Digital Security Bill passed
The much-debated Digital Security Bill 2018 was passed in parliament last night with a harsh provision allowing police officials to search or arrest anyone without any warrant. Section 43 of the new law says if a police official believes that an offence under the law has been or is being committed at a certain place, or there is a possibility of committing crimes or destroying evidence, the official can search the place or any person there. Section 3 of the new law includes a provision of the Right to Information Act 2009, which will be applicable in case of right to information-related matters. As per section 32 of the law, if a person commits any crime or assists anyone in committing crimes under Official Secrets Act, 1923, through computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other electronic medium, he or she may face a maximum 14 years in jail or a fine of Tk 25 lakh or both. The act was passed without addressing journalists’ concern over sections 8, 28, 29 and 31 that deal with hurting religious values, disrupting public order, dishing out defaming information and causing deterioration in law and order by publishing anything on a website or in electronic form.
Rajuk wavers on executing large housing projects
The Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkho (Rajuk) has not fared well as it has transgressed the bounds of its mandate in undertaking housing projects. According to the Rajuk annual report for 2016-17, the Purbachal project was initiated in 1995-96 and approved in 2005. Its revised development project proforma (RDPP) was approved in 2010. Under the project the development work started in 2002-03 in 30 sectors covering 6,150 acres of land. The project cost leapt from Tk 33.11 billion (3,311 crore) to Tk 77.82 billion within the last 23 years. The Jhilmil project was approved in 1998. It was planned to be implemented covering 381.19 acres of land at a cost of Tk 1.36 billion. Of the total 1,774 plots, 960 were handed over and work on 814 others was in progress. Under the Uttara Apartment Project, 179 buildings, each sixteen-storied were supposed to be constructed comprising 15,036 flats. The duration was November 2011 to June 2016. However, the duration was extended up to June 2018 without any upward revision of cost. It also showed that 6,636 flats were supposed to be handed over by March 2018. Out of a total of 79 sub-stations, the work on 35 was completed. He also claimed that work on the remaining sub-stations would end in the next one month. They have sold 4,800 flats out of 6,636 and handed over 550 keys. As many as 32 families live there.
Banking system needs to be digitalized
Banking sector is one of the major contributors to the economy of Bangladesh. The country’s financial sector is dominated by the banking sector. The government has taken various steps to support the state-owned banks as well as the private ones to enhance the traditional banking facility for the people. There are around 9,000 bank branches along with about 18,000 branches of NGO-MFIs (Microfinance Institutions), 1,200 thousands of post offices and 183,000 co-operative outlets. This makes a total of about 0.21 million branches/outlets for the 56.6 million economically active population – thereby generating at least one financial service point per 270 people. There are 53.7 million mobile bank account holders and the number is increasing every day. As of September 30, 2017, the number of agent banking accounts stood at 10,038,242 against 5,444,536 at the end of 2016, says a BB estimate. As many as 4,93,706 new accounts were opened in nine months. Another 10 million Tk 10 farmers’ accounts kept with the state banks. Nearly 0.8 million students have bank accounts now. As the country develops, circulation of cash money will also increase. It is high time bank’s cash processing system was reformed, upgraded and digitalized to better serve the people.
Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns
Globally more people are expected to join the middle class over the next two decades. This is good for individual prosperity but it will increase demand for the already constrained natural resources. If appropriate actions to change the consumption and production patterns are not taken, it will cause irreversible damage to the environment. When it comes to consumers, households consume 29 per cent of global energy and contribute to 21 per cent of resultant CO2 emissions. However, if people worldwide switched to energy efficient light bulbs, the world would save US$120 billion annually. Water pollution is also a pressing issue that needs a sustainable solution. In 2002 the motor vehicle stock in OECD countries was 550 million vehicles (75 per cent of which were personal cars). A 32 per cent increase in vehicle ownership is expected by 2020. At the same time, motor vehicles are projected to increase by 40 per cent and global air travel is projected to triple in the same period. In this premise, the UN has set Sustainable Development Goal 12 to achieve the following by 2030.
Expanding Ctg port capacity
It is quite natural that Chittagong port and its cargo handling capacity would dominate the proceedings of any event organized to discuss the logistical challenges the country’s seaports are facing. The port has been encountering both management and logistical problems for long. Though both the problems are interlinked, the second one has troubled the port users more and the relevant policymakers are aware of the shortcomings and their economic cost. Yet, they proved to be too slow to react to the problems and initiate measures to improve the situation. The turnaround time of the port is still high compared to that of other regional ports. It takes more than a week for a ship to load or unload goods and leave the Chittagong port. The impact of the decision will also go beyond the port. Prediction is that traffic flow on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway would rise by 60 per cent in the next five years. This calculation excludes the additional traffic to be used for transportation of Indian goods. So, it has become imperative for the government to expand the cargo handling capacity of the Chittagong port and beyond and also the capacity of the highways.
WB for cutting barriers to increased trade with South Asia
Bangladesh can viably raise more than double its trade volume in South Asia if man-made trade barriers are reduced, said a new World Bank (WB) report. The country is currently having around $7.6 billion worth of annual trade with its neighbors, which is 9.0 per cent of the total global trade in 2015, it showed. That volume can reach $18.9 billion through reduction of trade barriers Unveiled in Dhaka on Wednesday, it further finds that trade within South Asian countries can grow threefold, from $23 billion to $67 billion, by reducing barriers. The report said the South Asian Free Trade Area or SAFTA, which was signed back in 2004, has been undermined by the long sensitive lists. In 2015, it found, almost 35 per cent of inter-regional trade in South Asia was restricted under sensitive lists. In case of Bangladesh, nearly 46 per cent of its imports from South Asia fall under sensitive lists.
Japan jt venture to invest $59.19m in Mirsarai EZ
Mcdonald Steel Building Product Ltd and Nippon Koei of Japan will make a joint venture investment worth US$ 59.19 million in the country’s Mirsarai Economic Zone (EZ). They will build large manufacturing and import substitute industries on 100 acres of land of the zone. Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) will sign a land lease agreement with the joint venture company on Sunday. The investors will start its development work in the zone in December 2018. The companies will implement the project within 730 days and pay annual rent to BEZA. It will use more than 50 per cent of local raw materials for the manufacturing units. They will construct factories, administrative building, warehouse, logistic yard, effluent treatment plant, waste treatment plant, road, drainage, utilities, dormitory, training centre and health service in the zone. It will build environment management plan with certified technology. A total of 2500 human resources will be recruited in the factory, he said. Some 20 per cent of the manufactured products will be exported to other countries.
ADB approves addl $110m for urban health services
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved an additional loan of $110 million for an urban health services project in Bangladesh. The ADB Board of Directors has given an approval to the additional financing for the government-led Urban Primary Health Care Services Delivery Project (UPHCSDP). The project aims to help improve access to urban primary healthcare services in Bangladesh through public-private partnership. The new financing will focus on strengthening the service delivery system, building on the results of the 2012 project and two previous projects, to meet unmet demands and develop self-reliance in the running of the system. As originally financed in 2012 with a $50 million ADB loan and $20 million cofinancing, it is one of the largest PPP projects for primary healthcare delivery in South Asia. A second project followed in 2005-2012 backed by a $30 million loan, $10 million grant, and $30 million cofinancing widening the support to six cities and five municipalities. The Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and the governments of Switzerland and the United Kingdom, will provide a $2 million grant, to be administered by ADB. The Bangladesh government will contribute $30 million toward the cost of the additional financing, while the United Nations Population Fund will provide $1.5 million in-kind technical support. The project completion date is March 2023.
BD team to visit Russia to talk direct banking channel
A high-powered government delegation will visit Russia this month to discuss ways to establish direct banking channel between the two countries. The ministry of commerce (MoC) has been working out specific agenda to be discussed during meetings between the two sides. A delegation of the commerce ministry officials will visit Russia and they are scheduled to meet with their Russian counterparts on September 22 and 23 in Moscow,” a deputy secretary of the MoC told the FE. Bilateral trade with Russia is not increasing notably since there is no option to conduct trade with Russia using an easy convertible currency, according to the country’s traders and business circle. Bangladesh mainly exports jute and jute goods, readymade garments, leather and leather goods and tea to Russia. It imports machinery, mineral resources and wheat. The annual trade volume between the two countries now stands at around US$ 1.0 billion and the balance of trade is in favour of Bangladesh.
ICMAB int’l conference on SDGs on Sept 23
A daylong international conference on sustainable development goals (SDGs) will be held on September 23 with intent to create awareness among stakeholders. The Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Bangladesh (ICMAB) will host the event at a city hotel. The conference is expected to play a pivotal role in identifying the challenges and way forward to achieve the goals set by the United Nations. The International Federation of Accountants is also putting emphasis on the professional accountants’ role in supporting the government to achieve the SDGs. The theme of the conference is ‘Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Challenges and way forward. It will conduct six sessions: role of professional accountants, changing corporate reporting landscape, development partners’ role, women’s participation, economic preparedness and role of information technology and quality education in achieving SDGs.
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