The International Monetary Fund (IMF) at its December board meeting approved the release of a second tranche of a $4.7 billion loan that was approved last January. This second transfer will see $682 million transferred to Bangladesh's account, to go with close to $450 million in the first transfer, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal announced. Alongside the $400 million the country received as loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the IMF monies will help to ease significant pressure that has been building on the country's forex reserves in the last two years.

The IMF board approved the $4.7 billion loan on January 30. In the first tranche, Bangladesh received $447.8 million on February 2 this year. The country is expected to receive the rest in another five tranches. Earlier, in October, an IMF delegation came to Bangladesh on a two-week visit, reviewed the loan programme and placed the second loan tranche proposal before the IMF board.

Armed assailants killed four youth leaders connected to the United People's Democratic Front, or UPDF, a regional political party in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The attacks occurred in a house where they were staying overnight in a remote village of Panchhari upazila in Khagrachari, and is thought to be a continuation of the string of targeted assassinations of leaders and activists of the various political parties of the region, that has been happening since November 2017 with varying degrees of intensity - although by now the UPDF has suffered disproportionately. Three other UPDF leaders who were with the group remain missing since the incident.

As it has done before (although not always) when its members have been attacked, the UPDF blamed the so-called Democratic UPDF, a splinter group that formed just over six years ago now, with links to the Army. Shyamol Chakma, president of the Democratic or Gonotantrik UPDF, refuted the allegations, suggesting that several organisations in the CHT could have carried out the attack. The atmosphere of volatility and distrust prevailing in the region can easily be exploited.

At least 20 leaders and activists of the leftist students' union, Bangladesh Chhatra Union (BSU), were injured in a series of attacks allegedly by members of the Dhaka University unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the ruling party student front, in different places on the DU campus over three days (Dec. 12-14). BSU activists claimed BCL was hunting them down in and around the DU area, giving them the 'Chhatra Dal-Shibir treatment.'

BSU Central President Ragib Naeem and General Secretary Rakibul Roni said in a statement that the Chhatra League is creating an atmosphere of fear to facilitate a one-sided national election and ensure what they called 'the current dictatorial regime' stays in power. Chhatra League attacked the protest march of the Democratic Students Alliance, which includes the BSU, against the killings of four political activists of UPDF in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The attacks intensified on the pretext of BSU members tearing down some banners featuring Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, after their protest against the murder of the UPDF activists.

The government has approved a proposal to procure 3 million tonnes of crude oil from Middle Eastern countries in 2024. The purchase proposal from the Energy and Mineral Resources Division got the go-ahead in a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase chaired by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal this week. Half of the oil, 1.5 million tonnes, is set to be procured from two companies in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi for over Tk 122 billion, said Syed Mahbub Khan, additional secretary at the Cabinet Division.

Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, or BPC, will buy 800,000 metric tonnes of Arabian Light Crude (ALC) from Saudi Aramco Limited for more than Tk 64 billion. BPC will also buy 700,000 tonnes of Murban Grade crude oil from ADNOC for over Tk 58 billion. It will spend another Tk 136 billion to purchase 1.5 million tonnes of refined oil.

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