Govt on right track to keep macroeconomic stability: Salman

Salman F Rahman, MP, Private Industry and Investment Adviser of the Prime Minister, said today that the government is on the right track to maintain macroeconomic stability in the country given the way it has been reacting to the various challenges owing to global conditions.

"It's true that the country's macroeconomic situation is facing a lot of challenges." But, the way we're reacting, we can say that we're on the right track," he said while addressing a pre-budget discussion of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) for the next fiscal year (FY24) held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital.

State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam, former FBCCI president Md. Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin), and MP spoke as special guests. FBCCI President Md. Jashim Uddin and former FBCCI president and Managing Director of Ha-Meem Group spoke as guests of honor. DCCI president Md. Sameer Sattar moderated the discussion. The editor of The Daily Samakal, Mozammel Hossain, gave the vote of thanks.

Welcoming the suggestions from businesses ahead of the next budget for FY24, Salman said that Bangladesh did well to manage the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. "But, the Russia-Ukraine war was much unexpected for us."

Regarding the shortage of foreign currency reserves in the last few months, he said that the central bank took immediate steps to address the issue, like controlling imports, especially the luxurious items for which the import bills came down at $5 billion in December.

Salman said that the opening up of LCs would be eased further in the coming days, while the foreign currency reserves would be stable by June this year.

He also informed that the single exchange rate would be effective by June this year, while the interest rate cap would be made market-based.

Citing that the country's tax-to-GDP ratio is still lower compared to other countries in the world, the adviser said that there is a need to further widen the tax net, for which automation is very much needed.

He opined that if the revenue board could develop a uniform import duty, it would be possible to address various problems, but the revenue would fall in such a case.

Noting that the small traders in the country are often reluctant to pay tax and VAT, the Adviser said there is a need to change their mindset while the business community leaders should make a serious propaganda about the necessity of paying tax.

About the capital market, he said that there is a basic structural defect, which is the lower number of institutional investors participating in the daily turnover in the bourses, and the participation of the institutional investors must be increased.

He also suggested revitalizing the bond market, giving the same facility to the other export oriented sectors apart from RMG, ensuring diversification of exportable items.

Salman said that the Prime Minister considers the private sector as the 'driving force' of the economy.

State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam said centering the next budget, the aim of the government should ensure that inflation does not increase further, keeping the budget deficit within ceiling while growth does not become stunted.

"There is no way that the next budget becomes ambitious. We'll continue our efforts so that the private sector doesn't face barriers while the private sector credit growth doesn't get hampered. We're also keeping our macroeconomic stability," he said.

Listing the positive trend of some of the major macroeconomic indicators, Dr Alam said that there is no way that the growth of Bangladesh would become negative. "The economy didn't shrink in any aspect."

Mentioning that the FDI fetched $1.34 billion during the July-January period of the current fiscal year while the private sector credit growth reaches 13 percent, he said that the force of the economy is still active.

FBCCI president Md Jashim Uddin suggested giving more attention on revenue collection through not harming the businesses, ensuring export diversification, stress on man-made fibre, enhancing capacity of the NBR, withdrawing duty and tax on import of raw materials of generating power, boosting the facilities of backward linkage industry.

"Our PM has assured us that there will remain no red tape. Hopefully, there will remain no red tape in the next budget," he added.

During the budget discussion, four separate sessions on taxation and VAT, financial sector, industry and trade and infrastructure were held.

In the taxation and VAT session, Zaved Akhtar, CEO and MD, Unilever Bangladesh Limited, Mohammed Humayun Kabir, former president, ICAB and Panel Advisor, FBCCI, Md. Alamgir Hossain, former member, National Board of Revenue (NBR) gave their opinions.

In the session on financial sector, Md. Nojibur Rahman, chairman, Capital Market Stabilization Fund (CMSF) and former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Mashrur Arefin, managing director, City Bank, Dr. Selim Raihan, executive director, SANEM, Arif Khan, vice chairman, Shanta Asset Management Limited and former commissioner, Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) delivered their speeches.

In the session on industry and trade, Asif Ashraf, director, BGMEA, Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and chief executive officer, PRAN RFL Group, and Mohammad Ali Khokon, president, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) made their recommendations for the next budget.

During the session on infrastructure, Imran Karim, vice chairman, Confidence Group, Mohammad Ariful Islam (Arif), country head, Nokia, Mainuddin Monem, managing director, Abdul Monem Limited spoke.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

Nagad becomes billion-dollar company only in 3 years: Palak

State minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak has said Nagad, a mobile financial service provider of the Bangladesh Postal Department, has emerged as a billion-dollar company only in the first three years of its inception.

"Nagad has become a billion-dollar company on the basis of its partnership with the Postal Department and the ICT Division's 'Parichay', while it took bKash 10 years to achieve that," he said.

The state minister made these remarks while comparing the country's two leading MFS carriers-bKash and Nagad-at an event held in a city hotel yesterday to inaugurate "Meghna Pay", an MFS of Meghna Bank.

Tanvir A Mishuk, founder and managing director of Nagad Limited, Ashequr Rahman, chairman of Meghna Bank, Sohail R. K. Hussain, managing director and CEO of Meghna Bank Limited, were also present at the function.

Palak also termed Nagad as the fastest growing start-up fintech in the world. "Nagad has now gained the status of becoming a champion in the global MFS industry."

Tanvir A Mishuk said, "Nagad as a mobile financial service will stay beside Meghna Pay with any kind of technological assistance."

Explaining it, he said, "We believe if we work together with Meghna Pay to break the monopoly in the [MFS] market, this will benefit both the market as well as people."

"We want to build a smart Bangladesh by working shoulder to shoulder," Tanvir added.

Nagad, as an MFS of the Bangladesh Postal Department, embarked on its journey on March 26, 2019. At the outset, it revolutionized the account opening process by introducing electronic know your customer (e-KYC). Later, the MFS operator came up with an even easier way to open an MFS account just by dialing *167# on a feature phone.

Nagad deliveries its various services at minimal charges as it uses state-of-the-art technologies leading. In some cases, Nagad provides its customers cost-free services.

Operating with a government partnership, Nagad's registered customers now stand at 7.25 crore, with its daily transactions hitting around Taka 1,000 crore on average.

Nagad has set a unique example in the disbursement of government allowances, education stipends, and other financial aid.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

FM calls for int’l unity to resolve Rohingya crisis

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has underscored the need for unity and concerted efforts of the international community to resolve the Rohingya crisis in all its dimensions, in the true spirit of responsibility and burden sharing.

He made the suggestion at a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer held on Tuesday at the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN in New York, according to a press release received here today.

During the meeting, the Bangladesh foreign minister urged the Special Envoy to increase her engagements with Myanmar authorities as well as others stakeholders in improving the conditions in Rakhine so that the Rohingyas can return to their homes without delay.

He particularly emphasized on addressing root causes of the crisis which lie in Myanmar.

Referring to the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council on Myanmar, Momen called upon the Special Envoy to continue taking a multi-pronged approach and remain engaged with all global and regional actors including ASEAN leadership, with a view to fostering lasting peace in Myanmar.

The foreign minister highlighted the various humanitarian initiatives and skill development programs undertaken by the Bangladesh government at the temporary shelter of Rohingyas at Cox's Bazaar and Bhashan Char, including the introduction of Myanmar curriculum-based education in those camps.

Momen urged the Special Envoy to mobilize adequate funding from the international community to provide for the Rohingyas especially in meeting their most urgent needs, such as, food and shelter.

"If given opportunities, the Rohingya people can be important members of Myanmar society and contribute in their socio-economic prosperity", he added.

Momen acknowledged with deep appreciation the important mandate and role of the Special Envoy and assured her of Bangladesh's full support.

In return, the Special Envoy reassured the foreign minister to work closely with Bangladesh in securing a lasting solution of the Rohingya crisis.

Later, the Foreign Minister met with King Willem-Alexander of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, at a high-level working dinner hosted by Netherlands and Tajikistan as the co-hosts of the Water Conference.

Momen is leading a Bangladesh delegation to the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York from 22 to 24 March.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

PM hands over 39365 more houses to homeless people

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today handed over 39365 more houses to homeless people ahead of the holy Eid-ul-Fitr as part of her government's aim to ensure housing for all landless persons.

The premier handed over the houses in the fourth phase of Ashrayan-2 project through a programme virtually from her official Ganabhaban residence here.

Earlier, 63,999 houses were distributed to the landless and homeless people in the first phase, 53,330 in the second phase and 59,133 in the third phase.

With the distribution of 39365 more houses, its total number stood at 2,15,827 under the Ashrayan-2 project.

The prime minister also declared seven districts and 159 upazilas as homeless and landless free areas, raising the total number of homeless-landless free districts to nine and upazilas to 211.

Earlier, she declared Panchagarh and Magura as homeless-landless free districts.

PM's Principal Secretary Md.Tofazzel Hossain Miah moderated the function.

A video-documentary on the changed life style of the house recipients was screened at the function.

Under the project, the landless and homeless people get good quality tin-shed semi-pucca houses on two decimals of land.

The premier, as well, exchanged views with the beneficiaries of Nayapara Ashrayan project under Sreepur upazila in Gazipur district, Noagaon Ashrayan project under Gowainghat upazila in Sylhet and Uttarpar Ashrayan project under Banaripara in Barishal.

The ownership of land is given to both husband and wife and land registration and mutation are also given after their names.

The government is not only building houses of the project on khas land rather lands are being bought from the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Trust to build houses.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman introduced the rehabilitation programme for homeless people in 1972.

Following the footprints of Bangabandhu, her daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the initiative to provide ownership of houses and lands to homeless and landless people through the Ashrayan Project in 1997.

Under the Ashrayan project, a total of 7,71,301 families have been rehabilitated so far since 1997. The number of rehabilitated people is 38,56,505 (estimated as five persons in a family).

Ashrayan Project of the PMO has already rehabilitated 5,54,597 families directly while 2,16,704 families were rehabilitated under different programmes of concerned government offices, including Land Ministry and Disaster Management and Relief Ministry.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

1.73 lakh drought-affected people getting water supply in Barind

Amid implementation of a project, around 1.73 lakh people and the less-incoming and marginalized ones in particular have been brought under safe drinking water supply coverage for improving their livelihood condition in the drought-prone Barind area.

Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) has implemented the project in 59 Unions under 12 Upazilas of the three districts involving around Taka 32.19 crore, said SM Samim Ahmed, Superintending Engineer of DPHE.

Implementation works of the three-year project titled "Community-based Water Supply in Lower Underground Water-level Areas in Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainawabganj districts" was completed successfully very recently.

Main objective of the project is to ensure supply of safe water for both drinking and other household purposes to the people residing in the project covering areas where acute crisis of drinking water exists.

A total of 865 submersible pumps were installed in all the project-covering areas bringing 34,600 households under the water supply coverage.

Platform with an overhead tank has been attached to each of the submersible pumps. There are eight points in each of the tanks. At least five families are getting water supply from each of the points through pvc pipelines.

The beneficiary people were given responsibility for proper maintenance and function of the infrastructures routinely.

Engineer Shamim Ahmed said the initiative has been taken to maintain round-the-year drinking water sup

ply to the poor and vulnerable villagers, where power supply is available.

He added that 850 of the pumps were operated by electricity. Solar panels were installed to operate 50 other pumps in the villages beyond the power supply network.

Maity Saren, 48, wife of Dukhu Saren of Rahi village under Godagri upazila in the district, is now happy with the safe drinking water supply facilities.

"We had to face multifarious problems relating to fetching water for our four-member family," said Maity while talking to BSS on Monday, adding that the problem has now been solved.

Shyamoly Hasda, 40, wife of Sukhen Saren, also expressed her happiness over the water supply system. She is now getting requisite water for her seven-member family.

A submersible pump has been installed in the locality and water is being supplied to the households through commissioning pipelines and outlets.

Not only Maity and Shyamoli but also many others who are being benefited from the supply of water amid the present water stressed condition.

Ataur Rahman, Chairman of Badhair Union Parishad under Tanore Upazila, said there is a shortage of drinking water in the region during dry season and the problem has become acute for the last couple of years.

The existing shallow water technologies become ineffective currently and demand for deep tube-wells has increased in the area due to rapid decline of groundwater level along with arsenic contamination in shallow aquifers in many areas.

He said villagers cannot withdraw groundwater as the water level goes down abnormally during every dry season.

Professor Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan of Department of Geology and Mining in Rajshahi University said the existing adverse impact of climate change is putting local people into trouble since the hand-driven tube-wells are not functioning here in the dry season.

In the wake of inadequate aquifer recharge, groundwater level is declining alarmingly in the high Barind tract posing a serious threat to its farming sector.

The changed climatic condition has been posing a serious threat to the overall public health in the vast Barind tract, especially Tanore and Godagari upazilas in Rajshahi, Nachole and Gomostapur upazilas in Chapainawabganj and Porsha, Shapahar and Niamatpur upazilas in Naogaon districts.

Prof Sarwar Jahan, however, said the scheme has been playing a vital role to improve the health condition of the beneficiary population through expansion and development of the community-based water supply system supplementing the government efforts of achieving the sustainable development goals.

Tanore Upazila Chairman Lutfor Haider Rashid said the water-deprived poor and underprivileged communities in the drought-hit area are getting safe drinking water privileges with the project intervention.

He added that the initiatives have also been contributing a lot to reduce the acute crisis of drinking water in the drought-prone Barind area.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

Meeting of Putin, Xi Jinping over, Chinese leader leaves Kremlin

Chinese President Xi Jinping left the Kremlin around 9 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday after a day of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting lasted for about six hours.

During this time, Putin and Xi Jinping held negotiations within both the limited circle and the extended circle, signed joint statements on the development of cooperation between the countries and made statements for the media. The program ended with a state dinner.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha