Nation this week
A United States pre-election assessment mission arrived to assess the state of election preparations. A joint initiative of the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, the PEAM arrived October 7 to conduct an independent and impartial assessment. From October 8 to 12, that is throughout the week, the six-member delegation met with a diverse group of election stakeholders including government officials, political parties, election authorities, civil society, and others.
The delegation was co-chaired by Karl Inderfurth, a former US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, and Bonnie Glick, former Deputy USAID administrator; and includes Maria Chin Abdullah, former Member of the House of Representatives, Malaysia, Jamil Jaffer, former Associate Counsel to the President of the United States, Manpreet Singh Anand, NDI Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, and Johanna Kao, IRI Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Division.
Bangladesh Bank introduced a new formula in June to determine the lending interest rate and has been trying to go back to a single, unified exchange rate recently but both are still some way short of being determined by the open market, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said. The exchange and interest rates are still being controlled, said a visiting IMF delegation to senior central bank officials. Led by its mission chief for Bangladesh, Rahul Anand, the IMF delegation met with the officials as a part of its review initiated since October 4 on whether Bangladesh met conditions on its $4.7 billion loan.
The Bangladesh Bank officials informed that if the exchange rate was totally left to the whims of the open market, it would spiral out of control. As for the interest rate, the central bank officials reasoned that the new lending interest rate formula was "nearly" market driven. The IMF delegation, which is in Bangladesh on a two-week visit, will review the performance in achieving the targets set for the first half of 2023.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $338 million for vaccine production in Bangladesh, ADB Country Director Edimon Ginting said. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Planning Minister MA Mannan at the Planning Commission, the ADB official said the initiative was taken to help Bangladesh reduce the dependency on vaccine imports and facilitate more production in the country. Ginting also said the ADB would provide $3 billion annually, starting next year, to be invested in all development projects of the country.
Ginting said a loan of $3.5 billion was approved for Bangladesh in the last fiscal year. Of this, $2 billion was in low interest and $1.5 billion in below market rate interest. The ADB also urged to speed up the approval process of the proposed project to increase the capacity of vaccine production in the country. According to Ginting, ADB's flexible loan for this project will become uncertain if it is not approved within this year.
Wheat imports grew four times in the first quarter of this fiscal year as businesses showed an interest in tapping into reduced international prices of the second most-consumed grain in Bangladesh. Support from banks in opening Letters of Credits (LCs) for imports gave further impetus to the private sector to bring in an increased volume of wheat. Bangladesh has to depend largely on the global market to meet its domestic requirement for wheat for household and industrial use.
The public and private sectors imported 13.28 lakh tonnes of wheat in the July-September period of the fiscal year 2023-24, which was a 259 percent increase year-on-year, according to Food Ministry data. Bangladesh's wheat imports fell to an eight-year low of 38.75 lakh tonnes in the 2022-23 fiscal, as a result of reduced consumption due to high prices and banks' sluggishness in opening LCs amid the US dollar crisis, importers said earlier.
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