Tug of war over Matarbari port

Serarjul Islam Siraj, Special Correspondent, Barta24.com, Dhaka
Photo: Barta24.com

Photo: Barta24.com

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The tug of war was going on for a long time, pulling towards everyone. But now it is known that pushing is going on, one side is pushing the other side. According to responsible sources, this is exactly what is going on with the Matarbari deep sea port. This push is going on between Coal Power Generation Company and Chattogram Port Authority.

The formal handover process of the seaport has been pending for several months, despite the agreement on paper under pressure. Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) is not responding despite repeated letters. As a result, there is no transfer. Responsible sources of the Power division of the Ministry of Power and Energy said this.

According to sources, a proposal was made earlier to make a channel for the Matarbari coal-based power project to facilitate the movement of coal-carrying lighter age ships. At that time, there was a tug of war between India and China over Sonadia deep sea port. The Prime Minister's Office was asked to propose the construction of a deep sea port against the proposal of the Coal Power Generation Company. In view of that, the navigability was increased to 18.5 meters.

Coal Power Generation Company completed the construction of channel and jetty as usual. It was informally inaugurated on 29 December 2020. The first deep sea port in Bangladesh started with the coal-carrying ship of Matarbari Power Plant. On November 16, 2022, a meeting was held for the transfer of Matarbari channel and dividend distribution under the chairmanship of the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office. In that meeting, it was decided to transfer by June last year (2023).

On paper, Matarbari Channel was handed over to Chattogram Port Authority on September 20, 2023. The Chattogram Port Authority did not accept the charge even though it was understood on paper. But CPA is taking the charge of using the port right.

At the time of acceptance on paper, it was said that the charge would be accepted after verifying the validity. A letter was sent to CPA on 22 January 2024 seeking a representative for the inspection. Even after a few weeks, CPA has not responded to that letter or sent a representative. On February 14, the demand letter was again issued by the Power Division. Still, there was no response from CPA.

The letter of the Power Division also said that the responsibility of the EPC contractor will end after the completion of the joint survey as per the contract. Later the EPC contractor will have to pay demurrage if asked for dredging or other works. It will waste a lot of money of the state and if proper maintenance is not done, the navigability will decrease due to sedimentation again.

A letter is issued to send a representative and take necessary measures to convey the proximity of the CPA for management and maintenance. The letter signed by the Joint Secretary Tahmina Begum was sent to the Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Shipping. Still there was no solution. Even though it has been a long time, the process of transfer of charges is hanging due to the negligence of the port authorities.

And this has become a burden on the Coal Power Generation Company. They have to be guarded by 20-30 security personnel. Again due to lack of regular maintenance, it is feared that silting will create a crisis. Dredging has already been done by spending several crores of money.

Chattogram Port Authority Secretary Md. Omar Farooq, when called, avoided saying that he was in a meeting. 


Industrial sector’s contribution to GDP exceeds 37 percent: PM

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the contribution of the industrial sector to the GDP has already exceeded 37 percent. About 99% of Bangladesh's industries and businesses are covered by the cottage industry SME sector.

She said, this sector controls 70 percent of the country's economic activities, which is about 80 to 85 percent of the total industrial employment. The SME sector supplies 30 to 35 percent of the total domestic industrial product demand. Our government has declared this year as 'National Handicrafts Year'.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said all this in a speech given on the occasion of '11th National SME Product Fair-2024' to be held on May 19. Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Foundation (SME Foundation) is organizing the 11th National SME Product Fair 2024.

Referring to Bangabandhu's thoughts on industrial development, the Prime Minister said, the greatest Bengali of all time, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's industrial development ideas blossomed in the Jukta Front’s election manifesto in 1954, which he prepared himself.

She said that four points of the 21-point declaration of the manifesto were his industrial development plan. In 1956, he was the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Labour, Anti-corruption and Rural Assistance of the then East Pakistan. During this time, he took the initiative to expand the industry in Bangladesh.

After independence, the Father of the Nation announced the country's first industrial and investment policy in 1973 and nationalized industrial establishments. He formed the necessary offices under the Ministry of Industry. In the light of the development philosophy of the Father of the Nation, we have implemented comprehensive programs for the development of the industrial sector in the last 15 years. As a result, the industrial sector of the country is gradually progressing towards prosperity.

Referring to the contribution of the industrial sector to the GDP, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the contribution of the industrial sector to the GDP has already exceeded 37 percent. Almost 99% of Bangladesh's industries and businesses are under the cottage industry SME sector. It controls 70 percent of the country's economic activity, accounting for about 80 to 85 percent of total industrial employment. The SME sector supplies 30 to 35 percent of the total domestic industrial product demand. Our government has declared this year as 'National Handicrafts Year'.

Referring to the contribution of her government in the proper development of small and medium industries, the Prime Minister said, we are formulating various business-friendly policies and implementing programs for the proper development of small and medium industries. In continuation of this, Industrial Policy-2022 and SME Policy-2019 have been formulated. We have given importance to the SME sector in SDG-2030, Rupkalpa-2041, Eighth Five Year Plan, and various policies and strategies.

To counter the impact of the Corona pandemic, we have provided financial incentives to SME industries and cash assistance to contribute to exports. Cluster-based industrial development at the grass-roots level has resulted in more manpower being engaged in the labor sector and increasing the number of women entrepreneurs and workers.

30,000 entrepreneurs have been created by SMEF through 150 programs on women entrepreneurship and startups. In the last 15 years, using the credit wholesaling model, loans of Tk. 716 crore have been distributed to 8286 entrepreneurs, of which 23 percent are women.

Referring to the contribution in the industrial sector, Sheikh Hasina said, our government has introduced the President's Industrial Development Award, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Industrial Award, CIP (Industrial) to recognize and encourage creativity of successful entrepreneurs/institutions in the industrial sector.

As a result, the highest production of 22.33 lakh metric tons of salt in the last 62 years, implementation of 112.24 percent of the annual development program and export earnings of 1.25 billion US dollars in the leather industry are notable, of which the contribution of the SME sector is 32 percent.

The Ministry of Industry and the SME Foundation are working to increase the contribution of the SME sector to 40 percent by 2031.

She said that the SME product fair plays an important role in the marketing of SME products. This fair will increase awareness and demand for domestic products made by micro, small and medium industrial entrepreneurs spread in different parts of the country. In order to build the foundation of a prosperous and sustainable economy, there is no alternative to creating labor-intensive and low-capital SME entrepreneurs in the country. Our government is determined to create a suitable environment for SME entrepreneurs to come forward with the expansion of business and trade.

The SME sector and the National SME Fair are playing a leading role in transforming the country's youth into skilled manpower and increasing their employment opportunities, and this is how the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's dream of hunger-poverty, happy-rich dream of golden Bangladesh will be developed, as well as knowledge-based smart Bangladesh with information technology. 


Role of SME sector in employment generation is undeniable: President

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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President Md. Sahabuddin said, the role of small and medium entrepreneurs in creating massive employment with little capital is undeniable, in addition to poverty alleviation and improvement of living standards of a large population of the country.

The President said all this in a speech given on the occasion of 'National SME Product Fair-2024' to be held on May 19.

Welcoming the initiative of the Small and Medium Entrepreneur Foundation (SME Foundation) to organize the 11th National SME Product Fair 2024, the President said, he extended his best wishes and congratulations to all those involved in the small and medium entrepreneur, including entrepreneurs and institutions participating in the fair.

He said that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are an important sector in the socio-economic context of Bangladesh. The role of this sector in creating massive employment with little capital is undeniable, in addition to poverty alleviation and improvement of living standards of the country's large population.

Appreciating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's initiative, President Md. Sahabuddin said that under the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the government has formulated the SME Policy-2019 to ensure the development of the SME sector and sustainable industrialization.

The National Industrial Policy lays emphasis on creating an enabling environment for the development of SME industries as key drivers of industrialization. As a result of the successful implementation of Vision 2021, Bangladesh has become a middle-income digital Bangladesh today. Through the proper implementation of the National Industrial Policy and SME Policy, everyone should continue to make earnest efforts to increase the contribution of the SME sector to the GDP from the existing 25 percent to 32 percent.

He said, I hope that the National SME Product Fair-2024 will play an important role in increasing the mutual connection of entrepreneurs as well as improving the quality of products, expanding the market of manufactured products and increasing the export of SME products.

The President called on all concerned including government, private institutions and entrepreneurs to play a positive role in ensuring the proper development of the SME sector with the aim of creating a developed and prosperous 'Smart Bangladesh' by 2041.


Third Terminal: Foreigners eyeing Tk. 3000 crore business

Ishtiaq Hussein, Special Correspondent, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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The newly constructed third terminal is more than twice the size of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of Shahjalal International Airport. The area of the old two terminals is 1 lakh square meters, and the third terminal is 2 lakh 30 thousand square meters. Although it was partially inaugurated in December last year, passengers will be able to use all its facilities in December next year. Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) is moving towards that goal.

The former two terminals can serve 80 lakh passengers annually. And with the new terminal, 1 crore 60 lakh passengers can be served.

Ever since the inauguration of the third terminal, there has been a discussion as to who will get the ground handling work of the third terminal. Because the government has built the infrastructure for the passengers, but if the passenger service cannot be ensured, then the passengers will have to suffer with this terminal like the old terminal.

Statistics show that Biman earns an annual revenue of Tk. 1500 crore from the ground handling of the two old terminals. And since the third terminal is more than twice as big as this, at least Tk. 3000 crores of revenue is possible from here. So various foreign companies are racing to get the ground handling work of the third terminal.

Those concerned say that everyone will want to take such a big business opportunity. And that's why foreign companies are dying.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism has already informed about who will be responsible for the ground handling of the third terminal - Japan will decide in this regard. Now everyone is watching whom Japan will eventually take with them in this service sector.

The name of Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the first to be discussed in this work because Biman has a long experience in this sector. Moreover, Bangladesh's state-owned company Biman is the sole service provider of Shahjalal International Airport in the ground handling sector.

However, apart from Biman, many other foreign companies are trying to get this job. There are many speculations about which company gets the job based on the partnership with Japan.

However, the Aviation Minister said that Japan will do the ground handling work. In this case, if the plane is taken, domestic interests will be protected. We have prepared the aircraft to provide ground handling services to the third terminal.

On the other hand, CAAB Chairman M Mofidur Rahman says that Japan will provide ground handling services. The name of the aircraft is also under discussion. We have also spoken for Biman.

However, Japan is verifying the capacity of the number of passengers and aircraft that will move through the third terminal. Aircraft capacity has also increased. In the meantime, Japan will select those it deems worthy.

But some say, in this case, it would be better if two to three organizations are appointed in the ground handling department. This will improve the quality of service as well as make it competitive. By doing this, the passengers will also get better service.

Those concerned say that handling such a large terminal may not be possible for Japan alone. In that case they will look for partners. In the meantime, Turkey's Celebi, UK's Menzis, Switzerland's Swissport and other companies are working to get this job. The British High Commissioner posted in Bangladesh expressed his country's interest in doing Menzies work in a meeting with the Minister of Aviation and Chairman of CAAB. Celebs in Turkey are eager to get work. Swissport is also in the running. They will also meet the Chairman of CAAB and give a detailed presentation about them.

Japan is interested in operating the third terminal on a PPP basis. For this reason, an organization called IFC has also conducted a survey. Further decision will be taken based on their report.

Complaints about airline services

Shahjalal International Airport, the country's main gateway, has no end of complaints about aircraft ground handling services. Ground handling service is one of the most important departments for passenger complaints. But Biman could never create service mentality in this sector. Even though there have been unarmed complaints about the services of this sector for decades, they have never been able to take proper steps to resolve them.

There are many cases of foreign airlines delaying the departure of flights due to lack of timely service. At various times, foreigners lobbied hard to get this ground handling, but in the end, Biman stayed with the government's blessing. The government has given this support at various times to prioritize the interests of the country, but this time it is no longer in that position. The government wants to have a plane. However, since Japan has built a third terminal with the help of JICA, the government is supporting the operation of the aircraft through the partnership.

Biman says it has bought Tk. 1,000 crore worth of equipment to get the third terminal working. In the last one year, more than 1000 manpower has been appointed in the ground handling department. Those concerned say that it is not enough to buy the equipment, there is a lack of coordination and cooperation in the work of the aircraft. Also training of staff is required. What is needed above all is a service mindset. If there is no change in this mentality, there will be no change in quality of service.

Why do foreigners want ground handling?

Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the only ground handling service provider of Shahjalal International Airport. The state-owned airline earns Tk. 1500 crore annually from this sector. Ground handling is a major source of revenue for national flag airlines. Since independence BIman is a single service provider in this sector. Foreigners have always had an eye on this sector. At various times they have tried hard to get this business through local business partners. Among them are Middle East-based Danata, Switzerland-based Swissport and Turkey's Celebi.

But not only Shahjalal, Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport and Sylhet Osmani International Airport have been doing ground handling since the beginning of Biman just as ordinary passengers have been angry about Biman's ground handling services over the years, so have the 30 foreign airlines operating from Shahjalal. There are allegations that Biman has failed to provide international standard service. Moreover, the responsibility of failure to deliver luggage on time also fell on these foreign airlines. Foreign airlines have repeatedly pointed the finger at the aircraft regarding these complaints including luggage theft, broken suitcases. They allege that Biman is responsible for all this. But they have to pay compensation for that.

What is Biman saying?

Biman's Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Shafiul Azim expressed a positive attitude towards getting the work of the third terminal and said that Biman has the capacity, expertise and necessary equipment to provide ground handling services of the third terminal. More equipment will be purchased in the future and special emphasis is being placed on staff training.

"The aircraft's ground handling staff is highly skilled. They have the necessary skills and certifications. Airline workers are also in high demand abroad.

He said that due to the limited amount of baggage belt in the old terminal, the limitation to provide the service has to be faced. However, the new terminal will have more baggage belts, so passengers no longer have to waste time standing in line to get their luggage. Besides, the number of check-in counters in the old terminal is also less. It creates pressure on passengers. New terminals will not have this problem. Aircraft capacity has been increased by purchasing new parts and hiring new staff. So it is not right to question the capability of the aircraft.

What do the experts say?

Aviation expert ATM Nazrul Islam said, new airlines are not increasing suddenly. Shahjalal will handle two crore 35 lakh passengers in 2035. Biman will lose big business if the third terminal works.

He said, it will not be good for the country or for the interests of the country. But Biman has to improve the quality of service. Otherwise the state-owned airlines will lose their single business in this sector.

He also thinks that preparations should be made now by starting this in December. And since there are good business opportunities here, foreigners can be attracted.

Efficient management should be provided to provide passenger friendly service. About 6,000 manpower will be required to operate the third terminal. Those concerned say that it is not just about having sophisticated machines, but the skills of the people behind the machines are important. If not, the suffering of passengers will not be reduced.

Kazi Wahidul Alam, an aviation expert and former member of the board of directors of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said that the passengers will get ample space and a good environment in the third terminal. However, the organizations that will be engaged in airport services should change their approach and at the same time increase the quality of service.


Increase in dollar price will not affect imports: Salman F Rahman

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com
photo: Collected

photo: Collected

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Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman believes that even if the price of dollar increases, there will be no impact on imports in the country. But there will be a huge impact on exports. As a result, remittance income and export-oriented industries will benefit, he said.

He said these things in a briefing with reporters after the opening ceremony of the US Trade Show on Thursday (May 9).

He said there was no option to increase the price of the dollar to face the economic challenges.

Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser said that increasing the price of the dollar will reduce the pressure on the reserves. It was very necessary to bring inflation under control. Inflation is above 9 percent which we need to reduce. At the same time, increasing the price of the dollar will not put any pressure on the country's economy. That's because the country is doing very well in the agricultural sector. We have become self-sufficient in food.

Salman F. Rahman called on all those who have TIN to be brought under the tax and said that more tax is being imposed on those who are paying tax. All those who have TIN should be brought under the tax. At the same time, the tax net should be increased by reducing the tax rate. Countries around the world that have reduced tax rates and increased tax nets have seen revenue rise.

Salman F. Rahman called upon all traders to be brought under tax and said that under the leadership of the Prime Minister, many people are doing good business in upazilas and even in rural areas. They should also be brought under tax net.

Salman F. Rahman also believes that if the currency of the countries from which the world imports more is traded, the pressure on the dollar will decrease.