Dhaka,   Friday 24 May 2024

The South Asian Times | সাউথ এশিয়ান টাইমস
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PM Hasina seeks Australian support in agriculture

Staff Correspondent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday expressed frustration that the developed countries are not fulfilling their commitments on climate change issues. The prime minister opened her mind to visiting Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong during a meeting at her official residence Ganabhaban, according to PM’s speech writer M Nazrul Islam. “She was a bit frustrated (due to the non-fulfillment of developed countries commitment on climate change issue),” Nazrul said. The prime minister in this connection told the Australian minister that Bangladesh government has formed the Climate Trust Fund with its own resources. “We did not sit idle (waiting for the developed counries), we have created our own Climate Trust Fund to save our people, we are trying from our side,” she said. Sheikh Hasina said that Bangladesh is vulnerable to climate change as it is often hit by cyclones and floods. Talking about Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh and the Israeli aggression on Palestine she said Bangladesh is against any sort of war or conflict. “We want discussion and dialogue for resolving every conflict,” she said. She said that Bangladesh is trying to resolve the Rohingya issue through bilateral negotiations to send them back to their homeland in Myanmar. She mentioned that although Bangladesh has requested for international assistance in this regard, there has been no significant progress in the repatriation efforts. Bangladesh has been hosting about 1.3 million Rohingya since 2017 in Cox’s Bazar district, most of them fleeing to Bangladesh to escape killings, rapes and arson unleashed by Myanmar’s military. Myanmar has yet to agree to take its nationals back home. The prime minister said that Bangladesh is a densely populated country although its area is very small. “For that we have put emphasis on creating employment,” she said. She said that the government is setting up 100 economic zones across the country to host industries for creating jobs. “Australian entrepreneurs can invest in there and make profit by availing the investment-friendly facilities of the country,” she said. Regarding agriculture, the PM said that Bangladesh has been successful to produce food grains in the last 15 years. “We have been able to increase our production many fold, but we have to produce more as our lands are decreasing with the growth of population,” she said. She sought Australian assistance in sharing its advanced agricultural technology. She said that due to the timely and pragmatic steps taken by the government Bangladesh has been able to reduce the poverty level to 17.7% from 41% and extreme poverty level to 5.7% from 25%. Both discussed various issues relating to the mutual interests of the two countries including agriculture, education and trade, said Nazrul. “They emphasized increasing communication and partnership between the two countries on these issues,” he said. The prime minister said that currently some 90,000 people of Bangladesh origin are living in Australia and they are contributing to the country’s economy. She requested the Australian foreign minister to take steps to allow more Bangladeshi students in their country. The Australian foreign minister laid emphasis on further strengthening and deepening existing bilateral relations between the two countries. PM’s Advisor on Private Industry and Investment Salman F Rahman and Ambassador-at-large M Ziauddin were among others present at the meeting. Penny Wong arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday on a two-day official visit to strengthen bilateral relations with Bangladesh and find ways to boost cooperation for regional peace, prosperity and security.

US slaps sanction on ex-army chief Gen Aziz, family members

The US Department of State has imposed sanctions on former chief of Bangladesh Army General (Retd.) Aziz Ahmed and his immediate family members due to his involvement in `significant corruption`. A statement was issued by US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Monday midnight Bangladesh time. It said this action renders Aziz Ahmed and his immediate family members generally ineligible for entry into the US. Aziz Ahmed`s actions have contributed to the undermining of Bangladesh`s democratic institutions and the public`s faith in public institutions and processes, it said. Aziz also worked closely with his brother to ensure the improper awarding of military contracts and accepted bribes in exchange for government appointments for his personal benefit, the State Department claimed. "This designation reaffirms the US commitment to strengthening democratic institutions and rule of law in Bangladesh," said the US government. The United States supports anticorruption efforts in Bangladesh through assistance to make government services more transparent and affordable, improve the business and regulatory environment, and build capacity in investigating and prosecuting money laundering and other financial crimes. These public designations are made under Section 7031(c) of the annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act. Talking to media yesterday, Aziz Ahmed said that the travel ban imposed on him and his family could have been done to embarrass or discredit the government. He has claimed innocence against the US sanctions for alleged involvement in corruption. Expressing surprise at this, he said: "I have not committed any crime that should be punished." Aziz Ahmed said if the US state department can prove the information that his brothers or any of his close relatives have received contract from Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) or Bangladesh Army while he was in charge, then he will accept all their allegations. In February 2021, an Al-Jazeera news report titled `All the Prime Minister`s Men` levied various allegations, including corruption, against then-army chief Aziz. Both the army headquarters and the Foreign Ministry refuted the report, labelling it as `false` and `slanderous.` Aziz, at the time, said the claims made against him in the Al Jazeera documentary were fabricated, reiterating his stance yesterday. However, he said that he will not pursue any legal or other process against this sanction. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said the US informed the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC about the sanctions imposed on former army chief General (retd) Aziz Ahmed before making it public. He said General Aziz was not sanctioned under the US-announced visa policy but rather was under Section 7031(c) of the annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act. Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud has said that the government of Bangladesh has taken a zero-tolerance policy on combating corruption and will continue to work with the United States on this issue. Aziz also worked closely with his brother to ensure the improper awarding of military contracts and accepted bribes in exchange for government appointments for his personal benefit, it claimed. On the other hand, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told media that he just informed the matter yesterday morning. But, he declined to make further comment on it.

Voter turnout in 2nd phase of upazila polls likely over 30%: CEC

Staff Correspondent Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal on Tuesday said the voter turnout in the second phase of the sixth Upazila Parishad polls is likely to be over 30%. He said the voting in the second phase of upazila election was held peacefully. The CEC said this while briefing the journalists at the EC office after the voting ended at 4pm. Four other election commissioners were with the CEC at that time. Kazi Habibul Awal said that the voting was held in 156 upazilas in the second phase. The electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used at 24 upazilas, while the traditional ballot papers in the rest of the upazilas.The voting, which began at 8am ended at 4pm. There was no incident of violence during the elections. There were casualties in a couple of incidents. No significant violence was reported anywhere. The election was held peacefully, claimed the CEC. “The rate of voter turnout in the elections that we have so far could be more than 30%. But accurate information may be received on Wednesday.” “I have heard that some media workers have also been injured. When they dared to take pictures, they might have been assaulted. We haven`t got the exact information yet. As many as 33 people were injured in the clash. Besides, a man was injured critically in a clash on Monday night.” Stating that action has been taken in the irregularities in the elections, the CEC said that intervention has been done where there had been irregularities and attempts to rig the vote. A total of 25 people have been arrested. Besides, 10 people were sentenced to immediate imprisonment for casting fake votes. Two deaths were reported, but not because of the polling-related incident, they died of illness, said Habibul Awal. When answering regarding voter turnout in the polls, he said that 30% voter turnout is not very encouraging one of the main reasons could be that one of the major political parties in the country has publicly announced boycotts and discouraged people from voting. “In any democratic system, such attempts can be made. However, there is no crisis with our polling system. The crisis is in politics.” “I think if politics flows in a more healthy way, the problem of low voter turnout may be overcome in the future," said the CEC. He hopes that the political crisis in the future will be overcome and voters will be encouraged to exercise their voting rights.

PM orders stricter market monitoring ahead of Eid to prevent price hikes

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today (20 May) ordered authorities concerned to strictly monitor the market of essential commodities ahead of the upcoming Eid-ul-Adha. The premier gave the directive at the cabinet meeting held at the Prime Minister`s Office, Cabinet Secretary Md Mahbub Hossain told reporters after the meeting. "Although there is no shortage in the supply of some products, prices are increasing. Market monitoring should be tightened to stop these unreasonable price hikes," the prime minister was quoted by the cabinet secretary. When asked about the prime minister`s instructions, State Minister for Commerce Ahsanul Islam Titu told The Business Standard that the premier gave the instructions to prevent price hikes of commodities. "Eid-ul-Adha is approaching. Festivals often prompt some traders to seek extra profits. The prime minister has instructed us to monitor the overall market to prevent unnecessary price increases," he said. Following these instructions, the Ministry of Commerce, the Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection, and other monitoring agencies will intensify market monitoring, Titu said. Mentioning that monitoring had been beneficial during Ramadan, he said, "The prime minister believes that continued monitoring will prevent unreasonable price hikes. "Measures will be taken to make monitoring activities visible in the market during the upcoming Eid, preventing any unwarranted price hikes." He added that the commerce ministry will ensure an adequate supply of goods. According to the latest data released by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the overall inflation in April stood at 9.74% while food inflation rose to 10.22%, the highest in four months. Meanwhile on 8 May, the Bangladesh Bank changed the Taka-Dollar exchange rate system, officially increasing the dollar rate by Tk7. As a result, traders have raised the prices of imported food items, especially edible oil, sugar, pulses, and raw materials for poultry feed. According to the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), market price data of 20 commodities show that the prices of garlic, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, lentils, sugar, and eggs have increased in the last week. The demand for these and other spice products typically rises ahead of Eid-ul-Adha. Experts believe that due to weaknesses in the market system, some businessmen take advantage of the increased demand to make additional profits.

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India Hosts 6th Session of the International Solar Alliance Assembly in New Delhi

India Hosts 6th Session of the International Solar Alliance Assembly in New Delhi

The Sixth Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) convened in New Delhi today, presided over by Raj Kumar Singh, Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy, Government of India, who serves as the President of the ISA Assembly. Ministers from 20 countries and delegates representing 116 Member and Signatory countries gathered for this important event, according to a press release. In his opening remarks, Raj Kumar Singh emphasized the crucial role of renewable energy sources in addressing global energy challenges. He stated that renewable energy has the potential to supply 65 percent of the world`s total electricity by 2030 and decarbonize 90 percent of the power sector by 2050. The International Solar Alliance is committed to making solar energy the preferred energy source, attracting investments, and ensuring ample energy availability to meet growing global demands. To support this, ISA has expanded its Viability Gap Funding (VGF) mechanism, increasing the grant to 35% of the project cost based on the capacity and needs of member countries. Co-President of the Assembly, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, France`s Minister of State for Development, Francophonie, and International Partnerships, emphasized France`s commitment to the ISA. France has provided significant financial support for solar projects, including the construction of the Onigbolo solar power plant in Benin, bringing 25 megawatts of clean energy to the people of Benin. She emphasized the importance of supporting partner countries in their energy transition plans, said the release. Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General of the International Solar Alliance, stressed the need to accelerate the deployment of solar energy, particularly in developing countries and for applications that enhance the daily lives of those without reliable energy access. ISA is facilitating over 9.5 GW of solar applications in 55 developing countries and providing training to thousands of people in supporting solar energy. The organization is working on establishing STAR Centers as hubs of technology, knowledge, and expertise in solar energy, it said. The Assembly also discussed the ISA`s initiatives, including the development of solar mini-grids to provide universal energy access and mechanisms to attract private sector investment through guarantees provided by the Global Solar Facility. In May 2020, ISA initiated Demonstration Projects in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to showcase scalable solar technology applications and build the capacity of beneficiary member countries. Four projects, including solarization of the parliament building of the Republic of Malawi, solarization of health care centers in Fiji, installation of solar-powered cold storage in Seychelles, and solarization of a school in Kiribati, were inaugurated, it added. Singh dedicated these projects to the respective countries, highlighting ISA`s commitment to advancing the cause of energy transition through solar energy. The Assembly serves as the apex decision-making body of ISA and meets annually to assess the progress of solar energy deployment and discuss key initiatives related to energy access, energy security, and energy transition. The Sixth Assembly of the International Solar Alliance demonstrated the commitment of member countries to harnessing solar energy to address global energy and environmental challenges, the release also said.

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