Monthly Archives: April 2008

State-owned co joins shipbuilding soon

State-owned co joins shipbuilding soon

FHM Humayan Kabir

A state-owned company will soon join the newly emerging export-oriented shipbuilding industry that has been witnessing a boom in the country recently.

Dockyard & Engineering Works Limited (DEWL), the country’s oldest shipbuilder now being run by the Bangladesh Navy, will develop its existing infrastructure to international standard to lure export orders from overseas buyers, managing director of the company Captain Mahmud Ali said.

“We will enter into joint ventures with experienced local or international shipbuilders to develop our shipyard. We’ve already requested for expression of interests from several companies for entering into joint venture partnership with us,” he said.

“I hope we will be able to do so within a couple of months. Then we will start development of our existing shipyard and bring it to world standard level to acquire ocean-going ship construction orders from the abroad,” Mahmud Ali, who is also a captain of Bangladesh Navy told the FE.

The DEWL, established in 1926, is situated in 22 acres of land at Sonakanda in Narayangaj district on the bank of Sitalakhya River.

It has all the facilities for building Ro-Ro Ferry, Tug Boats, Inland & Coastal Vessels, Barges etc. It has also repair and maintenance facilities apart from equipment to produce industrial spares.

The company is well equipped with slipway, workshops having facilities of lathe shear, press, drill, grinding, boring, milling, cranes, forklifts, jack, pulleys etc. The slipway measures 298’X290′ with a capacity to dock vessels upto 300 feet in length and dead load of 780 tonnes.

The state-owned DEWL, once operational, will be the seventh company in the country to enter into the booming shipbuilding industry, after the Ananda, Chittagong-based Western Marine, Fatullah-based Highspeed, Meghnaghat-based Khan Brothers and Meghna Group and Karnaphuli-based Rangs Group.

The Khan Brothers, Meghna Group and Rangs Group are now working to set up world standard shipyard to bag international orders of ocean-going ships.

The Ananda, Western Marine and Highspeed Group have already bagged export orders worth nearly $350 million since the country emerged as a new global destination of shipbuilding last year.

Experts said Bangladesh has become a new destination for construction of small sea vessels, with an annual market of $400 billion, as traditional shipbuilding nations such as South Korea, Japan and China now focus on larger vessels.

Even Vietnam, which is relatively new in shipbuilding, is no longer interested to build ships of less than 25,000 tonnes capacity.

“We are confident that after developing our shipyard into international standard we can be able to build ocean-going vessel weighing up to 8,000 dead weight tonnes,” Mahmud Ali said.

We already have some expertise to build cargo vessels, repair private vessels, marine ships and build necessary motorised boats of Bangladesh Navy, he said.

The DEWL managing director said a lot of shipbuilding experts, who once used to work in this company, were now working in country’s renowned shipbuilding companies like Ananda, Western Marine and High Speed.

Capt Mahmud Ali said: “As the major ship building countries like South Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, India and Vietnam have no spare capacity for taking new orders, the international shipping companies are courcing out new destination. This prospect has prompted us to develop our shipyard for securing some of those orders.”

Since DWEL has some modern facilities and also have expert manpower, the enterprise will be bale to able million-dollar export orders from abroad to construct ocean-going vessels, he added.

Orange, SK Telecom, Etisalat eye investment

Orange, SK Telecom, Etisalat eye investment
Company reps in Dhaka this week for talks
Md Hasan

Delegates of three big telecoms companies– UK-based Orange Telecom, South Korean SK Telecom and UAE’s Etisalat — start meeting telecoms regulator tomorrow to investigate investment opportunities in Bangladesh.

High officials of the three companies will meet Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chief between tomorrow and Wednesday to explore investment potentiality in submarine cable and WiMAX technology and mobile phone as well.

The news came at the moment when the BTRC forecast that the number of mobile phone subscribers would be doubled to 7 crore by 2010 and the sector’s turnover would also reach to Tk 50,000 crore by 2011.

“We have got huge responses from the world’s telecoms giants. And the visit of these companies to the country means how Bangladesh has become a significant hub for telecoms,” Major General (retd) Manzurul Alam, chairman of BTRC, told reporters yesterday.

The telecoms regulator said perhaps the companies are coming to explore opportunities in WiMAX, private submarine cable and joint ventures in existing mobile operators.

“We will introduce a service for telecoms investors under which maximum procedures will be completed by the BTRC so that investors can decide to invest here sitting in one office,” Alam said.

BTRC has taken up initiatives to bring back discipline in the telecoms sector.

The BTRC is working hard to introduce the latest technologies like WiMAX and third generation mobile phone, Alam said.

India’s Reliance, Tata and Singapore-based Singtel also visited Bangladesh and basically investigated the potentiality to participate in the bidding process of private submarine cable.

BTRC said some 65 companies including 15 foreign ones already showed their interest to participate in the submarine cable bidding.

Orange could show interest in introducing Wimax technology in Bangladesh, BTRC officials said. WiMAX is a wireless digital communications system, that is intended for wireless “metropolitan area networks”. WiMAX can provide broadband wireless access up to 30 miles (50 km) for fixed stations, and 3 to 10 miles (5 – 15 km) for mobile stations.

SK Telecom already showed interest to buy stakes in the state-run Teletalk, BTRC officials said but failed to confirm Etisalat’s intention.

Bangladesh’s telecoms sector has been growing since 1991 after introducing mobile telecommunications. With having telecoms penetration rate of 29 percent, at present, the country has 38million mobile and 11 million land phone customers.

The revenue from the telecoms sector also increased to Tk1345crore till yesterday, which was Tk500crore in the last fiscal year. The telecom regulator said this year revenue basically increased mainly because of getting compensation of Tk631crore from different mobile and fixed line operators for their illefgal involvement in international call termination through using VoIP technology.

However, the regulator hope the average revenue from telecoms sector will be Tk1500crore a year.

Meghna Group unveils massive investment plans

Meghna Group unveils massive investment plans

Mushir Ahmed

Leading conglomerate Meghna Group Wednesday unveiled an array of new investment as part of a massive expansion of its business, top executives said.

The Tk40 billion sprawling group, which hit the headline recently for a row over its Fresh brand, signed a US$35 million dollars deal with South Korean shipbuilding giant STX to build the country’s largest ship-manufacturing facility.

The Group said it bought a salt plant from ailing Globe Janakantha Shilpa Paribar for Tk 180 million and invested over Tk1.00 billion in a paper plant and another $12 million in a 25megawatt power plant to cement its position as the leading conglomerate of the country.

“Our ultimate goal is to build a billion dollar company as soon as possible,” the group’s General Manager Afzal Hossain said, adding the group’s present turnover is around Tk40.00 billion with big stakes in edible oil, sugar and cement.

Chairman Mostofa Kamal said his group wants to build the biggest shipbuilding facility in the country, investing over $100 million in two years.

“Our aim is to be big in the fast booming sector. We could have signed deal with a lesser known company to build the shipbuilding facility. But we chose world-famed STX to build our slipways and the shipbuilding yard,” he said.

STX Heavy Industries is one of the top six shipbuilding companies in South Korea, which made the country the world’s largest shipbuilders.

The company builds large oil tanker and ships weighing over 25000 dead weight tonnes for clients all over the globe. It has shipbuilding joint ventures in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Kamal said his Meghna Shipbuilding company would start operating later this year after STX completes half the work for the slipways and shipbuilding yard on a 33 acres land on the river Meghna.

“In the first two years we can build four ocean going vessels a year. But after our total facility is built, we will be able to churn out one ship a month. And STX has said it would also do marketing for us,” he said.

Meghna will very soon go massively into steel and already it has bought over 150 acres of land for the venture, he said, without disclosing the amount he plans to invest.

General manager Afzal said the family-owned group is also investing in sugar, cement and automatic flour mill to consolidate its position as the leader in commodities.

The company has already commissioned an automatic flour mill with the capacity to produce 500 metric tonnes flour a day at the factory site in Meghnaghat in Munshiganj, he said.

Meghna sells Fresh brand flour in the market, but it has lost the leading position to City Group, another of the country’s family-owned commodity conglomerates.

The company last year doubled its cement production to a million tonnes a year despite a dull in the construction business due to the government’s anti-graft crackdown.

This year the company has already started work to expand cement output by another 2000 tonnes a day, Afzal said, adding the group is banking on a recovery of construction activities in the country.

The Group is also one of the largest sugar refiners with a capacity to refine 1200 tonnes a day. It is now setting up another refinery with a production capacity of 1000 tonnes a day, he said.

Meghna is the country’s largest mineral water and feed mill producer and woven bag manufacturer. Last year it doubled its mineral water production amid a rapid rise in mineral water consumption across the country.

The company produces 28 megawatt power a day, much of which is sold to the state-owned Power Development Board. It commissioned a $12 million plant from Rolls Royce to add another 25 megawatt power to its existing capacity.

BTTB to offer free dial up internet connection

BTTB to offer free dial up internet connection
Md Hasan

State-owned land phone operator BTTB plans to offer free dial up internet connection to its customers in a bid to sustain stiff competition in the telecommunications market.

On execution of such a plan, 7lakh digital connection holders of the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board will be benefited. Presently, one time registration fee for any dial up internet connection is charged Tk300.

“We are considering withdrawing such dialup internet connection fee,” Telecommunication Secretary Iqbal Mahmud told The Daily Star yesterday, hoping the move will bring the BTTB back into competition.

The BTTB has been facing stiff competition since 2005 when its rival private land phone operators entered the market with lucrative packages.

BTTB has two internet services: Dial up for home based use and broadband for commercial use. Presently, 28,000 customers of the BTTB use dial up connection, while it provides broadband internet for more than 100 internet service providers.

Under the new plan, any customer having digital connection can apply for internet services and will be connected without any charge. The customer will get internet access through its digital phone line just putting secret password given by the BTTB.

The private landline operators do not charge for internet connection.

“Such decision will not make any competitive change,” Masrur Nawaz Waiz, head of operation and coordination for Rankstel.

Coming budget to protect local industries

Coming budget to protect local industries

Staff Reporter

Finance and Planning Adviser Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam yesterday said the national budget for 2008-09 fiscal would be prepared keeping a view of the interests of the local industries.

Necessary initiatives are underway to expand the local industries with a view to transforming into a ‘ production’ oriented country.

Expansion of tax net without increasing tax rate, liberalisation of rules and regulations and curtailment of discretionary powers of the tax officials are amongst the most prime consideration of the government in preparing the budget,” he told the 29th Consultative Committee’s Meeting of National Board of Revenue (NBR) at Bangladesh- China Friendship Conference Centre (BCFCC) yesterday in the city.

The programme was jointly organised by NBR and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).

Muhammad Abdul Majid, Chairman, NBR, delivered welcome speech and First Vice President of FBCCI Abul Kasem Ahmed gave vote of thanks.

Anisul Huq, President and Abu Alam Chowdhury Vice-President of FBCCI, Anwar-ul- Alam Chowdhury (Pervez), President of BGMEA , former FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain, Fazlul Hoque ,President of BKMEA, high officials of NBR and directors of the apex trade bodies among others, spoke on the occasion.

On the demand of businessmen to legalise the undisclosed money and its investment in various enterprises the Finance and Planning Adviser Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam said such income could be legalised after paying necessary fines to the government.

But he made it clear that there will be no compromise in the case of illegally earned money.

He assured the business leaders that a ‘judicious decision’ relating to their demands would be taken by the government.

About the businessmen concerns on expiry of tax holiday from July, the Adviser said ” Let me assure you that tax holiday is not going to be abolished, but there might be some modifications,”.

He further said the food security and providing necessary agriculture inputs to the farmers and social safety net for the marginalised people would be ensured by allocating more fund in the next budget.

NBR Chairman Muhammad Abdul Majid said revenue could be enhanced through coordinated efforts of the businessmen and tax officials.

He said steps have been taken to remove cause of anxiety from the mind of the businessmen. He assured them that tax officials will not be allowed to create panic.

He said the budget will contain guidelines for taking the country towards industrialisation quickly. FBCCI President Anisul Huq called upon the government to ensure uninterrupted supply of gas and power to the export oriented industries for retaining production and export growth.

He demanded of the government to consider the homegrown industries interests in the budget and bringing NGOs under tax net.

Taiwanese company to invest $60m in KEPZ

Taiwanese company to invest $60m in KEPZ


Messrs. Trendex Furniture Industry Company Limited, a Taiwanese company is going to set up a furniture manufacturing industry in the Karnaphuli Export Processing Zone.

This100 per cent foreign-owned company will invest about Taka 408 crore and will produce table, chair, hutch buffet, bed, night stand, chest, dresser, TV stand, coffee table, end table, sofa, commercial/office furniture. The company will also create employment opportunity for 10,085 Bangladeshi and 17 foreign nationals. This is the first time that a foreign company is going to invest in furniture manufacturing industry in an EPZ, which is expected to play a significant role in product diversification.

An agreement to this effect was signed between the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority and Messrs Trendex Furniture Industry Company Limited in BEPZA Complex, Dhaka recently.

Member (Investment Promotion) of BEPZA and Managing Director of MIs. Trendex Furniture Industry Company Limited signed the lease agreement on behalf of their respective organizations.

Officials of BEPZA and Messrs Trendex Furniture Industry Company Limited were present on the occasion.

BBBF puts suggestions for boosting business

BBBF puts suggestions for boosting business
United News of Bangladesh . Dhaka

The Bangladesh Better Business Forum, a high-profile government-businesspeople platform, Wednesday elaborately discussed over 100 recommendations for improving business and investment atmosphere to attain desired economic growth.

The recently formed forum in its third meeting with its chairperson chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed in the chair at the CA’s office discussed the recommendations placed by five thematic working groups of the BBBF after working out them in 23 meetings.

The recommendations were categorised for their quick, efficient and effective implementation in specific time.

They were categorised mainly in three groups — matter for immediate action which would be implemented immediately, matters for short-term action which would be implemented within next one to two months and matters for midterm action which would be implemented within four to six months.

Management and financing of Small and Medium Enterprise for its overall development and development of ICT sector figure prominently in the immediate-action recommendations.

Recommendations covered in short-term action group include expansion of Tax Holiday, providing tax facility, simplification of company registration, trade license, VAT and environment certificates, reduction of bank interest and development of work efficiency.

Maximum of these dos will be addressed in the coming budget.

Other recommendations would be placed in the next meeting of the forum to make them implementation-worthy after refining those in the working groups.
The BBBF hopes that if these decisions are implemented, it will have positive impacts on overall business and investment in next two to three months. ‘As a result, country rating regarding business will be improved and overall image of the country enhanced,’ the meeting was told.

Chief adviser Fakhruddin directed the ministries, departments and organisations concerned to implement those recommendations on priority basis.
‘Necessary monitoring and evaluation would be carried out to supervise whether the decisions are being implemented,’ he said.

The chief adviser thanked the thematic working groups for their efforts put in preparing the recommendations.

Bangladesh Bank, NBR, Registrar of Joint Stock Company, City Corporation and BTRC would implement their relevant decisions, according to BOI executive chairman Kamal Uddin Ahmed, also member- secretary to the forum.

The meeting observed that the activity of the BBBF is a continuous process as business and investment is an ongoing concern.

The thematic working groups would keep up their activities according to their working areas and would present recommendations to the Better Business Forum regularly.

The next meeting of the BBBF would be held at the end of next month to review the latest developments, according to the chief adviser’s press secretary Syed Fahim Munaim, who was present at the meeting.

Finance adviser, law adviser, special assistant to the chief adviser for industries ministry, special assistant to chief adviser for power and energy ministry, cabinet secretary, Principal Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division, BOI chairman, BTRC chairman, chairmen and co-chairmen of the five thematic working groups, business representatives and secretaries concerned were present at the meeting.

Better Business Forum reviews recommendations placed by 5 thematic working groups

Better Business Forum reviews recommendations placed by 5 thematic working groups
DHAKA, Bangladesh, April 23 (BSS)

The Bangladesh Better Business Forum (BBBF), a private-public organisation, at its meeting today reviewed the recommendations on trade and business issues put forward by five thematic working groups.

The groups placed 80 recommendations at the meeting, third of its kind after the inception of the BBBF in November last year.

Chief Adviser of the caretaker government and chairperson of the BBBF Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed presided over the meeting held at his office here.

After reviewing the recommendations, the meeting categorised those in three groups like immediate task, short-term and mid- term aiming at implementing the suggestions rapidly, effectively and skillfully.

The five thematic working groups are: financing business, infrastructure, macro-economic policy, and business launching and operation, and improvement of manpower efficiency.

The recommendations under the immediately accomplished category are mainly relating to development of the ICT sector and overall development of the SME sector.

The short-term (from 1-2 months) recommendations included expansion of tax holiday, providing tax facilities, easing the process of getting company registration, trade license and VAT and environment certificate, and reducing bank interest rate.

The meeting decided that Bangladesh Bank, National Board of Revenue, Register of Joint Stock Companies, City Corporation and BTRC will implement their respective decisions.

Under the mid-term category, 16 agenda is discussed to implement 42 recommendations within four to six months. The recommendations which put forward by the five thematic working groups included export development, easing import, equity and entrepreneurships, VAT registration and capital.

The Chief Adviser directed the authorities concerned to implement the recommendations on a priority basis saying proper monitoring and evaluation would be conducted so that the decisions are being implemented.

Finance Adviser, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Adviser, Special Assistants to the Chief Adviser for Ministries of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, and Industries, members of BBBF, Co-chairperson of five thematic working groups, secretaries and representatives of business groups attended the meeting.

Investments in EPZs may touch $5.0b soon

Investments in EPZs may touch $5.0b soon

A Z M Anas

Bangladesh will emerge as an attractive destination for foreign investment, provided the country can give land and take quick decision on project proposals, outgoing BEPZA chief said Wednesday.

“Foreign investors will flock to invest … What matters to them is availability of land and quick decisions,” executive chairman of Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) Ashraf Abdullah Yusuf told the Financial Express.

“Investments in export processing zones (EPZs) alone may touch US$5.0 billion in the near future. But for that, the country must move toward public-private models in developing economic zones,” he added.

Over the years, the country’s eight EPZs have emerged as magnets for foreign investments on the back of fiscal and non-fiscal benefits, better infrastructure and relatively secure environment.

Duty-free imports, tax rebate, reliable power and gas supply are among the factors that have led to a boom in foreign investments from mainly Japan, South Korea, China and the United States in the export-oriented industrial parks since mid-eighties.

BEPZA, the industrial park regulator, signed deals worth US$1.1 billion in March of fiscal 2008, Yusuf said, adding the actual investment also totalled $240 million during the period. The capital infusion by foreign companies in economic zones recorded an exponential 109 per cent growth.

But he said that foreign investors would turn away from Bangladesh unless the country can allocate land to the investors and take prompt decision on their investment proposals.

In addition to the availability of land and utilities, investment proposals get delayed, due in part to the bureaucratic tangle, he added.

The Board of Investment, the investment promotion agency, also suffers from the same symptom in taking decision on multi-billion dollar proposals, notably by Indian Tata Group and UK-based Asia Energy.

Yusuf, who will take the helm of the special security force, said foreign investments might increase by manifold in near future if the economic zone regime is modernised.

“We need to come out of the traditional concept. I think, public-private partnership will be the best possible option to build new economic zones in the country,” he said.

He noted that BEPZA has decided to build two new EPZs one each in Feni and Munshiganj in collaboration with the private sector.

Already, he said, Citibank NA, the International Finance Corporation and other private financiers are interested to join hands in the venture.

Yusuf said textiles, electronics, footwear and other high-tech industries will be given priority in the new EPZs.

He also favoured the establishment of private industrial park and special economic zones (SEZ) in the country, saying these could add new dimensions to the zone development concept.

But BEPZA chief said the idea of building SEZs is unlikely to pay dividend unless those are regulated by a public-private entity.

He said foreign investments in industrial parks boosted technology transfer, while enabling local staff to hone their management skills.

To elaborate, Yusuf said of an estimated 21,000 technicians serving in different enterprises in the eight EPZs, only 1100 are foreign.

Besides, he said that more than 500 employees of EPZs were able to get overseas training in the last five years.

Official statistics say the country’s eight EPZs brought in nearly $1.1 billion in investment between 1983 and 2005, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of annual exports, and 25 per cent of the country’s total foreign direct investment.

But the World Bank, in a recent report, called the performance “modest,” saying that the scale of impact would have been much larger if the zone regime were modernised.

Meghna Group to invest in ship building

Meghna Group to invest in ship building
Staff Correspondent

The Meghna Group of Industries will invest in ship building and dockyard industries in the country, targeting the rapid growing small ship building market of the world.

Chairman and executive director of the Meghna group of industries Mostofa Kamal said this at a ceremony on the occasion of a deal signing between the Meghna Ship Builders and Dockyard Limited and the STX Heavy Industries Company Limited of South Korea at the Meghna Group head office at Gulshan in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the Korean company will provide technical cooperation, machineries and equipment for the Meghna Ship Builders for constructing a shipyard.

Mostofa Kamal said the small ship building market across the world was around $400 billion. ‘If the country could grab one per cent share of this growing industry, it would be able to take the lead of the export oriented industries of the country after readymade garments industries.’

IL Park, deputy chief of the Korean embassy, said his country would give all kinds of support relating to this industry.

WG Jang, vice-chairman of the STX Heavy Industries Limited, Kim Hyun Kyu, executive managing director of the company, BH Sim, Do-Kee Park and Hanil Kim other representative of this company also were present at this programme.

Govt okays Bapex’s 7-year strategy paper

Govt okays Bapex’s 7-year strategy paper
Fakhruddin holds special meeting
Aminul Islam

The government on Tuesday approved in principle a strategy paper of Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company that sought Tk 2,000 crore government funds in phases over a period of seven years to make the company a self-sufficient and independent concern.

A special meeting, held at the chief adviser’s office with chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed in the chair, asked the ministries concerned including finance and planning ministry to work out on how much funds could be given to Bapex for implementing the strategy paper, sources present at the meeting said.

The meeting, however, agreed in principle that the gas price for Bapex should also be increased to Tk 25-Tk 50 in phases from the existing Tk 7.

Bapex managing director Muhammad Imaduddin made a presentation on ‘the strategy paper for manpower and technology development and exploration and development of new gas fields’ at the meeting attended by four advisers and special assistants, they said.

Finance adviser Mirza Azizul Islam, commerce adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman and special assistants to the chief adviser for power and energy ministry M Tamim and for industries Mahbub Jamil, secretary to chief adviser Kazi Aminul Islam and press secretary Fahim Munaim, finance secretary Mohammad Tareq, energy secretary Mohammad Mohsin and Petrobangla chairman Jalal Ahmed were, among others, present at the meeting.

Tamim, who asked Bapex to prepare for such strategy paper, said he wanted to form a national gas exploration and production company which could compete with the international oil companies. ‘We want that Bapex will be on strong footing and will be an independent national company that will one day compete with companies at international level. No such initiative was taken in 36 years but we have desire to make Bapex stronger,’ he told New Age on Tuesday.

The strategy paper highlighted that it would need Tk 3,100 crore, including money for the existing projects submitted to the planning commission, in seven-year for manpower and technology development and exploration and development of new gas fields, said the sources.

‘The company has estimated that the government will have to provide around Tk 2,000 crore out of Tk 3,100 crore in five or six years for procurement of equipment like heavy drilling machines to light computer accessories, increasing and training manpower and conducting exploration in new areas,’ said a source.

The government earlier assured Bapex that around Tk 600 crore might be available for projects like drilling exploration wells at Kapasia, Srikail and Sundalpur structures and developing Semutang and Shahbazpur gas fields, he added.

‘Bapex will be able to invest Tk 600 crore in the sixth or seventh year of the programme when it stands on its own feet,’ he said, explaining the strategy paper.

As per the strategy paper, Bapex would conduct seismic survey on around 5,000-6,000 square kilometres of area under Block 8 and 11 and other ring-fenced potential areas to find out structures.

The company proposes that it will go for drilling 15 exploration wells in the potential structures following the survey.

Bangladesh badly needs to explore new gas fields especially by the state-run companies as the country is set to face gas shortages by 2011 while the share of IOC gas is increasing in the total gas supply every year.

Bapex has also sought an increase in the price of gas that Petrobangla purchases from the company to make it equitable with the price international oil companies get in Bangladesh.

When international oil companies get close to Tk 200 for 1,000 cubic feet of gas, Bapex gets only Tk 7 per unit.

‘As per Bapex estimate, if it is given Tk 30 to Tk 50 for per unit of gas, the company will be in a position to be self-sufficient and to return the government investment,’ he said.

RCC identifies 202 laws for annulment or amendment

RCC identifies 202 laws for annulment or amendment

The Regulatory Reforms Commission (RRC) has identified 202 laws for review and scrutiny, which may ultimately be sent to the government for annulment or amendment, reports UNB.

A meeting of the RRC at its office Tuesday approved the list of the laws, setting the reform body’s work plan for next six months when its tenure expires.

“The laws deserve either annulment as redundant or amendment,” RRC chairman Dr Akbar Ali Khan told reporters after the meeting.

He said the list has been sent to all the trade bodies for their review and seeking suggestions if the laws or provisions thereof cause impediments to their businesses and thus hampering economic activities.

“We’ve approved the list considering our capacity to complete within our tenure. It’s not possible to look into all the laws within this short period,” he said. The RRC has already passed half of its one-year tenure.

Asked if they could complete the task of reviewing so many laws with the next six months Dr Akbar said identification of bad or redundant laws itself was a daunting task. Once it has been done the review work has been distributed among groups. “We are hopeful of completing the task.”

The annulment of or amendment to the laws are to simplify and reduce requirement of time facilitating economic activities, he added.

Of the laws identified, the RRC today (Tuesday) decided to recommend the government to annul the Sarais Act 1867, which he said runs counter to the Bangladesh Hotels and Restaurants Ordinance, 1982. It will also recommend amendment to the ordinance.

Replying to a question, the RRC chairman said the reform body has so far put forward eight recommendations to the government.

Meghna Group joins shipbuilding boom

Meghna Group joins shipbuilding boom
Signs deal with Korean STX today
Jasim Uddin Khan

A local company, Meghna Ship Builders and Dockyard, is to set up a huge US$ 40 million facility to build ocean-going vessels, the move is an example of the country’s booming shipbuilding industry.

The company signs an agreement to this effect today with South Korea’s STX Shipbuilding Company Ltd to build the shipyard at Meghnaghat in Naryanganj.

The company plans to increase its investment in the shipyard to $100 million within the next couple of months.

Meghna Ship Builders and Dockyard, a concern of Meghna Group of Industries, expects that it will be able to construct four 15,000-tonne ships in the facility a year.

STX Shipbuilding’s Vice Chairman Kim Hyun Kyu and Executive Managing Director BH Sim are now in Bangladesh to sign the agreement.

STX, which has expertise in building ocean going oil and chemical tankers, containership, bulk carriers, and LPG carriers, will provide all technical supports for Meghna to construct the shipyard in Bangladesh. Some experts from STX will stay in Bangladesh to offer technology transfer.

The management of Meghna hopes that the company can start its commercial operations within 15 months.

Meghna Group of Industries Managing Director Mostafa Kamal said he hoped his company will bale to bag a good portion of international shipbuilding orders.

Many international buyers have already started negotiations with the company to place orders.

Explaining some features of his company, Mostafa said his company will first introduce the robotic welding facility in Bangladesh as the STX does in Korea.

“It’s my vision to make dockyard a safe one,” Mostaf hoped saying the shipyard will introduce automatic painting facility.

Bangladesh’s shipbuilding sector is growing. The shipbuilding industry in the country has already received around $300 million orders for constructing ocean-going ships to Europe and South-East Asian countries.

The Western Marine Shipyard and Ananda Shipyard are the major players in domestic market.

Plans for installation of pvt sector submarine cable, communications satellite

Govt guns for major ICT goal
Plans for installation of pvt sector submarine cable, communications satellite
Rejaul Karim Byron and Sharier Khan

As part of the government’s move to create a better business environment in the country, different authorities are taking up a number of major steps ranging from installation of a private sector submarine cable to launching of a national communications satellite.

Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) has also agreed to a proposal of Bangladesh Better Business Forum (BBBF) to drastically cut Internet bandwidth cost in line with the charges in the neighbouring countries within the next two months.

Other moves stimulated by the BBBF include awarding of Internet telephony licences to Internet service providers (ISPs) within next six months, setting up small scale software technology parks at economic zones within six-nine months and setting up a 17-acre ICT village in Mohakhali within six months.

Bangladesh Telecommu-nications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), which is leading the ICT related projects, yesterday declared guidelines for the request for proposal (RFP) for the second submarine cable, inviting primary proposals from private investors by June 15.

“The second submarine cable project demands private investment between $40 million and $250 million, depending on options and routes to be offered by the bidders,” said a competent BTRC source.

The cost for the satellite project is yet to be outlined as its plan is still in the primary stage, the source added.

BTRC Chairman Maj Gen (retd) Manzurul Alam said the commission is now working on the orbit data for the satellite. “We had the orbit available for our satellite long ago. We should have launched this satellite by now,” he said.

“The satellite may be launched as a joint venture or by the government. This will be worked out,” he said, adding that it will take one to two years for the country to prepare for the satellite and five to eight years to have this communications satellite operating in the orbit.

“We have tremendous prospect in the ICT sector. This will be our main foreign exchange earner and employment source,” Manzurul said.

Headed by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, the BBBF sits today for the third time to discuss and decide on the “doable” projects. The forum was launched in November last year.

Five thematic working groups under this 38-member private-public forum have finalised a set of recommendations in this regard. The groups are financing business, infrastructure, macro-economic policy, business launching and operation and manpower efficiency improvement. All the infrastructure related steps are ICT related.

The BBBF recommendations were sent to the ministries concerned last month to see if they can be implemented. The ministries have now given their feedbacks along with timelines required for implementing these plans.

The feedbacks and proposals will be placed before the forum’s meeting today.

A host of changes that the forum is hammering include establishing a central e-governance centre for effective implementation of e-commerce/digital business and allow credit card transaction for e-commerce.

A technical committee of Bangladesh Bank has meanwhile submitted to the higher authorities a report on setting up an electronic payment gateway system. In addition, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has taken up an e-governance action plan under “Strengthening the ICT capacity of PMO”, a project funded by the UNDP.

It has also been decided that the Ministry of Science and ICT will act as the central body to ensure e-governance.

All government and local websites must be available through local Internet Exchanges, the BBBF suggests.

The BBBF recommended extending tax holidays by five years to software and IT enabled services. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has assured that appropriate measures in this regard will be incorporated in the next budget.

The BBBF also suggested that the BTTB reduce international and domestic Internet bandwidth cost by 75 percent of the existing rate. The BTTB has assured that the cost will be “reduced to a rational level” comparing with the cost in neighbouring countries.

The forum proposed reducing VAT and service charge for Internet to 1.5 percent instead of 15 percent. The NBR agreed to lower it to 4.5 percent in the next budget as a “test”.

In response to another proposal, the finance division decided that all the ministries and departments will have 2 percent of the Annual Development Programme (ADP) budget dedicated for ICT.

On launching of the country’s own satellite, the BTRC said Bangladesh should launch its own communications satellite. The commission is currently working on designing its licence. The ICT ministry on the other hand asked the government to identify who would spearhead the satellite project.

Following a report of its technical committee last year, the BTTB held an open discussion on the prospects of and investment in the second submarine cable. Representatives of 65 IT-related companies participated in that discussion.

Based on the response, the BTRC yesterday floated the “guidelines for RFP to build, maintain and operate additional Submarine Cable Systems in Bangladesh”, seeking primary offers from private investors.

“Presently SEA-ME-WE-4 is the only submarine cable through which Bangladesh is connected overseas. The quest for redundancy, diversity and capacity enhancement, in an adequately competitive environment, has led BTRC to look for additional submarine cable to be hosted by private entrepreneurs,” the guideline says, adding that this endeavour is focused on revolutionising the bandwidth market and its usage, thereby bringing in a significant qualitative change in the ICT arena of the country.

Private entrepreneurs will submit RFPs to come up with a primary proposal to build, maintain and operate the new systems.

“It could be one cable or two,” said a BTRC source, adding, “We are open to various options–that is why we are not fixed to a single configuration. If we receive satisfactory RFPs by June 15, we might take another one month to 45 days to accept applications for licences for the submarine cables and then we will award the licences.”

He added that the project will begin by this year and the licence will be issued for 20 years initially.

The primary proposal should include company profile of the applicant and all its partners, company profile of all consortium members if relevant, company profile of the cable laying company, ownership arrangement etc. In a consortium arrangement, Bangladeshi ownership should be minimum 25 percent while in case of partnership or joint venture at least 51 percent of shares are to be held by Bangladeshis.

The second submarine cable is required because the present bandwidth demand of 3.28 gigabyte (GB) is projected to shoot up to 15.5GB by 2011, which will saturate Bangladesh’s bandwidth in the present cable. Besides, the second cable will ensure redundancy and reliability.

Local producer develops jute-blended denim

Local producer develops jute-blended denim
Kazi Azizul Islam

A local fabric producer has successfully developed better and durable denim woven from blended yarns of jute and cotton, industry people said.

The fabric has been developed following inspiration from the top Japanese apparel retailer, Uniglo, which intends to procure a huge quantity of apparels made of jute denim from Bangladesh.

‘We have become successful in developing fine grade denim fabric from jute yarns blended with cotton,’ Sakhawat Hossain Rizvi, deputy general manager of Shasha Denims told New Age.

Rizvi, himself a textile technologist, informed that their newly-developed twill-weave denim showed fine results in washing and dyeing tests.

Being grateful to the Japanese retailer Uniglo for inspiring them in developing jute denim, the Shasha executive said they had sent samples to Japan a week back.

Uniglo, with its fast-growing retail brand Uniqlo, is among the top 10 speciality apparel retailers in the world and runs nearly one thousand shops in UK, Korea, China and USA.

Officials of Shasha, which produces 1.8 million yards of denim with diversified designs and specifications, claimed that the new jute-blended denim had the potentials to meet any specified requirements from global buyers of denim apparels.

Jute-blended yarns are stronger and more durable than full cotton yarns, said officials of Hoori-Shams Composite Textile, which produced the blended jute yarn.

Shams Group has been making fine grade jute yarns for global manufacturers for years, while its textile units produce fabrics of blended yarns for the local apparel industry.

Bangladesh’s $10 billion apparel export industry produces a huge quantity of denim apparels. Woven garment manufacturers are the main users of denim for making jackets and jeans for global buyers.

Industry people believe successful use of jute in producing denim would give a boost to the jute sector in Bangladesh, which produces the world’s finest grade of jute fibre.

The initiative, if proves commercially viable, would also help the country reduce its huge import of cotton to feed the flourishing textile sector, they hope.

Bangladesh, which is among world’s top five cotton importers, spends more than one billion dollar to import cotton and cotton yarns used by export-oriented spinners and apparel manufacturers.

In the last fiscal year ended in June 2007, the country earned only $147 million from export of more than 0.6 million tonnes of raw jute.