Jun 23, 2011 at 11:09 o\clock

Ex-PM's son Arafat Zia sentenced over bribes

by: bangladesh   Keywords: zia, Khaleda, Court

Arafat Zia DHAKA, Bangladesh – A Bangladesh court Thursday sentenced the fugitive son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to six years in jail for laundering money taken as bribes from two global companies — a verdict that could trigger violent protests by opposition parties.

Judge Mohammad Mozammel Hossain said in his verdict Arafat Rahman was guilty of smuggling more than 200 million takas ($2.66 million) to Singapore. The judge also fined Rahman 190 million takas ($2.53 million) and asked authorities to get the smuggled money returned.

Rahman, the younger son of Zia, was accused of taking bribes from China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd. and the Bangladesh subsidiary of Germany's industrial giant Siemens AG for helping them win government contracts during his mother's 2001-2006 premiership.

Defense lawyer Sanaullah Mia said the trial was politically motivated. Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main opposition party, did not accept the verdict and said it would demonstrate across the country on Sunday.

Bangladesh's fragile parliamentary democracy has a regular history of coercive opposition measures like calling general strikes and blocking highways. In the coming months it could increase its efforts to reach center stage in national politics, eyeing the next elections due in 2014.

Rahman was tried in absentia. He has been living in Bangkok since 2008 after he was released pending trial on the grounds of poor health. He later refused to return for trial.

The punishment will be effective from the day of Rahman's return or surrender, prosecution lawyer Mosharraf Hossain said.

Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman also faces several charges of corruption and misuse of power, and he lives in London for medical treatment.

The party has denied all charges against Zia's sons, saying the charges aim to destroy the image of the influential political family.

Both of them were arrested by a military-backed interim government before current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Zia's archrival, came to power through a 2008 election.

As a proof of Rahman's guilt, Hossain also referred to a 2009 move by the U.S. authorities that seized nearly $3 million related to a bribery scheme in Bangladesh involving Siemens.

Siemens pleaded guilty and had agreed to pay at least $450 million in fines to settle the U.S. corruption charges involving subsidiaries in Bangladesh, Venezuela and Argentina.

The United States had alleged that Siemens and China Harbor Engineering Company bribed Rahman to secure the contracts.

The U.S. said the bribes were routed through U.S. financial institutions, giving it jurisdiction.

Jun 18, 2011 at 13:15 o\clock

Leonardo Dicaprio supports Bangladesh bid to save tigers

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Tiger, Sundarban, forest

Save Tiger Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has backed a new wildlife protection initiative set up by Bangladesh to save endangered Royal Bengal Tigers from poachers.

The 'Titanic' actor, who launched the Save Tigers Now organisation to protect the big cats, has praised officials for setting up the Wildlife Crime Control unit.

"A bit of good news in an otherwise dire situation. Save Tigers now," Contactmusic quoted DiCaprio as tweeting as he posts a link to an article about the latest development.

DiCaprio is on a mission to raise 20 million dollars for the Save Tigers Now organization, which aims to double the tiger population by 2022. (ANI Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has backed a new wildlife protection initiative set up by Bangladesh to save endangered Royal Bengal Tigers from poachers.The 'Titanic' actor, who launched the Save Tigers Now organisation to protect the big cats, has praised officials for setting up the Wildlife Crime Control unit."A bit of good news in an otherwise dire situation. Save Tigers now," Contactmusic quoted DiCaprio as tweeting as he posts a link to an article about the latest development.DiCaprio is on a mission to raise 20 million dollars for the Save Tigers Now organization, which aims to double the tiger population by 2022. (ANI)

Jun 9, 2011 at 19:13 o\clock

Bangladesh budget takes aim at energy shortages,poverty

By Ruma Paul

DHAKA, June 9 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's government unveiled a budget for fiscal 2011/12 year on Thursday which increases spending on key sectors by nearly a third to tackle power shortages which are curbing growth and deterring investment.

Spending on key development needs such as power and transport will increase by 31 percent from this fiscal year to 460 billion taka ($6.3 billion), of which 60 percent would be provided by the government and the rest by overseas lenders, Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith told parliament as he presented the 1.6 trillion taka ($22 billion) budget.

Overall spending will increase 23 percent in the year from July 1 to 1.6 trillion taka, he said. The government aims to cap its deficit at 5 percent of gross domestic product in 2011/12, up from a revised 4.4 pct of GDP in 2010/11.

It is targeting a 27 percent rise in tax revenue to 1.18 trillion taka in the coming fiscal year, largely due to improvements in tax collection and crackdowns on evasion.

Bangladesh aims to bolster economic growth to a record 7 percent in the coming year, from 6.7 percent targeted in 2010/11, and expects inflation to ease slightly to 7.5 percent against a revised target of 8 percent this year, he said.

Price pressures are a major concern for the government as nearly 40 percent of the country's more than 150 million people live on less than $1.25 a day.

The budget is the third for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, which won office with promises to cut poverty, improve utilities, and produce and supply more energy.

The budget will ramp up social spending by providing subsidised grain to more of the country's poor and creating more jobs, promising some relief to those hit the hardest by high food costs, but sparking worries about its huge cost.


Relentless price rises are also straining government finances by amplifying its already huge subsidy bill.

The government will allocate 140 billion taka ($1.9 billion) in subsidies for fuel, power, food and fertiliser in the coming fiscal year. Its subsidy bill in the current year likely blew out to 143 billion taka from an original estimate of nearly 10.3 billion taka, largely due to higher global oil and commodity prices.

The government is hoping to trim subsidies modestly but will continue to face a growing burden even if it succeeds in capping total subsidies at 2 percent of GDP, barring a sharp reversal in global commodities prices.

Global lenders such as the IMF and the World Bank are pressing the government to raise oil, gas and electricity prices further.

The government increased prices for fuel and natural gas last month but the hike was a modest one. Further cuts in subsidies are bound to increase political pressure and spark more public protests.

General elections are not due until late 2013 but the opposition has been demanding earlier polls as food and other prices continue to rise.


"The budget may broadly be considered as 'growth friendly' with a significant rise in the targeted public outlay on priority sectors including power and energy," Mustafa K. Mujeri, director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, told Reuters.

"A major challenge for implementing the budget is to enhance the capacity of the ministries to implement the projects ensuring quality. Another challenge is the growing burden of subsidies for fuel, power, fertilizer, and food which might rise if global prices further increases."

"The real burden can be somewhat reduced if the government ensures the productive use of input subsidies and can reduce leakages," said Mujeri, also a former chief economist of the central bank.

Some economists said the new fiscal measures were achievable and likely to boost the economy if implemented. The country has a reputation for inefficient budget implementation. (Editing by Anis Ahmed, Ron Askew)

Jun 5, 2011 at 13:47 o\clock

Pop Guru Azam Khan passed away

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Azam, Khan, pop, star

Bangladesh pop legend Azam Khan dies at 61

Pop Star Dhaka, June 5, 2010 Dhaka -Bangladesh pop singer Mahbubul Haque Khan, popularly known as Azam Khan, died of throat cancer Sunday at the age of 61 at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Dhaka. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, a son and numerous admirers.

'We have lost a great friend of our cultural circle. It is an irreparable loss in our national life,' said Fakir Alamgir, also a popular Bangladeshi singer. A fighter in Bangladesh's 1971 war for independence, his songs were noted for pathos and inspiration. He also performed in two Bangladeshi films.

Azam Khan an extra ordinary pop musician was very close to the people of roots lavel. He saw his music works as uncovering the laws of the universe behind creation. He placed his trust in law rather than in individuals for they are subject to passion. We extend our condolence to family Azam Khan. May his soul rest in eternal peace and may almighty give all of you the strength to bear this irreplaceable loss. Amen !!! [Bangladesh Online]

Jun 4, 2011 at 10:36 o\clock

Asia Pacific Peace Conference - Hasina firm to eradicate militancy

Asia Pacific Peace Conference

BD-Economy DHAKA (NEWS BNN DESK) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday voiced her strong stance to eradicating terrorist and militant activities from Bangladesh at any cost to establish peace in the region.

“I am ready to face any sort of risk to my personal life for the sake of establishing peace in the region. I won’t tolerate any terrorism or militancy, nor allow doing so in any other country using the soil of Bangladesh,” she said.

Hasina announced her strong resolve at the inaugural session of the two-day Asia Pacific Peace Conference at Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the city.

The inaugural session of the conference, organised by Bangladesh Peace Council, was chaired by its President Abdur Razzak, also former water resources minister.

Representatives from different countries including Palestine, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bhutan, India, Australia and Nepal also spoke on the occasion.

Jun 1, 2011 at 18:37 o\clock

Bangladesh economy growth 'best in decades'

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh's economy has grown at its highest rate in decades, driven by resurgent exports and a strong performance by the usually sluggish farm sector, officials said on Tuesday.

BD-Economy The economy expanded by 6.66 percent in the 12 months to June, the fastest pace since the early 1970s when it was boosted by recovery following Bangladesh's victory in its war of independence with Pakistan.

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, which announces annual growth figures a month before the country's financial year ends in June, also revised its figures for 2009-10 growth upwards to 6.07 percent from a provisional estimate of 5.54 percent.

"The 6.66 percent growth is the highest in recent decades," BBS chief Shahjahan Ali Molla told AFP.

An official at the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics said it was the fastest rate of growth for Bangladesh since 1973-74 when the economy grew by 9.59 percent. Bangladesh has targeted growth of seven percent for the next financial year beginning on July 1.

Last year's growth was powered by the country's resurgent manufacturing sector and higher crop yields, the secretary of the government's general economic division, Shamsul Alam, told AFP.

"Manufacturing was driven by an impressive 42 percent export growth in garment products. Agriculture also shone because of record outputs of rice, wheat and some other crops -- thanks to favourable weather," he said.

The World Bank had projected a 6.3 percent growth rate for Bangladesh, with a population of 150 million people, which is still one of the world's most impoverished nations, with nearly 40 percent of people living below the poverty line.

According to the statistics bureau, manufacturing expanded by 9.51 percent overall with major industries clocking 10.41 percent growth as garment shipments soared following a dramatic surge in orders diverted from an increasingly costly China.

The country has been benefited from rising wages in China that prompted many of the world's top retailers such as Wal-Mart to go bargain-hunting in Bangladesh, analysts said.

Garment export growth was just three percent in the 2009-2010 as demand for low-cost Bangladeshi goods fell sharply in the wake of the global financial crisis. But the country's total foreign trade is now expected to grow 40 percent to a record $50 billion dollars in this financial year.

"Manufacturing and agriculture have done tremendously well this year," said Ahsan H. Mansur, a former senior official of the International Monetary Fund and the head of local think-tank Policy Research Institute.

"Garments, which account for 40 percent of our industrial activities, alone added two percentage points to growth," he said, adding the country's overall growth target of seven percent for the next financial year was reasonable.

At the weekend, the government unveiled a record $6.4 billion development spending for the next year to boost the economy. Power generation got the highest allocation of $1.2 billion in a bid to ease crippling electricity cuts, which have for years taken a toll on manufacturing growth.