Two recently-relinquished offshore gas blocks remain unexploited as the government has to spend about $1.7 billion to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet domestic demands.
According to official sources in state-owned Petrobangla, data from seismic surveys in the two blocks – shallow water block SS-11 and the deep water block DS-12 – show huge potentials of hydrocarbon resources.
Australian company Santos relinquished SS-11 in December 2019 while South Korean company Posco gave up block DS-12 in December 2020, they said.
“Acquired data from these two blocks show a huge hydrocarbon prospects, but they remain unexploited due to lack of proper initiative,” a senior official of Petrobangla said requesting anonymity as “things are very sensitive”.
Officials said initially, DS-12 was awarded to Posco-Daewoo Corporation, a joint venture of Korean Posco and Daewoo, in December 2016 under production sharing contract (PSC) through the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provisions) Act 2010 that does not need to follow bidding process.
Under the PSC, the contractor is obliged to meet all expenses alone in hydrocarbon exploration. But if any oil or gas is found, the contractor will get a substantial share of the resources while the remaining part will go to the government’s ownership.
As per the deal, Petrobangla will buy the contractor’s gas at a certain price defined in PSC.
Following the PSC’s terms and condition, Posco-Daewoo JV was carrying out exploration works. But at one stage, Posco acquired Daewoo’s stake and became the absolute stakeholder of the block.
But in the meantime, Posco, originally a steel maker, changed its mind and decided to wind up hydrocarbon business.
However, before closing the Bangladesh operation, it was trying to sell it out to any other oil company, but failed to do so, said the Petrobangla officials.
They noted that until closing its business, Posco conducted 2D seismic survey in 3,580 line kilometres in 302 square kilometer area against its mandated area of 1,800 line kilometres until it left the block.
Petrobangla officials said substantial fall in prices of oil and gas in the global market was another reason that prompted Posco to leave the gas block business.
Under the PSC, Posco was entitled to get natural gas price at around US$6.5 per mm Btu (million British thermal unit) with a 2 percent annual price escalation from the date of first gas production.
But it was not happy with such price calculating its current and future investment to implement a production plan, said a top official of Petrobangla.
He also said block DS-12 has a very good potential for production as about half a dozen spots were detected by the Korean company. DS-12 is located in a depth of 1,000 to 2,000 metres, with an area of 3,560 sq km.
On the other hand, Petrobangla officials said Santos abandoned SS-11 in December 2020 because of a change in its strategic business plan.
The global headquarters of Santos decided to move it entire business to Europe and adjoining area which ultimately prompted it to relinquish the gas block to Petrobangla as it was calculating the venture as commercially non-profitable.
Before leaving Bangladesh, Santos conducted 2D seismic survey to 3,220 line kilometres, against its commitment for 2,100 line kilometres.
“Data acquired from the survey also show good potentials in SS-11,” said the Petrobangla official.
Petrobangla data show the country daily needs 2,890.5 million cubic feet (mmcf) of natural gas of which 400.5 mmcf is supplied from imported LNG.
Officials said the country has to spend about $1.7 billion to annually import 4 million metric tons of LNG, which is expected to rise in coming days with increased gas consumption.
Energy experts say they believe the government should take an immediate move to re-engage foreign companies to explore and exploit potentials in the two relinquished offshore gas blocks.
“It’ll be a better option to explore gas in offshore areas by foreign companies without government fund than continuing import of LNG,” said former Petrobangla chairman Muktadir Ali.
He said gas from the offshore blocks would save Bangladesh’s hard-earned foreign currency spent on LNG import.
Echoing the view, BUET Professor Dr Ijaz Ahmed said the government should find an easy way out to explore its untapped potentials along with the import of LNG to meet the domestic demand.
“But unfortunately, due importance is not being given to gas exploration,” he observed.
As the media has changed rapidly with the expansion of technology and social media, a media expert says the future of journalism depends on how journalists are trying to catch up with the changes and know their audiences.
In an interview with UNB, former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University (DU) Professor AMS Arefin Siddique said journalists must face the challenges of the 21st century with their professional spirit and the basic values of journalism.
He suggested the universities offering journalism and mass communication courses to upgrade their syllabuses and curricula so that the students can cope with the changing media environment. “Adaptation is important.”
Dr Arefin, also a former teacher of DU’s Mass Communication and Journalism department, said presenting facts and authentic information immediately is now the main challenge for the mass media.
“The media has to be faster in collecting information and processing it by its desk and making it presentable for readers and viewers as social media circulate information within seconds,” he observed.
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Dr Arefin said social media can disseminate content directly but the mass media cannot do that without crosschecking it. “As the crude oil is refined in a refinery, crude information must be refined by the news desk of mass media for upholding the credibility and authenticity.”
He said social media creates sensation with unverified information, but mass media cannot confuse people using the social media information. “Social media can circulate information faster, but it can’t outsmart the mass media only because of authenticity. Journalists must follow the basics of journalism to overcome the challenges of social media and technology.”
Dr Arefin said the number of online portals continues to increase in the country so does the number of unskilled journalists. “It’s necessary to train those unskilled journalists so that they can perform their professional duties with accuracy and objectivity.”
Describing journalism as a discipline of verification where every skill matters, the ex-DU VC said journalists always work for finding and presenting facts.
“Despite having various limitations, I think most of our mainstream media outlets are playing their due role nicely. But we still have serious limitations about using the technology in journalism. We also lack enough, skilled, trained and experienced journalists to rightly verify information. So, we need to focus on training and education on journalism and in-house training for the media workers,” Dr Arefin said.
He said once there was only one state-owned television channel and radio station in Bangladesh. “Now there’re so many private TV and radio channels alongside many newspapers and online portals. “But most of our universities have prepared their courses and curricula considering the challenges and reality in the 20th century. We need to improve those by including many new things.”
Dr Arefin said the curricula of Dhaka University’s Mass Communication and Journalism department is being updated every year to connect students with the latest situation. “Still, there’s a room for improvement.”
He said all the journalism departments in other universities should focus on the expansion of information and communication technology in updating and modernising their courses and curricula.
Grammar hardly changes
“We’ve to keep in mind that changes may come in a language, but its grammar remains almost the same. When it comes to journalism, there may be changes in news presentation with the expansion of technology, but there's no option to budge even an inch from objectivity, accuracy, fairness and gravity under any situation at any age.”
He said fake news and alternative facts have now become a hot topic for discussions. “But news can never be fake... confusions have been created by adding fake to any news. We can call some information as news or unfact or disinformation. We’ll have to examine news as per its definition and grammar.”
Text to prevail
Dr Arefin said there has been much attraction to visual journalism today, but the importance of text has not waned. “There’s a division among the readers and viewers as many of them give importance to visual content while the others, especially the serious ones, still value texts. So, the media should give focus on both visual and text contents taking into account the readers and viewers.”
He suggested journalists remain aware of the distortion of photos and ensure their authentic messages. “We know a picture is worth a thousand words. So, the consequences of distortion of a picture in society are huge. There’s a relation between context and content in journalism. When there’s a gap between the context and content the readers can be confused."
In this age of Photoshop, the expert said checking distortion of photos is a serious challenge for journalism. “We know a picture tells the truth, but when the message of the picture is distorted it can mislead the readers. So, journalists should have knowledge about how to check the distortion of photos. There’s also a technical facility to stop the abuse of Photoshop.”
Dr Arefin said there is a direct relation between democracy and the mass media, and there is no alternative to strong media presence to strengthen democracy.
“Press freedom has been snatched at different times in Bangladesh, especially during the rule of military and autocratic rulers. “In terms of number, all types of mass media have increased significantly now in Bangladesh…the government has also taken different measures, including enacting the Digital Security Act (ICT), to stop the abuse of the ICT,” he said.
Dr Arefin said journalists have a reservation and different opinions about the act. “I think no act or law should be a barrier to journalism. This act should be applied for only those who try to confuse people abusing the ICT. If journalists present any information without any bad intention maintaining the ethics of journalism, but it creates some sort of repercussion among people, and they should not be tried under the Digital Security Act.”
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In this case, he said, the Press Council or any other relevant body should be involved to look into the matter in the interest of journalism.
The expert said journalists should also remain aware of their professionalism and professional ethics. “Journalism is a tough and hazardous profession. Journalists are the soldiers of truth and they should be ready to even sacrifice their lives for the sake of truth. If journalists have this commitment and zeal no one can obstruct journalism. That’s why we need professional journalists who will never compromise when it comes to the truth.”
February is known as the month celebrating the love for language, with occasions like the International Mother Language Day and signature events like Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Despite the absence of the fair this year as it has been shifted to March due to the pandemic, a unique day-long event has quenched the thirst of the book-lovers in the city.
Boibondhu, a voluntary organization dedicatedly working to spread the practice of reading among the netizens, organized a day-long book exchange event at the Rabindra Sarobar, Dhanmondi this past Friday (Feb 26, 2021), which was joined by an unimaginable number of book-lovers from morning to dusk.
Describing the special event to UNB, Moheuddin Toha, coordinator of the Boibondhu Library, said that the event exceeded their target of exchanging 1,000 books among the book-lovers, which ended up recording over 15,000 books at the event titled "Boibondhur Sathe Boi Binimoy Utsob" (Books Exchange Festival with Boibondhu).
"Our free, open-air book exchange festival at Rabindra Sarobar received an overwhelming response from the book-lovers who brought books from their collections to donate to the number of books on the display at the open ground and in exchange to that, they choose their desired books from the displayed collections," Toha described the festival format to UNB.
"We had a total of 1,800 books reserved in our display at the venue which was available for exchange, and we allotted 10 books each to exchange between each other. Our initial target was to record the exchanging of 1,000 books, however, thanks to the unbelievable number of participants at the day-long event which we organized just within a few days, we astonishingly recorded that more than 15,000 books were exchanged," Toha informed this correspondent.
A dynamic team of 75 volunteers ensured health safety guidelines at the unique open-air festival, assisting the crowd with hand-sanitizers and instructions to use face-masks, which almost 80 to 90 percent of the crowd properly followed, according to Toha. They also provided the crowd with tokens which allowed per person to exchange 10 books between each other and recorded the numbers.
Despite being arranged within a considerably short period of planning, the day-long event got publicity over the internet through its similar-titled Facebook event. "I came to know about the festival from the event and came here with my friends. Although we thought of a minimized number of crowd, it is refreshing to see this huge amount of people here today, for the love of books," Raisa Tabassum, a college student, shared her experience to UNB.
Suzana Afreen Oishee, a student of Viqarunnesa Noon College who came to attend the festival from Jatrabari, said, "I am very excited and happy to see the amusing environment of the book-lovers in this kind of event, arranged for the first time in our country."
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Maintaining patience in the large line of people, book-lovers joined the festival to hand over their favorite books to other book-lovers. "Though it is hard for me to exchange these beloved books of mine, which I sincerely adored - I have no regret to join this sort of unique activity and the jovial festival. Looking to collect exciting books from others, as well," Abdullah Usama, a student of Northern Medical, told UNB.
Not only the students, but the festival was also joined by many teachers, scholars, and guardians as well. Laila Arjumand Banu, a lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Science & Technology came to the festival with her daughter and shared her experience to UNB: "My elder daughter who is a student of Adamjee Cantonment Public School and College and younger daughter who is a student of class five and the Mohammadpur Preparatory School and College got to know about this festival from the Facebook event. We had many exchangeable books at our home which they brought here and exchanged with other book-lovers."
Moheuddin Toha told UNB that a small portable box-library was also established at the premises of Rabindra Sarobar during the inauguration ceremony on Friday, which will be there for the regular visitors. Boibondhu is aiming to set up similar libraries at 33 parks around Dhaka city, he informed.
The voluntary organization has been dedicatedly working to establish libraries across the country, a total of 53 till this reporting, which they started with an aim to spread the love of reading among the netizens since January 2018.
So far, Boibondhu has established several mobile libraries at more than 35 buses in the city, a hospital at Agargaon in the capital, a community library at Kamalapur in the city for a community of transgender, and 3 saloons in 3 districts across the country. All these projects are voluntary and funded by volunteers, according to Toha.
With the success of the event that has received an overwhelming participation of people of all ages and all walks of life, Boibondhu is now aiming to initiate this festivity in other parts of the country, starting with Chittagong in March.
Also read: Amar Ekushey Book Fair 2020 in a nutshell
"As it was initiated for the first time, we had to face some difficulties in the process. Thanks to the participators, the event has inspired book-lovers in other districts and we are preparing to arrange the festival in Chittagong next month." Toha informed UNB.
E-commerce site Evaly, online book-selling platform Rokomari dot com, private fm radio station Radio Today and television channel DBC partnered with this day-long festival.
Think of tulips and you will probably think of the Netherlands. But move over the European country. A dazzling display of the flowers has now enveloped the landscape of Gazipur on Dhaka's outskirts -- thanks to the country's first tulip garden there.
In fact, a local flower farmer, Md Delowar Hossain, has made this possible. Last year, he brought a thousand bulbs of tulip from the Netherlands for experimental cultivation. And this year, the plants produced by the bulbs have bloomed in his garden -- 'Moumita Flowers'.
"Tulip gardens in the Netherlands or Kashmir in India have been recognised as tourist spots. This is also possible in Bangladesh through extensive farming of local tulips," says Delowar, who has now started selling the flowers in the domestic market.
Popular as cut flowers as well as ornamental garden plants, tulips are oval shaped flowers that are available in a wide shape of colours, including red, pink, yellow and white.
A marvelous sight to behold, Delowar's tulip garden has already become popular in the region. People from Dhaka and adjoining areas have been making a beeline to the garden daily since it was thrown open for visitors recently.
Not only the general public, VIPs like the Bangladesh Education Minister, Agricultural Minister and local MPs have visited Delowar’s ‘Moumita Flowers’.
To meet the growing demand for tulips, Bangladesh imports the flowers from India, the Netherlands and China. But Delowar says adequate domestic production could well meet the country's demand for tulips.
"Imported tulips are sold at Tk 700-800 per hundred pieces in Bangladesh, which means if the local ones are sold even at Tk 400-500 per hundred pieces, our farmers will earn huge profits. I am willing to extend help to people keen on tulip farming," Delowar says.
Thanks to his tulip garden, 30 people in the area have got employment opportunities. Of course, he has also earned a profit of Tk 40 lakh. "As tulips grow best in cold weather, I think Panchagar would be the best place for tulip cultivation," Delowar says.
During his recent visit to the tulip garden, Agricultural Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque said, "We want to utilise the economic possibility that has been seeded by Delowar’s dream."
"By patronising entrepreneurs like Delowar, we can expand the production of tulips and more unconventional crops that will meet the local demand as well as earn remittance for the country," he had said.
Delowar previously cultivated Gerbera, Rajanigandha and China rose successfully in his garden, for which he was given the Bangabandhu National Agricultural Award in 2017.
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has devised five strategies to boost its revenue collection offsetting the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision to adopt the methods was taken at a meeting of the 'Budget Management Panel', held recently with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in the chair.
The strategies are: Using electronic fiscal devices (EFDs) in all business entities from shopping malls to restaurants, expansion of income tax net, implementation of the VAT law, automation of bonded warehouses and improving non-tax revenue collection.
The total revenue collection for 2020-21 fiscal was estimated to be Tk 3780 billion where the NBR will contribute Tk 3,300 billion. The revenue from non-NBR sources was estimated at Tk 150 billion while non-tax revenue at Tk 330 billion.
Of the grand amount for the NBR, Tk 1039.45 billion will come from income, profit and capital taxes, while Tk 1251.62 billion from VAT, Tk 578.15 billion from supplementary tax, Tk 378.07 billion from import duty, Tk 0.55 billion from export duty, Tk 36.86 billion from the excise duty and Tk 15.30 billion from other taxes.
According to available data, the revenue collection by the NBR in the first half of the fiscal year (July-December) faced a shortfall of Tk 307.91 billion.
During the stipulated time, the revenue collecting authority was supposed to collect Tk 1412.25 billion but it was only Tk 1104.34 billion.
Still, the collection is 4.10% higher than the previous year. The collection was Tk 1060.88 billion during the same period of the last 2019-20 fiscal.
Also read: NBR pulls out all stops to expand tax net
The collection growth for the first five months (July-November) was 3.19 percent where the NBR managed to collect Tk 870.93 billion.
As of November, VAT had been the highest contributor to the revenue collection with Tk 334.46 billion.
The Customs Wing showed its success in terms of percentage exceeding the target and collecting 6.24% higher revenue. The collection from this sector was Tk 277.13 billion.
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Till November last year, the Income Tax Wing collected Tk 259.33 billion but it was Tk 248.83 billion during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.
"As the economy of the country as well as the world was in a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the revenue collection along with the business activities came to a halt for a long time," a senior official at the NBR said.
NBR Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem at a recent programme said that three wings -- income tax, VAT and customs -- worked hard during the pandemic. He was hopeful with the present state of growth regarding the revenue collection and expressed his optimism over a better revenue growth in the coming days.
On August 25, 2020, the NBR entered EFD-era by installing 100 machines -- 80 in Dhaka and 20 in Chattogram.
So far, as per information received from the NBR, the revenue collecting authority has installed some 1,500 such machines. It has planned to install 3000 EFDs within this month while 4,000 devices in March and 10,000 by end of this fiscal (June).
According to sources at the NBR, it will install EFDs in other cities of the country in addition to Dhaka and Chattogram.