of the country not to take any step to change the legal structure of the GB.

In an open letter to the borrower owners of Grameen Bank, Yunus, who along with the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work making small loans to poor entrepreneurs, expressed his fear that steps were afoot to alter the management system of the bank.

The Bangladesh government on May 16 constituted a four-member commission to probe Grameen Bank and its 54 associated organisations, and make recommendations on how to run the organisations in future.

“I can see clearly that the future of Grameen Bank will be at stake if the government increases its role in the bank’s management by amending the legal structure,” Yunus said in the 24-page letter.

The terms of reference, given to the commission, raise fears that Grameen Bank will never be the same again, according to Prof Yunus.

The commission has been assigned to identify Grameen Bank’s institutional strengths, weaknesses and constraints over the 27 years from its inception in 1983 to 2010.

Yunus said the poor women were the real owners of the bank and they had the supreme authority to make decisions on the bank.

“To take away the decision-making power from the poor women and their ownership would derail Grameen Bank from its mission,” said the founder of the bank.

Any step to change the current structure of the bank will turn it into another government run or directed bank which will destroy the unique nature and character of Grameen Bank, said Yunus.

The Nobel laureate stressed the need for keeping up the current law, management structure and work policy through which Grameen Bank had become one of the renowned organisations around the world.

“Grameen Bank is a disciplined bank. If it becomes a government organisation, different conflicts and vested interests, including politicisation and bureaucratisation, may infiltrate the bank,” Yunus said.

He questioned how it would be possible for the commission to complete its huge task with its inadequate manpower in just three months.

“If the commission gives wrong advice due to time constraints and lack of experience in the field of micro-credit, the consequences might be terrible for poor Bangladeshi women, who own 97 percent of the bank,” he said.

“This type of task is usually given to the best researchers of the best research organisations as a long-term project. To prepare the inquiry report, it is necessary to confer with people who have set up and managed such organisations. It is also necessary to talk to such organisations and those who are familiar with its operations.”

About the other organisations, Yunus said, Grameen Bank did not establish any organisation itself as the law does not permit the bank to do so.

Yunus said he had created many organisations on his own initiative to address problems surrounding education, agriculture, communication, electricity and health.

“There are reasons behind the creation of these organisations. When we go to work with poor people we have to face many problems besides loans,” said Yunus.

“When I faced problems, I created a company as a way of solving them. I got such a mechanism in place so that they could operate from their own earnings and without counting on others. In that way, if any company fails, it will not take others down with it,” he said.

These companies have not been created for anyone to earn profit from them. There is no scope for making personal profit from these organisations, he said.

“I have no share or ownership in Grameen or any of these companies. I also have no share in Grameen Bank. So there was no scope for me to get profits from these companies, neither before nor now.”

Yunus said there should be a national consensus about Grameen Bank as it is an organisation of national pride.

“Regardless of your political affiliation or profession or age or any other circumstance you may find yourself in, we can make an effort together as citizens of Bangladesh to convince the government that changing the legal structure of Grameen Bank will most definitely be a wrong decision,” he said.

Qatar keen to fund Padma bridge

Qatar is keen to invest in Bangladesh’s major projects, including Padma bridge construction, a power project, airport upgrade, river dredging and a manpower training institute.

A 10-member delegation led by Assistant Minister for International Cooperation Affairs of Qatar Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Jabr Al Thani opened talks with Bangladesh yesterday.

Bangladesh is negotiating with Qatar for funds for the construction of Padma bridge, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, who led Bangladesh at the meeting, told reporters after the three-hour meeting at Sonargaon Hotel.

“We have already signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia. If it is feasible, acceptable and agreed by all the parties, we can have a tripartite agreement,” she said.

The Qatari minister said the Padma bridge is a key project his country is pursuing.

The $2.9 billion Padma bridge project has stalled, as the World Bank, the lead co-financier, raised allegations of corruption in it. Other financers, including JICA, ADB and IDB have also suspended funds.

With Qatar, Bangladesh placed a number of projects — a 1,000 megawatt LNG-based power plant to be built at the cost of $1.3 billion at Moheshkhali, procurement of five dredgers and ancillary equipment for the revival of the river systems at $55.26 million and a technical training centre that may cost $11 million.

The construction of the third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and construction of a cargo village at $405 million, upgrading the Kadda-Joydevpur-Debogram-Bhulta-Madanpur road (Dhaka bypass) into four lanes at $140 million were also on the list.

Jabr Al Thani said they are very much interested to conclude the agreements with Bangladesh as soon as possible.

He said his country has been experiencing an influx of workers as it is building infrastructure for the World Cup 2022, which is going to be held in the Middle Eastern country.

Dipu Moni said the government of Qatar will assist Bangladesh in establishing a manpower training centre.

After the meeting, Air Vice Marshal Mahmud Hussain, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, said the investors have showed interest to fund the construction of a new airport in Bangladesh.

“We have delineated the rules of investment in Bangladesh while we discussed business with the investors,” said Saidur Rahman, general manager of Bangladesh Bank’s forex reserve and treasury management.

“They are interested to invest in Bangladesh in different sectors as they have no liquidity problem,” he said.

Officials of different ministries and departments made separate presentations to brief the Qatari side of the project proposals.

The two ministers signed the agreed minutes of the meeting to form a joint working committee to follow up on the investment plans.

Later, the Qatari delegation met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Gono Bhaban in the capital yesterday.

Hasina appreciated Qatar for showing interest to explore the possibilities of investment in Bangladesh, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Terming the bilateral relations with Qatar warm, Hasina recalled her recent meetings with the Emir of Qatar on the sidelines of the 13th UNCTAD in Doha in April and at the 66th UNGA in New York in 2011.

She also requested Qatar to recruit more from Bangladesh.

The Qatar minister said his country would encourage recruitment of professionals such as doctors, engineers, nurses, IT experts and bankers

Sahara inks deal to build Notun Dhaka in Bangladesh

Sahara India Pariwar, a major business conglomerate in India has on Friday announced its entry into the housing & infrastructure sector of Bangladesh.

The group’s, newly formed Bangladesh based company ‘Sahara Matribhumi Unnayan Corporation Limited’ has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Housing and Public Works of Bangladesh Government, to invest in the development of housing industry in Bangladesh.
‘Sahara Matribhumi Unnayan Corporation Limited’ will conceptualize, design and plan a new city near Dhaka, i.e. Notun Dhaka (New Dhaka) and will build affordable housing for low income groups with Housing Finance support for majority applicants. The newly formed company will also conceptualize, design and plan various integrated satellite townships under the Ministry of Housing & Public Works (MOPW) of the Government of Bangladesh.

The MoU was signed by Saharasri Subrata Roy Sahara, Managing Worker & Chairman, Sahara India Pariwar and Mr. Nurul Huda, Chairman, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK). The event was witnessed by Mr. Abdul Mannan Khan, State Minister for Housing & Public Works and other top bureaucrats, politicians and senior officials of the Bangladesh Government.

The eventful 4 day visit of Saharasri Subrata Roy Sahara was concluded with positive notes after having meetings with Dr. S. A. Samad, Executive Chairman of Board of Investments (BOI), Dr. Atiur Rahman, Governor of Central Bank and the Shri Hasan Mahmood Khondokar, Inspector General (IG) of Bangladesh Police.

Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina had also met Saharasri Subrata Roy Sahara to discuss about the intended projects and further opportunities in Bangladesh.

Saharasri Subrata Roy Sahara has urged the Government of Bangladesh to ease conditions about availability of housing finance and to remove the difference in tax rates between listed and unlisted companies in Bangladesh. The newly formed company ‘Sahara Matribhumi Unnayan Corporation Limited’s plans are to build integrated and satellite townships which will be heavily intensive on infrastructure unlike regional real estate projects. He requested both Dr. S. A. Samad and Dr. Atiur Rahman that a classification of a section be created midway between housing and infrastructure so that the taxation policy is relooked at Bangladesh.

Speaking at the press conference, Saharasri Subrata Roy Sahara, Managing Worker & Chairman, Sahara India Pariwar, said, “I am extremely proud to extend our business interests in Bangladesh. The Government of Bangladesh and its people have provided us a wonderful support and this in effect will help us to contribute towards the development of Bangladesh.”

Tough times ahead for Bangladesh banks:liquidity shortage!!

Mahmoud Hussain, president and managing director of Bank Asia, says Bangladesh’s banks will continue to grow, although a careful approach is needed.
There is a liquidity shortage following a huge capital outflow that resulted in the stock market crash early last year.
Bangladesh’s banking sector is undergoing a challenging phase due to a liquidity shortage, following a massive capital outflow that resulted in a stock market crash early last year and restricted the banking sector’s ability to finance large projects.
Some 77 banks and fin-ancial institutions serve the country’s financial sectors comprising four state-owned commercial banks, 30 commercial banks, nine foreign commercial banks, five specialised commercial banks and 29 non-banking financial institutions.
The majority of Bangladesh’s 150 million people still remain outside the banking services. Some of the country’s extreme poor, however, are served by micro-credit institutions such as Grameen Bank and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee and hundreds of NGOs serve a significant portion of the rural poor population.
Most banks that had significant exposure to the stock market have been suffering from a liquidity crisis since January 2011 following the market crash. However, despite this, the government has issued permits to open nine new banks, three of which are to be set up by non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) — a sign of the growing importance of Bangladeshi expatriate wage earners.

Bangladesh ‘keen to join gas pipeline project’

Bangladesh has approached the Asian Development Bank to join a four-nation gas pipeline project being funded by the bank.
India and Pakistan have signed a gas sale purchase agreement with Turkmenistan last week.
An official source said Bangladesh has written a letter to ADB showing interest to join the project. He said there is no issue of gas supply and extending the pipeline to Bangladesh, as Turkmenistan has enough gas reserves.
When asked how much gas Bangladesh is interested to import, he said Dhaka’s demand is less and could be provided for as Afghanistan has refused its share.
However, he said the pipeline plan will be initially executed between the four participating nations and Bangladesh could join in later.
About the way forward on the project, he said that the project will be built completely by single sponsor.
The search for the sponsor has started for the 1,800km-long pipeline that is estimated to cost more than $7.6bn.
There would be no difficulty in extending the pipeline to 2,500km if Bangladesh joins in, the source said.
After the main sponsor is finalised, the detailed engineering design will be finalised to complete the project by mid 2017.
The finalised price of Turkmen gas is 60% of the Brent price but comes to 70% at the border after inclusion of transit fee and other incidentals, the source said

US slates killings, torture by lawmen in Bangladesh

The US government yesterday denounced the Bangladesh government over the latter’s “most significant” human rights problems, including killing and torture by security forces and their abuses that are responsible for disappearances and custodial deaths.

“An increasingly politicised judiciary exacerbated problems in an already overwhelmed judicial system and constrained access to justice for members of opposition parties,” said the US Human Rights Reports 2011, released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

The report said impunity continued to be a serious problem in several areas. Most members of the security forces acted with impunity, the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) in particular.

On extrajudicial killings, it said members of the security forces committed numerous such killings. Police, Border Guard Bangladesh forces and the Rab at times used unwarranted lethal force. Allegations about the Rab’s arbitrary actions were numerous.

“The government did not take comprehensive measures to investigate cases of security force killings,” said the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in its Bangladesh section.

The report, however, mentioned that politically motivated violence has decreased from the previous year.

On disappearances and kidnappings, the report said such incidents, many allegedly by the security services, increased during the year, but precise figures were unavailable.

Also, widespread official corruption remained a serious problem and related impunity continued.

“Punishment of officials who committed abuses was predominantly limited to officials perceived to be opponents of the AL-led government.”

The government also infringed on citizens’ privacy rights, it added.

“There were instances in which the government limited freedom of speech and press, self-censorship continued, and security forces harassed journalists.

“The government curbed freedom of assembly, and politically motivated violence remained a problem.”

The report also said violence against children remained a serious problem, as did human trafficking.

“Societal violence against religious and ethnic minorities persisted, although many government and civil society leaders stated that these acts often had political or economic motivations and could not be attributed only to religious belief or affiliation,” it added.

Bangladesh seeks C-130 deal

Bangladesh is asking for the refurbishment, overhaul and modification of four C-130E aircraft through the Foreign Military Sale program.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the contract sought by Bangladesh includes spare parts, equipment and training services and is worth about $180 million.

“The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by enabling the Bangladesh Air Force to use its C-130 fleet to respond more capably to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief needs in the region and support Bangladesh’s significant contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, and support operations to counter violent extremist organizations,” the agency said in its required notification to Congress.

Specific items requested by Bangladesh include: regeneration, overhaul, modifications, and logistics support of 4 Lockheed Martin C-130E United States Air Force baseline aircraft and 20 T56AA Rolls-Royce engines as grant Excess Defense Articles; transportation; aircraft ferry support; repair and return; spare and repair parts; support equipment; tools; and test equipment

Build Bangladesh as dreamt by Nazrul, says Hasina

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged all Bangladeshis to work for building such a Bangladesh where every citizen will enjoy equal and basic rights breaking the vicious cycle of poverty as dreamt by National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“We want to fulfil the desires of these two great Bangalees. We want to build a Bangladesh as dreamt by Nazrul Islam and Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman breaking the vicious cycle of poverty,” the prime minister said, adding: “We want to build a Bangladesh where every citizen will enjoy equal and basic rights. There’ll be no difference among the citizens. Women will enjoy their just rights. I urge all to work towards building such a Bangladesh.”
The prime minister was speaking at the inauguration of Bangladesh-India Joint Celebration of the 90th anniversary of the great poem ‘Bidrohi’(Rebel) and celebration of 113th birth anniversary of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
Indian Minister for Law, Justice and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid spoke on the occasion as a guest of honour. State Minister for Cultural Affairs Pramod Mankin and granddaughter of the poet Khilkhil Kazi spoke at the programme held with Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad in the chair.
Mentioning that Nazrul’s thoughts inspire people in every sphere of life, the prime minister said Nazrul and Bangabandhu were at the same horizon ideologically and philosophically.
“Nazrul had desired to build an exploitation-free society. Bangabandhu had also dreamt of building Sonar Bangla free from exploitation and poverty,” she said.
Paying tributes to the national poet, the premier said the ‘Rebel’ is an immortal creation of poet Nazrul. “The `Rebel’ is one of the best poetry works of the world.”
“Nazrul brought not only a rebellion, but also a revolution in the Bengali poetry,” she added.
The prime minister said the life and works of the greatest Bangali of all time Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were highly influenced by Nazrul.
“Both were rebellious – one through literary works and another through politics. Both had fought for realising people’s rights. Both were highly vocal against communalism and religious fundamentalism,” Hasina pointed out.
Hasina said Nazrul is the poet of equality, the poet of non-communalism. “People of all classes and strata, irrespective of religion, caste, creed and rich and poor, were equal to him. Nazrul is our close kin in our time of joys and sorrows.”
Urging all concerned to translate the works of Nazrul into all popular languages of the world, the premier said the government would provide all necessary support to this end.
She said Nazrul Institute has already published some works of the poet in English, Hindi, French, Latin, and German languages. A programme has been undertaken to translate some of his works into Arabic.
In his address, Salman Kurshid said India is committed to building a strong and multifaceted partnership with Bangladesh and to addressing all issues in a constructive and positive spirit.
Kurshid also said Kazi Nazrul Islam was a versatile genius, a son of India and the National Poet of Bangladesh. “He (Nazrul) has remained a bridge between our peoples and a symbol of our shared heritage,” Salman added.

Bangladesh B’cast & Cable TV Services Severely Disrupted by Interference

Bangladesh’s broadcasting and cable and satellite TV operators, in co-ordination with the international satellite communications industry, have called for the Government of Bangladesh to take rapid action to halt the disruption of TV services suffered by millions of Bangladeshis.

The industry bodies said the technical interference is being caused by wireless broadband operators using newly introduced “WiMAX” technology.

The Bangladeshi and international industry organizations — the Cable Operators Association of Bangladesh (COAB), the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), and the regionally-based Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) — met last week in Dhaka. The organizations are in co-ordination with the World Broadcasting Unions – International Satellite Operations Group (WBU-ISOG).

The industry groups said they are deeply concerned that wireless bandwidth used to distribute television services across the country and the rest of the region in the 3.5 GHz range — and now shared in Bangladesh with recently launched WiMAX operators — could close down hundreds of TV channels across the country.

“For instance, the largely unanticipated implications of the introduction of WiMAX services at 3.5 GHz is causing widespread transmission failures throughout the country and can be especially serious for news broadcasters which use the lower end of the Standard C-band spectrum” said Gregg Daffner, Chairman of CASBAA’s Wireless Action Group.

“However, there is a solution to this very serious problem,” said David Hartshorn, Secretary General of GVF. “The interfering WiMAX services can use other, less crowded frequencies.”

In other markets, WiMAX operators have successfully migrated from the 3.5GHz band, “so we know we can resolve the crisis in Bangladesh,” said Hartshorn.

The meeting was hosted in Dhaka by APT Satellite, a Hong Kong-based satellite operator, which has conducted extensive field tests to confirm that the source of the interference is from WiMAX operators. APT now provides satellite capacity to most of the TV channels in Bangladesh.

“APT Satellite Company is committed to helping our customers and the Bangladesh government to resolve this issue, so that interference-free broadcast and cable services can be restored,” said Huang Baozhong, Vice President of APT Satellite.

The meeting was endorsed by CASBAA and the GVF who exchanged views and information with Bangladeshi industry and government officials, including representatives of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

According to a joint GVF-CASBAA paper released during the meeting, the WiMAX interference problem has been experienced in numerous countries throughout the world, where the most effective solution applied by national administrations has been to remove WiMAX services from C-band altogether. Click here to read the full GVF-CASBAA position paper, as endorsed by the World Broadcasting Unions International Satellite Operations Group: “Eliminating WiMAX Interference.”

About CASBAA

Established in 1991, CASBAA is the Association for digital multichannel TV, content, platforms, advertising and video delivery across Asia for the past two decades. Spanning 18 geographic markets, CASBAA and its Members reach over 420 million connections through a footprint ranging from China to Australasia, Japan to Pakistan. The CASBAA mission is to promote the growth of multichannel TV and video content through industry information, networking exchanges and events while promoting global best practices. To view the full list of CASBAA members, and more information, please visit www.casbaa.com .

About GVF

Headquartered in London and with a regional office in Washington, D.C., GVF is a non-profit satellite communications trade association that comprises more than 200 companies from every major region of the world and from all sectors of the industry. The organisation’s mission is to facilitate improved access to satellite communications through effective regulatory, policy and spectrum-management approaches. The organisation also provides training, capacity building, type approvals, network validation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the international satellite communications community. www.GVF.org

India to enable land exchange with Bangladesh

An amendment to the Constitution is being drafted to enable the exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in the Indian territory, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has said.

“Government is committed to the earliest implementation of the Protocol and Land Boundary Agreement (between the two countries) that would result in exchange of enclaves,” he said in a letter to CPI leader Prabodh Panda.

The Protocol and the Agreement, signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September last year, are subject to ratification by both governments.

“The ratification, therefore, necessitates an amendment of the Constitution. Necessary preparations to place a draft amendment bill before Parliament are underway,” Krishna said, adding that these would “enter into force on the date of exchange of Instruments of Ratification” and facilitate the exchange of these enclaves.

Krishna’s letter came after Panda raised the issue in Lok Sabha earlier this month asking the government to take urgent steps to exchange the enclaves and provide much-needed relief to thousands of people living in these areas.

Panda had said 37,100 Indians were living in these enclaves and 14,200 Bangladeshis living here, as per the latest census carried out jointly by both countries.

“These large number of people of both countries are deprived of political rights and do not enjoy social facilities that are necessary for development of individuals in a free society,” he had said.

The Indian enclaves in Bangladesh were spread over 17,149 acres of land, while Bangla enclaves in India were located in 7,110 acres, Panda had said, observing that the problem had been persisting since Independence and not been resolved even after the 1974 Indira-Mujib Agreement or during the transfer of Teen Bigha.

Bangladesh: Family Planning for Healthier Futures

If family planning and birth-spacing services were better promoted in countries with high birth rates, 32 percent of all maternal deaths and over 1 million deaths of children under 5 could be prevented.
When her first child was only three months old, Laily Begum learned she was pregnant again. After giving birth, she had no idea that she could become pregnant before her menses returned, even though she was breastfeeding. Begum, 21, realized that within months she would be feeding and caring for a newborn infant and a 1-year-old daughter. After the birth of her second child, Begum was visited by a community health worker who provided information on how to delay her next pregnancy long enough to protect her health and make it easier to properly care for and feed all of her children. From that visit, Begum and her husband decided to practice family planning.
Forty percent of the 186 million pregnancies that occur in developing countries each year are unplanned, and many of them occur within a short interval of a previous birth. Studies have shown that when children are born less than two years apart, mothers and their babies face increased danger. The Sylhet district in Bangladesh, where Begum lives, has among the worst health indicators for women and children. The maternal mortality ratio is 471 deaths per 100,000 live births, the highest in the country.
In 2007, with USAID funding, Jhpiego and partners launched the Healthy Fertility Study in Sylhet district, a study designed to address unmet family planning needs in the postpartum period and provide a package of maternal and newborn interventions.
So far, the study results from 18 months postpartum have been promising: contraceptive use in the intervention area has increased 20 percent compared to the control area. In addition, through the promotion of the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), which entails exclusive breastfeeding for six months, the practice and duration of exclusive breastfeeding has risen by 10 percent. Twenty-seven community health workers and eight community mobilizers have been trained in LAM since 2007 and have reached more than 5,000 women in Sylhet district.