Monthly Archives: January 2009

Govt plans to create industrial database for development

Govt plans to create industrial database for development

Industries Minister Dilip Barua yesterday said the present government is actively considering setting up an industrial database for achieving desired growth in the industrial sector as a top priority to ensure sustainable development.

With the establishment of industrial database, local and international entrepreneurs will get easy access to information for investing in small, medium and large-scale industries, he said.

The minister was addressing as the chief guest a seminar on “Digital Bangladesh: Web Based Salt Industries Information System” in the auditorium of CIRDAP here.

The Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorder (CIDD) project of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) and Micronutrient Initiative (MI) jointly organized the seminar to launch a website developed with the assistance of BSCIC, MI and GIS-based Salt Industries Information System (CEGIS) which will provide information on benefits and usefulness of iodized salt.

Industries Secretary Dewan Zakir Hussain spoke at the seminar as the special guest. CIDD Project Director AKM Mustafizur Rahman delivered the welcome address, while Executive Director of GESIS Giasuddin Ahmed Choudhury presented the keynote paper. Director of MI, Bangladesh Dr Zeba Mahmud also spoke.

The minister said the government would make extensive efforts for industrialization in the country upholding the interest of owners and workers as well.

“It is impossible to make Bangladesh an industrialized country by turning it into a market for foreign products,” he added.

He urged all including policy makers, planners, think tank, media, civil society actors, political leaders and donors to come forward to help the government in formulating a comprehensive, effective and dynamic industrial policy in the regard.

Elaborating the impact on the people’s health caused due to lack of iodine, Dilip Barua said a considerable number of infants in the country remain unprotected from lifelong consequences of cretins, mild intellectual deficit and brain damage due to iodine deficiency.

The government is very much concerned about it as this is a serious national issue, he said, adding that Bangladesh is facing Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) for a long time.


Sonali, Janata to introduce Islami banking in March

Sonali, Janata to introduce Islami banking in March

Mushir Ahmed

State-owned banking giants Sonali and Janata would introduce Islamic banking in March this year, switching to dual financial system to keep pace with the fast-growing Sharia-based banks in the country, officials said Friday.

Deputy managing director of Sonali Bank Prodeep Kumar Dutta told the FE the central bank has approved introduction of Islamic banking operations in five branches each for Sonali and Janata Bank Limited.

Janata Bank chief executive officer SM Aminur Rahman also told an internal meeting Thursday that his bank — the second biggest with 848 branches and 13234 employees — would also launch Islami banking system in the country.

“We have sought to launch Islamic banking system in our 30 branches. But the Bangladesh Bank has initially approved five branches — one in Dhaka and the rest in district cities,” Dutta said.

Sonali, has already trained a group of officers on Sharia-based banking system and would constitute Sharia board in February before launching a full-fledged Islamic banking operation early March, Dutta said.

Made private limited company in late 2007 as part of IMF-prescribed reforms, Sonali is still the largest bank in the country, employing 22,181 people and operating 1,183 branches in almost every nook and corner of the country.

But the bank is fast losing its share to private banks led by the Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL). Last year its operating profit stood at Tk6.42 billion, which is 23 per cent less than that of IBBL.

Dutta said Islamic banks’ fast growth coupled with rising shares in remittance forced the Sonali management to make foray into the new financial system.

“Bangladeshi people are very religious. As a result, Islamic banks in the country are growing fast, forcing other private banks to rethink their business strategy,” Dutta said.

Launched in 1984, Islamic banking system has enjoyed a rapid growth in Bangladesh where 90 percent people are Muslim, with the private IBBL emerging as the biggest bank after Sonali and Janata.

Deposits of the Sharia-compliant banks have grown 21 per cent to 24.4 per cent of the total banking deposits, or Tk347.30 billion, in the 2007-8 financial year.

During the same period deposits in the conventional banks grew only 15 per cent, according to the figures released by Bangladesh Bank.

As of June 2008, six private banks out of the country’s 48 commercial banks operate as full-fledged Islami banks. Ten other conventional banks also have Islamic banking facilities they provide through 21 branches

The Sonali deputy chief said Islamic banks’ rising share in remittance also prompted some banks to launch Sharia-based banking.

“Islamic banks are eating into the markets that have traditionally been controlled by state-owned banks. In remittance IBBL’s share has risen tremendously in the past few years,” Dutta said.

IBBL with its 196 branches handled 23 per cent of US$8.9 billion remittance sent by Bangladeshis living and working abroad in 2008 calendar year.

Sonali with nearly six times more branches handled only 14 percent of the amount, some four per cent less than the amount it handled in 2007.

Govt set for automation of all institutes, offices

Govt set for automation of all institutes, offices
Says commerce minister
Staff Correspondent

The government is set to go for automation of its all institutes and offices as part of its election promises, said the commerce minister yesterday.

“Automation would help ease manual operations and gain efficiency reducing corruptions and reinforcing accountability in government’s offices and institutes,” said Col (retd) Faruk Khan.

He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Chittagong Customs House Automation Project: A Walkthrough and Cookbook Presentation’ organised by Data Soft Management Services at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the capital.

The minister said the government considers strengthening IT education in all educational institutions and extending cooperation for IT entrepreneurs to turn the country into a Digital Bangladesh by 2021.

He said parliament will also be automated soon.

Appreciating the venture of Chittagong Customs House Automation, Muhammad Abdul Mazid, chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), said local talents have made it possible.

When donor-funded projects failed to fully complete automation of Chittagong Customs House by spending over Tk 247 crore and working for around 10 years, Data Soft, a local company, successfully did the job in eight months at a minimal cost, he said.

Mahbub Zaman, CEO of DataSoft, said, “We were able to make the project run at a reduced cost mainly because it will function on build-own-operate-transfer basis,”

He said the project is a successful example of public-private partnership where all stakeholders are involved directly.

One of the reasons behind the failure of earlier projects is that their technology was not transferred to the locals properly, he added.

The main feature of the new automation project is that DataSoft has employed around 45 engineers in the project to troubleshoot any problem that the stakeholders may face.

In his keynote paper, Brigadier Hasan Nasir, project coordinator of the venture, showed the detailed planning and action of the project.

Earlier in 1999, a project titled CAM-1 (customs administration modernisation project-1) was the first step for automation.

Later in June 2001, another project titled ‘ASYCUDA++ Migration Project’ was designed to interface the ASYCUDA++ software with the computer system at five customs houses in the country.

Habibullah N Karim, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (Basis), was also present at the seminar.

4m tonnes more rice possible by farming flood-tolerant varieties

4m tonnes more rice possible by farming flood-tolerant varieties

RANGPUR, Bangladesh, Jan 30 (BSS) – Agri-scientists have completed necessary research, experiments and validation of new flood- tolerant varieties of Aman paddy to pave the way of producing 40 lakh tonnes additional paddy every year by large-scale farming in Bangladesh alone.

Repeated success of the scientists and farmers in getting expected production of flood-tolerant paddy in Bangladesh and India have ushered in a new era in the disaster-prone agriculture sector of the country, sub-continent and other flood- prone countries.

The success was achieved through farming Swarna Sub1 along with three new Sub1 entries of BR11 Sub1, IR64 Sub1 and Sambamasuri Sub1 flood-tolerant varieties of paddy using participatory variety selection (PVS) mother trial methods.

In Bangladesh, they successfully cultivated the paddy in on station BRRI Regional Station, Rangpur and on-farm farmers’ fields at Rangpur, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha, Sirajganj and Nilphamari districts during the past three seasons.

Besides, the varieties were successfully cultivated in Indian states of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar and Orissa, where the produced seeds are expected to be released by the concerned Indian state governments soon for large-scale farming.

Scientists of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), IRRI (Philippines), Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) and Norendra Dev University of Agriculture Technology (NDUAT) of India and University of California (UC, Davis & Riverside) developed and validated the technology.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) of the USA provided necessary financial assistances through IRRI to disseminate the technology among the farmers under its Stress Tolerant Rice for Poor Farmers in Africa & South Asia (STRASA) programme.

The scientists are now hoping to overcome colossal losses being caused by flash floods to Aman paddy in about 12 lakh hectares potential area every year in Bangladesh alone by large- scale farming of the varieties.

Besides, huge quantities of additional paddy could be produced annually by cultivating the flood-tolerant paddy in over 60 lakh hectares of potential flood- prone land area in UP, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal in India, they added.

Farmers got desired results in farming the Sub1 entries using Developed Agronomical Management Method (DAMM) in Bangladesh last year and the country could achieve complete self- reliance in food by its large-scale farming.

“Last season, we successfully cultivated these Sub 1 varieties, growing plants of which sustained strains of floodwaters for 12-16 consecutive days in northern Bangladesh, then grew well and yielded better production,” BRRI Scientific Officer Anarul Haque said.

The Indian farmers also harvested good yield of Swarna Sub 1 paddy in Orissa even after 35 days submergence in flood waters in 3-frequencies where all other traditional varieties including mega variety Swarna were totally perished last year.

Talking to BSS today, the scientists suggested the concerned governments to approve and release the seeds for large-scale production to overcome the colossal damages being caused by flash floods to Aman paddy every year.

After conducting trials, preference analysis of Sub1 entries by the farmers, extensions providers, GOs and NGOs in the flood prone areas, the BRRI scientists are expecting now approvals of the National Seed Board for production and marketing of the seeds.

Rangpur Regional Station of BRRI in collaboration with IRRI under the Submergence and Flood Prone Environment Agriculture
Project of the Consortium for Unfavourable Rice Environment (CURE) successfully tested and validated the flood tolerant new variety paddy since 2005.

Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Agronomy, BRRI Gazipur and key-site coordinator of CURE working group-2 (BRRI-IRRI) Dr MA Mazid, who is also the team leader of the research group of BRRI scientists, termed the success as a revolutionary one.

Talking to BSS today, Regional Project Coordinator of IRRI- BMGF projects for Africa and South Asia Dr US Singh, who is now in Dhaka to finalize training module of the technology with BRRI- IRRI scientists, termed the success as epoch-making for the world agriculture.

“Rice production in the flood-prone countries can be increased substantially overcoming the negative impacts of ongoing global climate change if the concerned governments took necessary steps for large-scale farming of the newly develop varieties,” he added.

“We have achieved huge success by developing and evaluating the advanced technology and conducting research managements to produce seeds, quality seedlings and farming the paddy in submerged farm lands,” Dr Singh added.

These four varieties were invented through introducing Gene Sub 1 by marker aided selection (MAS), a molecular breeding method, at IRRI into Indian mega variety Swarna, Sambamasuri and Bangladeshi mega variety BR11 and Philippines variety IR 64.

Gene Sub1 bears the character of making paddy variety flash flood resistant for several weeks in frequencies if properly introduced after purifying the same through different process at laboratory and field levels, Dr Singh and Dr Mazid said.

“We are continuing re-examinations, research and agronomical managements of these varieties and frequencies of floods at different areas and regions for further fine tuning of the technology,” they added.

The BRRI scientists in Rangpur and Plant Breeding Division at BRRI headquarters are jointly conducting necessary research for further developing the new varieties and re-inventing next generation flood tolerant varieties of paddy.

The NDUAT has already submitted proposal for the release of Swarna Sub1 seeds to UP state government and Rajendra Agriculture University in Bihar and CRRI in Orissa would submit similar proposals to their respective state governments soon, Dr Singh said.

“Now, we have eight tonnes of nuclear seeds of Swarna with different Indian institutions and another 250 tonnes of Swarna sub1 seeds with the farmers in UP, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal,” he added.

Agri-scientists Dr David Mackill, Dr Abdelbagi Ismail, Dr Sigrid Heuer of IRRI, Prof Dr Julia Bailey, Prof Dr Pamela Ronald of University of California, Prof Dr PC Ram, Dr VN Singh, Dr JN Reddy, Dr RK Sarkar, Dr SC Patnaik of India highly lauded the success while visiting Rangpur station of BRRI recently.

A number of farmers, who successfully cultivated the paddy last season in six northern districts, told BSS that the country’s rice production could be increased if the four Sub 1 varieties were approved and released by the government soon.

SoftExpo ends today with IT boom in vision

SoftExpo ends today with IT boom in vision
Alpha Arzu

The country’s largest software and information technology exhibition of the year, BASIS SoftExpo 2009, concludes today, with a target to increase the income from IT-enabled services to $150 million from the present $7 million by 2011, software and information service leaders said.

Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services coordinator of events Nurul Alam said the BASIS organised the event to facilitate a presentation of the country’s potentials in information and communication technology to international players in different fields, like national and international vendors and service providers, investors, development agencies, policymakers, and ICT associations.

With four foreign companies from the USA, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arab, 93 organisations including three universities are showcasing their products and services in 122 stalls and eight pavilions at the five-day exhibition at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in Dhaka.

BASIS president Habibullah N Karim said the size of the present global software and IT services is $300 billion. ‘If we can take just 0.50 per cent of the service market, the country’s income from the sector will stand at $150 million by 2011, up from the present $7 million,’ he noted.

The BASIS, a platform of 281 member organisations, arranges the annual event to exhibit the software and IT services industry in Bangladesh.

The theme of this year’s expo is ‘Linking People with Technology’.

ICT companies, international ICT associations, local software development companies, successful ICT projects initiated by multinational and local companies, government departments and agencies implementing e-governance projects, ICT training institutes and universities dominate the participants of the expo.

Genuity System LTD is exhibiting its unique gPlex Softswitch Call Centre Solution, Grameen Phone showing its facilities — like BillPay, Cell Bazar, CIC Heathline, Data Service and Basic GSM — offered to customers, and Desktop Computer Connection Ltd displaying the Desktop e-Banking system ClickBD Ltd.

Winux Soft Ltd, US Software Ltd, Roots Information Technology, Moon Networks, Agree Ya Solutions from the USA, Mi3 Inc as well as TechnoVista Ltd have focused on e-governance solutions, e-Government and Dohatec displayed its Voter Registration Enrolment and Multi Biometric Duplicate Detection System.

The participating universities are the American International University of Bangladesh, Daffodil University, and United International University.

Besides displaying products, a number of seminars, workshops and roundtables on the contemporary issues have been organised by the host at the fair venue.

On an average, 600 visitors visit the exhibition between 9:00am and 8:00pm, said the BASIS.

Local government and rural development minister Syed Ashraful Islam is expected to take part as the chief guest at the exposition concluding ceremony, slated for 2:30pm today. But the exhibition will continue till 8:00pm as usual, Nurul Alam said.

Two new EPZs as investment flows increase

Two new EPZs as investment flows increase
Staff Correspondent

Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) is expecting to attract more investments in the country’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs) as it has received positive signals from the newly elected Awami League (AL) government to go for expansion, officials said.

They said the government has already approved one of their two proposals for setting up EPZs and they have already received approval for Feni EPZ, but the approval of Meghna EPZ is under process.

When Feni and Meghna are set up, the total number of such zones will reach 10. Now the country has eight EPZs in Uttara (Nilphamari), Ishwardi, Adamjee, Mongla, Dhaka, Comilla, Chittagong and Karnaphuli.

“We have received approval from the government for establishing the Feni EPZ, but no decisions have yet been taken about the Meghna EPZ. Hopefully, we will receive it soon.” said a high official.

Officials said the BEPZA is looking to go for extension as there is positive mood among both local and foreign investors and the demand for such zones is increasing day by day.

They said better law and order situation, good infrastructure, reduction of lead time, less cost of doing business, friendly policy of the government, attractive incentives and success story are all contributing to such eagerness.

Bangladesh is known to be Asia’s most competitive production base due to its cheap and large labour-force, they said. Currently 2 28,932 labourers are working in the EPZs, of them 82,416 are male and the rest are female. Officials said decision of expansion was mainly based on high demand and flow of investment.

In the fiscal year 2007-2008, total investment was $302.19 million, almost double than that of fiscal year 2006-2007 when it was $152.37 million, official data showed. During the first six months of the current fiscal year, the BEPZA saw an investment of $74.70 million and at the end of the current fiscal year it will, the officials hope, be at least equal to that of last fiscal.

Prasanta Bhusan Barua, member (Investment Promotion) of BEPZA said that BEPZA last year signed agreements with a number of investors worth $1.4 billion. “The investors will implement their projects phase by phase in around three years. A lot of money is involved here” Barua said.

Data showed the contribution of BEPZA to national export is increasing gradually. In the fiscal year 2007-2008, total export of EPZs was worth $2.40 billion which was $2.06 billion in the fiscal year 2006-2007. In the first half of the current fiscal, export earnings stood at $1.26 billion.

A total of 292 enterprises are operating in eight EPZs and there are 125 plants in the process of implementation, officials said. Of the 292 industrial plants, 173 are totally foreign-owned, 48 are joint ventures and the rest 71 are owned by local investors.

Plans underway to reclaim land in coastal areas: PM

Plans underway to reclaim land in coastal areas: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said plans are underway to reclaim land along the coastal belt.

Besides, we would carry out capital dredging in the major rivers so that we can utilise every inch of land.

“We are planning to reclaim land at the coast and carry out capital dredging to overcome the scarcity of land,” she said at the Jatiya Sangsad while responding to a question from Mainuddin Khan Badal, a JSD lawmaker from Chittagong.

Sheikh Hasina, during the Prime Minister’s question-answer hour, said the scarcity of land has an impact on food production and the government has been planning to promote new variety of rice tolerant to salinity in the coastal areas.

She said the Awami League government had spent Tk 12 crore to develop new variety of saline tolerant rice, but the achievement was jeopardised due to negligence by the past government.

“Steps would be taken again to develop such varieties of rice through research to use every inch of land for food production,” the Prime Minister said adding khas lands would also be distributed among the landless people to promote food production.

She said the pragmatic policies of the Awami League government between 1996 and 2001 had led the country towards self sufficiency, which marked a sharp rise of cereal production 2.7 crore metric tonnes from only 1.9 crore MT.

The distribution of khas lands among 1.5 lakh landless has contributed positively to the food production, she said adding the landless this time would not only be given lands, but also be inspired with fertiliser and seeds in subsidised rates along with soft loans.