News Bangladesh Economy & Development Thread

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In addition to many others, Rajshahi city dwellers are going to get another four-lane road as Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) has taken initiative to convert the double-lane road into a four-lane one.

The RCC will turn the 3.532-kilometre Bilsimla Railway crossing to City Hat road to 80-feet wide along with a four-foot-wide road divider with an outlay of around Taka 44.92 crore.

City Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton inaugurated the construction works after unveiling the foundation stone today saying the road will be a modern one.

On both sides, a 44-feet road, 12-feet wide drain and footpath and 20-feet road for the slow-moving vehicles will be constructed.

Liton said the road will be constructed as part of RCC's Taka 2,993-crore project titled 'Integrated Urban Infrastructure Development in Rajshahi City'.

Under the mega project, the RCC is going to construct five more flyovers as soon as possible for the overall development of the metropolis by freeing it from traffic congestion.

Recently, the city corporation has taken a Taka 1175.52-crore project for the construction of the flyovers and 19 infrastructures.

The flyovers will be constructed on Haragram Natunpara Railway Crossing, Rajshahi Court Station Railway Crossing, Bilsimla Railway Crossing, Shaheed AHM Kamaruzzaman Railway Crossing, Bhadra Railway Crossing and Mohanpur Railway Crossing.

Earlier, the city corporation has constructed a 202.5-meter flyover along with a 120-meter ramp at Budhpara Railway crossing with an estimated cost of Taka 29.28 crore for the first time in Rajshahi city.

Liton said the Rajshahi city will get a new look upon the successful implementation of the mega project.


 

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The 352-acre Srihatta Economic Zone in the country's eastern district tea district Moulvibazar will play a crucial role in industrial decentralisation and generate around half a lakh jobs once the factories go into commercial production, said the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza).

Beza Executive Chairman Shaikh Yusuf Harun said, "All the plots of the economic zone have been allocated. We will turn the low lying lands adjacent to the zone into an eye-catching lake."

The Beza executive chairman underscored the need for the economic zones for a well organised and planned development.

Land development, infrastructure construction and development, power and gas supplies, construction of the boundary wall and setting up the drainage network has been completed.

Beza is now constructing the roads inside the economic zone.

"With the cooperation of all, Beza wants to play a key role in the planned development of the country," said Shaikh Yusuf Harun.

With an accumulating $818 million investments, six industries who have got the plots totalling around 228 acres of land at the Srihatta Economic Zone (EZ) will set up 17 factories, said a Beza top official.

Most of the heavy industries in Bangladesh are located in Dhaka and Chattogram district thanks to their better connectivity. But Srihatta Economic Zone with the size of around 266 football fields appears to be an exception as it neither falls in Dhaka or Chattogram industrial belt.

With direct access to River Kushiara for water supply, the economic zone is located by the Dhaka-Sylhet highway, and only 40km away from Sylhet city. It lies beside the Dhaka-Sylhet railroad and is just 100km away from Tamabil land port.

Shaikh Yusuf Harun, executive chairman at Beza, said the low-lying lands by the economic zone will be turned into an eye-catching lake.

Several industries are now being constructed at the government-run EZ that will be manufacturing textiles, ceramics, knit fabrics, readymade garment backward linkage items, double glazing glasses and faucets.

MA Jabbar, managing director of DBL Group that will set up an industrial park comprising ten factories on the EZ, said the park would be an important step towards their plan for the future.

DBL Group factories will manufacture textile and ceramics at the EZ.

"With the integrated and technologically advanced industrial park, we are aiming at a skilled workforce and to create a sustainable co-dependency between man and machine," he noted.

The managing director said the construction of their first factory is likely to be completed next year, while the remaining production units are expected to be completed within the next five years.

Besides the DBL Group, Abdul Monem Group, Palmal Group's Ayesha Clothing and Aswad Composite Mills, Great Wall Ceramics Ltd, and UK's Double Glazing Ltd have been allocated lands at the EZ.

Palmal Group has taken 14 acres of land at the EZ for textile factories. The group will build apparel backward linkage and knit fabrics factories there.

Kazi Abdul Muhit, head of finance at the group, said they began the construction in April this year and are now doing land piling for the factory.

"We will invest around Tk882 crore at the EZ, and likely to go into production in 2023," said Muhit.

With a 3 acre plot, UK's Double Glazing Ltd will initially invest Tk69 crore in the economic zone.

Nazrul Islam, director at the company, said they began construction of the factory three months ago and the work is likely to be completed in December this year.


Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority has allotted plots to nine companies at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hi-Tech Park in Kaliakair of Gazipur and Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park in Jashore.

The companies will invest approximately $55 million in developing the information technology (IT) sector of the country.

Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Managing Director Dr Bikarna Kumar Ghosh and heads of the companies signed agreements in this regard on behalf of their respective organisations.

Under the agreements, seven companies will have the opportunity to invest for 40 years in Bangabandhu Hi-Tech Park, while two will get similar opportunities in Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park.

Among the companies, Walton Hi-Tech Industries Limited, Technomedia Limited, Daffodil Computers Limited, Celltron Electro Manufacturing Services Limited, Ulkasemi Pvt Limited, Mactel Limited, Child Health Research Foundation were allotted land at Bangabandhu Hi-Tech Park. In addition, Reddot Digital and Felicity BigData Limited were allotted land in Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park.

Besides, Halima Telecom was also formally handed over the license to declare itself as a private software technology park.

Planning Minister MA Mannan was present as the chief guest of the signing ceremony, while State Minister for Information and Communication Zunaid Ahmed Palak attended the event as a special guest.

Minister Mannan asked the companies to ensure the quality of products which will be produced in these factories.

"We, under the leadership of the prime minister, are working to change the concept of cheap labour and provide security to our investors," he said.

Authorities allotted 3.01 acres of land to Walton Hi-Tech Industries under the hardware company category. The company will invest $6.50 million in manufacturing ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) and digital devices while creating 1,550 job opportunities.

Technomedia got 0.87 acres of land in Kaliakair where they will invest $2.50 million to assemble ATM, CRM and RCDM machines and create 200 job opportunities.

Daffodil Computers was given 96 acres of land where they will invest $3 million and create 100 jobs to assemble electronic devices, while 1.81 acres of land was given to Ulkasemi Pvt to invest $25 million in designing semiconductors and create 550 jobs.

Also, Celltron Electro Manufacturing was allotted 65 acres of land to set up a medical technology plant to assemble and produce medical equipment with an investment of $7 million while creating 250 jobs.

To assemble smartphones, Mactel got 1.37 acres of land to invest $6 million and create 332 jobs.

Meanwhile, Reddot Digital and Felicity BigData were allotted 21 and 45 acres of land respectively in Jashore.

 

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The European Commission has proposed a new GSP (generalised scheme of preferences) framework which focuses on core issues like climate protection and good governance, and lowers thresholds for exports which, an economist and businessmen fear, may limit Bangladesh's gains from "GSP plus" in key export items like apparels.

The proposed scheme, to be discussed by the European Parliament, calls for lowering product graduation thresholds (that is, the temporary suspension of tariff preferences for highly competitive products) by ten percentage points so that the large industrialised producers leave more space in sectors where they are very competitive.

Though the proposed step has been intended to maximise the opportunities for low-income countries to benefit from the GSP, it may prove difficult for Bangladesh's largest export sector, apparels.


"If the new scheme is put in force, benefiting from GSP+ may be difficult for Bangladesh," said Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

The new proposal further improves the current scheme by ensuring a smooth transition for all countries set to graduate from least developed country (LDC) status in the next decade, said the new legislative proposal adopted by the European Commission for 2024-2034 period.

"They will be able to apply for the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) if they commit to strong sustainability standards and can thus retain generous tariff preferences to access the EU market," it added.

The new proposal sets the general threshold at 47% and textile threshold at 37%, down from existing 57% and 47.2% respectively, to leave more space for poorer developing countries.

"In case the thresholds are lowered, Bangladesh's major export items, which are well above those thresholds, may not gain from GSP. However, we may have some gains in other items, which we do not export much.

"The ceiling may deprive us of the benefit in items in which we have good export performance," Professor Mustafizur noted.

Bangladesh, still as a least developed country, will continue to enjoy EU's existing GSP, known as "Everything but Arms" (EBA) initiative, until it expires in December 2023.

The new scheme, once adopted, will apply from 1 January 2024.

Earlier, the European Union (EU), destination of $18.7 billion or more than a half of the country's total exports, asked for a roadmap from Bangladesh to improve labour standards to stay eligible for the zero-duty export facilities in the EU market for 10 more years.

The government sent its six-year roadmap to the EU, agreeing to amend the labour law and rules, to comply with the ILO and EU labour standards by 2026.

Bangladesh has been in negotiation with the EU for enjoying trade privileges beyond the graduation from LDC in 2026 and three years grace period till 2029.

"It is yet a proposal from EU commission which will be finalised at the end of 2023 by EU parliament, but this draft is very important for all those will enjoy GSP+, Standard GSP and EBA," said Professor Mustafizur Rahman.

This draft also included five new points with the current 27 international conventions related to human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and climate and good governance to benefit from this arrangement, he added.

"Those new conditions will strengthen its enforcement and also make withdrawal and suspensions of the facility easier," said the economist.

The new draft has some positive side –– for the first time the EU specifically mentioned that all graduating countries would be able to apply for the GSP+ facility, he added, suggesting that the government should rectify some conventions on labour rights.

"The overall proposals are development-friendly but rectifying some conventions within a short time will put pressure on the government as EBA for LDCs including Bangladesh will expire in 2023," said the CPD Distinguished Fellow.

Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) vice president Fazlee Shamim Ehsan said, "We are welcoming this move, which will create an opportunity for Bangladesh to get GSP+ facility."

"We have amended our labour law to protect workers' rights, the government may consider rectifying some conventions, which will make the process easier", he added.

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan also mentioned that this proposal would create some problems for Bangladeshi woven garment exporters.

If the government provides policy support that will be helpful to make preparations to overcome the upcoming challenge through establishing more textile units in this sector, he added.

"It is high time to declare the woven textile as a thrust sector," said BKMEA vice president.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) director Abdullah Hil Rakib said, "The new proposal will make it easy for us to have a smooth transition. We were almost pushing them to improve the threshold or else it would be difficult for us to have GSP plus. Even though our goal will be to retain the full GSP facilities till 2029."

The apparel sector leader said they would be in Brussels in November "to persuade the process with a proper appeal."

Md Saiful Islam, President of Leathergoods & Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB) said, "The new proposal has focused on climate protection, it will be a beginning point for Bangladesh as we are the more vulnerable country for that."

The proposed conditions may affect the apparel export, which is the largest export earner for the country, he added.

He also suggests the government should negotiate with the EU through political and diplomatic ways, to take benefit from the new GSP proposal.

Md Saiful Islam also mentioned that the entrepreneurs should maintain all compliances as per the rules.

The European Parliament and the Council will now discuss the proposal. The current GSP Regulation expires on 31 December 2023. Once adopted, the new GSP Regulation will apply from 1 January 2024.

The new GSP framework strengthens the EU's possibilities to use trade preferences to create economic opportunities and to advance sustainable development. The modernised framework also expands the grounds for the withdrawal of EU GSP preferences in case of serious and systematic violations. Beyond the core human rights and labour conventions already covered, the proposal incorporates environmental and good governance conventions.

It also expands the list of international conventions that need to be complied with by adding two additional human rights instruments on the rights of people with disabilities and the rights of the child, two labour rights conventions on labour inspections and tripartite dialogue, and one governance convention on transnational organised crime.

Earlier this month, Head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, Ambassador Rensje Teerink had said Bangladesh, with the graduation from LDC, needs to follow the core issues related to the GSP Plus in detail because "GSP Plus will probably be the way forward."

She said the current GSP regulation only applies to human and labour rights conventions but the new regulations will be extended to environmental protection and good governance issues.


The European Union (EU) is the largest destination for Bangladesh's apparel exports. The EU countries combinedly account for about sixty percent of our total apparel exports.

The growth of our apparel export to the EU accelerated due to the duty-free market access Bangladesh has been enjoying in the region as a Least Developed Country (LDC) through the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative under the EU's GSP scheme.

Bangladesh will no longer be eligible for EU's GSP after being promoted to middle-income status, but it will be able to continue to enjoy duty-free access in the region if it achieves GSP+.

As a result, the EU Commission's proposal for the new Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), which includes provisions for achieving GSP+, is crucial for Bangladesh.

On the 22nd of this month, the Commission adopted the legislative proposal for the new GSP for the period 2024-2034. The Commission proposed improving some of the scheme's key features to better respond to GSP countries' evolving needs and challenges, as well as to strengthen the scheme's social, labour, environmental, and climate dimensions.

There are several takeaways for Bangladesh from the new GSP proposals.

It removes the import-share criterion, which was one of the eligibility requirements for obtaining GSP+.

According to the import share criterion, a country's share in the EU's total import under the scheme should not be more than 7.4 percent.

Given that Bangladesh is a significant supplier of apparel and other products to the EU market, the relevant figure for Bangladesh is as high as 26 percent, which was considered a major issue in obtaining our GSP+. But with the proposed removal of the import share, obtaining GSP+ for Bangladesh will be much easier.

The EU's GSP sustainable development principles are currently based on a list of 27 relevant international conventions. The new GSP proposal updates this list and adds six new international instruments, which have already been ratified by Bangladesh.

Another major provision made in the proposals is: "A product can lose tariff preferences if the share of its imports from a specific country exceeds a certain threshold. This threshold will now be lowered by ten percentage points in order to exclude large, competitive industrialised producers in GSP countries. This in turn will leave more space for poorer developing countries."

The new threshold for generalised products is 47 percent, and for textiles, it is 37 percent. However, according to Eurostat data, Bangladesh's apparel export to the EU in 2020 was $12 billion, representing only 18 percent of total exports, and in 2019, it was $15 billion, representing 19 percent of total exports. So, this will not pose any major threat to us.

However, there are some challenges that Bangladesh must address through diplomacy in order to achieve GSP+ or properly utilise the trade preference.

For example, under the EBA, LDCs were allowed preferential "rules of origin" (RoO) permitting "single transformation" (the need to do only one conversion of inputs to another product) in the production chain of the exportable.

But preference eligibility under the GSP+ scheme demands "double transformation". We need to persuade the EU to change the condition of "double transformation" to "single transformation'' as Bangladesh still imports a large percentage of woven fabrics to manufacture garments.

However, there is a scope for regional cumulation for meeting the requirements of double transformation. One such provision allows imports from South Asian countries (including India) to be accounted for in the calculation of the double transformation.

The regional cumulation provision can also be executed by accounting for imports from countries with which the EU has free trade agreement (FTA). Two countries, namely Vietnam and South Korea - having FTA with the EU - are relevant for Bangladesh in this respect.

But both Vietnam and India are two major competitors of Bangladesh in apparel export and we mainly import fabrics from China.

The proposal emphasises the importance of ensuring a smooth transition for all countries set to graduate from LDC status over the next decade.

In this regard, it is worth noting that our Commerce Minister, Tipu Munshi, MP, recently urged the EU to grant Bangladesh a 12-year transition period instead of the usual 3 years.

The European Parliament and the Council will now discuss the proposal. The current GSP Regulation will expire on 31 December 2023. Once adopted, the new GSP Regulation will be in effect from 1 January 2024 to 2034.

I am hopeful that the Bangladesh Mission in Brussels will convey our concerns to the EU in order to ensure a smooth transition for Bangladesh and allow it to benefit from the trade preference.

 

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Since the first case of Covid-19 reported in the country at the beginning of March last year, the government announced restrictions in phases for over a year, bringing the economy to a standstill.
The government stood by businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic and announced stimulus packages worth a thousand billion taka. The stimulus helped big businesses revive from the losses caused by coronavirus pandemic.

ACI Limited made a net profit of Tk 370 million (37 crore) in January-March last year. The company took Tk 3.27 billion (327 crore) in loans from the stimulus package at a low interest rate. ACI made a profit of Tk 490 million (49 crore) in January-March this year. The company business is in consumer products, medicines, essential commodities, agriculture and commercial transport, motorcycles and more. This leading business group has started recovering losses caused by Covid.


The factory of the country’s largest conglomerate in steel sector, BRSM, was closed at the beginning of the pandemic last year. BSRM made a profit of Tk 540 million (54 crore) in January-March 2020. The company took Tk 6.41 billion (641 crore) loan from the stimulus fund to boost up its operations. BSRM has recovered the loss and started making a profit. The company made a profit of Tk 1.38 billion (138 crore) in January-March this year.

Deputy managing director of BSRM Group Tapan Sengupta told Prothom Alo, “We took loan from the stimulus packages and used it in business. Our factory reopened after remaining closed for long. Production has returned to normal. But we are under a little pressure due to rise in the prices of raw material in international markets.”

Though many big companies are back in business, thanks to the loan from stimulus packages, some businesses allegedly spent the fund from the low interest loan on other purposes. Many firms are delaying repayments. Besides, there has been concern over the loan recovery from several companies since these firms received the money without proper verification because of quick disbursement of the loan.

The stimulus package of Tk 330 billion (33,000 crore) was announced for the industry and service sectors. Loan disbursement began in April 2020. So far, 2,000 companies have received Tk 323.88 billion (32,388 crore) in loan at 9 per cent interest. The government pays half of the interest from tax money while companies bear the remaining half.

Companies hit by the Covid crisis are eligible for this loan only and they must use the fund as current asset. Since many big companies have recovered from the loss caused by the Covid-19, now it is their time to repay.
Former director general of Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) Toufic Ahmad Choudhury told Prothom Alo the stimulus is undoubtedly a good initiative of the government. Affected businesspeople are recuperating. But the question remains about who got the loans and where the money was used. That is why monitoring will have to be strengthened during the second phase of loan disbursement, he added.

Prothom Alo collected the records of the loan recipients in the industry and service sector from the banks.
State-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines took the highest amount of loan. Sonali Bank disbursed Tk 20 billion (2,000 crore) in loan to the national flag carrier. Abul Khair Group received Tk 11.71 billion (1,171 crore) in loan, S Alam Group Tk 10.86 billion (1,086 crore), City Group Tk 8.27 billion (827 crore), Bashundhara Group Tk 6.78 billion (628 crore), BSRM Tk 6.41 billion (641 billion) Noman Group Tk 5.99 billion (599 crore) and Pran Group Tk 5.59 billion (559 crore) in loan. Many of these companies never defaulted on loans, while many having defaulted loans too.

PRAN-RFL Group director (marketing) Kamaruzzamn Kamal said, “Farmers faced a big problem at the beginning of the pandemic. Our sales dropped. About 100,000 farmers are involved with us in vegetables, rice and milk production. Collection of raw materials from them had not stopped for a day. We collected milk and powdered it. We also stocked seasonal fruits including mango and guava. We had the opportunity to stand beside farmers because of loans from the stimulus package. And now business is bouncing back.”

Meghna Group received Tk 3.71 billion (371 crore) in loan from the stimulus package, ACI Tk 3.27 billon (327 crore) GPH Tk 2.90 billion (290 crore), Navana Tk 2.68 billion (268 crore), Beximco Tk 2.60 billion (260 crore), Thermax Group Tk 2.38 billion (238 crore), Jamuna Group Tk 2.19 billion (219 crore), Nassa Group Tk 1.85 billion (185 crore) and Unitex Group got Tk 1.83 billion (183 crore) loan from the stimulus. Other than these companies, Bengal, Saad Musa Group, Jaj Bhuiyan Group and Gazi Group are among the top 100 companies receiving loan from stimulus.

Sources said firms that received the loan in the first phase have also started taking loans in the second phase. Though there is uncertainty over loan recovery, bankers said they are optimistic.

Managing director of Agrani Bank Mohammad Shams-Ul Islam said borrowers started payment of instalment on the loan from stimulus. Hopefully, a big portion of the loan would be paid on time, he added.

According to sources, many businesspersons applied for loan rescheduling as the one-year tenure of their loans nears an end. Managing Director of Premier Bank M Reazul Karim said, “Several clients applied for the extension of loan tenure. We don’t know when these loans are going to be recovered.”

Since allegations of misuse of the loans from the stimulus surfaced, Bangladesh Bank has started an inspection from this month. Executive director of Bangladesh Bank Serajul Islam said, “We are looking into the allegations on misuse of loans under the stimulus package.”

Former managing director of Agrani Bank and Southeast Bank Syed Abu Naser Bukhtear Ahmed said several firms that had defaulted previously also received the loan from the stimulus. This wasn't right at all. Big firms received the large portion of the stimulus. Small companies did not get the loans despite suffering the worst. These loans from stimulus have accumulated among big firms and if these are not recovered, another big scandal would unfold, he added.


 

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The excavation of second tube of the 3.315-km Karnaphuli tunnel will be completed on Friday, said Harunur Rashid Chowdhury, project director of Multilane Road Tunnel under River Karnaphuli Project.

"We are done with 73% construction work of the tunnel," he told The Business Standard on Tuesday.

After a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) earlier in the day, Planning Minister Abdul Mannan said the tunnel will be named as "Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel".

The tunnel, being constructed at a depth of 18 to 43 metres below the water, will connect Chattogram city with the other side of the Karnaphuli River.

The project was planned to develop the city of Chattogram in the "One City Two Towns" model like the city of Shanghai, China.

Approved in 2015 involving an estimated cost of Tk8,447 crore, the project was supposed to be completed by 2020. However in 2018, the duration of the project was extended till December 2022 as the work was not speeded up due to various complications.

The total cost of the project in the revised project has been estimated at Tk10,374 crore. The Exim Bank of China is giving a hard loan of Tk5,913 crore. China Communication Construction Company Ltd is working as the contractor for the project.

The tunnel will reduce the distance from Chattogram to Cox's Bazar by 40-km. Vehicles in this tunnel will run at a speed of 80-km per hour.


Operation of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the Karnaphuli river in Chattogram will start much before the scheduled date.

Planning Minister MA Mannan today said this during a meeting of Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).

"One end of the tunnel has already been opened, the other end will be opened this Friday," the minister said.

"Afterwards, with a little work, it will be opened for operation much before the deadline," he added.

The exact date of the opening will be announced by the concerned ministry, the minister also said.

According to schedule, the tunnel was supposed to open in December 2022.

"Usually, projects' time and cost rise, but neither happened in this case," the planning minister also said.


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Eight more compartments and four engines of Dhaka Metro Rail project have reached Mongla port today from Japan's Kobe.

The Thai ship, MV SPM Bangkok, arrived at Mongla port around 11am today. It is now anchored at Jetty No. 9 of the port, said sources of the port authorities.

In addition to the compartments and engines, the ship, left Japan's Kobe port on September 14 for Mongla, has 32 more packages.

"Unloading of the compartments and engines from the ship is expected to be completed soon," said Mongla Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Musa.

In May, six coaches of metro train reached Mongla port from Japan. On March 31, the first set of metro train with six coaches reached Mongla port.

According to Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Company Limited said a 24 passenger train coaches will be imported under Metro train's Line-6 Contract Package-08. Kawasaki-Mitsubishi in Japan is building 24 sets of trains for this project. The trains will have DC 1500-volt power supply.

Stainless steel body trains will have vertical seats. Each air-conditioned coach will have four doors on each side.


The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) today approved a Taka 1,435.89 crore project to upgrade the Tangail-Delduar-Louhati-Saturia-Kawalipara-Kalampur bus stand road regional highway to due standard and width to ensure safe and uninterrupted road communication system.

The approval came in the 5th ECNEC meeting of the current fiscal year (FY22) with ECNEC Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

The Premier joined the meeting virtually from her official Ganabhaban residence while Ministers, State Ministers, Planning Commission members and secretaries concerned attended it from the NEC Conference Room in city's Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said a total of nine projects were approved today involving an overall estimated
cost of Taka 6,551.27 crore.

"Of the total project cost, Taka 3,742.29 crore will come from the government of Bangladesh portion, Taka 26.22 crore from the concerned organization's own fund while the rest of Taka 2,782.76 crore as project assistance," he said.

Among the approved nine projects, four are new while five others are revised ones.

The planning minister said that the Roads and Highways Department under the Road Transport and Highways Division will implement the road upgradation project in Tangail by December, 2023.

Once the project is completed, safe and uninterrupted road communication will be established in Tangail, Delduar, Nagarpur, Dhamrai and Saturia
upazilas with Manikganj and Dhaka in much lesser time.

The main project operations include 73.44 hectares of land acquisition, construction of five PC girder bridges, widening and strengthening of pavements, construction of one grade separated intersection and one U-loop or underpass, construction of 31 RCC box culverts, 13.26 lakh cubic meter road embankment widening, and construction of drains.

The Planning Minister said the ECNEC meeting was informed that the work of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tunnel under River Karnaphuli is likely to be completed much before the stipulated timeframe of December 2022.

He said that out of the two channels of the tunnel, the work of one has already been completed while the other one is likely to be accomplished soon, most likely on Friday.

"Hopefully, the work of the tunnel will be completed much before December 2022. It's a matter of great happiness for the government. The main
physical work of the tunnel is nearing completion while the project didn't witness any revision, rather there will be save of some public funds," he
added.

Revealing some directives from the Prime Minister, Mannan said that the Premier once again stressed the need for ensuring Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) and Central Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in the mills and factories to avert pouring of industrial wastes in rivers.

About the scope for taking more loans from foreign currency reserves for unleashing development works, the Prime Minister noted that if foreign
funding is not available against development projects, then the government could go for using its sound foreign currency reserves.

The Planning Minister said the Prime Minister in the meeting noted that the government should be fair to every area of the country so that there is no injustice to any area considering development works. "We're also very much aware of the matter," Mannan added.

The Premier stressed again for dredging rivers and canals to maintain navigability of those.

Referring to the approval of much talked about 2nd revision of Kushtia Medical College and Hospital with an additional cost of Taka 71.38 crore, Mannan said following allegations of alleged irregularities into the work of the Medical College, IMED launched an investigation and finally submitted its report.

Based on the findings of the report, Mannan said the Prime Minister asked the authorities concerned to punish those who are responsible for the alleged irregularities and deviations from the rules and regulations.

Planning Commission member Nasima Begum said that the Prime Minister also directed the authorities concerned to take action against those who are involved in the irregularities as per the investigation report.

The Premier noted that although some of the accused officials involved in the irregularities have already gone into retirement, but those officials would not be spared and thus would be brought to book under the Public Demands Recovery (PDR) Act.

She also asked the concerned executing agencies to finish the work as per the new timeframe.

Besides, Mannan said the ECNEC extended congratulations to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her recent 75th birthday and also for gaining SDG progress award given by the UN-sponsored Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

The other projects approved in the meeting are Sayedabad water supply project, phase-3, 1st revised with an additional cost of Taka 2,920.66 crore, Agriculture weather information system development, 1st revised with an additional cost of Taka 93.18 crore, Establishment of two agricultural training institutes at Jagannathpur and Mohonganj upazilas with Taka 356.08 crore, River bank protection, re-excavation of small rivers, canals, beels, addressing water logging at Pirganj upazila in Rangpur with Taka 165.59 crore, River bank protection on the both sides of Kirtinasha River at Shariutpur with Taka 319.33 crore, Boropukuria-Bogura-Kaliakoir 400kv line, 1st revised with an additional cost of Taka 729.89 crore and Erection of railway track from Khulna to Mongla Port, 2nd revised with an additional cost of Taka 459.27 crore.


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Riding on the largest shipments made of apparel goods, Bangladesh recorded its highest ever single-month export earnings of $4.16 billion in September.

The earnings were 37.99% higher than the $3.01 billion registered in September of last year, according to provisional data of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) released yesterday.

"As economies began to open up, retailers needed goods in bulk to meet consumer demand. As people could not leave their homes for around two years, once the restrictions were lifted, they began to buy more," said Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue.

"Due to the sudden spike in demand, many suppliers had to charter flights to transport goods. This is reflected in Bangladesh's single month highest in terms of exports.

"But the increased demand also affected raw material suppliers, disrupting supply chains and increasing freight crises.

He added that where on average Bangladesh would export $3billion, the number now stood at $4billion, but cautioned that the rate of increase in costs of raw materials was not matched by the value gained by manufacturers.

He urged manufacturers to focus on diversification and not to accept orders at low prices.

Meanwhile, last month's earnings were also 39.17% more than the monthly target of $2.99 billion.

Bangladesh earned $11.02 billion from exports in the first quarter of this fiscal year, which is 11.37% higher than the same period last fiscal year when it earned $9.89 billion.

The quarterly earnings were also 5.65% higher than the target of $10.43 billion, according to the EPB.

Apparel shipment grew by 41.66% in September this year compared to the same month last year as per the data published by EPB.

The highest earnings, $1.90 billion, came from knitwear shipment, while woven items fetched $1.51 billion, both posting over 41% growth from a year-ago period.

Leather, agriculture, fish, pharmaceuticals and plastic products also posted impressive growth year-on-year.

Jute and jute goods, however, lost out, posting over 24% negative growth in September.

"The apparel earnings reflected the much needed recovery in exports as well as increased demand for clothing worldwide as the Covid-19 situation is improving. However, the increased freight cost and yarn price has also inflated export earnings to a certain extent," said Mohiuddin Rubel, a director of BGMEA.

Team Group Managing Director Abdullah Hil Rakib said some buyers were offering lower prices despite the increased costs.

"As an association, we are requesting manufacturers to negotiate for ethical prices," said Rakib, also a director of BGMEA.

"Retail outlets have reopened and online stores are also enjoying good business, which is why our buyers are asking us for quick shipments to respond to consumer behaviour. They are also purchasing extra products as their inventory was very low from last year…," he added.

Echoing Rakib, Leather Goods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh President Md Saiful Islam said due to the pandemic, retail price of leather products had dropped almost 60%, but now it had increased by 20-25% compared to earlier.

He said across the globe, raw material prices and freight costs were increasing, but maintaining previous prices due to previously purchased stock of raw materials had made Bangladesh's export market more competitive.


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The pharmaceutical industry in the country is well-poised for a significant takeoff to grow threefold to an annual size of Tk1 trillion (1 lakh crore) in a decade, industry experts and analysts estimate.

A supportive policy adopted four decades ago together with the aspiration and talents of local entrepreneurs has created an over Tk27,000 crore pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh, which is meeting almost the entire domestic demand alongside exporting to over 100 countries.

In its research report entitled "UCB Asset Pharma Outlook in The Fresh Decade", UCB Asset Management recently said the industry would reach the Tk1 lakh crore milestone mainly riding on the growing local market demand.

Alongside a local market boom, the country's pharmaceutical sector is expected to rake in over $1.5 billion or around Tk13,000 crore in export earnings per year by 2030 – almost nine times higher than $169 million earned in FY21.

The projected annual exports will leave room for the local market to contribute to around 87% annual revenue of the industry in 2030.

The annual growth rate of the industry may go as high as 15-16% this decade, which has been 12.1% over the last five years.

The pandemic helped the industry achieve a staggering 18.56% growth in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Dr Firoj Ahmed, professor and chairman of the Department of Pharmacy at Dhaka University, said due to urbanisation and pollution, people are increasingly facing various health problems alongside a rise in income. As a result, the per-capita expenditure in the health sector is also on the rise.

"Demographic factors and increased capacity to spend boost sales of any product. Our pharmaceutical industry is also in line and the growth potential of the sector is huge," he said.

The local market boom

"We are eying a significant demographic shift that will push up drug sales. For the first 40 years of your life, the food industry is trying to make you fat. In the next 40 years, the pharmaceutical industry is treating you for everything," said Md Risalat Huda, a co-author of the report.

Increasing healthcare expenditure, a demographic shift, and also the changing perception of modern medicine together will drive the local market growth, his report pointed out.

"Medicine heals doubts as well as diseases," Huda said while speaking on the changing perception of people regarding modern medicines as more people prefer modern drugs now.

According to the World Bank, among the regional peers, Bangladeshi people spend the least portion of their income on healthcare – only 2.4% to lag behind Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and, of course, Vietnam where the ratio is highest in the region, 6.4%.

By 2030, people aged over 50 old will account for 22.4% of the local population, which is around 17% now, analysts pointed out, adding due to lifestyle, food habits, adulteration, and pollution, health issues such as gastric, heart diseases, respiratory problems, neurological issues, and cancer are on the rise here.

As the population group depends more on drugs and people here are more positive about modern medicines, analysts expect Bangladesh to follow Vietnam's track of increasing healthcare spending.

Alimentary tract and metabolism, cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, oncological medicines are seeing increasing sales and are set to contribute to the upcoming market boom most.

Exports growing strong

"Bangladesh's pharmaceuticals exports grew three times to $169 million in the last one decade. But the real growth story is yet to be written," said Masum Alvi Chowdhury, another co-author of the UCB Asset report.

"We expect the annual exports will grow to $1.5 billion by 2030, securing a 24% compound annual average growth," he said.

Drugs manufactured by Bangladeshi companies have already entered all developed markets, including the USA, UK, Europe, and Australia, which have stringent regulations and the companies are busy with registering more drugs to export there.

Some top-tier pharmaceutical companies of the country, such as Square, Beximco and Renata, have well made their ways to the developed markets.

New export players, including DBL Pharma and ACI, too are investing for high revenues from the developed markets.

Currently, numerous policies, intermediaries, and existing generic drugs from competing countries are trimming the profit margin for Bangladeshi pharmaceutical exporters.

As Bangladeshi companies are more focused on the moderately regulated and unregulated markets, Southeast Asia and Africa are their biggest markets right now. But the good thing is they are gaining consumers' trust in the developed markets.

Companies are establishing supply chain networks abroad.

Masum Alvi said, "The developed markets are the next logical stop for our pharma growth train. Pharmaceutical products have a long way ahead to become a major export player."

Renata, the descendant of Pfizer Bangladesh, opened a subsidiary company in Ireland after Brexit.

ACI opened a US subsidiary to facilitate their export and Beximco's stock listing in London's over the counter market made it the only Bangladeshi share to be traded abroad.

Square Pharmaceuticals, the market leader, has built a factory in Kenya to compete in the $300 billion East African market. The foreign plant will also help Square mitigate any patent-related issue after the current waivers end by 2032.

Vaccine facility of Incepta, the second largest pharmaceutical player of the country, has been well praised by experts while Orion and some others are also investing for such facilities nowadays targeting Covid-19 vaccine production locally.

Beacon Pharmaceuticals has built its image as a major oncological drug maker in the country.

Four companies, including Square Pharmaceuticals, have registered their drug molecules both in the North American and UK jurisdictions.

For a higher profit margin against higher investments to comply with the stringent regulations like the ones by the US FDA, UK MHRA, the companies are focusing more on prescription drugs than over the counter drugs.

Middle-Eastern markets are also growing attractive and Beximco has entered the gulf market with several products launched in Kuwait.

M Shafiuzzaman, secretary to the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceuticals Industries, said local companies are exporting their products to 151 countries of the world, which may be a benchmark for many others.

"A few companies have already left giant footprints in US and UK markets and are expanding their reach every day while around 1,000 products are going to be registered in the international market for subsequent export, which will unlock huge potential."

TRIPS adherence may not affect the industry massively

Waiver from the World Trade Organisation's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement as a least developed country has been the most important aspect behind the Bangladesh pharmaceutical industry's growth and the facility will expire after 2032 as the country is graduating its economic status up.

Bangladeshi drug makers will be allowed to develop generic versions of the patented drugs until 2033 and even after that the TRIPS adherence is unlikely to affect the industry massively as over 85% of the generic drugs produced now by the industry are off-patent ones, which need no royalty payment to patent owner companies.

The slowed down pace in drug patent registration globally is unlikely to change the scenario drastically, especially for widely consumed medicines, the UCB Asset Management report anticipated.

"Even being TRIPS compatible after 2032, the availability and price of generic drugs might remain unaffected," it added.

The portion of drugs under patents will face a massive surge in price and under those circumstances Bangladesh can utilise some TRIPS flexibilities through incorporation of proper legislation into national laws.

Parallel importation of patented drugs which allows imports without patent owner's consent, compulsory licensing to companies by a local authority to produce patented drugs' generic version and meet local demand during certain understandable situation, and using the patented drug formula as soon as the patent expires are the flexibilities within TRIPS the industry may enjoy after 2032.

Backward linkage

The Bangladesh pharmaceuticals industry currently uses 97% of its raw material called active pharmaceutical ingredients (API).

The API Industrial Park in Munshiganj is expected to start production in the next year to reduce the import dependency to 80% by 2032.

It is not sure if the 27 companies securing plots there can deliver as per plans.

However, still, the 80% dependency on imported API will pose an external supply shock for the pharmaceutical industry.

If drug makers themselves produce APIs, they might secure a decent gross profit margin in various business contexts.

"Bangladesh is not a country that permits the pharmaceutical industry to charge exactly what the market will bear. Our drug regulators always put consumers before manufacturers," said Masum Alvi Chowdhury, stressing the need for cost control by the companies.


Avery Dennison has launched a manufacturing facility in Bangladesh in partnership with Youngone Corporation.

The 2,052-sqm unit, located in the Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) in Chattogram, will enable strong service quality and flexibility to local customers, the partners announced on Sunday.

Chairman and CEO of Youngone Corporation Kihak Sung said the investment in KEPZ will give a competitive edge to Avery Dennison in terms of speed and flexibility to serve its clients with reduced business cost and lead time.

"It gives me immense pleasure to welcome Avery Dennison as one of the investors in Korean EPZ (KEPZ), the leading eco-friendly EPZ in this region. Avery Dennison and Youngone will partner on backward linkage industries for apparel and textile," he said.

In today's fast-paced business world, a "do-it-alone" approach is not the best strategy for growth, Sung said.

Harnessing the strengths and abilities of others from different areas is one of the most strategic ways for businesses to promote innovation and solve complex challenges by merging talent, expertise and technology, he said.

"I'm confident that Avery Dennison, with its high-quality products and international prestige, will grow together with Youngone and other business partners. We'll extend all possible support and cooperation to Avery Dennison to move forward in achieving its business goal."

Highlighting the potential benefits of this project, Vice President and General Manager, South Asia, Avery Dennison Kenny Liu said this manufacturing unit is a remarkable step forward as they expand their capabilities to serve the local market, as well as global customers.

"We thank Youngone for their support to set up this site within the KEPZ, which enables us to better serve Youngone and our Chattogram customers and support their need for speed in today's highly dynamic market," Kenny Liu said.

The KEPZ, set up by Youngone in 1999 on the bank of Karnaphuli, hosts the largest (40Mw) rooftop solar project in Bangladesh, to power industrial activities with renewable energy, while over 2.5 million trees have been planted, covering about 400 species.


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Many mega construction projects have begun in the country over the past decade. As a result, the use of heavy machineries has increased enormously. As the market expands, many people are getting involved in the business of heavy machinery. Since such machinery has not been manufactured in the country as yet, traders import those and sell these locally.

Many companies have taken up business as distributors of various global heavy machinery manufacturers, resulting in the expansion of their market in Bangladesh.

Business persons said most of the heavy machinery being used in infrastructure construction is second-hand equipment. This machinery is imported after being used in other countries.

People concerned said there is a huge difference in prices between old and new machinery. That is why demand of old equipment is more. About 5,000 units of heavy machinery are imported every year. Import costs increased to about Tk 20 billion (2,000 crore) from less than Tk 10 billion (1,000 crore) in five years.
US firm Caterpillar controls a big portion of the construction equipment market. Bangla Trac Limited (BanglaCAT) is the sole authorized dealer of Caterpillar in Bangladesh. China’s Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group (XCMG) is the third largest construction machinery company in the world and Earthmoving Solution Limited is its distributor in Bangladesh.

China’s SANY Heavy Industry ranks fourth in construction machinery in the world and Powervision Limited is its local distributor. Energypac and Runner bring the equipment of UK’s JCB and South Korea’s Hyundai respectively.

ACI Motors and Metal Motors ventured into this business several years ago. Metal Motors is the local distributors of India’s Escorts Construction Equipment.

Managing director of Metal Motors Sadid Jamil told Prothom Alo, “We have received supply orders of Tk 1 billion (100 crore) equipment so far. We have received these orders from international firms since many road construction and other projects are on. Besides, private firms are also purchasing the equipment.”

ACI brings equipment of China’s Lovol, Switzerland’s Case and Japan’s Kobelco. ACI is also the distributor of India’s Indo Power.

Managing director of ACI Motors Subrata Ranjan Das told Prothom Alo, “We are bringing machinery from abroad as per buyers’ requirements. There is an increase in clients for new equipment instead of old machinery. Currently, we sell equipment worth over Tk 1 billion (100 crore) annually and the demand is on the rise.”

Sources said there is a 1 per cent tariff on import of heavy machinery for customers and 5 per cent for companies. Big firms import the machinery with the help of these distributors and pay the latter a certain commission.

Traders said construction is underway in a number of mega projects including several special economic zones and power plants, Padma bridge, metro rail, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Karnaphufuli Tunnel, Maheshkhali deep seaport and third terminal project of Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Besides, construction and repairing work of more roads and railways are also on to improve the communications. On top of that, local and foreign entrepreneurs are opening big factories in the private sector. Real estate companies have also increasingly been using heavy machinery in construction.
Excavators, loaders, wheel dozers, soil compactors, pipe layers and backhoe loaders are among the types of heavy machinery being used in various government and private projects.

Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Armed Forces, local and foreign contractor firms and various government and private agencies are the main customers of these heavy machineries.

BanglaCAT is the largest seller of heavy equipment in the country. Head of Machine Sales at BanglaCAT Sakhawat Hossain told Prothom Alo, “Awareness is growing among local contractors and construction firms but customers are still more interested in old equipment due to low prices.”

People concerned from the sector said, unlike other vehicles, heavy machinery does not require a movement permit. That is why there is no loan or leasing facility to procure such equipment. The government would be able to earn revenue by registering heavy machinery. It would also be possible to take legal action if an accident occurs. Besides, if a registration process starts, loan facilities would be available to purchase the machinery. So, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) can launch registration of the equipment, they added.


3rd terminal of Shahjalal Airport.

 
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The country's textile factory owners are set to invest $2.5 billion in the sector by 2023 to boost production capacity to meet growing demand.

The investments will mostly go into adopting new technologies. The fresh injection is also expected to generate employment opportunities for about one lakh people at 25 units, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) President Mohammad Ali Khokon told the media yesterday.

The investments come in the form of establishment of 13 new textile units and expansion of 12 others to meet the growing demand, mostly of manmade fibre, in the international market, industry insiders say.

The textile sector lags behind in the production of blended yarn and fabrics like polyester, synthetic, viscose and lycra (known as man-made fibre) and the investment is expected to correct that.

There will be 2.5 million newly-installed spindles, adding to the existing capacity of about 13 million spindles.

Khokon said the new units had already opened letters of credit to import capital machinery, and all are scheduled to come into production by 2023.

The BTMA president also said the recent gas and electricity crisis in China created a scope for the local weaving industry to expand.

To utilise the new capacity, about 2.5 million bales of raw cotton need to be exported each year. Bangladesh imported 8.2 million bales in 2020-21, he added.

The weakening pandemic in Europe and the United States – two major destinations of Bangladeshi apparels – has meant the demand for readymade garments is returning to the pre-Covid level, industry insiders said.

Many textile manufacturers are now overwhelmed with export orders, which they will not be able to meet on time by using their current capacity, sources said.

Besides, trade tensions between the US and China have also encouraged local entrepreneurs to invest in some value-added yarn and fabrics.

The latest investment is to come from Modern Syntex, Abul Kalam Spinning Mills, Universal Denim, Karim Tex, Nice Spinning, Mondol Spinning, Chandrsee Spinning, NR Spinning, Wazeed Spinning Mills, Raw Tech, Beximco Group, RBD Fibers and Sufiya Cotton Textiles.

Karim Group is investing Tk1,350 crore to produce 112 tonnes of yarn in a day – 80 tonnes of natural yarn and 32 tonnes of synthetic yarn – to meet the growing demand of yarn, said Md Wahid Mia, managing director of Karim Tex Ltd.

The new unit will be the largest spinning mill with the latest technology, which is scheduled for commercial production by 2023, he added.

Wahid said it will create employment for around 1,000 people.

Meanwhile, Chandsree Spinning Ltd, a new venture in the textile sector, is investing Tk100 crore to produce about 28.80 lakh tonnes of yarn annually, said its managing director ABM Jafar Ahmed.

On the other hand, Asia Composite, Maksons Group, Envoy Group, New Asia Group, DBL Group, Pride Group, ShaSha Group, among others, are also investing to expand their capacity.

Of the investors, Asia Composite has plans to install another 48,000 spindles, along with the current 70,000 spindles.

Envoy Group is also investing Tk125 crore to set up a synthetic blended yarn production capacity. The new unit will produce 12 tonnes of yarn per day.

Kutubuddin Ahmed, chairman of the group, said, "We are enhancing spinning capacity to produce cotton and synthetic blended 'expanded yarn' as a substitute for imported yarn."

According to the BTMA, more than 433 spinning mills were in operation in Bangladesh in 2020, which had a combined production capacity of 3,270 million kilogrammes of yarn per year.

Local spinners can supply nearly 85-90% of the required yarn and fabrics for knitwear.

In the case of woven fabrics, local weavers can supply below 40% of the requirement. Because of this, the woven garment industry has remained dependent on foreign fabrics, according to BTMA data.

Of all garment items produced globally, 78% is made from manmade fibres, while cotton fibre accounts for the rest, according to data from the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) – a Switzerland-based platform for global textile makers.


The Asian Development Bank is providing $1.78 billion in loans to Bangladesh under the multi-tranche financing facilities, making it the highest proposed financing from the Manila-based lender against any single project.

The "South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Dhaka-Sylhet Corridor Road Investment Project" will be implemented under a framework financing agreement (FFA), the finance ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Under this FFA, a loan of $400 million for tranche-1 was approved on September 8 this year, according to the statement.

The main objective of the project is to improve the sub-regional transport and trade through upgrading the 209.33 kilometres of corridor to a four-lane standard with the feature of the slow-moving vehicular traffic lane.

Besides, new pavement, bridges, and flyovers, straightening of curves, railway overpass and safe entry or exit to the main road will also be built under this project.

The project will also improve the institutional capacity of the roads and highways department and the efficiency, connectivity and safety of the Dhaka-Sylhet international corridor.

It will also reduce the travel time between Dhaka and Sylhet by approximately two hours, according to the statement.

ADB's total loan to Bangladesh till now is more than $26.61 billion and the total grant is about $1.053 billion.

The issue of the $1.78 billion loan was shared at a time yesterday when Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal welcomed the ADB's new country director for Bangladesh, Edimon Ginting, who will replace Manmohan Parkash.

Welcoming the designate country director of ADB as a new friend, the minister said: "Edimon Ginting is a new member of our team."

"I want to assure him that he will get all kinds of cooperation from us. And we hope that he too will become our true friend by involving himself in the development journey of Bangladesh."

The minister was speaking at the farewell of Parkash at Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka.

Kamal said Bangladeshi citizens are indebted to the family of Parkash as his valiant father fought for the cause of independence of Bangladesh as a member of Indian Air force.

"I must acknowledge that Mr. Manmohan's intelligence and insightful thoughts on the concurrent global development issues were really amazing. Thank him for the support and goodwill he has shown over the years. During his tenure the relationship between Bangladesh and ADB has reached a new height."

 

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Bangladesh, a country severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, will have a "modest economic recovery" in FY2021-22, said a World Bank (WB) forecast on Wednesday.

The global lender projected a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.4% in the current fiscal year for Bangladesh. Meanwhile, growth for the next fiscal was estimated at 6.9%.

Earlier in June, WB had forecasted the country's growth at 5.1% for the current fiscal year.


But that figure has been revised and increased by 1.3 percentage points in its latest South Asia Economic Focus titled – "Shifting Gears: Digitisation and Services-Led Development".

In Bangladesh, the continued recovery in exports and consumption will help growth rates pick up to 6.4% in FY2021-22 against the government-set target of 7.2%, the WB report reads.

The economic recovery of the country is expected to gradually accelerate, particularly if the supply of vaccines rises and the economic scarring effects of the pandemic can be contained, the report added.

The government's Covid-19 stimulus programme provided firms with access to working capital and low-cost loans to sustain operations and retain employees, although lending to smaller firms and the informal sector has been limited, the report further said.

However, the World Bank identified structural weaknesses which include low institutional capacity, highly concentrated exports, growing financial sector vulnerabilities, unbalanced urbanisation, and slow improvements in the business environment as major challenges for Bangladesh's further development.

"Bangladesh is also highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Expected graduation from the UN's Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2026 will present opportunities but also challenges, including the eventual loss of preferential access to advanced economy markets," the report read.

The report, due to higher capital expenditure on infrastructure megaprojects, projected Bangladesh's fiscal deficit at over 5.5% of the total GDP.

The WB also projected the poverty rate to marginally drop to 12.5% in FY21 from last year's 12.9%. The poverty rate is expected to drop further in the next fiscal year.

WB Chief Economist for the South Asia Region Hans Timmer, addressing a virtual event on Wednesday, said, "Countries in South Asia have a strong comparative advantage in exporting services, particularly business processes and tourism, whereas they have struggled to break into manufacturing export markets.

"To realise the potential of the services-led development, the region needs to rethink regulations and establish new institutions to support innovation and competitiveness."

Many WB member countries are implementing lockdowns for preventing coronavirus from spreading further. The financial sectors of these countries are in a very fragile state, he added.

Stating that inflation is on the rise in many countries, causing suffering to the general people, the WB chief economist identified disruptions in the supply chains, and spike in power and energy prices as the prominent factors.

The WB Vice President for the South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer echoed Hans.

He said, "The pandemic has had profound impacts on South Asia's economy. Going forward, much will depend on the speed of vaccination, the possible emergence of new Covid-19 variants, as well as any major slowdown in the momentum of global growth."

As per the report's findings, the South Asian region will grow by 7.1% in FY2021-22 based on rebounding global demand and targeted containment measures helping minimise the economic impacts of the recent waves of the pandemic.

However, it anticipated an uneven recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic across the countries and sectors of the region and forecast 5.4% growth for the next fiscal – a figure 3 percentage points lower than that of pre-pandemic times.

The report said, India's economy, South Asia's largest, is expected to grow by 8.3% in the current fiscal, aided by an increase in public investment and incentives to boost manufacturing.

Covid-19 has left long-term scars on the region's economy, the impacts of which can last well into the recovery. Many countries experienced lower investment flows, disruptions in supply chains, and setbacks to human capital accumulation, as well as substantial increases in debt levels. The pandemic is estimated to have caused 48 to 59 million people to become or remain poor in 2021 in South Asia.

As countries build back, they have a chance to rethink their long-term development models. With the emergence of new digital technologies, South Asia has an opportunity to shift gears from a traditional manufacturing-led growth model and capitalise on the potential of its services sector.


Beximco Limited got the nod from the government to build a solar power plant with a capacity of 280 MW at a cost of Tk1,700 crore in Gaibandha.

It will be the country's largest solar power plant.

Beximco has launched Green Sukuk bonds of Tk3,000 crore to build the new solar power plant.

Earlier, the company signed two power purchase agreements with the Power Development Board to supply 200 MW and 30 MW solar-generated electricity.

The two power plants - located in Gaibandha and Panchagarh - are under construction.

The company expects that the plants will commercially open in mid-2022.

 

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Bangladesh has finally started reaping benefits from the US-China trade war as Asian companies now look to invest around $1 billion in the country's export processing zones.

When local private investment has remained stagnant during this Covid crisis, the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) has a slew of investment proposals, mostly from Asian countries, including China, Japan, India, and South Korea, according to the authorities.

Most investment proposals are made for manufacturing non-apparel products as Bepza's aim is to come out of the country's dependence on a single sector.

Currently, Bepza contributes to around 20% of the country's total annual exports, of which 64% account for non-RMG items.

The investment in export processing zones grew by 15% in the last fiscal year and Bepza will see a 20% to 25% jump in growth by the fiscal 2022-23 with the inclusion of the $1 billion investment that has remained in the pipeline.

Explaining the reason why Asian investors are coming to Bangladesh, Major General Md Nazrul Islam, executive chairman at Bepza, said investors are shifting from China owing to rising labour costs in the country.

"We are now benefiting from the US-China trade war. Some foreign investors are shifting their businesses to Bangladesh from Myanmar too," he added.

At present, China tops the list in terms of investments in Bangladesh. Besides, investors from India, Japan, and South Korea are also coming here, he said.

"We have signed an investment deal with Germany," he said, adding that most investments are flowing in for the manufacturing of non-RMG products such as high-quality leather goods, zipper, button, backward linkage products and outdoor tents.

Some 90% of the investment proposals that they have received since January this year are from Asian countries, the Bepza executive chairman said.

Japanese investors have sought 50 plots in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar located in Mirsarai, Chattogram for setting up 50 industries. They will invest in manufacturing field items, golf shafts and various other products.

"We have formed a committee to review their proposal. But we cannot allocate them 50 plots as we have a huge load of investment proposals," Major General Md Nazrul Islam said.

Among current foreign investors, China has the highest number, 109 enterprises in export processing zones, followed by South Korea 71, Japan 31 and India 20, according to Bepza.

There are 459 enterprises now in operation in export processing zones, of which 70% are foreign ones. The total investments in the country's eight export processing zones stood at $5.67 billion as of August this year, according to Bepza.

With foreign investment continuing to swell up, Bepza started to construct three new export processing zones in Patuakhali, Jashore and Gaibandha.

Amid the flood of foreign investment, creating skilled manpower is now the main challenge for Bepza as Bangladeshi workers lag behind in technical knowhow.

When unemployment emerged as a big concern amid job cuts during the pandemic, Bepza generated 32,000 new employment opportunities, thanks to a big flow of foreign investments in eight export processing zones.

Bepza has set a unique example in the case of female employment as 67% of total 4.67 lakh employees in export processing zones are women.

Nazrul Islam said there is a shortage of skilled manpower to operate modern equipment.

Bepza, National Skill Development Authority and Bangladesh High-tech Park Authority are now working collaboratively to create skilled manpower, he added.

How Bepza's work on EPZ development

Under Bepza, there are now eight EPZs such as Chattogram EPZ, Dhaka EPZ, Mongla EPZ, Ishwardi EPZ, Comilla EPZ, Uttara EPZ, Adamjee EPZ, Karnaphuli EPZ and Adamjee EPZ.

Talking about Bepza's under-construction economic zone at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar, Nazrul Islam said, "We have 1,150 acres of land at the industrial city where 350 export-oriented factories will be built."

All work will be completed by 2023 with 140 plots having so far been ready, he also said.

"We have already allotted 66 plots out of 550 to different companies who will start infrastructure development work towards the end of this year," he pointed out.

They have made arrangements for uninterrupted water supply for four-five years to companies at Bangabandhu industrial city, he also said, adding that the government has also taken projects to mitigate water crisis at the industrial city.

Bepza is also developing an export processing zone on 1,831 acres of land in Gaibandha, particularly to produce agro-based products, Nazrul Islam said.

On the other hand, groundwork on Patuakhali's EPZ, only a 30-minute journey by road from Payra deep seaport, has been completed.

Besides, there will be easy communication between Jashore's EPZ and Mongla port, he said.

There are now 50 factories in operation in Adamjee EPZ. Ten more are waiting to go into operation. The EPZ, which has capacity to accommodate 83 factories, has already witnessed investments amounting to $600 million. The EPZ generates a revenue of Tk500 crore annually.

The country's RMG factories inside eight EPZs mainly manufacture clothing items of big brands. They also produce 138 more items, such as optical fibre cables, Golf items, furniture, jute products, etc. in 22 categories.

"We are emphasising product diversification in non-RMG sectors. For example, Sony Ericsson is producing mobile parts, while Nissan, Mitsubishi, Hino and Toyota are making automobile parts. ABU Garcia is manufacturing golf shafts," the Bepza executive chairman said.

Bepza has three agendas: product diversification, employment generation and employment for women, he said, mentioning that product diversification is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's special agenda.

Some 174 out of 459 enterprises operating in the export processing zones manufacture non-RMG products, according to Bepza.

Why foreign investors are interested in investing in EPZs

Bepza offers investors various incentives to invest in EPZs.

Investors can avail tax holiday, duty-free imports of raw materials and machinery, exemption from dividend tax, GSP facility, duty- and quota-free access to European Union and other countries.

In an EPZ, 100% foreign ownership is permissible - there is no ceiling on foreign investment and full repatriation of capital and dividend.

Bepza charges $2.50 yearly in a plot rent in Chattogram, Dhaka, Comilla, Adamjee and Karnaphuli EPZ and $1.40 for Mongla, Ishwardi and Uttara EPZ.

Bepza, which has around 2,000 employees, works on ensuring services, such as gas, water and electricity supplies to investors.


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The government of Bangladesh hopes to ink an agreement on a $2.80 billion loan with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) under the Japanese fiscal year 2021 (April 2020-March 2021) as part of Jica's 42nd Official Development Assistance (ODA) package, according to Economic Relations Department (ERD) officials.

Earlier, a $3.15-billion-loan agreement was signed with Jica under the 41st loan package in 2020.

ERD sources said Bangladesh has asked for a loan for five infrastructure projects in the 42nd loan package – Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Line 1 (2nd Tranche), Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Line 6 (5th Tranche), Matarbari Coal Fired Power Project (6th Tranche), Matarbari Coal Fired Power Project (2nd Phase) and Southern Chattogram Regional Development Project.

Besides, the Japanese government has confirmed that it will provide a Health Sector Development Policy Loan in the Japanese fiscal year 2021. Last year, the government of Bangladesh sought $500 million in loan from the Japanese agency for the development of the health sector in Bangladesh.

The 42nd loan package agreement will have three phases. In the first phase, an agreement of $1.05 billion in the loan may be signed this month for the Matarbari Coal Fired Power Project (6th Tranche) and Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Line 6 (5th Tranche).

ERD officials said almost the same amount of loan will be available for both projects.

Jica goes for loan agreements in several stages depending on the importance and progress of a project. The loan agreement will be signed for the sixth instalment for the Matarbari 1200 MW Coal Power Plant project and the fifth instalment for the Metrorail (MRT-6) project.

These two ongoing projects require a quick disbursement of funds. As such, the government wants to complete the loan agreement process in both projects beforehand.

Mohammed Shahid Ullah, Executive Director (Finance), Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited (CPGCBL), said final discussions between CPGCBL and Jica have concluded regarding the sixth instalment of loan for the Matarbari project. Now the ERD will complete the formalities regarding the loan.

Project stakeholders said work on the Matarbari power plant began in July 2014. The cost of the project has been increasing with work going on to increase the depth and width of the channel for the construction of ports under this project.

Therefore, a proposal to increase the cost of the project has already been sent to the Planning Commission.

Initially, Jica was supposed to lend Tk28,939 crore, which will now be Tk44,427 crore under the new proposal.

Although the project was supposed to have been completed in June 2023, the new proposal has extended the duration of the project to December 2026. Till June 2021, the physical progress of the project was 46.74%.

Meanwhile, CPGCBL is trying to finance another new project of 1200 MW coal power in Matarbari. Jica's initial consent has also been obtained in this regard. Based on this, a feasibility study has also started, CPGCBL officials have said.

Meanwhile, the government aims to launch Metrorail from Uttara to Agargaon in December next year. Till August, 88% of work on this route has been completed while from Agargaon to Motijheel work is 68% complete.

Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) officials hope that implementation will speed up as the Covid-19 situation has improved in the country. Consequently, the demand for foreign funding will also increase. Jica has agreed to finance the project in its 42nd ODA package.

The total loan provided by the Jica in this Tk23,490-crore-project is Tk16,594 crore.

Apart from Metrorail or MRT-6, Jica will also provide loans for the MRT-1 project for the second time. Construction work on MRT Line-1 is expected to start in June.

The project will also have a loan agreement from Jica for financing the second instalment, but ERD officials said discussions are still going on about the amount of the loan.

As per the Revised Strategic Transport Plan, MRT Line-1 will be divided into Airport Route and Purbachal Route. The total cost of implementation of the project is estimated at Tk52,561 crore. Of this amount, a loan of Tk39,450 crore will be available from Jica in various stages.

Meanwhile, Japan has expressed interest in assisting in the development of infrastructure in South Chattogram and Cox's Bazar district by focusing on Matarbari. To this end, Jica has primarily agreed to provide loan assistance under the 42nd ODA package.

 

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Factories inside the Cumilla Export Processing Zone have registered excellent export growth by fetching $751 million over the last 15 months when the pandemic raged, riding on uninterrupted production in compliance with health safety guidelines.

They exported $565 million worth of goods in FY21 in contrast to $464 million earned in FY20. In the first three months of the current fiscal year, their export receipts amounted to $185 million, according to Cumilla EPZ sources.

In FY19, the EPZ raked in $490 million in export earnings.

The EPZ authorities have put this impressive export figure down to the continuation of factory operations by maintaining Covid-19 protocols, arranging lunch in different shifts to ensure physical distancing, and 14-day quarantine for workers who fell sick.

Besides, a hospital inside the EPZ has recently been built to ensure proper healthcare facilities for employees.

The Cumilla EPZ, established in 2000 on some 267 acres of land, has 48 factories. Some 27 are foreign companies in the A category, 13 domestic and foreign companies in the B category and eight domestic companies in the C category.

The zone has been playing a significant role in generating jobs as most of 40,183 workers in the EPZ are Bangladeshi, of whom, almost 70% are from Cumilla. More than 59% of the workforce are women.

Factories in the EPZ manufacture readymade garments, garment accessories, sweaters, yarns, fabrics, textile dyes and auxiliaries, plastic products, electronics parts, footwear, sportswear, camera cases, eyeglasses and bags. The products are exported to the European Union, the United States, China, Japan, and Sri Lanka.

The other side of the coin

Despite the growing trend, the EPZ authorities have expressed dissatisfaction regarding the lack of expansion the export processing zone has seen in the last 21 years.

They said the EPZ is short of at least 200 acres of land, considering the existing demand.

Ashaque Mohammed Shahadat Hossain, director (Labour, IR) at the Cumilla EPZ, believes expanding the EPZ would create employment opportunities for 50,000 more people and women would be the prime beneficiaries.

Of late, several multi-storied buildings are being constructed around the EPZ, which will make future expansions difficult, he added.

Zillur Rahman, general manager at the EPZ, said, "Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority does not have the jurisdiction to expand the Cumilla EPZ or open another export processing zone in Cumilla. We have to depend on a decision from the government regarding these things."

The EPZ also suffers from the lack of skilled labour as the existing vocational training system in Cumilla is not sufficient to train workers. Owing to the lack of good accommodation in Cumilla, workers from other districts also feel reluctant to come and work here.

As a result, most organisations functioning in the EPZ train their workers separately, which is time-consuming and affects production.

The EPZ workers also have to deal with regular inconveniences when it comes to commuting as most factories do not provide vehicles for the workers. The traffic congestion also makes it doubly difficult for the workers and it also hampers product deliveries.


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The tannery industry in Bangladesh has overcome a pandemic-induced slowdown riding on price hike of leather and leather goods in the international market.

The industry insiders said most leather and leather goods exporting countries had to raise the prices of their products due to an increase in the costs of raw material and shipping.

But Bangladeshi exporters enjoyed a cost advantage because they had a big stock of raw materials and offered a competitive price to foreign brands.

In fiscal 2020-2021, the country's leather and leather goods exports rose 19% to $569.88 million; of which, leather export increased 21%, leather products 14%, and leather footwear 19%.

The positive trend of export still keeps going in the current fiscal year. In the July-September quarter, the total export by the tannery industry rose 21% to $271.34 million and it reached the pre-pandemic level.

But in fiscal 2019-20, the leather industry saw a 22% fall in exports due to the worldwide pandemic.

Md Saiful Islam, president of Leather Goods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said, "Raw material prices and freight costs shoot up across the globe. But Bangladesh's export market was more competitive because we had raw material stock purchased at the previous prices."

"If this trend continues, we will be able to sustain 20% growth in the days ahead."

"However, we are far behind in the compliant issue. If we cannot ensure environmental compliant, it will affect our exports," he said.

Shaheen Ahamed, chairman of the Bangladesh Tanners Association, said, "We have not yet reached the pre-pandemic level. Orders are increasing as lockdowns in Europe have been lifted. Vietnam is a big market for us. Although orders have been low for so long, they are rising again now."

According to the World Footwear 2021 Yearbook, in 2020 Bangladesh was the 8th largest footwear producer and 9th largest consumer market.

The manufacturing industry in the Asian country is much orientated to the internal market with only 72 million pairs exported in 2020, making this the 16th largest exporter of footwear.

As per World Footwear data – the global footwear market size stood at $394.12 billion and China holds more than 60%.

The country's footwear export leader Apex Footwear Limited reported slight growth in revenue to Tk1,187 crore in the last fiscal year. Its net profit grew 67% to Tk10.53 crore.

In FY20, Apex Footwear's export fell by 29% due to the pandemic.

Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear, told The Business Standard, "We are satisfied with this growth as we are passing through a recovery period."

He said their export started to recover from the pandemic blues from April this year, and Apex would soon return to the pre-pandemic level business if the virus situation does not deteriorate.

"But we need to increase focus for new markets as the country mainly dependent on Europe and the US," he added.

Another 100% export-oriented footwear maker Fortune Shoes posted an 18% growth in sales in the last fiscal year, while its export dropped 23% in FY20.

Leather and leather goods manufacturer Apex Tannery incurred losses till March this year. But in the April-June quarter of FY21, it returned to profit as its exports increased.

Besides, the local market was badly affected by the pandemic as people faced restrictions on movement.

The branded local market leader Bata Shoe saw a 41% drop in sales in 2020. Now it has made a turnaround from the shock but is still behind in the pre-pandemic level.

In the January-June period of this year, its sales rose 97% to Tk400 crore, but still incurring losses due to its high operating cost.

The company said, in its financial report, the revenue increased in compared to the same period of last year due to the boost in sales and clear of aged merchandise by offering a bulk amount of discount to customers.

Industry players estimate that the size of Bangladesh's footwear market is Tk17,000 crore, where pairs of shoes sold each year are not fewer than 20 crore and may be up to 25 crore, according to an EBL Securities research. Besides, the market is growing at 12% each year.

According to the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE), six companies are listed from the tannery sector. On the recovering hope, Fortune Shoes' share price jumped 500%, Samata Leather 76%, Bata 67%, Legacy Footwear 49%, Apex Footwear 45%, and Apex Tannery 37% in the last six months.


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Nialco Alloys Limited will set up two new plants to manufacture finished products to expand its business.

It is the only company to be listed on the SME platform of the Chattogram Stock Exchange.

The export-oriented company mainly manufactures high-grade bronze and brass ingots.

An official at Nialco Alloys said it will invest more than Tk2 crore in the new plants – an Aluminium Manufacturing Plant and an Aluminium Zink Recycling Plant – and the project cost will come from the bank credits.

"The demand for copper products is increasing globally. Most of the Nialco Alloys products are exported to different countries, especially Japan and Korea, as raw materials. The company has no major competitor in the country," he told The Business Standard, seeking anonymity.

The production capacity of the new plants will be 100 tonnes per month.

According to data available with the CSE, the company will open an L/C with Mutual Trust Bank Limited.

The company is expected to complete setting up the plants in seven to nine months.

On 15 April this year, the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission approved the company to raise Tk7.5 crore through the SME platform.

MTB Capital, a sister concern of Mutual Trust Bank Ltd, was the issue manager of the company.

According to a financial report, in the July-September quarter of 2020, the company revenue was Tk20.56 crore, and net profit was Tk1.39 crore.

During this period, the earnings per share were Tk0.91 and net asset value per share stood at Tk12.43 without revaluation reserve.

The last share price of the company at CSE was Tk16.90 on Wednesday.

Sponsors and directors jointly hold a 73.14% stake in the company, institutional investors 26.31%, and general investors 0.55%.


Uranium, the most widely used fuel for nuclear power, will likely be loaded into the reactor of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant by the fourth quarter of 2023.

After that, nuclear power will be added to the national grid, said Dr Md Shawkat Akbar, project director and the managing director at the Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Limited, on Thursday while talking to media personnel.

But before that safety measures have to be ensured and a lot of essential infrastructure, such as for power grid and telecommunication, also need to be built like in developed countries, he said, adding that all these have to be certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) visiting team.

As per the integrated work plan with the IAEA, five missions of the IAEA will visit the project site by mid-2023 and before the fuel loading.

The missions will oversee other project related work, such as the country's capability to operate the plant.

"One mission is related to the power plant and five others to national infrastructure. They will oversee our preparation in facing an emergency," said Dr Shawkat.

"The Russian Federation will not deliver fuel until the physical safety is ensured. The fuel import depends on the development of these areas of infrastructure," said the project director.

The first unit of the 2400MW power plant is expected to be connected to the grid by 2023 and the second unit by 2024.

Dr Shawkat said around 50% work on the project will be completed by this year.

The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), the project owner, inked a contract with Russia's state-run uranium mining and nuclear fuel production company, TVEL, in August 2019 for importing nuclear fuel from 2027 to till the plant remains in operation.

Sources at the BAEC said after every 18 months, one-third of nuclear fuel will have to be changed.

Dr Shawkat said necessary stock of uranium will remain on standby on the project site after the required amount is loaded into the rector.

He said the Russian Federation will provide the fuel for the plant till 2027 under a general contract as part of construction. For that, Bangladesh will not need to pay them.

As per the contract with TVEL, considering inflation of dollars and euros in the international market, the price per kilogram of uranium was estimated at $550 till 2027.

As per a parameter of the Methodology of Contract Price, the cost of refuelling of a single unit will be $62 million each time.

However, the price of the uranium will be evaluated and revised every 10 years.

Talking about uranium price, Dr Shawkat said unlike other fuel prices in the international market, nuclear fuel price does not fluctuate.

Data says the price of uranium fuel price is more stable than any other fossil fuel.

"Every year, there will be 30 to 35 tonnes of uranium for each unit of the plant," he added.

Russia's responsibility to supply uranium with proper safety

Talking about the uranium import management, the Rooppur nuclear project director said it is the supplier's responsibility to deliver fuel with necessary security protection.

"So, it is the Russian Federation's duty to ensure safe and secure fuel supply," he said.

As per the nuclear fuel export control policy and the IAEA guidelines, the Russian Federation will have to inform the IAEA when and what types of fuel they are going to supply to Bangladesh.

Every power plant's fuel has a unique number. The producer sets the number after production and informs it to the IAEA before supplying it to power plants.

He said, "Fuel movement, fuel handling, storage and even loading in the power plant will be done following international standards and guidelines."

"It will be our duty once the fuel is delivered to Bangladesh. Fuel movement in the country will be handled with the highest security protocol," said Dr Md Shawkat Akbar.

No fear of radiation

Talking about the people's safety from the project, he said, "We have both active and passive safety systems in the Rooppur nuke power project."

"The vendor country assured that radiation will not cross international standards beyond 300 metres from the reactor house in normal or even in an emergency situation," he said.

Apart from this, there is another technology named core catcher, a device provided to catch the molten core material of a nuclear reactor in case of a nuclear meltdown and prevent it from escaping the containment building.

Talking about the core-cather's function, he said if there is any situation like in Fukushima, radiation and reactor materials will be melted and fall beneath the land and will be protected.

The plant has all safety measures to face any manmade and natural accident.

 

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The East Zone of Bangladesh Railways is getting speed in terms of both freight and passenger services, with new locomotives joining its fleet.

In two phases in August and October, 20 new locomotives joined the fleet and 10 more are going to join next month.

With the addition of 30 locomotives, officials believe the transport of passengers and goods in the East Zone will get momentum. The railway authorities said they were in the process of adding more locomotives to the East Zone to ease the crisis.

The country's railway services are divided into two zones – east and west. The East Zone, which has two hubs – Dhaka and Chattogram – is headquartered at CRB (Central Railway Building) in the port city.

Md Borhan Uddin, the chief mechanical engineer at the East Zone, told The Business Standard, "After the trial run of 10 metre-gauge locomotives imported in 2020, we received them on 4 October for use."

Another 10 metre-gauge locomotives, which arrived at the Chattogram port from South Korea on June 9 this year, were handed over to the Mechanical Department on 10 August, he added.

As the speed limit of the newly-imported locomotives is 100 kmph, the speed of the railways will increase and the quality of passenger services will also rise, said officials at the East Zone.

"Twenty locomotives were purchased from Hyundai Rotem of South Korea in two phases – Tk297 crore in one project, and Tk330 crore in another," Mohammad Hasan Mansoor, project director of the purchase, told TBS.

"Ten more locomotives were bought from the same company. Hopefully, the East Zone will be able to add them to its fleet in November after a trial run."

According to sources, the number of locomotives in the East Zone is 153, including 20 new ones.

An engine has a lifespan of 20 years. Of the previous 133 engines in the East Zone, only 39 are within a lifetime. The remaining 94 engines have expired. The lifetime expired locomotives include 68-year-old ones. Besides, there are locomotives of 1961, 1978, 1979, and 1982 in this zone.

Older engines are used more in freight trains than in passenger trains. That is why the trains cannot run at a speed of more than 35 kilometres per hour. Due to their operation with expired locomotives, freight trains often meet various accidents such as catching fire and derailments.

It takes 12 hours for a container train from Chattogram Goods Port Yard to reach Kamalapur ICD (Inland container depot) in Dhaka. But freight trains with new locomotives can travel at a speed of 60 kmph.

Abdul Malek, chief master of Railway Chattogram Goods Port Yard, said on average there is demand for nine trains to carry oil, stone, and other goods on various routes across the country.

"Due to a locomotive crisis, now we can operate five trains only. Two to three locomotives are allocated from the newly-added locomotives. At least four more locomotives need to be allocated to operate the freight trains as per the demand," he added.

According to sources at the East Zone, the lifetime of one or more locomotives is coming to an end every year. Locomotives older than 50 years need to be repaired often. So even if they are in the fleet, these locomotives are not always in operation.

Zahangir Hossain, general manager at the East Zone, told TBS that adding 30 new locomotives would ease the crisis.

"The railway authorities are in the process of importing more locomotives to solve this crisis. Hopefully, the engine crisis will be phased out," he added.


Saif Powertec Limited, the terminal operator of Chattogram port, is going to begin construction of a new inland container depot (ICD) with an estimated expense of Tk300 crore.

The new ICD will be built in the Halishahar area on the outskirts of the port city on a 21.29acre land owned by the Bangladesh Railway.

The planned container depot will have the capacity to handle over one lakh containers a year, said people linked to the project, adding that it will create about 500 jobs and contribute to a yearly business of Tk120 crore.

An agreement on this between Bangladesh Railway's Container Company of Bangladesh (CCBL) and Saif Powertec is set to be signed on 19 October.

Earlier on 17 May 2016, the railway ministry formed CCBL in a bid to boost railway container transport. Railway authorities later allocated 21.29acre land under the CCBL for the construction of ICD.

A tender for the construction of ICD opened on 3 February this year. After three and a half months of the tender process, CCBL selected Saif Powertech for the project.

Belal Uddin, managing director of CCBL, said a total of 14 companies, including four foreign ones, bought schedules to bid for the ICD construction. Experience in the ICD sector, including container terminal operation, handling of at least 50,000 TEUs of containers were conditions for the ideal candidate for the project. Other conditions included designing the place, preparing financial management and drafting the ICD management plan.

"Saif Powertech will build and operate the ICD as per terms of the agreement. Seven crores will be given to CCBL as signing money. Saif Powertech will give 21.50% of the profits made from ICD operation to CCBL," he said.

"The investment will be around Tk300 crore and this ICD can handle more than 1 lakh containers a year using modern equipment," added Belal Uddin.

Currently, 19 private ICDs are operational in Chattogram, which handle an average of 16 lakh TEUs of containers per year.

Chattogram port, the main seaport of the country, handles 92% of the import and export trade. 98% of the total containers transported in the country are transported through the port. 80% of these containers are transported by road from Chattogram port, 18% by sea and the remaining 4% by the railways.

The Chattogram port handles 30lakh TEUs of containers, of which 65% is done by Saif Powertec, which also operates the Chattogram Container Terminal (CCT) and New Mooring Container Terminal (NCT). The company has been involved in the operation of Chattogram port since 2007.

According to the agreement, Saif Powertec will hand over a fully operational ICD after a 20-year term, when the operating entity will be selected through an open tender.

 

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Italian fashion brand United Colors of Benetton has expressed its willingness to increase its apparel sourcing from Bangladesh.

Monica Joshi, head of operations of Benetton Asia Pacific Limited, apprised Faruque Hassan, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), of Benetton's plans when she called on him at BGMEA's office in Gulshan today.

During their discussions, Hassan highlighted the RMG industry's increased focus on diversification of products, especially non-cotton and high-end segments.

He requested Benetton to support and collaborate with their suppliers in Bangladesh to build their capacities in manufacturing apparel products having higher market demand.

He assured Benetton of all-out support from BGMEA to expand its suppliers' base and sourcing volume in Bangladesh.

The BGMEA president also pointed out that the increase in prices of yarn, chemicals and other raw materials in the global supply chain has pushed up production costs in garment manufacturing.

In such context, he underscored the need for justified price and more empathy towards supply chain partners to make the supply chain sustainable, according to a statement from the BGMEA.

 

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To ensure international-standard facilities for domestic and foreign tourists, the government is going to implement a Tk3,140 crore project for the development of Cox's Bazar sea beach.

Under the project, a multifunctional road cum dyke, five feet high from the ground, will be constructed from Kalatali to Najirartek stretch of the beach.

Once the project is implemented, tourists can go up to the Najirartek beach – beyond Kalatali, Laboni Point and Sugandha beaches where they currently throng. Implementation of the project is also expected to bring in new private investment and create employment.

The project proposes implementation by 2024, starting from the current financial year. The proposal from the Ministry of Water Resources has already been sent to the Planning Commission for approval.

Under the project, walkways, bicycle bays and parking lots will be constructed, and solar-powered lights will be installed to enhance the beauty of the beach. Besides, various tourist-friendly infrastructure including a children's park, washrooms, information centre, locker rooms, seating area, exhibition space, and amphitheatre will be constructed.

Apart from Kalatali, Sugandha and Laboni, other points of the Cox's Bazar beach lack adequate facilities and security, forcing tourists to gather at those points only. Foreign tourists are also rare these days at Cox's Bazar due to the lack of international standard facilities at the beach.

The project proposal said the length of the enjoyable beach can be increased if the communication system is ensured. It will also be possible to improve the security system.

Under the project, 2km of the multifunctional road cum dyke will be constructed along the Najirartek beach, while 2.49km from Laboni Point to Kalatali, 2.11km from Najirartek beach to Laboni Point and 1.12km road cum dyke will be constructed from Kalatali to Bailey Hatchery. The road will be 30 feet wide with parking facilities.

A 1.3km connecting road from Cox's Bazar Airport to Diabetes Point will also be constructed under the project.

A 2km cycle bay will be constructed at Najirartek and a 2.6km cycle bay will be constructed from Laboni Point to Kalatali Beach. The cycle bay will be 10 feet wide adjacent to the multifunctional road with parking facilities.

A 2km walking bay at Najirartek Beach and a 2.28km walking bay from Laboni Point to Kalatali will be constructed. Besides, an aquarium building will also be constructed in Najirartek.

Prabir Kumar Goswami, executive engineer of Cox's Bazar Water Development Board, said implementation of the project will ensure a sustainable and effective system to prevent the erosion of the existing beach. The natural environment will remain intact as the proposed project will have a sand replacement system at the beach. As a result, public and private infrastructures along the beach will be protected from erosion.

He said no tourism facility has developed in the Najirartek area yet. If the project is implemented, the area will become attractive for tourists. According to our survey, this will also increase private investment. The project will protect the eroded coastal areas from Kalatali to Najirartek as well as create opportunities for economic activities.

Meanwhile, Cox's Bazar Shilpo O Banik Samity President Abu Morshed Chowdhury complained that locals were not consulted before taking up the project. For this reason, there are questions about how much the project will benefit the local people.

He, however, observed that the construction of the road cum dyke up to Najirartek would increase private investment.


Considering the high traffic on the Beribadh road along the bank of the Turag River in Dhaka, the government is going to widen the entire bypass route – upgrading the single-lane street to a four-lane expressway from Abdullahpur to Gabtoli.

The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has proposed a project to construct the Dhour-Gabtoli portion of the four-lane road, while the Abdullahpur-Dhour portion will be covered by the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project under the Bangladesh Bridge Authority.

The RHD has already conducted a feasibility study on the 14km four-lane road from Dhour to Gabtoli and its proposal will soon be placed with the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).

"We initially proposed a cost of Tk1,200 crore for the 14km road but it might decrease," said RHD Additional Chief Engineer Md Sobuj Uddin Khan.

He added that work in the project could start within a year pending on the final nod.

Meanwhile, the work of the Bridge Authority's Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project is in progress. Starting from Hazrat Shahjahal International Airport, the 24Km expressway will reach the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Savar via Abdullahpur-Ashulia-Baipail, covering Abdullahpur to Dhour area of the Beribadh route.

"Currently we are completing all kinds of preliminary work and next month the physical work of the project will start," said Project Director Shahabuddin Khan.

"We are looking forward to completing it within four years, a year before the stipulated time," the project director said, hoping that the elevated expressway will be operational by 2026.

Shahabuddin Khan said, the total project cost is estimated at Tk16,901 crore, of which China will provide 65%. Chinese EXIM Bank has already approved a loan of $1.2 billion, he added.

Under the project, 10.83km of ramps, 1.95km long flyovers, 14.28km of four-lane roads, 2.72km long bridge and 18km of drains on both sides of the expressway will be built, as per the project documents.

It will allow around four crore people from 30 districts to enter and exit the capital quickly and easily. It also may boost the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.21%, estimated the project papers.

Other than accommodating a high number of vehicles and people's movement, the four-lane road will help curb accidents. For the last few years, the Beribadh route has reportedly become an accident-prone area.

According to locals, over the last decade vehicle movement has increased in this route manyfold and the once isolated area has now become a busy route with all kinds of vehicles plying on it.

"In just the last 10 years, the vehicular movement rose a hundred times more. Over time, many factories, residential areas, parks and recreation centres have sprung up along the Beribadh road", said a local tea stall owner Aynal Mia adding that the number of accidents also rose over the years.

DMP Sergeant Md Ashaduzzaman at Dhour Police Box said, "Each month at least 10 accidents take place and of these, two or three are fatal. Other small accidents also occur but remain unreported."

The local traffic department has found narrow roads without dividers, frequent overtaking tendencies and reckless driving as the main causes for the high number of accidents.

"Due to the divider-less 25-30 feet single-lane road, head-on-collision rate is high in this area", added Ashaduzzaman.

He said that most accidents happen at night and in the morning and vehicles tend to break traffic rules.

Another Sergeant Akramul Rajib hoped that the four-lane road will help reduce the number and frequency of accidents


Bangladesh now has the highest number of green garment factories in the globe with the Leadership in Environmental and Energy in Design (LEED) certification given by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Even a few months ago, the number of green buildings was 144, but this month the tally touched 150 with the last one's inclusion in the list on October 7, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Of the 150, some 44 are platinum rated, 93 are gold, 9 are silver standard and four are just certified.

Some 500 more garment factories are waiting to be certified LEED by the USGBC.

Currently, nine of the top 10 green garment factories and 40 of the top 100 are located in Bangladesh, as the local garment suppliers have been strengthening workplace safety with the recommendations from the Accord and Alliance, two foreign building inspection and remediation agencies formed after the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 when some 1,138 workers died.

 

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The Bepza Economic Zone in Mirsharai is at the centre of attraction for local and foreign investors due to its proximity to Chattogram port and other facilities.

The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) plans to set up 539 industrial plots on 1,150 acres of land at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar in Mirsharai, Chattogram.

It has already prepared 140 plots for factories to be set up there.

Meanwhile, 78 companies from home and abroad have applied for more than 250 plots. Of them, Japan alone has sought 50 plots.

The companies together have proposed to invest over $1.348 billion in the ninth economic zone set up by Bepza.

"We have already allotted 66 plots. They will start infrastructure development later this year. We are verifying the rest of the applications," Major General Md Nazrul Islam, Bepza Executive Chairman of Bepza, told The Business Standard.

"We are giving priority to companies from different sectors other than the readymade garment industry. We want to diversify our export products. We want to give allotments to competent companies after verifying their applications by next December."

Major General Md Nazrul Islam said Japanese businesses will invest in the production of field items, golf shafts and other products.

"We have formed a committee to review the Japanese proposal. But we will not be able to allot them 50 plots as there are a large number of investment proposals. We have a lot of demand for plots here," he added

$4.5bn foreign investment is expected

Bepza has received investment proposals from a number of countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, the UK, the US, Canada and Hong Kong alongside those from local companies.

The companies are keen to invest in the manufacture of backward linkage products in the garment industry, such as zippers, buttons, high-quality leather goods, chemical industry, non-RMG products such as bags, trolleys and outdoor tents.

Bepza expects to complete the development of all 529 plots in the economic zone by 2023. It will generate employment for 5 lakh people.

The economic zone is expected to bring in $4.5bn in foreign investment and $3.23 billion in export earnings.

Master plan

Utilising the nearly 40 years of experience in EPZ construction and management, Bepza has prepared a modern, sustainable, and environmentally friendly master plan considering present and future needs

The plan includes the construction of five 10-storey residential buildings for investors, an investors' club with hotel facilities, and single individual accommodation for 2,000 foreign nationals.

It will have a central water reservoir on 45 acres of land for rainwater harvesting and water reuse after purification and a central automation system to facilitate a one-stop service and customs-related activities.

Investors can easily conduct business in the factory buildings that Bepza is constructing.

Major General Md Nazrul Islam said, "Just plug and play. Merchants will be able to make their products faster as soon as they arrive. They do not have to build new factory buildings on plots."

The installations of ancillary services such as electrical work and gas lines has been completed.

Major General Md Nazrul Islam said it will be a green industrial zone and added that Bepza welcomes investors from all over the world in order for them to take advantage of the exclusive investment opportunities offered at the Bepza Economic Zone.

Under Bepza, there are now eight EPZs --- Chattogram EPZ, Dhaka EPZ, Mongla EPZ, Ishwardi EPZ, Cumilla EPZ, Uttara EPZ, Adamjee EPZ, and Karnaphuli EPZ.

At present, Bepza contributes about 20% to the country's total annual exports.

There are no vacant industrial plots in the existing EPZs. In view of the growing demand for investment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Bepza Economic Zone in January 2018.

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar is located on about 30,000 acres of land in Mirsharai and Sitakunda upazilas of Chattogram and Sonagazi upazila of Feni.

The government allotted 1,150 acres of land for setting up the Bepza Economic Zone at the Shilpa Nagar.

Bepza offers various incentives to investors in its EPZs. By investing in EPZs, investors can get tax holidays, duty-free imports of raw materials and equipment, tax exemption on dividends, GSP benefits, duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union and other countries.

Bepza allows 100% foreign ownership in EPZs. There are no restrictions on foreign investment and on a full withdrawal of their capital and dividends.


The government has finally begun allowing local manufacturing of up to 500cc mid-size motorcycles, up from the existing limit of 165cc engines.

The industries ministry on Sunday gave its seal of consent to Ifad Motors Ltd to locally produce the high engine capacity motorcycles, a source in the ministry told The Business Standard.

Ifad Motors is now setting up its motorcycle factory in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar at Mirsarai, Chattogram to manufacture the iconic Royal Enfield bikes with 350cc and bigger engines, the company's Director Taskeen Ahmed told TBS yesterday.

The industries ministry on Monday wrote to the commerce ministry to amend the draft Import Policy Order 2021-24 so that local plants can import essential raw materials and parts for manufacturing up to 500cc motorcycles, said ministry officials.

The existing policy does not allow imports of any motorcycles having over 165cc engines or their parts for the local market. Local manufacturers can, however, produce motorcycles with high engine capacity up to 500cc only for exports.

The manufacturing approval to Ifad Motors and the proposed amendment to the Import Policy Order will remove this bar, meaning that manufacturers can sell their higher engine capacity motorcycles both in local and export markets.

Ifad Director Taskeen Ahmed told The Business Standard that it will take 12-18 months to begin its Royal Enfield manufacturing.

"This is a constructive move towards attracting investments for manufacturing of high-end two wheelers in the country," he said.

The company will need to sell the bikes in the local market because without local sales they will miss the scale for competitiveness that is a must for exports, he added.

To see higher capacity bikes on local roads, a road permit will be needed from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).

The inter-ministerial meeting

The industries ministry's move comes following a meeting – headed by industries ministry Secretary Zakia Sultana – held on 28 September between government offices concerned and motorcycle industry representatives.

In the meeting, the Bangladesh Motorcycle Assemblers and Manufacturers Association again opposed the idea of allowing higher engine capacity bikes on roads before September 2023.

They feared business losses if engine capacity restriction is now relaxed, according to the meeting minutes obtained by The Business Standard.

On the other hand, Motorcycle Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh recommended withdrawal of the engine capacity restriction for the sake of attracting investments in the motorcycle industry.

A representative from the industries ministry in the meeting opined in favour of increasing the motorcycle CC limit, without which companies, such as Ifad, would not be able to set up their factories for advanced bikes.

The development of the motorcycle industry will not be possible with the engine capacity restriction in place as it will hinder local and foreign investments, the Tariff Commission representative opined.

A representative from the commerce ministry in the coordination meeting said the existing restriction in the Import Policy Order was based on previous decisions taken in the meetings between his ministry and the industries ministry.

If the meeting decides to raise the limit, the commerce ministry will amend the policy accordingly, he added.

The BRTA, which gives registration and road permits for vehicles, has no reservation with the motorcycle engine capacity, its representative told the meeting.

The BRTA has not been allowing the registration of higher capacity bikes since early 2000 as law enforcement agencies were concerned that unrestricted engine capacity bikes would make it impossible for cops to pursue lawbreakers.

However, the senior secretary of the Public Security Division of the home ministry also received a copy of the meeting minutes for their positive response towards allowing higher capacity bikes on roads.

In the meeting, a National Board of Revenue representative said since the industries ministry is the sponsoring ministry for the motorcycle industry, the NBR has no objection to the ministry's decisions.

The remaining barriers

Bangladesh, as one of the rare countries in the world with motorcycle engine capacity restrictions, has been trying to remove such an obstacle since the end of last year following some investment proposals to manufacture high capacity bikes locally, while the companies do not find their plan feasible without local market sales.

Based on the Tariff Commission's recommendation and applications from several new investors and the existing exporter Runner, the commerce ministry had initiated a move to allow up to 500CC bikes on local roads.

But the industries ministry opposed the idea to do it before the end of 2023 to ensure market protection for motorcycle assemblers and manufacturers.

Now, since the commerce ministry initiated change, investors are optimistic about getting rid of the restriction on highway-capable motorcycles, which are gaining in popularity with the development in road infrastructure across the country.

Experts across the world say higher capacity motorcycles are safer on roads as they have better control and safety features.

"We would internally discuss the request to amend the Import Policy Order," said Additional Secretary AHM Shafiquzzaman, head of the Import and Internal Trade Wing of the commerce ministry.

"In fact, we wanted the change [allowing big bikes] much earlier," he said.

His office is working on the new Import Policy Order expected to be finalised in a month.

If the needed change cannot be accommodated in the Import Policy Order before that, the industries ministry proposal may be actuated through statutory regulatory order.

Then, the only barrier might remain in place if the law enforcement agencies still hold on their argument regarding chasing criminals that might drag the moves towards building a stronger market and industry for motorcycles in the country, say industry people.

More investments to come

Runner Automobiles, the country's lone motorcycle exporter, on Monday applied to the industries ministry for its approval in manufacturing up to 500CC motorcycles for the local market.

The company is allowed to manufacture 165-500cc motorcycles only for exports and it has been exporting 200cc bikes to Nepal since 2018.

Without local road tests, it is tough to achieve technological excellence and compete in the international market, Runner Chairman Hafizur Rahman Khan previously told TBS.

Japanese Kawasaki also proposed investments to manufacture their high engine capacity bikes if the government allows them on local roads.

Sources at the industries ministry said Kawasaki's local partner Asian Motorbikes Ltd on Tuesday applied for the approval of their plan to manufacture high capacity motorcycles in Bangladesh only if they are allowed to sell both in local and export markets.

Rancon Motorbikes Ltd, the manufacturer of Japanese Motorcycle brand Suzuki, earlier proposed investments to manufacture higher CC bikes if they are allowed to sell both in local and regional markets.

But as the commerce ministry's move was hindered by the industries ministry's objection that cited the need for protection to the existing players in February this year, the Suzuki plan expired.

"Better late than never. We will communicate the recent developments with our Japanese principal and may apply for the same again," said Fahim A Khan, head of corporate affairs of Rancon.

Bangladesh motorcycle industry has progressed a lot after the Motorcycle Industry Development Policy 2018 had been formulated.

Honda, Bajaj, TVS, Yamaha, Hero, Suzuki, Lifan all have followed Runner's trail to manufacture motorcycles in Bangladesh and reduce unit prices.

On average, one-third drop in prices helped the annual market grow to over six lakh units, more than double the number five years ago.

Analysing the stage of economic development, industry people estimate that the annual market has full potential to jump to 20 lakh units in coming years if the government facilitates manufacturing, purchase and use of motorcycles as the vehicle for the commuters.

 

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The Bepza Economic Zone in Mirsharai is at the centre of attraction for local and foreign investors due to its proximity to Chattogram port and other facilities.

The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) plans to set up 539 industrial plots on 1,150 acres of land at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar in Mirsharai, Chattogram.

It has already prepared 140 plots for factories to be set up there.

Meanwhile, 78 companies from home and abroad have applied for more than 250 plots. Of them, Japan alone has sought 50 plots.

The companies together have proposed to invest over $1.348 billion in the ninth economic zone set up by Bepza.

"We have already allotted 66 plots. They will start infrastructure development later this year. We are verifying the rest of the applications," Major General Md Nazrul Islam, Bepza Executive Chairman of Bepza, told The Business Standard.

"We are giving priority to companies from different sectors other than the readymade garment industry. We want to diversify our export products. We want to give allotments to competent companies after verifying their applications by next December."

Major General Md Nazrul Islam said Japanese businesses will invest in the production of field items, golf shafts and other products.

"We have formed a committee to review the Japanese proposal. But we will not be able to allot them 50 plots as there are a large number of investment proposals. We have a lot of demand for plots here," he added

$4.5bn foreign investment is expected

Bepza has received investment proposals from a number of countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, the UK, the US, Canada and Hong Kong alongside those from local companies.

The companies are keen to invest in the manufacture of backward linkage products in the garment industry, such as zippers, buttons, high-quality leather goods, chemical industry, non-RMG products such as bags, trolleys and outdoor tents.

Bepza expects to complete the development of all 529 plots in the economic zone by 2023. It will generate employment for 5 lakh people.

The economic zone is expected to bring in $4.5bn in foreign investment and $3.23 billion in export earnings.

Master plan

Utilising the nearly 40 years of experience in EPZ construction and management, Bepza has prepared a modern, sustainable, and environmentally friendly master plan considering present and future needs

The plan includes the construction of five 10-storey residential buildings for investors, an investors' club with hotel facilities, and single individual accommodation for 2,000 foreign nationals.

It will have a central water reservoir on 45 acres of land for rainwater harvesting and water reuse after purification and a central automation system to facilitate a one-stop service and customs-related activities.

Investors can easily conduct business in the factory buildings that Bepza is constructing.

Major General Md Nazrul Islam said, "Just plug and play. Merchants will be able to make their products faster as soon as they arrive. They do not have to build new factory buildings on plots."

The installations of ancillary services such as electrical work and gas lines has been completed.

Major General Md Nazrul Islam said it will be a green industrial zone and added that Bepza welcomes investors from all over the world in order for them to take advantage of the exclusive investment opportunities offered at the Bepza Economic Zone.

Under Bepza, there are now eight EPZs --- Chattogram EPZ, Dhaka EPZ, Mongla EPZ, Ishwardi EPZ, Cumilla EPZ, Uttara EPZ, Adamjee EPZ, and Karnaphuli EPZ.

At present, Bepza contributes about 20% to the country's total annual exports.

There are no vacant industrial plots in the existing EPZs. In view of the growing demand for investment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Bepza Economic Zone in January 2018.

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar is located on about 30,000 acres of land in Mirsharai and Sitakunda upazilas of Chattogram and Sonagazi upazila of Feni.

The government allotted 1,150 acres of land for setting up the Bepza Economic Zone at the Shilpa Nagar.

Bepza offers various incentives to investors in its EPZs. By investing in EPZs, investors can get tax holidays, duty-free imports of raw materials and equipment, tax exemption on dividends, GSP benefits, duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union and other countries.

Bepza allows 100% foreign ownership in EPZs. There are no restrictions on foreign investment and on a full withdrawal of their capital and dividends.


The government has finally begun allowing local manufacturing of up to 500cc mid-size motorcycles, up from the existing limit of 165cc engines.

The industries ministry on Sunday gave its seal of consent to Ifad Motors Ltd to locally produce the high engine capacity motorcycles, a source in the ministry told The Business Standard.

Ifad Motors is now setting up its motorcycle factory in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar at Mirsarai, Chattogram to manufacture the iconic Royal Enfield bikes with 350cc and bigger engines, the company's Director Taskeen Ahmed told TBS yesterday.

The industries ministry on Monday wrote to the commerce ministry to amend the draft Import Policy Order 2021-24 so that local plants can import essential raw materials and parts for manufacturing up to 500cc motorcycles, said ministry officials.

The existing policy does not allow imports of any motorcycles having over 165cc engines or their parts for the local market. Local manufacturers can, however, produce motorcycles with high engine capacity up to 500cc only for exports.

The manufacturing approval to Ifad Motors and the proposed amendment to the Import Policy Order will remove this bar, meaning that manufacturers can sell their higher engine capacity motorcycles both in local and export markets.

Ifad Director Taskeen Ahmed told The Business Standard that it will take 12-18 months to begin its Royal Enfield manufacturing.

"This is a constructive move towards attracting investments for manufacturing of high-end two wheelers in the country," he said.

The company will need to sell the bikes in the local market because without local sales they will miss the scale for competitiveness that is a must for exports, he added.

To see higher capacity bikes on local roads, a road permit will be needed from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).

The inter-ministerial meeting

The industries ministry's move comes following a meeting – headed by industries ministry Secretary Zakia Sultana – held on 28 September between government offices concerned and motorcycle industry representatives.

In the meeting, the Bangladesh Motorcycle Assemblers and Manufacturers Association again opposed the idea of allowing higher engine capacity bikes on roads before September 2023.

They feared business losses if engine capacity restriction is now relaxed, according to the meeting minutes obtained by The Business Standard.

On the other hand, Motorcycle Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh recommended withdrawal of the engine capacity restriction for the sake of attracting investments in the motorcycle industry.

A representative from the industries ministry in the meeting opined in favour of increasing the motorcycle CC limit, without which companies, such as Ifad, would not be able to set up their factories for advanced bikes.

The development of the motorcycle industry will not be possible with the engine capacity restriction in place as it will hinder local and foreign investments, the Tariff Commission representative opined.

A representative from the commerce ministry in the coordination meeting said the existing restriction in the Import Policy Order was based on previous decisions taken in the meetings between his ministry and the industries ministry.

If the meeting decides to raise the limit, the commerce ministry will amend the policy accordingly, he added.

The BRTA, which gives registration and road permits for vehicles, has no reservation with the motorcycle engine capacity, its representative told the meeting.

The BRTA has not been allowing the registration of higher capacity bikes since early 2000 as law enforcement agencies were concerned that unrestricted engine capacity bikes would make it impossible for cops to pursue lawbreakers.

However, the senior secretary of the Public Security Division of the home ministry also received a copy of the meeting minutes for their positive response towards allowing higher capacity bikes on roads.

In the meeting, a National Board of Revenue representative said since the industries ministry is the sponsoring ministry for the motorcycle industry, the NBR has no objection to the ministry's decisions.

The remaining barriers

Bangladesh, as one of the rare countries in the world with motorcycle engine capacity restrictions, has been trying to remove such an obstacle since the end of last year following some investment proposals to manufacture high capacity bikes locally, while the companies do not find their plan feasible without local market sales.

Based on the Tariff Commission's recommendation and applications from several new investors and the existing exporter Runner, the commerce ministry had initiated a move to allow up to 500CC bikes on local roads.

But the industries ministry opposed the idea to do it before the end of 2023 to ensure market protection for motorcycle assemblers and manufacturers.

Now, since the commerce ministry initiated change, investors are optimistic about getting rid of the restriction on highway-capable motorcycles, which are gaining in popularity with the development in road infrastructure across the country.

Experts across the world say higher capacity motorcycles are safer on roads as they have better control and safety features.

"We would internally discuss the request to amend the Import Policy Order," said Additional Secretary AHM Shafiquzzaman, head of the Import and Internal Trade Wing of the commerce ministry.

"In fact, we wanted the change [allowing big bikes] much earlier," he said.

His office is working on the new Import Policy Order expected to be finalised in a month.

If the needed change cannot be accommodated in the Import Policy Order before that, the industries ministry proposal may be actuated through statutory regulatory order.

Then, the only barrier might remain in place if the law enforcement agencies still hold on their argument regarding chasing criminals that might drag the moves towards building a stronger market and industry for motorcycles in the country, say industry people.

More investments to come

Runner Automobiles, the country's lone motorcycle exporter, on Monday applied to the industries ministry for its approval in manufacturing up to 500CC motorcycles for the local market.

The company is allowed to manufacture 165-500cc motorcycles only for exports and it has been exporting 200cc bikes to Nepal since 2018.

Without local road tests, it is tough to achieve technological excellence and compete in the international market, Runner Chairman Hafizur Rahman Khan previously told TBS.

Japanese Kawasaki also proposed investments to manufacture their high engine capacity bikes if the government allows them on local roads.

Sources at the industries ministry said Kawasaki's local partner Asian Motorbikes Ltd on Tuesday applied for the approval of their plan to manufacture high capacity motorcycles in Bangladesh only if they are allowed to sell both in local and export markets.

Rancon Motorbikes Ltd, the manufacturer of Japanese Motorcycle brand Suzuki, earlier proposed investments to manufacture higher CC bikes if they are allowed to sell both in local and regional markets.

But as the commerce ministry's move was hindered by the industries ministry's objection that cited the need for protection to the existing players in February this year, the Suzuki plan expired.

"Better late than never. We will communicate the recent developments with our Japanese principal and may apply for the same again," said Fahim A Khan, head of corporate affairs of Rancon.

Bangladesh motorcycle industry has progressed a lot after the Motorcycle Industry Development Policy 2018 had been formulated.

Honda, Bajaj, TVS, Yamaha, Hero, Suzuki, Lifan all have followed Runner's trail to manufacture motorcycles in Bangladesh and reduce unit prices.

On average, one-third drop in prices helped the annual market grow to over six lakh units, more than double the number five years ago.

Analysing the stage of economic development, industry people estimate that the annual market has full potential to jump to 20 lakh units in coming years if the government facilitates manufacturing, purchase and use of motorcycles as the vehicle for the commuters.


"Bilal" sure has a lot to say about this :ROFLMAO:
 

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The government has planned to build another super specialised hospital – just across the first one – at Shahbagh in the capital.

With the construction of the first super specialised hospital under the auspices of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University almost to an end, the proposed 750-bed second medical facility along with the BSMMU and Birdem General Hospital will turn Shahbagh into a "hospital hub" in the next five years, say officials at the Economic Relations Division.

Funded by South Korea, the $200 million project will facilitate general surgery, gynaecology, surgical oncology, and ENT and eye treatment. The hospital will also have a 50-60 bed dialysis centre with 10 beds dedicated for children, said the officials.

Zulfiqur Rahman Khan, project director of the slated super specialised hospital, hopes the management of this medical facility "will rival" that of Square Hospitals or Evercare Hospital Dhaka [previously Apollo Hospitals] – two expensive private medical facilities in Bangladesh.

"Patients go abroad mostly for the hospital environment and medical services there. But we too have specialised doctors and are able to provide patients with better healthcare. If the medical skills and management could be put together in a hospital at home, the tendency of going abroad for treatment would certainly go down," he told The Business Standard.

Annually, about three lakh Bangladeshis go abroad for medical treatment. India tops the list of medical tourism destinations followed by other countries like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Dubai. With the Covid driven international flight suspensions in 2020 and 2021, the flow of outbound medical money saw an unprecedented drop.

Currently, Bangladesh does not have any such "super specialised" hospital. The BSMMU – a tertiary level medical facility – is considered to be the apex treatment facility.

The BSMMU Super Specialised Hospital One, a $122.25 million medical infrastructure also funded by South Korea, is slated for launching in February 2022; the construction of the 11-storey second hospital on three acres of land on the former Betar Bhaban premises will begin in 2023 and is expected to complete in three years.

Preferring not to be named, officials at the Economic Relations Division said South Korea showed interest in funding a second medical infrastructure as the first one's progress has been "admirable". South Korea will finance the entire spending for the second hospital while Bangladesh will only pay the customs duties on the foreign funding.

With more than 4,000 beds comprising the BSMMU, super specialised hospitals one and two, and the Birdem General Hospital, Shahbagh will turn into a "hospital hub" in the next five years, according to the officials.

All applied departments

The 11-storey hospital, the second super specialised hospital, will have five or six core departments and sub-departments. There will also be research centres, skill labs, lecture theatres, libraries, and a Bangabandhu museum.

Zulfiqur Rahman Khan said the second hospital will mainly have the applied departments not available at the first one.

BSMMU Super Specialised Hospital One will have a 100-bed accident emergency facility, a liver, gallbladder and pancreas centre, organ transplant centre, cancer centre, maternal and child health care centre, dental centre, cardiovascular centre, geriatric centre, spinal cord centre, burn injury centre, a health screening centre and an emergency medical centre.

At the second super specialised hospital, Zulfiqur Rahman Khan said, there will be various departments and sub-departments of general surgery, gynaecology, surgical oncology, and ENT and an eye department. The hospital will also have a 50-60 bed dialysis centre with 10 beds dedicated for children.

Officials say the second hospital was initially planned to be a 20-storey building. However, since high-rise buildings near the old airport in Tejgaon are prohibited, the number of floors was later brought down to 11 – reducing the hospital patient beds to 750 from previously planned 1,000.

The hospital will have a 400-car parking facility on four basement levels. The first super specialised hospital will have a parking capacity of 250 vehicles on two basement levels.

There will be overhead or underground connecting corridors between the two hospitals for ease of patient access. The administration of each hospital will be different though they will be under the BSMMU umbrella.

Funding and construction phases

According to BSMMU sources, the Korean government's one-year feasibility study for construction of the hospital is in the final stages.

Subsequently, the construction budget will be drafted and there will be a loan agreement between Dhaka and Seoul. After formulation of the development project proposal (DPP), the project will go for approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).

After the Ecnec go-ahead, a Korean contractor will be hired through a tender bid and construction will begin.

Zulfiqur Rahman Khan said it will take the whole of 2022 to complete all the initial processes and construction will likely begin in 2023 with a three-year deadline.

He said no existing medical facility in Bangladesh matches the standards of these two super specialised hospitals. However, Zulfiqur Rahman Khan did comment that maintaining standards would be challenging.


 

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Smartphone giant Xiaomi began assembling mobile phones in Bangladesh on Thursday at its Gazipur factory.

The factory was set up with $10 million in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) under the "Made in Bangladesh" scheme.

The factory will assemble 3 million units of smartphones annually.

The Chinese brand is also eyeing local production soon, said Xiaomi Bangladesh officials.

DBG Technology BD Ltd, a leading Chinese electronics manufacturing service (EMS) company, will assemble the smartphones in Bangladesh.

"The first phone of the company to be assembled in Bangladesh is under the Redmi sub-brand and it is expected to be available in the market from the first week of November. Subsequently, the POCO and Xiaomi series will be made in the country," said Ziauddin Chowdhury, country manager, Xiaomi Bangladesh.

Xiaomi revealed its "Made in Bangladesh" plan at a special programme held in Dhaka on Thursday. Salman F Rahman, adviser to the prime minister on private industry and investment, and Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division, attended the event.

Salman F Rahman said the partnership with Xiaomi will create more employment opportunities for the youth in Bangladesh.

"We are delighted to be a partner in setting up Xiaomi's first manufacturing unit in Bangladesh as part of the Digital Bangladesh initiative. We believe that this partnership will create more opportunities for the country's youth and establish a world-class electronics manufacturing ecosystem," he said.

He urged the Chinese company to make Bangladesh a hub to produce their IT and electronic devices.

In a video message, Mustafa Jabbar, minister for posts and telecommunications, said local factories are meeting more than 65% of the total demand of smartphones in the country.

He also expressed strong hope that the smartphones produced by Xiaomi in Bangladesh will be exported, alongside meeting domestic demand.

"In addition to the investment-friendly environment adopted by the government, our talented youth have also attracted investors to set up mobile manufacturing plants of the world's best brands," Mustafa Jabbar added.

State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak said, "This is a great initiative. I believe that from now on the people of the country will be able to enjoy all the latest innovative products of Xiaomi at a competitive price."

Xiaomi set up the factory here within three years of its journey in Bangladesh, which began in 2018.

Mobile handset manufacturing and assembling began in Bangladesh in 2017 when Walton started producing electronic products locally.

Later, cellphone giant Samsung as well as Symphony, and other brands started manufacturing in the country.

With Xiaomi's new factory, there are now at least 10 local and global companies that are producing smartphones in Bangladesh.

As of now, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has issued 14 licences for setting up mobile manufacturing and assembling factories in Bangladesh.

Market insiders say Nokia is also expected to set up a factory in Bangladesh, but the brand has not announced anything yet.

Currently, there is a demand for 32 million units of mobile, of which 12 million units are smartphones, says Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPI).

According to Statcounter's data, Xiaomi is now the second top mobile brand in Bangladesh's smartphone market, having around 20% of the market share, while Samsung is in the top position with 30.46% share.

 

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In a bid to ensure stable gas supply, the government is planning to use the abandoned Sangu gas field in the Bay as an underground storage to store liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The plan is to import and store LNG at a cheaper price and use it when demand increases and price goes up on the international market, according to sources.

Petrobangla, the state-owned company that explores, produces, transports and sells natural gas, has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the American multinational oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil for conducting an engineering study on the field to find out the feasibility of using it as an underground gas storage.

Once the feasibility study is done, it will be clear how much LNG could be stored there and what will be the cost of storage and reproduction of the stored gas, a Petrobangla official with direct knowledge of the matter told The Business Standard.

He said the MoU has been signed based on a "desktop study" of the field, with ExxonMobil claiming that an underground storage could be developed in the Sangu field.

A desktop study involves a desk-based collation of documentary data before investigating a site. This includes records of site history, geology, hydrogeology/hydrology, waste, pollution incidents etc to produce an outline conceptual model, according to Wesson Environmental, a British firm that provides such services.

Md Anisur Rahman, senior secretary at the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resource, said based on a proposal by ExxonMobil, a contract has been signed for conducting a feasibility study in the Sangu field.

"It is now in a very primary stage. If we find it technically and financially viable, we will proceed to the next step," he said.

Energy experts, however, expressed concern about the recovery of the stored gas and whether it would be financially and economically viable.

Dr M Tamim, a professor at the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Engineering Department of Buet, said there are many cases of underground storage in abandoned gas fields in the United States.

At present there are 387 active gas storage fields in 48 states of the US, according to the country's Energy Information Administration.

"But such storage has to be technically viable by ensuring that there is no leakage in the storage. Otherwise, the purpose of such storage will not be beneficial," said the professor.

Currently, Bangladesh has a demand for 4100mmcf of gas every day, while production from the local gas fields is only 2400mmcf.

To meet the increasing demand for gas from industries and power sectors, the government started importing LNG in 2018 and added it to the national grid through floating storage and regasification units established in the sea near Maheshkhali of Cox's Bazar.

The two regasification units have a capacity of re-gasifying 1,000mmcf of LNG a day, though only 600 to maximum 800 has been re-gasified in a single day so far.

Due to a skyrocketing price hike in the global market, the government has refrained from full use of these regasification units by importing more LNG despite the outcry for gas.

Sources at Petrobangla said observing the volatile LNG price in the global market, the government is now trying to set up storage to ensure stable gas supply to the national grid at an affordable price.

The state-owned company earlier undertook a programme to set up land-based LNG storage in Maheshkhali and launched a feasibility study through a Japanese firm.

Apart from that, the government is now planning to use the Sangu gas field, which has been abandoned since 2013, as an underground storage of LNG.

LNG will be imported when its price is comparatively cheaper on the international market and will be stored under the sea at the location of the Sangu gas field. The stored gas will be extracted when normal import faces price hikes on the global market.

The Sangu gas field, discovered in 1996 by Cairn Energy, a British oil and gas exploration and development company, was in production until 2013. The field's probable reserves were estimated to be 577.78bcf.

But, 487.91bcf of gas was produced before it was declared suspended in October 2013. From then on, the field has been under the authority of the Bangladesh Gas Field Company Limited. As it stands, maintenance of the Sangu platform has remained off for a long time. Closed-circuit cameras to monitor the platform from land are not functioning, it has been learnt. The last known activity on the platform was for the installation of solar-powered lights.

Recently, Petrobangla decided to set up beacon lights for the safe navigation of ships.

 

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The steel market leader, BSRM Steels Ltd, has revised up its investment plan for capacity expansion amid a boost in demand for its products.

A year ago, the listed company had announced a Tk700 crore investment plan to increase its annual production capacity of construction rod and some other products by five lakh tonnes, taking the total capacity to over 21 lakh tonnes per year.

But amid soaring demand, it has now planned to increase rod re-rolling capacity by six lakh tonnes, for which it will also increase its billet making capacity by 2.5 lakh tonnes. This will make the company self-reliant for the semi-finished raw material, said company officials.

BSRM Steels Ltd produces billets through melting imported scrap metals and the billets are turned into construction rods and some other mild steel (MS) products.

For the revised melting and re-rolling capacity of 22 lakh tonnes each per year, the total investment needed has been revised up to 2.64 times to Tk1,850 crore and the project is set to be completed by the end of 2023, instead of the previous plan to begin production by mid-2023.

"We could have sold 5 lakh tonnes more in the 2020-21 fiscal year, if we had the production capacity," said BSRM Head of Accounts and Finance Shekhar Ranjan Kar.

The construction boom after the first wave of Covid-19 increased the demand for steel products by around 15% in the last fiscal year, while BSRM sold nearly one-third more rods over the fiscal year ending in June, he added.

The expansion project would be financed using BSRM's own money and some borrowed funds, the company disclosed.

Two BSRM companies listed in the local bourses announced record sales, profits and dividends for the 2020-21 fiscal year amid reduced marketing, finance and tax expenses.

Bangladesh, still one of the least per-capita steel consuming countries in the developing world, has begun using more of the material amid a long term infrastructure development phase, which includes both government mega projects and also private sector constructions.

Managing Director of BSRM Aameir Alihussain told The Business Standard that demand for steel would keep rising over the decades as the country's economic development is set to continue.

According to industry reports, in 2018, per-capita annual steel consumption in Bangladesh stood at 45 kilogrammes, having doubled in the previous five-eight years.

The BSRM MD estimated that per-capita consumption has already reached 55kg.

Government megaprojects are the major growth drivers which now consume over one-third of the steel, up from less than 15% a decade ago, according to an industry report by IDLC Finance.

Anticipating the demand, industry players over the last decade have significantly increased their installed capacity to produce over 90 lakh tonnes a year, while the annual demand is estimated to have crossed 75 lakh tonnes, according to Aameir Alihussain.

GPS Ispat opened a new plant last year, with an annual capacity to produce 8.4 lakh tonnes of billet and 6.4 lakh tonnes of MS rod and medium section products, such as support beams and flat bars.

Meanwhile, Chinese steel giant Kunming Iron and Steel Holdings Company has announced to invest $2.3 billion in a steel manufacturing project, along with a power plant at Mirsarai in Chattogram.

A consortium of 17 private sector players named Star Infrastructure Development Consortium Ltd is acting as the local partner of Kunming.

They aim to produce two million tonnes of integrated iron and steel products annually. The operation of this consortium is expected to start by 2022.

There are around 400 steel mills in the country, but more than 65% of the annual demand is being met by a few dozen modern mills selling branded rods.

According to a 2019 industry report by EBL Securities, the top three companies -- BSRM, AKS and KSRM -- serve over half of the market.


To meet the growing demand and increase their market stakes, two listed companies of Square Group will invest Tk676 crore for enhancing their production capacity.

Square Textiles will invest Tk376 crore and Square Pharmaceuticals Tk300 crore.

Square Pharma said in its financial report that the board of the company approved the investment plan to buy new capital machinery and land for expansion.

A senior officer at the company said the new investment will be implemented gradually.

"Besides, its export is on the rise. And the local pharma market is seeking double-digit growth. That is why it needs a new facility with modern technology," he told The Business Standard, seeking anonymity.

Square Pharma's main competitors Beximco Pharma, Renata Pharma, and Incepta Pharma have together invested more than Tk1,000 crore in recent years to expand their market shares.

Beximco Pharma has acquired Sanofi and Novartis factories.

Accordingly, as the market leader Square needs to increase its production capacity, according to the company insider.

Square Pharma posted Tk1,594 crore in profit for fiscal 2020-21, which was 19.38% higher than the previous year.

The profit growth boosted the top pharmaceutical company's earnings per share to Tk17.99 for the year, up from the previous year's Tk15.07.

Square Pharmaceuticals' board of directors recommended a 60% cash dividend for its shareholders, which would cost the company less than half of its annual profit.

Despite the double-digit growth and handsome dividend, its share price fell 3.25% and closed at Tk226.20 at the end of Sunday's trading session at the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE).

Square Pharmaceuticals is waiting to begin manufacturing at its newly built plant in Kenya.

Due to the pandemic situation, the commencement of operation abroad was delayed and the company is expecting to begin production in the African plant at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Square Textile will invest to enhance its yarn production capacity. The company expected that the new project will produce 11,565 tonnes per annum, which will add Tk371 crore to the company's turnover. The new project will complete in April 2023.

To meet the growing demand of the country's textile abroad, most of the large companies are investing in this business to grab the opportunities, said a senior officer at Square Textile.

So, Square is investing more to grab the market stake, he added.

In fiscal 2020-21, its earnings per share jumped 11 times to Tk3.41 thanks to a reduction in the corporate tax to 22.5%, from 25%, and an increase in productivity by using modern technology.

The company declared a 20% cash dividend for its shareholders for the last fiscal year, which was 10% in the previous fiscal year.

On Sunday, its share price rose 4.22% and closed at Tk51.90 at the DSE.


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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today inaugurated the much-awaited bridge constructed over the Payra river in Lebukhali area on Patuakhali-Barishal highway for traffic movement, paving the way for travelling to Patuakhali from Barisal without ferry.

The premier opened the Payra Bridge, joining virtually from her official residence Gono Bhaban.

With it, a "health monitor" system has been installed for the first time on a bridge in the country.

The system will send signals of natural disasters, including thunderstorms and earthquakes or any damage, said officials familiar with the process.

They said both sides of the 1,470-metre-long and 19.6-metre-wide bridge will be connected by cables, while it is 18.30-metre-high from the water level to ease movement of ships coming from and to Payra port.

Besides, seven-kilometre approach roads have been constructed on both sides of the bridge.

In the construction of the bridge, a single pillar has been used in the middle of the river which is expected not to disrupt the normal water flow of the river.

With the opening of Payra Bridge, direct road communication will be established between Dhaka and Kuakata after the construction of the Padma Bridge is completed.

The government approved the bridge construction project in May, 2012, while the prime minister laid the foundation stone of the bridge on March 13, 2013.

The Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development and the OPEC Fund for International Development have jointly financed the construction of the bridge by Chinese firm Longjian Road and Bridge Construction Bridge.

 
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