The 25th anniversary of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord will be observed on Friday. Different programmes have been arranged in the three hilly districts, marking the anniversary of the peace treaty. Read more: 25 Years of CHT Peace Accord: Eminent citizens say expectation remains unfulfilled President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday issued separate messages marking the completion of 25 years of the significant treaty. President Abdul Hamid in his massage said Chittagong Hill Tracts is rich with natural resources and a place of potentials. The Peace Accord is speeding up the socio-economic and cultural development of Chittagong Hill Tracts, he said. He urged all to work unitedly for the development of the hill region. In her message, the Prime Minister said the Awami League government has been working tirelessly for the overall development of the hilly region in the light of the peace treaty. Various schemes are being implemented for the development of all sectors including education, health, electricity, communication, infrastructure and mobile network in the region, she added. “We are committed to maintain peace all over the country including Chittagong Hill Tracts,” said the PM. “I hope we will be able to build a peaceful, happy Sonar Bangladesh as dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through the socio-economic development of the Hill Tracts people with united efforts of all.” Read more: PM is very sincere to CHT people: Ushwe Sing She sought cooperation from all to fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord. On December 2, 1997, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) signed the peace deal with the then Awami League government, led by Sheikh Hasina. Then Jatiya Sangsad Chief Whip Abul Hasnat Abdullah signed the agreement on behalf of the government while Joritindra Bodhipriyo Larma (Santu Larma) on behalf of PCJSS.
Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh on Thursday said the local-level development is affected by poor institutional effectiveness as the efficacy of public institutions has gradually eroded in the country. “Capacity of public institutions to service the disadvantaged groups, profile and prestige of local leadership have diminished overtime. Citizens’ voice has weakened too.” said Citizen's Platform Convenor Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya. Read more: Economic mismanagement creating instability in market: Debapriya He was addressing a media briefing in the city’s BRAC Centre Inn to share local opinions received from a series of sub-regional consultation meetings. The Citizen’s Platform arranged the seven consultation meetings between June and October this year to understand how much the local realities reflect the national development narrative. More than 500 engaged citizens from 25 districts of Bangladesh participated in the meetings and expressed their views and opinions. Dr Debapriya said that citizen’s voices, role of CSOs and NGOs and civic activism of students suppressed by a “culture of fear” that has intensified in the recent past. Middle class on the retreat He said that local situations reveal that the leadership role of the middle class is retreating in setting social norms and inclusive cultural approach in society. “Their socio-cultural role has been squeezed. The middle class is also under pressure due to lack of employment, high inflation and decline of income,” he added. He said that the disjunction has widened between national development narrative and local experience as there is uneven distribution of the development gains due to discriminatory design, weak delivery and limited access to resources and public services. Dr Debapriya said that, according to the consultation participants, the impact of ongoing inflationary pressure has fallen disproportionately on the marginalised groups and people with low income. “Traditionally ‘left behind’ groups are not being able to reach national averages,” he said. Read more: Economy needs transitional policy to overcome the crisis: Debapriya The gap between national development narrative and local realities, and asymmetries were aggravated further by lack of democratic accountability, he added. Focusing further on local realities, he said the rich tradition of cultural activities gradually receding; social fabric weakened as values of tolerance, trust and compassion withering away; and political space for pluralistic views, conversation and engagement narrowing. “There is rising concern among the district-level citizens that the smooth developmental progression of Bangladesh may get jeopardised due to adverse national and global economic outlook, as well as because of the apprehended political violence during the upcoming democratic transition,” said Dr Debapriya.
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid has said that the uninterrupted power supply will continue through strengthening the distribution network. "Underground cable network with optical fiber will ensure reliable power supply through dual sources," he said while visiting the sites of six ongoing projects in Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited (DPDC) on Thursday. He also said that installations of underground cables, substations and a central SCADA system will strengthen the power distribution network. DPDC Managing Director Engineer Bikash Dewan was present on the occasion. The DPDC has been implementing a project titled: "Extension and Strengthening of Power Distribution System under the DPDC". Read more: BERC now to consult with govt before any move on retail power tariff hike proposals The DPDC said that under the project some new 14 substations of 132/33 kV capacity and 26 substations of 33/11 kV capacity will be installed while capacity of some 8 existing substations of 132/33 kV and 4 substations of 33/11 kV will be enhanced. Considering the scarcity of land in Dhaka city, some modern and high capacity 35/50 MVA of 33/11 kV power transformers are being installed by the DPDC. This is the first time this type of power transformer is being installed in Bangladesh by DPDC. Under the project, some 20 km of existing overhead distribution lines in Dhanmondi area will be converted into underground cable networks. As a result, Dhanmondi area will be free form overhead cables and the power distribution will be uninterrupted. Under the DPDC project, overhead transmission lines and towers in Hatirjheel area will be removed and underground cables will be installed, which will greatly enhance the aesthetic beauty of the area. Read more: Saudi firm, BPDB sign deal to set up 1000MW solar power plant in Bangladesh Besides, a state-of-the-art mechanised wire house is being constructed at Tongi with an open hangar attached. This will be the first such wire house in the power sector in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) will now consult with the government before any move towards holding a public hearing on retail power tariff hike proposals. "We think we should first consult with the government before starting any process for public hearing on the submitted proposals”, Mohammad Bazlur Rahman, Member (Power) of the BERC, told UNB. Such remarks from the BERC Member came against the backdrop of the government’s latest move to amend the BERC Act 2003 to create scope for the government to take arbitrary decisions on raising retail and bulk power and energy prices. Read more: Raising retail power tariff: 3 more distribution companies submit proposals “After the proposed amendment, the BERC should not move into any conflicting situation”, Bazlur Rahman said. The Cabinet on November 28 approved an amendment to the BERC Ordinance 2022 to empower the government to set fuel tariff on its own under special circumstances without waiting for the commission’s public hearing and decision. The approval came at the Cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair at the PMO, said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam while briefing the media at the Secretariat. He said the BERC can wait for up to 90 days to review and take a decision on fixing tariff rates and this is a long time. The amendment is being done so that the government can set the fuel price on an urgent basis in a situation like what prevails now. The possibility of importing fuel and energy under private arrangement was discussed at the meeting and the relevant authorities were given direction in this regard, he said. However, BERC Chairman Abdul Jalil, a former secretary of the government, was reluctant to make any comment before going through the gazette notification on the proposed amendment. "Let me see the gazette notification first… Then the commission will decide on any issue relating to public hearing or tariff fixation”, he told UNB. Meanwhile, all the six state-owned power distribution bodies submitted their respective proposals on raising retail power tariff in subsequent of the bulk power tariff hike. Read more: BPDB submits retail power tariff adjustment proposal seeking a 19.44 percent hike Sources said the six entities—BPDB, Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB), Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited (DPDC), Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited (Desco), Northern Electricity Supply Company PLS (Nesco), West Zone Power Distribution Company Limited (WZPDCL)—have placed almost an identical proposal to raise retail power tariff aby about 20 percent. They moved to submit their proposals following the BERC’s decision to hike the bulk power tariff by 19.92 percent with effect from December 1. As per the latest statistics, the financial loss of the state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), the principal organisation in power sector and also the single buyer of electricity from private sector power plants, is likely to increase by Tk 18,094 crore in one year. According to BPDB’s own latest estimates, the financial loss will cross Tk 48,000 crore in the 2022-23 fiscal from Tk 29,915 crore in the fiscal year 2021-22, an increase of almost 67%. Sources said the BPDB’s revenue deficit has further increased due to its purchase of electricity at higher price and sale at lower price, the hike in petroleum fuel prices and also the price escalation of US dollars. Officials said the recent 19.92 percent hike in the bulk tariff may help the BPDB to reduce its loss by only Tk 5,000 crore while a huge revenue deficit will remain a big burden. Read more: Bulk power tariff hike won’t affect retail consumers right now: Nasrul Hamid On the other hand, the bulk power tariff hike puts pressure on power distribution companies to submit their retail tariff hike proposal to the BERC to cover their own revenue gaps. The retail power tariff was last raised in March, 2020 by BERC after holding a public hearing. Through an announcement, the BERC had raised the power tariff on a weighted average by 5.3 percent at retail level with effect from March 1, 2020. As per that decision, the retail power tariff was increased from Tk 6.77 to Tk 7.13 per unit (each kilowatt-hour). Officials said the Power Division is under tremendous pressure from the Finance Ministry to raise power tariff in bulk and retail to cover its huge financial losses. The recent commitment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide a $4.5 billion loan has increased the pressure as the donor agency has tagged a condition to decrease subsidy in the power sector and raise power tariff to cover the loss, said a Power Division official.
Bangladesh reported 12 more Covid cases in 24 hours till Thursday morning. With the new numbers, the caseload rose to 2,036,597, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). The total fatalities remained unchanged at 29,433 as no death was reported during this period. The daily case test positivity rose to 0.45 per cent from Wednesdaday’s 0.81 per cent as 2,688 samples were tested during the period. Read more: Bangladesh logs 18 Covid cases in 24 hrs The mortality and the recovery rates remained unchanged at 1.45 percent and 97.51 per cent, respectively. In November, the country reported 10 Covid-linked deaths and 1345 cases. Bangladesh registered its highest daily caseload of 16,230 on July 28 last year and daily fatalities of 264 on August 10 the same year. Read more: 7-day Covid-19 vaccination campaign kicks off Thursday
Another 380 people were hospitalised with dengue in 24 hours till Thursday morning. The total fatalities remained unchanged at 254 as no death was reported during this period, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). Of the new patients, 218 were admitted to the hospitals of Dhaka and 162 outside it, said DGHS. Read more: Dengue: Death toll rises to 250 as 3 more die A total of 1,744 dengue patients, including 981 in the capital, are now receiving treatment at hospitals across the country. The DGHS has recorded 57,738 dengue cases and 55,740 recoveries so far this year. Read more: Dengue: 426 cases, 4 deaths reported in 24 hrs
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal on Thursday said the Election Commission will take action against 133 officials for their negligence in duty during Gaibandha-5 by-election. The CEC made the remark during a briefing at the Election Commission building in Dhaka. Gaibandha-5 by-election was suspended amid allegations of “malpractices” on October 12 this year. “A returning officer conducts the whole election. It his routine duty to visit the polling centres as many times as possible. But he neglected his duties. He visited the centres with Deputy Commissioners and Police Supers when the CEC informed him about the irregularities over telephone,” he said. He also said the returning officer was supposed to visit and check to ensure that all activities were being carried out according to law and take immediate initiative to prevent any unwanted incident. “But he absolutely failed to perform their duties. He did not find any irregularities in the electoral area. When the CEC was about to take the decision to suspend the election, the returning officer suspended the voting of a centre to demonstrate his performance,” he said. Read more: Gaibandha-5 by-election: Wait for a decision, says CEC Had he performed his duties properly, it would have been possible to prevent the irregularities in the early stage, CEC Awal said. The CEC also said that the EC Secretary has been instructed to take action against the accused returning officer. Gaibandha-5 by election will be held in due time according to the constitution, he added. Earlier, the CEC extended the deadline for holding the Gaibandha-5 polls till January 30. According to the constitution, if any constituency falls vacant then the position must be filled within 90 days through an election. Read more: 'Gaibandha by-election was an isolated case': Election Commissioner Following the death of Gaibandha-5 lawmaker and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Fazle Rabbi Miah on July 22, 2022, it became a constitutional obligation to hold election for the parliamentary seat by October 20, 2022. But the EC cancelled the election because of “widespread malpractices” on the election day on October 12.
Prominent citizens of the country have demanded full implementation of all the commitments in line with the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord by removing all obstacles, noting that expectation still remains unfulfilled. On December 2, 1997, the government of Bangladesh and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti signed this historic agreement in an effort to find a political solution to the problems in the CHT. Forty-one eminent citizens placed an eight-point demand mentioning that the implementation of the peace accord has not advanced as anticipated. “It is a matter of great regret that in the 25 years of the agreement, no progress has been made as expected in the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts agreement though several clauses of the agreement have been implemented,” reads a joint statement signed by Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD). Read more: Celebrating the Peace Accord in Hill Tracts In particular, the eminent citizens said that it is very sad that no effective initiative has been taken to advance the process of implementing the agreement though the Awami League government that signed the agreement has been in power for the third consecutive term. “We are deeply concerned about the ineffectiveness and inaction of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Commission. Recently, their regular meetings had to be adjourned several times due to interference from vested interests. The silence of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs or the government in this regard is very sad,” they said in the statement. Specific demands from the civil society include full implementation of all commitments proposed in the agreement, necessary budget, manpower and visible support of the highest level of government for the proper functioning of the land dispute resolution commission. Rights activist Sultana Kamal, ALRD Chairperson and Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir, eminent economist and researcher Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Research Initiative Bangladesh (RIB) Executive Director Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad Rana Dasgupta, Executive Director of TIB Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Dr. Abul Barkat, Prof Mesbah Kamal and Shaheen Anam are among the 41 signatories of the statement. Read more: CHT Peace Treaty: A chase of an illusion! Recently, a high-level delegation of the United Nations in Bangladesh and key development partners visited the Chittagong Hill Tracts to see first-hand the development initiatives in the area. The week-long visit from November 13 to November 17 covered the hill districts of Khagrachhari and Rangamati. The delegation included UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis, EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley, UK High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dickson and Norway Ambassador Espen Rikter-Svendsen. UNDP Resident Representative Stefan Liller, UNFPA Country Representative Kristine Blokhus, FAO Country Representative Robert Simpson and UNICEF Country Representative Sheldon Yett were also in the delegation. Read More: 25th anniversary of CHT Peace Treaty on Friday UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis said development work in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has been hugely successful, but lack of access and remoteness of many communities remains an ongoing challenge. "The indigenous communities in the CHT have led impressive efforts to preserve and rehabilitate forests and their natural habitat. Climate change has made their work even more vital,” Lewis said on Thursday. Lewis also said that the visit provided her with a scope to familiarise herself with the region, listen to the concerns of women and adolescents and visit a range of different programmes. “UN and Partners’ support in CHT must be inclusive and in line with Agenda 2030’s promise of leaving no one behind to achieve a concerted, effective and sustainable development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts,” she added. Read More: Issues in implementing CHT Peace Accord should be identified, resolved: Bir Bahadur
Commuters are bearing the brunt of the indefinite strike enforced by transport owners in all eight districts of Rajshahi division – to press home their 10-point demand – ahead of BNP’s December 3 rally in Rajshahi city. Movement of all types of vehicles, except private cars and microbuses, remains halted in the city since this morning – causing immense sufferings to the commuters. Though only a BRTC bus left the Rajshahi Bus Terminal, other bus counters were found closed. Ashraful Islam, who was waiting for transport in the city’s Talaymari intersection, told the UNB correspondent that he will have to pay extra fare to go to Bogura through Natore. “Commuters like me are the worst sufferers due to the strike,” he observed. Matiur Hoque Titu, general secretary of Rajshahi Road Transport Group, said no bus left from Rajshahi and entered from other parts of the country as the strike is on. Read more: Transport strike in Rajshahi ahead of Saturday’s BNP rally In Natore, presence of all types of public transport is very thin, while commuters were seen standing by the road. Some commuters were seen rushing to their destinations, taking CNG-run autorickshaws. Rajshahi Divisional Transport Owners’ Association has enforced the strike since this morning, following a decision taken from a joint meeting at the office of Rajshahi Road Transport Group on Wednesday. They claimed that the strike has no link with BNP’s rally, as they gave an ultimatum to meet their demands earlier. On November 26, the Divisional Transport Owners and Workers Solidarity Council gave an ultimatum to the authorities concerned to meet their 10-point demand by November 30. They called the strike for various demands including scrapping the Road Transport Act 2018 and banning movement of illegal three-wheelers and battery-run autorickshaws on highways by November 30. On the other hand, leaders and activists of BNP have started gathering at the rally venue, Madrasa Field, after law enforcers gave permission for the rally on eight conditions on Wednesday. Ruhul Quddus Dulu, an organising secretary of the BNP and coordinator of the rally organising committee, said the party activists will stay at the rally venue from today and return home after making it a success. BNP on September 27 announced a series of public rallies in 10 divisional and major cities. The party began the rallies by holding the first one in Chattogram on October 12. Read more: Water transport workers withdraw indefinite strike Transport owners and workers called strikes ahead of all the rallies in various cities, except in Chattogram and Cumilla. BNP will end its divisional rallies through a mass gathering in Dhaka city on December 10.
The government of Bangladesh has been compelled to pull down its projections for expenditure in the coming couple of years – in light of the changed economic reality brought about mainly by the Russia-Ukraine war and its aftermath of sanctions and counter-sanctions. In its projections for the 2021-22 budget, the government had projected its total expenditure at 17 percent of GDP for the next two fiscals, i.e. 2022-23 and 2023-24. However, in preparing the budget for 2022-23, the government has estimated expenditure at 15.2 percent of GDP for the 2022-23 fiscal, while it will be 15.5 percent for the 2023-24 fiscal. By 2024-25, as per a budget document, the target for expenditure has been set at 15.6 percent of GDP. Read more: Austerity is on but people will get electricity: PM The government in the last fiscal, 2021-22, had set the expenditure target at 17.5 percent, but it was revised to 14.9 percent. This is part of the government’s austerity drive in terms of expenditure, given all the forecasts that the world is heading towards an economic recession in 2023. According to the document, government expenditure was 13 percent of GDP in 2020-21 fiscal. As per the document, with successful implementation of reforms in Public Financial Management, government expenditure kept increasing since the 2015-16 fiscal. Read more: PM reiterates call to practice austerity in all spheres of life It also mentioned that the Annual Development Programme (ADP) was 4.5 percent of the GDP in the 2020-21 fiscal. In the current fiscal, the government plans to allocate 5.5 percent of the GDP for the ADP while it is 6.3 percent for 2022-23 and 6.4 percent for 2024-25. The document is revealing in how large the Russia-Ukraine conflict looms in the government’s calculations, and the challenges posed in its wake. The “unprecedented” price hike in the international energy market, food supplies and other essential commodities alongside the widespread disruption in international supply chains have adversely affected the global economy, including Bangladesh. Read More: Govt focuses on less current expenditure and increased capital spending: official document The conflict is likely to emerge as a new obstacle in the way of achieving development targets, as well as full recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The prices of essential import commodities for Bangladesh like oil, gas, fertiliser, edible oil, etc. have skyrocketed in the international market. According to Finance Division estimate, only nine essential commodities (crude and refined oil, LNG, wheat, fertiliser, palm oil, coal, soybean oil, maize and rice) imported to Bangladesh will cost an additional USD 8.2 billion in 2022, considering the rise in their prices over that in 2021. The other key import items like consumer goods, capital machineries and industrial raw materials have also seen significant price escalations in the international market. In addition, the costs of international logistics are on the rise. Import-induced inflation, therefore, is gradually emerging as a major concern for Bangladesh Government. Read More: Govt spending on public servants is to rise next fiscal