<%-- Page Title--%> Newsnotes <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 151 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 23, 2004

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Tarique Hosts Dinner for Disgruntled BNP MPs
In his newest bid to quell opposition within his own party, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's eldest son and Bangladesh Nationalist Party's Senior Joint Secretary General Tarique Rahman hosted a dinner for key ruling party lawmakers. No minister, except for State Minster for Home Lutfozzaman Babar, was invited to the dinner. According to newspaper reports, some leaders who attended the event at a restaurant in Gulshan-2, said the party was thrown to bridge the gap between Hawa Bhaban-based leaders and some disgruntled legislators.

"I see it as an attempt to mend the difference between the MPs and Hawa Bhaban-based leaders. Many lawmakers went to meet Tarique on several occasions and some of them failed to see him after long waits," a BNP leader told a Daily Star reporter. Over 100 BNP MPs were invited to the programme. The main opposition, Bangladesh Awami League, has dubbed Hawa Bhaban, Tarique Rahman's office, an "alternative powerhouse of the BNP"; and has long been demanding its closedown.

Bin Laden Offers Truce
In his latest audio-taped message, Saudi fugitive and al-Qaeda supremo, Osama bin Laden, has offered a truce to the Europeans, if they pull their countries out of Muslim countries. Bin Laden, however, has vowed to continue fighting the United State and Israel. European leaders have immediately rejected the offer.

"The announcement of the truce starts with the withdrawal of the last soldier from our land and the door is open for three months from the date of the announcement of this statement," he says. Whoever rejects this truce wants war, we are it's (the war) sons and whoever wants this truce, we bring it, says the Saudi born billionaire, who allegedly masterminded the attack on Twin Towers on September 11.

As for those who want reconciliation, we have given them a chance. Stop shedding our blood so as to preserve your blood. It is in your hands to apply this easy, yet difficult, formula. You know that the situation will expand and increase if you delay things, Laden continues.

Alluding to the recent visit of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to the White House, he says, had he been truthful about his claim for peace, he would not describe the person who ripped open pregnant women in Sabra and Shatila and the destroyer of the capitulation process as a man of peace.

It has not become immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape. The CIA has said some previous tapes allegedly by bin Laden were likely to be genuine.

Israel Strikes Again
The Israeli authorities shot and killed Abdel Aziz Rantissi, the leader of Hamas. On April 17, 2004 he fell victim to "targetted killing", a practice of state-endorsed assassination. The White House has been giving support to such operations to gun down listed leaders of Palestine, whom they see as threat to the West and democracy. What the EU is calling "illegal" and the BBC is branding as "controversial step", Israel and its mentor US is defending as a means to cope with terror.

Zalman Shoval, advisor to Arial Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, dubs it as a retaliation against terrorism. He also brands him as "a mastermind of terrorism", one who "advocated suicide bombing". Rantassi replaced the spiritual leader Sheikh Yasin, who was killed last month in an attempt to thwart the Palestinian cause. As an academician turned politician, Rantissi's involvement goes back to the inception of Hamas. He was one of the co-founders of Hamas that took off in the eighties to counter the state-sponsored terrorism by Israel.

High Cost Wards Off Foreign Investment
Though Bangladesh has the cheapest labour in the continent, higher cost in several other fields has been warding off potential foreign investment to the country. The cost of water in Dhaka (0.32$/ cubic metre) is higher than Shenzhen ($0.23), $0.15 in Shanghai and $0.22 in Hanoi.

The monthly basic charge for cell phones, prices for gasoline and cost of a passenger car in Bangladesh are also higher, a pan-Asian survey carried out by the Japan External Trade Organisation JETO observes.

"From the result of the present survey, I would like to say that Bangladesh is not the cheapest country in Asia as far as investment-related costs are concerned," Sotaro Nishikawa, representative of JETO says.

The survey on 'Investment Related Cost Comparison' has found the corporate tax for general enterprise in the country (37.5 percent), to be in the 'very high range' in Asia compared to 33 percent in China, 30 percent in Thailand and 25 percent in Vietnam.

Bangladesh, however, is in an advantageous position in respect of cost of gas and office rent; the wage of workers in Bangladesh is also the second cheapest, after Yangon, the survey says. But, the pay scale of mid-level employees is much higher than its Burmese counterpart. "The wage of workers in Bangladesh is the second cheapest in Asia. But a foreign investor considers other factors like the cost of electricity, water, transport, telecommunications and taxation for an overall evaluation before he makes his decision," Nishikawa says, analysing the survey.

Underscoring the need for foreign investment in the country's economy, Nishikawa explains, "We should always remember that attracting foreign investment will involve competition with other Asian countries. The competitors are always earnestly trying among themselves to secure a bigger chunk of foreign investment by providing special incentives to the potential investors. So, the government should study the investment related costs and incentives prevailing in other Asian countries."

BBC Listeners' Poll: The Greatest Bangali of All Time
In the first day of the Bangla year, many Bangalis snapped out of the idea that arts and culture takes precedence in the life of this nation. When the founder of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, beat the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in the listeners' poll to top the list of the Greatest Bangali of All Time, it surprised a few, and the rest found a cause to celebrate. The poll was conducted by the Bangla Service of BBC.

Other than Rabidranath Tagore, economist Amartya Sen, was the only living Nobel laureate to feature among the top 20 at number 14. The survey put only one woman within the top slot, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, at number six.

Among others, AK Fazlul Haq (fourth), Subash Bose (fifth), Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (seventh), Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani (ninth), and Lalon Shah (12th), and more.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, popularly known as Bangabandhu, led a nation to overpower the Pakistani occupation force. And this, at least, the listeners of the BBC surely felt proud to acknowledge.

A Tragic New Year for Thousands
Twin tornadoes killed at least 68 people in Netrakona and Mymensingh on Pahela Boishakh. Two thousand others who were injured still wait for aid to arrive. The storms blew everything away, from rickshaws and pots and pans to corrugated tin roofs, chunks of earth and people. Trees were uprooted and thrust back into the ground with the force of the storm. Many of the injured were hit by tin torn off the roofs while others suffered from broken bones after being hurled through the air. Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina both visited the tornado-wrecked areas. The Prime Minister asked the victims of the storms to wait patiently for aid, assuring them of food, tin, timber and money. But around 3,000 people of 23 tornado-affected villages are living under the open sky due to mismanagement in relief distribution.


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