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     Volume 6 Issue 10 | March 16, 2007 |

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News Notes

Hoping for More Investment
While the cleansing drive goes on to root out corruption, something that has been a major impediment to smooth business and trade, foreign investment is the next best thing that could happen to our country. More foreign investment, after all, would mean reduced dependency on foreign aid and so greater economic development. But how does a poor country like ours woo some foreign investors? A two day seminar in the first week of May in Dhaka promises to do just that by projecting Bangladesh's overall economic potentials, untapped capital market and reforms in the last decade. Other topics of discussion include current legal and governance frameworks, public and private investment opportunities especially in sectors such as power, telecom, textiles, pharmaceuticals and financial services. Organised by the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) and globally kown financial services company Citigroup's Bangladesh chapter, the conference will present Bangladesh as one of the most attractive destinations for foreign investors. The conference is titled - 'Bangladesh - The new Frontier'. The organisers hope that among the people attending the seminar there will be reputed equity and fixed income investors from across the globe, leading corporate houses, regulators, market intermediaries and other stakeholders.
According to the CEO of the Dhaka Stock Exchange, Salahuddin Ahmed Khan, while Bangladesh has been currently maintaining a consistent economy, thanks largely to exports, there is still a geat need for private investment in infratructure development. The head of Corporate Bank Citibank NA, Abrar Anwar, has said that many entreprenuers in the Asia Pacific and Middle East region where liquidity has increased, are looking for good investment destinations in emerging economies or developing countries.
For Bangladesh, which seems to be seeing a new dawn, we earnestly hope that the conference is a huge success.

The Coastal "Strip"
Palatial homes, luxury cars, exotic pets, holiday homes -- they had it all. All that remained were hotels on the beach and they were well on their way to getting those as well. According to newspaper reports, the immediate past BNP-led alliance government had allotted 90 out of 100 one-acre plots (established during the Ershad regime) on the Cox's Bazar beach to its top leaders for setting up hotels and motels. The Awami League government before it had allotted the other 10 to 10 businessmen. The allotments were made at unusually low prices and violated rules and regulations under which Cox's Bazar and adjacent areas were declared "ecologically critical", where biodiversity is to be preserved and the building of structures, felling of trees and capturing of animals in the area is prohibited. The party loyals allegedly bought the plots for Tk 34 lakh and resold them for Tk 2 to 3 crore. Some plot owners had even been advertising housing companies on them. Cox's Bazar BNP leader Lutfor Rahman Kajal has already constructed a hotel and community centre on his plot. Other recipients of the plots include former BNP ministers Mirza Abbas, Shamsul Islam and Morshed Khan, the last two having four plots each. Former State Minister Salahuddin Ahmed alone got 16 plots, the ownership of 12 of which he later transferred. One would think that genuine businesses with experience in tourism and the hotel industry would be the ones to obtain these plots, but apparently most of the plot recipients did not meet these criteria. The documents for the hotels and motels were seized last month by the current interim government which seems to be on a roll, stripping our deshi kings of their riches one by one.

Taking Time off
With the Caretaker government out cleaning the streets, it's a field day for leaders of the major political parties in the country.
With a ban on all kinds of political expression, leaders of major political parties are passing their time reading, writing, getting more involved in respective professions and business, doing social work, and giving more time to families, relatives and friends.
For days now, many of the leaders including top leaders of all the front organisations of BNP and AL have been on the run to avoid arrests by the army-led joint forces. In fact, even the key leaders of the two parties, who are still not under threat of arrests, have been keeping their cell phones switched off to avoid contact with the media and unnecessary calls from party activists.
A few days ago, the chief of AL, Sheikh Hasina, had said that she now spends her time writing and trying to complete her unfinished writings. Echoing her intellectual narration, most of the AL leaders have said that they too are passing their time reading, writing running personal errands and tending to family matters.
BNP leaders on the other hand have been apprehensive of getting arrested at anytime and they are now observing the current situation of the country. Many of them, however, have already got themselves engaged in their respective professions while some others are spending time reading, watching television, and being with their families.
While many of the leaders are making good use of their vacation, some of the leaders of AL and BNP are undergoing medical treatment. Bhuiyan's counterpart AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil is sick and undergoing treatment in Labaid Specialised Hospital while the party's Presidium Member Zillur Rahman is undergoing treatment in BIRDEM Hospital. BNP Standing Committee Member KM Obaidur Rahman is also undergoing treatment.

Biman's Never-ending Woes
A Dhaka-bound Bangladesh Biman airliner BG006 carrying 236 passengers from Dubai International Airport suffered a wheel-failure, which forced one of the world's busiest airports to remain closed for eight hours on March 12, Monday. 14 passengers and crewmembers received cuts and bruises while being evacuated.
This comes after a long list of tragedies Biman has been facing in the last few years. In October 2004, a Biman Bangladesh Airlines BG601 with 79 passengers skidded 150 feet off the runway after landing at Osmani International Airport and finished up stuck in mud across a canal, with its nose buried five feet deep into the bank after its nose wheel got jammed and lost control. On July 3, 2005 another Bangladesh Biman DC-10 made an emergency landing when one of its wings caught fire. Six of its wheels, the front-right wing and the engine of the aircraft were damaged extensively in the accident. Another DC-10 domestic flight crashed in February 2006.
Apart from its flight disasters, its internal feuds have also kept Biman on a very tight rope. Its flights went haywire during the Hajj season of 2003 when pilots went on strike. Biman also suffered huge financial losses because of frauds committed by some cargo sub-agents in Dubai in connivance with Biman staff. In 2004, a number of documents obtained by The Daily Star indicated that the sub-agents had been recording and paying for far less volume of goods than were actually shipped through the airlines.
In 2006, leaders of Biman Employees' Steering Committee joined a rally under the banner of 'Biman Bachao Andolon' to protest irregularities in the Biman. They alleged that some top-level officials in connivance with the ministers concerned had gobbled up Tk 2,400 crore in two decades.
Biman was bailed out by a government loan last year, after it said in December that it planned to lease four aircraft so it could reintroduce some routes it had to cut for lack of airworthy planes. Biman stopped flights to New York, Paris, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Brussels last year due to aircraft shortages. It has been flying to 21 destinations with a fleet of 13 aircraft.

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