People live in hope. Ronhingya refugees also do so and thus they spent another, 2020, that they would have a dignified return to their homeland in Myanmar. But, the hope for a better day did not come.
Now that it is another new year, 2021!
The year 2021 is expected to see fresh talks on Rohingya repatriation with no discussion in 2020 collided with Covid-19 pandemic and Myanmar general elections as big countries find the repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Myanmar’s Rakhine State is the only solution.
More than three years ago, Myanmar’s soldiers “targeted, killed, and raped” Rohingya and burned their villages, as the United Nations, Refugees International, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the U.S. State Department itself, and many others have documented.
Over 800,000 Rohingyas fled the “genocidal violence” and Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas.
“We had our last formal discussion with Myanmar in January this year (2020). Though Myanmar agreed to take back their nationals after verification, no Rohingyas returned home. There is a lack of sincerity from Myanmar side,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told UNB.
He said the Rohingyas do not trust their government, and Bangladesh gave a number of proposals to build trust among them. “Myanmar didn’t say no to those proposals but no proposal was implemented.”
Bangladesh is trying in multiple ways - bilaterally, multilaterally, tri-laterally and through the judicial system – to find a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis.
“Myanmar is a friendly country. They aren’t our enemy. We’ve nothing against Myanmar. Myanmar must create a conducive environment as Bangladesh wants to see the return of Rohingyas to Myanmar in safety and security,” Dr Momen said.
Bangladesh proposed deployment of non-military civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries -- Japan, China, Russia, India and Asean countries.
“Myanmar did neither say yes or no on that particular proposal,” said the Foreign Minister adding that Bangladesh also proposed visits of Rohingya leaders to Rakhine and Myanmar government officials’ visit to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar to interact with the Rohingays.
In the process, Dr Momen said, there should be confidence building and the main objective of Bangladesh is to see repatriation of Rohingyas. “They must return home (Myanmar).
Responding to a question, Dr Momen said all countries agree that repatriation is the solution and any delay in repatriation might create instability in the region and beyond.
Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki has recently said Japan supports the repatriation of Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine State and wants to see the process starts next year.
"The Rohingya issue is very important. To see progress, we should see the start of the repatriation process next year. Japan will continue to help in this matter," he said.
Dr Momen said Japan has huge investment in Myanmar and has leverage over Myanmar; and sought continued support from Japan over the repatriation issue.
Ambassador Naoki said they are communicating directly with Myanmar's top military officials and at the government level on the Rohingya crisis as Japan sees it a proper channel to play a role.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi reiterated the importance of safe, speedy and sustainable return of Rohingyas to Myanmar.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina congratulated India on its election as a member of the United Nations Security Council and expressed Bangladesh’s expectation to see India assist in the repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh is discussing tri-laterally with China and Myanmar to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis.
In the face of growing concern over the extreme congestion in the camps of Cox’s Bazar and to avert any risk of death due to landslides and other unwarranted incidents, the government of Bangladesh has decided to relocate, in phases, 1,00,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char.
Accordingly, in the first phase, more than 1600 Rohingyas, who expressed their willingness voluntarily for relocation, were shifted to Bhasan Char on December 4.
The second batch of 1804 Rohingyas -- 433 men, 523 women and 843 children -- was shifted on December 29.
“Bhasan Char and other plans -- these are temporary arrangements,” said Dr Momen adding that the UN and UN agencies are vocal about this temporary arrangement.
“They should look at Rakhine whether a conducive environment is created there or not. If we go for doing anything, they create barriers,” he said.
The Foreign Minister said the rights bodies talk against Bhasan Char but their countries are not taking any Rohingyas as a burden sharing.
“UNHCR gets funds. But how do they spend? There’s no transparency and accountability though they’re collecting money in the name of Bangladesh,” Dr Momen said.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.
Bangladesh thinks Rohingyas will "jeopardise regional and international security" if the 1.1 million Rohingya people are left unattended and not given the opportunity to return to their homeland.
Myanmar did not take back a single Rohingya from Bangladesh over the last three years but Myanmar, in its attempts to “mislead” the international community, claimed that a total of 397 displaced people have voluntarily returned from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
Two repatriation attempts turned futile as Myanmar “failed to remove trust deficit” among the Rohingyas and there was “lack of conducive environment” in Rakhine for their return.
Though a number of restrictions were put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus in the country since March, which have disrupted normal life of the people, including criminals, several incidents of violence against women such as rape and gang rape have been much discussed in the outgoing year 2020.
Among the incidents, a housewife in Sylhet M C College, video-viral on social media of a young woman violently assaulted and gang-raped by a group of men in the south-eastern Noakhali district were mostly talked of the country.
Besides, killing incident of Major (retd) Sinha Md Rashed Khan, who was shot dead by a police officer at at Shamlapur check post on Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive on the night of July 31, has also much discussed in the outgoing year. He was on his way back to Nilima Resort in Himchhari area after filming a video on Marishbunia hill in Teknaf. Though police has been trying to preaching the incident as a gunfight instead of cold brain killing but the real picture has come to light when his sister Sharmin Shahria Ferdous subsequently filed a case against nine policemen on Aug 5.
Such frequent incidents of mass rape and women violence as well as the Maj (retd) Sinha killing have felt the government and law enforcement agencies into embarrassing position.
On September 25, a 19-year-old married girl was reportedly raped by a group of youths in a dormitory of Sylhet MC College in the evening after tying up her husband in a room of the hostel. The victim’s husband filed a case with Shah Poran Police Station following day early morning against six named accused, including Saifur Rahman, and three unnamed accused. Students of Sylhet MC College staged demonstrations blocking the road in front of the college protesting the ‘gang-rape’.
The heinous incident also sparked a countrywide protest that forced the government to take prompt action. Law enforcement have arrested eight people in this connection. They are now in police custody. Even the High Court on 30 September formed an investigation committee to look into the incident.
In first week of October, footage of a young woman being violently assaulted and sexually harassed by a group of men in the south-eastern Noakhali district went viral on Facebook, after the video was released by the attackers to blackmail and shame the victim.
Soon after these heinous acts, both Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and Inspector general (IG) of Police Benajir Ahmed had strictly instructed all law enforcers to go for tough action against the offenders. As per their instructions, law enforcers including police and RAB went for action through arresting the culprits in most of the cases.
Home Minister had warned that those involved in the heinous and dreadful rape incident in Sylhet MC College hostel will not be spared.
Police on December 3 pressed charges against eight people in a case filed over the gang rape of a woman at Sylhet MC College dormitory. Investigation officer of the case Indranil Bhattacharya submitted the charge sheet before Sylhet Metropolitan Magistrate Court judge Abul Kashem. Police said they found direct involvement of six people in the rape while two others helped the others in the crime.
The video footage of five men torturing the Noakhali woman went viral on social media platforms has raised concerns among natives. Locals said the incident took place at a certain Noor Islam’s house in Khalpar area of Begumgonj upazila in Noakhali . After the video went viral, police detained a youth named Abdur Rahim, 22, for questioning.
According to the video and the locals, five youths Delowar, Badal, Kalam, Abdur Rahim along with an unnamed youth – all members of a criminal gang Delowar Bahini -- stripped the woman naked and brutally tortured her. Eight people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
In a statement on October 6, Amnesty International said Bangladeshi authorities must ensure justice to the Noakhali woman, who was stripped and severely beaten by a group of men for around half an hour, as a video of the incident emerged online. This is the latest incident in an escalating wave of violence against women in the country, the statement said.
“This truly disturbing footage demonstrates the shocking violence that Bangladeshi women are routinely being subjected to.
“In the vast majority of these cases, the justice system fails to hold the perpetrators responsible,” said Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International.
“There can be no excuses here – the Bangladeshi authorities must immediately launch a thorough and impartial investigation and bring those responsible for this vicious attack to justice through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty,” he added.
Between 2001 and July 2020, only 3.56% of cases filed under the Prevention of Oppression Against Women and Children Act 2000 Act have resulted in a court judgment and only 0.37% of cases have ended with convictions, according to data from the government’s One Stop Crisis Centre.
Local women’s rights organization Naripokkho examined the incidents of reported rape cases in six districts between 2011 and 2018 and found that out of 4,372 cases, only five people were convicted, Amnesty also said.
According to human rights organization Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK), between January and November 2020, at least 1546 rape cases were reported in Bangladesh, including 303 gang-rapes, While the figure was 1413, including 327 since January to December in 2019.
Meanwhile, as the killing of Maj Retied Sinha had become countrywide criticism, the Home Ministry formed a high-level probe committee on Aug 2 while allegations of ‘extrajudicial killings’ against the police also resurfaced.
Later, seven policemen, including in-charge of Baharchhara investigation centre Inspector Liakat and Officer-in-charge of Teknaf police station Pradip Kumar Das surrendered to the court in connection with the case filed by Sinha's sister. They were also suspended from their jobs.
The government also made wholesale changes to the police force in Cox's Bazar with almost all police personnel, including top officers and constables, being transferred out of the district.
Chief of Army Staff General Aziz Ahmed and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed have both visited Cox’sbazar on August 5. In a joint press briefing there, both of them stressed that the killing of retired Bangladesh Army major Sinha Md Rashed Khan will not create a rift between the two forces.
The army chief said a joint inquiry team had been formed at the behest of the prime minister, while the IGP said the committee, formed by the government will complete an objective investigation and action will be taken as per the recommendations of the committee.
Meanwhile investigation officer, RAB-15's ASP Md Khairul Islam of the Maj (retd) Sinha killing case has pressed formal charges in court on December 13 against former Teknaf Police OC Pradip Kumar Das, former in-charge of Baharchhara investigation centre Inspector Liakat Ali and 13 others over the killing of retired army major Sinha Md Rashed Khan at a police checkpoint in Cox's Bazar.
"In addition to the 14 arrested in connection with the case, another suspect has also been added to the charge-sheet," he said.
According to the human rights organization Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK), 184 people were killed in so called gun fights with members of law enforcement agencies between January and August 2020, but after the furore raised over the incident no such encounter/crossfire killing by the law enforcement agencies has been reported. And so it is just about possible that one bright spot emerged in the field of crime, law and order in 2020: an end, or at least a lull, in crossfire.
The Latin phrase, 'annus horribilis' (horrible year), aptly sums up the story of 2020, the last year of this decade.
Yes, the Covid pandemic has not only adversely affected the daily lives of people but also subdued the enthusiasm of almost all cultural festivals and events across the globe. And Bangladesh is no exception -- from March, either the celebrations had to be scaled back or cancelled altogether in this country due to the pandemic.
In fact, before the imposition of lockdown in late March, Bangladesh was gearing up to celebrate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, throughout the year. But Covid forced the government to defer the grand plans to the year-end.
However, at the same time, the pandemic opened up new opportunities for people around the world through virtual platforms, forcing them to embrace the new normal. In Bangladesh too, almost all events -- from press conferences to exhibitions and art camps to cultural performances -- moved online due to the outbreak of Covid.
Highlights of major art events and cultural programmes in 2020
Major events before lockdown:
The first major event was Bangladesh Cultural Festival, organised by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), which took place at National Theatre Hall from January 3 to January 23, featuring artists from 64 districts and 64 upazilas.
The same month the 18th edition of Dhaka International Film Festival, which enthralled film enthusiasts from home and abroad, took place from January 11 tol January 19.
In February, the country celebrated two major events -- Amar Ekushey Book Fair at Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Uddyan, and the 5th edition of Dhaka Art Summit (DAS), South Asia’s biggest art and painting biennale exhibition at the National Art Gallery.
Also read: Amar Ekushey Book Fair 2020 in a nutshell
The 6th edition of Joy Bangla Concert also took place at Army Stadium on March 7, marking the day of the Father of the Nation's historic March 7 speech. BSA arranged a grand carnival marking the birth centenary of Bangabandhu, titled ‘Muktir Mohanayak’.
However, Covid forced organisers to shelve live recordings and then broadcast the same on all TV channels in Bangladesh on March 17 night.
The new normal:
As offline and crowd-based programmes had to be shelved since late-March, the entire world, including Bangladesh, opted for virtual arrangements throughout the remaining months of 2020 -- all thanks to online platforms such as Zoom and Streamyard, and social media networks like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
BSA arranged multiple virtual programmes throughout the lockdown months under its ‘Art Against Corona’ campaign, in which noted artists from home and rural areas to abroad, joined and performed for the live audiences on its Facebook page.
The country’s renowned cultural institution, Chhayanaut also catered to several virtual arrangements on its official Facebook page and YouTube channel throughout the year. From organising special programmes on Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam to celebrating occasions such as Pahela Baishakh, it embraced the new normal.
International institutions in Bangladesh, including the EMK Centre, Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) and German cultural organisation Goethe-Institut Bangladesh also arranged many virtual programmes throughout the year.
Amid Covid, Gallery Cosmos, the artistic wing of Bangladeshi conglomerate Cosmos Group, also continued its committed dedication towards arts as it organised the first-ever online live art camp on June 8, titled ’Brightening The Spirits With Art’, in association with 'Hidden Her Foundation' and Cosmos Foundation. Indeed, it was a noble effort to raise funds for the Covid victims and their families.
Gallery Cosmos also arranged ‘BRAVE HEART’ -- the first-ever virtual exhibition from August 14 to 31, reminiscing the founder of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, marking his birth centenary and National Mourning Day.
Also read: Fifth Dhaka Art Summit ends in style
Several festivals also went online this year, most notably the 8th Annual Liberation DocFest Bangladesh-2020, organised by Liberation War Museum from June 16 till June 20.
Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, was also associated with this year’s festival as the technology partner, while United News of Bangladesh (UNB), South Asia’s first fully wired digital news agency, was the media partner.
The 4th edition of Dhaka DocLab was also held virtually for the first time from August 23 till October 3.
Reopening of venues, welcoming crowds again:
From September, the government gave its nod for the reopening of several venues, based on the requests and demands of people in the arts and culture fraternity as their livelihoods mostly depends on the physical presence of the audience.
BSA reopened for audiences in September and the National Art Gallery also began organising several exhibitions again. Most notably, a month-long exhibition marking PM Sheikh Hasina's 74th birthday. The art exhibition reflecting the aftermath of Covid, titled 'Art Against Corona' was a special three-day art event organised by the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) and the High Commission of India in Dhaka, in collaboration with BSA.
After six months of closure, all museums and heritage sites under the Department of Archaeology also reopened on a limited scale from September 16. The National Museum also reopened around the same period.
Gallery Cosmos also organised an exclusive Art Camp, titled ‘Sheikh Hasina: On the Right Side of History’ on November 27, with 22 leading and promising painters of the country at Gallery Cosmos, Cosmos Centre (Studio, Books and Rooftop), Malibagh in the capital.
The camp, held in collaboration with Cosmos Atelier71 and supported by the Cosmos Foundation, led to an exclusive exhibition that was inaugurated on December 12 and will remain open till February 12, 2021.
Theatre arena after the reopening:
While 2019 was a great year for the theatre arena in the country, 2020 was pretty gloomy as the pandemic forced venues to shut their doors for some seven months from March 18.
Also read: Gallery Cosmos art camp on PM Hasina begins
According to several theatre artistes and activists, only 13 plays were premiered offline by eleven theatre troupes in 2020. Before that, theatre troupes and BSA started holding online shows, including rehearsals and staging of plays with scattered cast members from different places during the lockdown.
Theatre group Prachyanaut premiered three plays at its month-long theatre festival, titled 'Mahala Magan', which was held from September 4 to October 3 at its rehearsal room in Katabon, Dhaka, with a very limited number of audiences.
Known as the sacred ground of theatre in the country, Bangladesh Mahila Samity was reopened for theatre lovers on October 2, with the staging of Laal Jamin by theatre group Shunnon Repertory.
BSA reopened its National Theatre Hall, Experimental Theatre Hall and Studio Theatre Hall and also started welcoming performers and playgoers on Friday and Saturday, following the health directives on October 23. Theatre troupe Palakar staged its play 'Ujane Mrityu' and Jagarani Theatre staged 'Rajar Chithi' that weekend.
Dhaka Theatre also premiered its 49th production, 'Ekti Loukik Othoba Oloukik Steamer' at the National Theatre Hall on October 30; Theatre troupe Ethic premiered its new play 'Aynaghar' at the same venue on November 13, Anurag Theatre premiered 'Objection Overruled' on November 27, Padatik Natya Sangsad premiered 'Pake-Bipake' on December 8, and Spardha premiered '4.48 Mantras' on December 18, to name a few.
In the journey of togetherness under the reality of global lockdown, the cultural arena in Bangladesh has also seen how ‘things fall apart’ since the end of March, despite 2020 being the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation.
Some celebrations got shelved this year, including festivals like Pahela Baishakh and Victory Day, and several religious events. Major and international events such as Dhaka Lit Fest, Dhaka Folk Fest and Asian Art Biennale were also deferred due to Covid.
However, the creative minds are eagerly looking forward to an ‘annus mirabilis’ (wonderful year) in 2021, with new hopes and aspirations.
The outgoing year 2020 was of course one marked by humanitarian catastrophe due to the coronavirus pandemic, and its associated economic costs meant the challenge for policymakers became one of damage control as almost no-one could completely avert its disastrous effects.
Economists are hopeful that 2021 will be the year to turn things around. Employment generation, revenue collection and increasing investment would be the main avenues through which the economic rebound has to be channelled.
The experts suggested the government should ensure good governance, focus on infrastructure development, increase private and foreign investment, enhance institutional capacity, reform policies and create skilled manpower to tackle the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Bangladesh’s laudable gains in food supply during the pandemic when many developed countries are suffering, should provide the emphasis to reduce inequality as Bangladesh celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence in 2021.
Talking to UNB, Distinguished Fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Professor Mustafizur Rahman said Bangladesh passed 2020 through humanitarian catastrophe and economic disaster due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government must ensure good governance, lay emphasis on infrastructure development, increase individual and foreign investment, enhance institutional capacity, reform policies, and pay attention to healthcare,” the noted economist suggested.
He added that employment generation, raising revenue collection and increasing investment will emerge as challenges for the country in 2021.
“The government announced stimulus packages for different sectors but it was not enough to overcome the crisis and go back to the position pre-Covid-19. The pandemic posed an impact on lives and livelihoods. Bangladesh performed well in food production amid the crisis too,” Prof Mustafizur also said.
Covid-19 pandemic and Lock down period
Bangladesh government announced lockdown from March 26 to May 30 in phases to prevent the spread of Covid-19 after getting the virus infected patient on March 8 in the country.
But the country’s educational institutions have been closed since March 17 due to the outbreak. The current closure of the institutions except Qawmi Madrasa has been extended till January 16, 2021. However, the students under PSC, JSC, SSC and HSC levels are promoted without final exams due to the pandemic.
Bangladesh confirmed the first death of COVID-19 on March 18, 2020. The country’s death toll rose 7,509 and the number of cases went up to 5,11,000. More then, 4,55,000 covid-19 patients have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University CSSE Covid-19 data on December 29.
New Poor in Bangladesh
The pandemic leads to an increase of national (upper) poverty rate to 35.0 percent in 2020 from 24.3 percent in 2016, according to CPD.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) survey said the impact of Covid-19 will drive 16.4 million new poor in 2020.
Although Bangladesh performed well in remittance earnings amid the coronavirus fallout, the country may see decline in remittance inflow in 2021 as the outflow of workers abroad came down drastically in 2020.
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) founding chairman Professor Tasneem Siddiqui said though remittance inflow increased by 17 percent this year amid the pandemic over the last year, it will decrease in the next year. The migrant workers sent $19.69 billion dollar remittance upto November.
“The remittance has increased this year as it came through a formal channel instead of hundi during the pandemic period. Besides, gold smuggling also came down. Another reason is many migrants sent money fearing job losses,” she added.
“Some 3,26,758 migrants workers returned home in April 1 to November 30. Around 4,00000 workers have been destitute and their families fell at risk due to the pandemic,” Tasneem also said.
Professor Tasnem added around 7 lakh Bangladeshi workers went abroad with jobs last year. But only 183,682 could go abroad for employment this year.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserve crossed $42 billion on December 15 despite the struggle against the pandemic situation. However, much of the increase was also caused by depressed demand leading to fall in imports.
The garment sector is a key driving force of Bangladesh’s economy. It was not closed amid the pandemic situation to keep run the economic wheel. Even, the government provided Tk5000 crore to provide wages for RMG workers.
President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Rubana Huq recently demanded a fresh round of stimulus package from the government to cope with the deep fallout of the Covid-19.
Sources said several hundred small-and-medium garment factories were closed while thousands workers lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The sector faced order cancellations and delays worth about $3.18 billion in March to April of 2020.
Now, the Bangladeshi exporters fear to lose around $4 billion if the European Union (EU) ends the duty-free trade opportunity for the country due to its LDC graduation to a developing nation.
Dr Rubana said the 2020 was an alarming year for them.
Kitchen Market situation in Dhaka
The price of coarse rice increased 47.69 percent a kg, medium 25.56 percent and fine one went up 20 percent compared to previous year, according to the state run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB)’s data on December 30.
The data also mentioned that each litre loose palm oil price increased 28 percent and supper one 27 percent, and loose soybean rose 24.14 percent. Besides, per litre bottled soybean increased 14.29 percent while five litre bottled soybean went up 16.23 percent over to last year.
Meanwhile, each kg potato price increased 47.27 percent while lentils (medium grains) rose 21.43 percent and large one went up 17.39 percent compared to previous year, TCB data also showed.
All official and business activities have enhanced digitally thanks to the pandemic.
General Secretary of E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal said their e-commerce business volume increased several times in the pandemic period.
“Not only e-commerce business rose but also mobile transaction, e-learning, payment and medical caring (telemedicine) improved vastly thanks to technology during the pandemic,” he added.
The government outlined a stimulus package worth Tk 130,000 core to keep the economy afloat. Of the amount, some Tk 17,000 crore was spent for a total of 20 packages and Tk10,000 crore was allocated for vaccine of Covid-19, according to Finance Ministry reports.
The stimulus packages include export-oriented industries, small, medium and cottage industries, agriculture, and cash for poor, etc.
Meanwhile, the government on Tuesday approved the 8th Five-Year Plan projecting ambitious targets of 1.13 crore new jobs with average 8 percent economic growth yearly.
Senior secretary at General Economics Division of the planning ministry Dr Shamsul Alam said 32.5 lakh would be created abroad out of the projected 1.13 crore new jobs. “We believe on data provided by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies to project the poverty reduction to 15.6 percent by 2025 from 20.5 percent in 2019,” he added.
Dr Shamsul also said the plan is combined with the Sustainable Development Goals between 2021 and 2041. Besides, good governance and addressing mismanagement in the financial sector also laid emphasis in the plan.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said they gave special attention to the COVID-19 fallout in the 8th Five-Year Plan to overcome its socioeconomic impacts.
Be it in a developed or an emerging economy, Covid-19 has not spared any sector. Bangladesh's booming power sector which is usually resilient, is also reeling under its debilitating impact.
The country barely met one-third of its electricity generation target this year, according to an official document of the state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB).
As per the document, in possession with UNB, only 965 MW of installed capacity was added to the country’s power grid this year against an ambitious target of 3,519 MW -- some 2,465 MW from the private sector and the remaining from the public sector.
According to available statistics, the country’s installed capacity was 19,630 MW on January 1, 2020, while it reached 20,595 MW on December 28 the same year.
This year's growth in installed capacity is half compared with 2019, when 1,945 MW was added to the grid between January and December. Last year, the country’s installed capacity increased to 19,630 MW from 17,685 MW.
Power Ministry officials attributed this downward growth to the impact of Covid and the consequent lockdown that had hit field-level work. "The power sector’s activities were substantially impacted by the pandemic," Power Cell director general Mohammad Hossain said at a webinar recently.
Statistics show that a total of six new generation units commenced operations in 2020 to add some 11,27 MW of installed capacity to the national grid, while five small generation units went to retirement by decreasing the capacity.
The units that increased the installed generation capacity in 2020 are 225 MW combined cycle plant in Sylhet, 100 MW Unit-2 of Julda Acorn power (private) plant, 622 MW Unit-1 of Payra Coal-fired Bangladesh-China (Joint Venture) Power Plant, 104 MW Meghnaghat Orion Power (private) Plant, 50 MW Sutiyakhali-Mymensingh Solar (private) Power Plant, and 162 MW Manikganj (private) power plant.
On the other hand, the retired power plants are 32 MW Haripur GT2, Bheramara 20 MW GT2, 20 MW Bheramara GT3, 20 MW Barisal GT1 and 20 MW Barisal GT2.
Sources at the Power Division said another 622 MW electricity might be added to the national grid within a day or two as the second unit of the Payra Coal-fired power plant is ready for commercial operation. “The plant has been conducting test runs," said a top official of tBPDB.
Officials of the Power Division, however, want to go slow with the existing power generation plan as the country’s electricity demands have not increased to match with generation growth. Currently, the country consumes 12,000-13,000 MW of electricity during the peak season of summer while the demand comes down to 8,800 MW in peak winter.
BPDB statistics show the country’s maximum power demand was recorded at 8,843 MW, including at power stations and consumers' end, leaving a surplus of more than 50% on the generation front.