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  1. Bangladesh plans Tk 2 trillion development budget for FY21 amid virus crisis The government has drafted an Annual Development Programme to the tune of more than Tk 2.05 trillion for 2020-21 fiscal year amid the coronavirus crisis. The Planning Commission cleared the draft in a meeting presided over by Planning Minister MA Mannan on Tuesday, Planning Secretary Md Nurul Amin said. It will be presented at the National Economic Council meeting, to be chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for final approval on May 19. Citing the draft, the secretary said the government was planning to finance Tk 1.34 trillion, or around 66 percent, from domestic sources and the rest from foreign funds. For the health sector, the draft ADP has proposed an allocation of Tk 130.33 billion, according to a top official at the Planning Commission. The amount was around Tk 101.1 billion in the revised development budget for the current fiscal year. The draft ADP sets aside the highest allocation for the transport sector – Tk 521.83 billion, followed by Tk 248.03 billion for the power sector and Tk 234.39 billion for education. The agriculture sector is going to get Tki 84.24 billion for development once the ADP is passed. The allocation for autonomous organisations and corporations has been proposed at Tk 94.66 billion. It was around Tk 124 billion in the current ADP. The original ADP for the current fiscal year was Tk 2.02 trillion in size before it was revised down to around Tk 1.93 trillion in March. The COVID-19 crisis has put the brakes on the implementation of the ADP by the end of this fiscal year with most parts of the world, including Bangladesh, on lockdown.
  2. Bangladesh Wants to Be South Asia’s Transport Hub Bangladesh has the potential to become the transport and transshipment hub for India, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar for their collective economic growth, Finance Minister AMA Muhith has said. His comments came in a statement at the end of the 'Finance Minister’s meeting of South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC)' hosted by India in collaboration with Asian Development Bank. The meeting brought together finance ministers from seven SASEC member nations- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka-- to launch SASEC Vision Document 2025. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presided over the day-long meeting, in which Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali was also present. Muhith said Bangladesh’s closeness with India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and China’s Kunming makes it an ideal regional hub of connectivity. A further improvement of the multi-modal connectivity will “lead to enhanced economic cooperation among the countries of the region,” he said. He said Bangladesh’s under-construction Padma Bridge will also help improve connectivity with the neighbouring countries. Bangladesh, Muhith said, is being supported under SASEC to strengthen road, rail, and maritime connectivity with neighbouring countries along the key trade routes. As part of the ADB-assisted SASEC platform for regional power trade and interconnection arrangements, Bangladesh has expanded power sharing arrangements with India, which will possibly be expanded with Bhutan and Nepal (via India), he said. Muhith said Bangladesh government is also very keen to take necessary steps for a more enabling environment to boost intra-sub-regional trade. Building a National Trade Portal is almost finalised with a view to processing and issuing of import export registration certificate as it is connected with the national single window system. “I would like to reiterate here that Bangladesh government is committed to introduce necessary reforms in its legal and regulatory environment and its institutional procedures and practices to meet international standards,” said the finance minister. Hailing the adoption of SASEC vision document 2025, Muhith said it defines the strategic objectives on South-Asian transport, trade facilitation and energy besides exploring the potential of Economic Corridor Development. SASEC aims to combine economic corridors being developed in individual SASEC countries in order to maximise the development impacts of investments through cross border links. He said Bangladesh is discussing two major corridors to pass through the most economically advanced region of the country, Dhaka. The first is on the Banglabandha-Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox Bazar route, the second on the Sylhet-Dhaka- Khulna route. The synergic effect of these in-country economic corridors will result in a larger regional impact with improved infrastructure and connectivity. SAARC, SASEC and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) initiatives may coordinate with each other to bring synergy in regional cooperation. In this regard, six priority sectors were identified by the countries: energy and power, transportation, tourism, environment, trade, investment and private sector cooperation, and ICT. Up to December, 2016, as many as 43 SASEC projects of $8.9 billion have been completed or under way in these sectors. The meeting concluded with the adoption of a joint ministerial statement. “Our vision is for SASEC to be Asia’s powerhouse in the 21st century. We will accelerate and sustain the growth momentum of recent years by unlocking the hitherto untapped potential of the sub-region’s natural resources, industry and infrastructure through sub regional cooperation," it said. "We will leverage natural resource-based industries by tapping into latent industrial demand within the sub region. We will utilize our common heritage, culture and tourism assets to position SASEC as a single tourist destination," the statement said. "We will promote sub regional industry-to-industry links to develop regional value chains and enhance the sub region's competitiveness. We will develop gateways and hubs to expand the sub region's trade and commerce to regional and global markets. We believe that these synergies can generate annually, an estimated $70 billion in incremental GDP and 20 million in incremental aggregate employment by 2025.” CREDIT : BDNEWS24
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