2nd meeting of Nepal-Finland bilateral consultation mechanism concludes


Kathmandu: The second meeting of the Nepal-Finland Bilateral Consultation Mechanism held in Kathmandu on Wednesday.

Chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)’s Europe America Division and joint-secretary led the Nepali delegation in the meeting while Deputy Secretary of the State for International Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pasi Hellman led the Finish team.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both the sides discussed the Nepal-Finland relations and bilateral cooperation.

The meeting reviewed the bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction on the current status of the Nepal-Finland ties.

Both the sides laid emphasis on exchanging high-level visits and enhancing partnerships.

The Nepali sides had extended gratefulness to Finland for its continued support in the areas of drinking water, sanitation, education and climate change. The Finland side had expressed its interest to expand development said to Nepal in the areas of innovative facilities, particularly
public sector investment facility.

Also discussed in the meeting were the matters related to mutual cooperation in the regional and global forums. Both the sides had agreed to work together in the global issues, including climate change and multilateralism in the multilateral forums.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

Eid-ul-Azha in Saudi Arabia on June 16

The crescent moon, which marks the beginning of Dhul-Hijjah 1445 AH-2024, has been sighted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on Thursday, June 6.

Therefore, Friday, June 7, will be the first day of the holy month, Arafat Day falls on Saturday, June 15 and Eid-ul-Azha will fall on Sunday, June 16, according to Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

Tk 100 cr proposed for research to create skilled medical professional

Finance Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali today proposed Taka 100 crore for the next fiscal year 2024-2025 for conducting health science research programme to create skilled manpower.

While placing the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, he said, “Training Management Information System (TMIS) – an online server-based software – has been introduced to conduct training activities digitally and integrate all information related to training.”

Several initiatives have been taken in the health care sector to meet future demand, the finnace minister said, adding special training materials are prepared with a view to creating specialized and skilled manpower (medical technician, experts) those who will be engaged for the management and operating of specialized technology/devices, operation and other useful activities.

Apart from development of health education infrastructure emphasis has also been given on formulating modern health education, Mahmood said.

Considering the health sector as a priority, Finance
Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali today proposed an allocation of Taka 41,407 crore for Health and Family Welfare sector in the next fiscal year 2024-2025 which was Taka 38,051 crore in the fiscal year 2023-2024.

While placing the budget in next fiscal year, the finance minister said, “For advancement of the medical sector, the Father of the Nation established the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) in 1972 and also specified its functions.”

He said noteworthy functions include development and organization of scientific research in various disciplines of health sciences, development and streamlining of scientific research in various disciplines of health, reproductive health and nutrition to identify issues and problems related to medical and health care needs and to take measures aimed at proper application and utilization of medical research results.

Following the principles of Father of the Nation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has undertaken and implemented extensive development programs in medica
l science research in the last 15 years.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

10th Int’l Yoga Day celebrated in Rajshahi

The 10th International Day of Yoga (IDY)-2024 was celebrated here today with a large number of people of different ages doing Yoga together.

Marking the day, the Assistant High Commission of India in Rajshahi and Indian Council for Cultural Relations jointly organised a session of Common Yoga Protocol at Lalon Shah Open Stage in the city in association with Quantum Foundation.

Sports associations, Yoga associations and institutes, students from various schools, colleges and universities participated in the celebrations of IDY.

Indian Assistant High Commissioner Monj Kumar, Commissioner of Rajshahi division Dr Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir, Principal of Rajshahi College Prof Abdul Khaleque, Pro-vice-chancellor of Varendra University Prof Ananda Kumar Shaha and Prof Monzurul Haque from the Department of Surgery of Barind Medical College and Hospital were present at the session.

Disseminating his expertise on the issue Prof Monzurul Haque, who conducted the yoga session, said regular yoga practice is very imp
ortant for both physical and mental happiness coupled with generating self-confidence and courage in human beings.

Yoga can also bring joy and peace in body and mind and its practice is very much significant to keep the body disease-free and workable.

He told the large-gathering that yoga plays an important role towards maintaining connection between body and mind.

Regular yoga practice reduces many physical disorders like high blood pressure, lever problem, constipation, skin disease, obesity, arthritis, asthma, diabetes and migraine.

In his remarks, Assistant High Commissioner Monj Kumar said yoga practice is a complete exercise method for human beings. It acts as a bigger antibiotic to protect the body from various diseases. Many of the physicians are now seen saying about exercise for physical fitness.

According to the present medical science, only medicines cannot be the means of sound health.

He, however, put emphasis on enhancing the requisite facilities for yoga practice together with generating
public awareness in this regard.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

Tk 30,317cr proposed for power and energy sector

Finance Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali today proposed allocating Taka 30,317 crore for the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in the budget for FY 2024-25.

“Considering the importance of the power and energy sector, I propose an allocation of Taka 30,317 crore in FY 2024-25. The allocation for this sector was Taka 34,819 crore in FY 2023-24,” he said in his budget speech.

Of the total Taka 30,317 crore, Taka 29,230 crore has been allocated for Power Division while Taka 1,087 crore for Energy and Mineral Resources Division in FY 2024-25.

In building a Smart Bangladesh by 2041, Mahmood Ali said, emphasis has been laid on smart power generation, transmission and distribution system, including the introduction of a smart grid system.

“Our government is attaching highest importance and top priority to the development of the power sector and is implementing various projects to improve the generation, transmission and distribution systems,” he said.

Already, in fulfillment of its pledge, the gove
rnment has brought 100 percent of the population under the electricity coverage and plans have been taken to increase the power generation capacity to 40,000 MW by 2030 and 60,000 MW by 2041, said Mahmood Ali.

He said there are plans to increase the power transmission lines to 24 thousand circuit kilometers by modernizing the grid.

Besides, the government has formulated Integrated Energy and Power Master Plan (IEPMP) as part of the integrated master plan for the power and energy sector, he said.

In 2009, the power generation capacity was only 4,942 MW, which has now increased to 30,277 MW (including the captive and renewable energy), Mahmood Ali said adding currently, 27 power plants with a capacity of 9,144 MW are under construction.

Per capita power generation increased from 220 KWh to 602 KWh, he said.

Following the construction of 7,246 circuit-km of transmission lines in the last 15 years, the total number of transmission lines has increased to 15,246 circuit-km, he said.

The total length of distri
bution lines stands at 6.43 lakh km, he said, adding electricity distribution system loss has been decreased from 14.33 percent in 2009 to 7.65 percent in 2023.

The minister said as part of the long-term master plan for power generation, a plan has been adopted to import about 9,000 MW of electricity from neighbouring countries by 2041 under regional and sub-regional cooperation programmes and a target of 40 percent of the total power generation from renewable energy has been set as 1,160 MW of electricity through grid interconnection and 1,600 MW from coal-based power plants are being supplied from India to the national grid of Bangladesh.

He said the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant construction project at Ishwardi in Pabna is under implementation.

After its implementation, a total of 2,400 MW of electricity in two units will be connected to the national grid, which will accelerate economic development of the country, he said.

“Considering the importance of renewable energy in building a developed, prosperou
s, smart and sustainable Bangladesh by 2041, I am proposing a special allocation of Taka 100 crore to encourage its development and use,” said Mahmood Ali.

Besides, electricity generation and transmission, smart prepaid or smart meter installation programmes have been taken up to increase transparency and accountability in this sector while around 63 lakh pre-paid or smart meters have been installed so far, he said.

Bill payment, grievance redressal and new connection processes have been brought under automation to improve the quality of customer service, he added.

“Our government is working relentlessly to ensure safe and adequate energy supply in the country. In January 2009, our gas production was 1,744 million cubic feet per day, which has now increased to about 2,100 million cubic feet. Besides, about 1,000-1,050 million cubic feet of imported LNG is being added to the national grid daily,” he said.

About 14 million tons of coal has been extracted from Barapukuria coal mine till January 2024, he said
.

To strengthen the energy security of the country, activities have been undertaken to increase the storage capacity of fuel oil to 60 days instead of 45 days, said the minister.

Mahmood Ali said in FY 2008-09, the storage capacity of fuel oil in the country was 8.94 lakh metric tons while in FY 2022-23 it increased to about 14 lakh.

To increase the refining capacity of Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL) from 15 lakh metric tons to 45 lakh metric tons to meet the fuel oil demand of the country ERL Unit-II project has been taken up, he said.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

Ali outlines plans for ‘Smart Bangladesh’ proposing Tk 7.97 lakh cr budget

Finance Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali today placed a Taka 7,97,000 crore national budget for the coming fiscal with a prime focus on maintaining economic stability and augmenting steps to materialise the government’s “Smart Bangladesh” vision.

The proposed budget during the new tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government tended to contain inflation as it appears to be major challenge in the existing global and domestic scenario.

“(But) this land, hallowed by immeasurable sacrifice and selflessness, has repeatedly stood resilient against all odds with unwavering conviction leveraging the collective endeavors of the people,” he said.

The Finance Minister said un-daunting people of Bangladesh are today the brave warriors of the irresistible march towards progress, awakened by the spirit of the great Liberation War.

Ali announced that the vision of ‘Smart Bangladesh’ would be realised through the integration of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and emphasised four key pillars –
Smart Citizens, Smart Economy, Smart Government, and Smart Society.

The finance minister started placing the budget at 3 pm at the Jatiya Sangsad in presence of the Leader of the House and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina while Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury chaired the budget session.

The 210-page budget speech titled “March Towards Smart Bangladesh Following the Path of Sustainable Development” highlighted 11 chapters including one for the pledge for building happy, prosperous, developed and smart Bangladesh.

Attired in a suite Ali delivered his maiden budget speech spanning nearly one and a half hour also proposing measures to maintain macroeconomic stability and enhance revenues amid the global uncertainties.

“The budget for the FY2024-25 has been prepared with a firm commitment to sustaining this trend in the future,” he said.

This is the country’s 53rd budget and the 25th of the Awami League (AL) government in six terms. This budget is also the 21st under the rule of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina i
n different terms.

Tajuddin Ahmad presented the country’s first budget as finance minister of the post-independence Bangabandhu government in 1972.

Ali said considering the current global political landscape and the state of the domestic macro economy, the government decided to take time-befitting fiscal sector reforms like digital transformation, tax net expansion and collection of non-tax revenue.

He, however, said administrative capacity was needed to be ensured for adequate resource mobilization.

A career diplomat by background Ali, who previously served as ministers for Disaster Management and Relief and Foreign Affairs, eyed for building a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ despite various obstacles and adversities.

Ali projected that under ‘Smart Bangladesh’, the country’s per capita income would reach at least $12,500, with less than 3 percent of the population living below the poverty line, and extreme poverty eradicated.

Despite the global volatile condition and adversities, Ali eyed a 6.75 percent GDP growth
while containing the inflation at 6.50 percent.

The general point to point inflation is still hovering slightly below the double digit mark albeit various efforts from the government to tame it.

The proposed budget size of Taka 7,97,000 crore is 4.60 percent or around Taka 35,215 crore higher than the budget of the outgoing fiscal FY24). The country’s GDP size has been estimated at Taka 55,97,414 crore.

The government, however, has reduced its expenditure by Taka 47,367 crore in the revised budget for the outgoing fiscal 2023-24, bringing it down to Taka 714,418 crore.

In the budget for FY24, total government expenditure was estimated at Taka 7,61,785 crore.

Regarding inflation, Ali said, “Inflation is one of our main challenges at present. To control inflation, we gave highest priority on decreasing demand and increasing supply in the past two budgets.”

In this context, he said to achieve macroeconomic objectives, supportive fiscal policies, such as reducing budget expenditure, discouraging less import
ant expenditures and various austerity measures have been adopted alongside pursuing a contractionary monetary policy.

Despite these measures, inflation in the country remains persistently above 9 percent primarily due to import-induced price increases and disruptions in the domestic supply chain, he noted.

“Therefore, we will follow fiscal consolidation as well as the reduction of the budget deficit, and will continue budget belt-tightening measures, even if on a limited scale in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” Ali added.

Given all these reforms and initiatives to augment revenue collection, a total of Taka 5,41,000 crore revenue income has been estimated for FY25, which accounts for 9.7 percent of the GDP.

Of which, it is proposed to collect Taka 4,80,000 crore through the National Board of Revenue, and Taka 61,000 crore from other sources.

Apart from already approved Annual Development Programme (ADP) outlay of Taka 2,65,000 crore, the proposed budget saw an estimated deficit of Taka 2,56,00
0 crore excluding grants. If the grants are considered, then the overall budget deficit stands at Taka 2,51,600 crore.

As the government wants to lower expenses, it eyes to contain the budget deficit to 4.6 percent of the gross domestic product in the next fiscal year. The government usually keeps the budget deficit at around 5 percent.

In the current fiscal year (FY24), the budget deficit is Taka 2,61,785 crore.

Apart from the original ADP allocation of Taka 2,65,000 crore, Taka 5,943 crore has been allocated for schemes, Taka 7,627 crore for special projects outside the ADP and Taka 2,884 crore for the food for work programme.

For the upcoming FY25, the budget size has been estimated to be Taka 7,97,000 crore, which is 14.2 percent of the GDP. A total of Taka 5,32,000 crore is proposed to be allocated for other expenditures including operating costs.

While allocating resources, emphasis has been given on the resource allocations for the ADP for investment and development of physical infrastructure.

In
the proposed budget, a total allocation of Taka 2,06,569 crore has been proposed for the social infrastructure, which constitutes 25.92 percent of the total allocation. For physical infrastructure, an allocation of Taka 2,16,111 crore has been proposed, which constitutes 27.12 percent of the total allocation.

For common service sector, an allocation of Taka 1,68,701 crore has been proposed, which comprises 21.17 percent of the total allocation. It is worthy of note that since 2022, the interest rate has been gradually increased with the aim of controlling inflation in the western world.

“As a result, we also had to increase the interest rate in our country, and simultaneously, there has been a significant depreciation of the currency against the US dollar,” he added.

In the budget for FY25, the expenditure on interest payments may increase significantly in this context. Therefore, a total of Taka 1,13,500 crore has been allocated for this purpose, which constitutes 14.24 percent of the total allocation.

I
n the proposed budget for FY25, the estimated deficit will stand at Taka 2,56,000 crore, which is 4.6 percent of GDP. The deficit was estimated to be 5.2 percent in the previous budget. “Within the total proposed budget deficit, I propose Taka 1,60,900 billion from domestic sources and Taka 95,100 billion from foreign sources for financing”.

The Finance Minister said emphasis will be laid on the following activities to transform Bangladesh into a developed, prosperous and smart country by 2041.

These include maintaining economic stability; ensuring an educational environment conducive to science education, scientific research and innovation, providing necessary support to agriculture sector and ensuring food security; improving and expanding basic health services; using technology at all levels including digitizing all possible services; developing physical infrastructure; optimising utilization of marine resources; ensuring disciplines in the financial sector; eliminating extreme poverty by 2031 and loweri
ng general poverty rate to 3 percent by 2041; taking steps to combat the effects of climate change; continuing zero tolerance policy against corruption.

While maintaining the budget deficit at a manageable level, reliance on external sources for deficit financing will be reduced.

“To control inflation, austerity measures will be maintained on a limited scale, but the scope of safety net programmes for low-income individuals from the pressure of high inflation will be expanded,” he added.

In this year’s budget, depending on the facilities given and withdrawn, prices of products may increase and decrease.

Prices may go up for phone and internet services; oils; cigarettes; CNG conversion kits, and cylinders; power plants; establishments at economic zones; air conditioners and refrigerators; water filters; LEED bulbs; cashew nuts.

Besides, prices may also increase for products such as ice cream, carbonated beverages, amusement parks, theme parks, and tourism services as the ministry also proposes VAT on thes
e sectors.

Prices may go down for essential commodities as the import duty of 30 essential commodities including rice, edible oil, sugar, chickpeas, milk and wheat have been proposed to be reduced.

The prices of other products which may go down include aircraft engines and propellers; powdered milk; chocolates’ laptops, motorcycles; dengue test kits; kidney treatment; cancer treatment; carpets; electric motors; methanol.

Besides, taxpayers, including companies and firms, with black money in Bangladesh have again gained the opportunity to legalise their undeclared wealth without having to face any questions about the sources of their income next fiscal year.

According to the proposed provision, no authority can raise any question if any taxpayer, including companies, pays a 15 percent tax on cash, bank deposits, financial securities, or any other forms of wealth.

Furthermore, they will have to count a specific tax on properties — land, buildings, flats, or commercial spaces — to whiten their wealth.

Be
sides, the ceiling of tax free income of the individual taxpayers has remained the same at Taka 3.50 lakh while the government is all set to curtail corporate income tax by 2.5 percentage points in a bid to encourage compliance with a condition of promoting cashless transactions.

Ali today proposed the 25 percent corporate tax to replace the existing 27.5 percent for non-listed companies, subject to one condition.

The Finance Minister said alongside controlling inflation, the budget for this fiscal year has been formulated with an emphasis on ensuring necessary funding for government priority sectors such as poverty alleviation, job creation, social safety net programs, education, health, agriculture, and climate change impact mitigation, thereby prioritizing future development trajectories.

Meanwhile, a Finance Ministry press release said that to make the budget more participatory, all the budget documents have been uploaded into the websites of the Finance Division www.mof.gov.bd the NBR www.nbr.gov.bd w
hile anyone can read and download these documents while browsing those websites.

Besides, anyone from home and abroad can send their opinions and recommendations on budget through the email [email protected].

The Finance Minister will hold a post-budget press conference tomorrow at 3:00 pm at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the capital.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha

Tk 7,474 cr proposed for Liberation War Affairs Ministry

The government has allocated Taka 7,474 crore for

the Liberation War Affairs Ministry in the proposed budget for the fiscal year (FY) 2024-25.

The allocation is Taka 246 core higher than the revised budget of Taka 7,243 crore of the previous FY 2023-24.

In his speech, Finance Minister AH Mahmood Ali said the government is relentlessly working to preserve the history, heritage, and memory of the great Liberation War and to ensure the welfare of the heroic freedom fighters. ollowing the directives of the Prime Minister, the monthly honorarium for all categories of freedom fighters has been increased to a minimum of Tk. 20,000 considering the socio-economic status of the freedom fighters. Furthermore, the honorarium for the martyrs, freedom fighters holding a title of honour, and war-wounded freedom fighters is now directly deposited into their bank accounts through the Government-to-Person (G2P) system, he said.

‘We are providing grants for freedom fighters’ honorarium, including festival

allowances, Benga
li New Year allowances, and Great Victory Day allowances for the

freedom fighters who are alive. There are also provisions for medical care and burial expenses after the death of the freedom fighters.’

He said with the objective of giving self-employment opportunities for the heroic freedom fighters and their children, the Bangladesh Rural Development Board continues to provide microcredit facilities. Moreover, the programme for issuance of smart cards and digital certificates to ensure the identity of these heroic freedom fighters who are included in the integrated list of the freedom fighters is underway, he added.

Ali said additionally, under the ‘Housing Construction Project for the Insolvent Freedom Fighters’ project, 30 thousand ‘Bir Nibas’ are being constructed at a cost of Tk 6097 crore, with the aim of providing free housing to the finest sons of the nation. In the meanwhile, 11057 Bir Nibas constructions have been completed and the construction of another 10889 is in progress.

Source: Banglades
h Sangbad Sangstha

Bangladesh endorses US initiative for lasting peace in Gaza

Bangladesh has expressed support for the initiative put forward by the United States of America (USA) to achieve a ceasefire, release of hostages and restoration of peace in the Gaza strip.

Bangladesh supported the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Qatar, and Egypt to agree on an initiative that guarantees a permanent ceasefire and the adequate delivery of aid to all parts of the Gaza Strip aiming to alleviate the suffering of the people there, a foreign ministry’s press release said here.

Dhaka also commended the mediation efforts undertaken by the Arab countries and the United States in this regard, it added.

While a ceasefire, and the immediate and complete withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from the Gaza Strip are essential, Bangladesh firmly believed that a two-state solution is the only viable path to ensuring lasting peace and security in the region.

International efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict is crucial, said the release.

Dhaka urged the internati
onal community to advocate and work for the end of the hostilities and support the effort to rebuild Gaza.

Bangladesh also urged the members of the UN Security Council to grant the State of Palestine full membership in the United Nations immediately, enabling the Palestinian people to realize their inalienable right to statehood.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha