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PM Hasina calls for devising development projects in line with Delta Plan

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change as well as others concerned to frame development projects in coordination with the Delta Plan to avail of funding from the $1 billion in climate funds committed to Bangladesh.

The prime minister issued the directive while chairing a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) held at the NEC conference room in Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area on Tuesday.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the issue of availing of $1 billion in financing from the climate fund was discussed recently between French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

When availing of the fund, the Sundarbans would get the highest priority, said the minister.

While approving a road rehabilitation project, Mannan said, the prime minister asked ministry officials concerned and engineers to build more bridges and culverts in low-lying areas and haors where the pressure of water is immense in order to ensure smooth flow of water.

Sheikh Hasina also directed the officials and engineers to remain cautious about the designs and heights of infrastructures like bridges so that there is no need to demolish any structures after construction so as to not waste public funds.

Mannan said the premier asked the LGRD ministry and Wasas to take the necessary steps to gradually come to the recovery stage in their operations after coordinating with the production and distribution cost.

She stressed creating public awareness to prevent the misuse of water or maintaining austerity in the use of water.

The prime minister also directed the law ministry to take necessary steps to speedily dispose of tax-related cases of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) with the Supreme Court following legal procedures to enrich the state coffer.

Answering a question, Mannan said the ceiling of financing for Bangladesh from the climate fund is $1 billion.

State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam said the $1 billion fund has already been earmarked for Bangladesh, and necessary funding will be availed of through devising projects in line with the Delta Plan to save the county from the adverse impacts of climate change.

Turning to the issue of general point-to-point inflation, which increased in August, Mannan said inflation has increased, and the government is very much aware of it.

“We will address it like [we have done] in the past.”

“Hopefully, we will be able to reach the turning around point very soon. Inflation in August increased mainly because of high prices of chickens and eggs, which impacted other food items,” he said, adding that inflation in Bangladesh is not runaway inflation as inflation in Bangladesh increases gradually and also declines at a slower pace.

The planning minister said in an effort to recover from the massive economic devastation, the people of Sri Lanka have adjusted their living standards to a lower level.

Replying to a question, he said austerity will not be pursued to ensure the overall welfare of the people and in pursuit of real development.

Referring to remarks by the Prime Minister’s adviser, State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam said the government may consider increasing the interest rate to tame the inflation rate.

He, however, observed that a high interest rate might slow down the pace of investment, which could lead to reduced growth.

Dr Alam ruled out allegations that the government is printing money massively to contain inflation, before adding that the government needs to print money usually to replace old and torn bank notes.

He said the country usually witnesses high inflation in the months of August and September, adding that the country witnesses higher rainfall during this period, which hampers production and supply to some extent.

“But there was no such damage to crops due to flooding this year. Hopefully, inflation will start to come down again from November as there were no such supply disruptions,” he added.

Replying to a question, Dr Alam said due to policy interventions of the government, the general inflation remains within double digits despite global conditions, adding that otherwise, it could have reached 13-14%.

He said when inflation increases, it can increase rapidly, but when it starts to come down, the price rigidity factor matters.

Citing the example of Sri Lanka, the state minister said the country has increased its policy rate by 10% while its growth rate is negative. “But if our growth rate becomes negative, growth will be chocked and many will lose their jobs… The economic structure of Sri Lanka is different to us.”

Listing various measures of the government to rein in inflation, Dr Alam said duty has been reduced in rice imports to 15% from 60%, the policy rate has been increased twice, the cap on interest rate has been withdrawn, the amount of overall subsidies has been increased to strengthen the supply side, the full distribution of agricultural credit has been ensured while the devaluation of the taka has been ultimately working as an “incentive” for exporters.

Planning Division Secretary Satyajit Karmakar said the government now has the capacity to take out loans from development partners against projects and thus repay those timely.

At the very outset of the meeting, the planning minister said, Ecnec warmly congratulated the prime minister on her bright and lively participation at the G20 Summit held in New Delhi, and it has brightened further the image of the prime minister and the country abroad.

Mannan said Ecnec also noted that the recent visit of the French president to Bangladesh has brightened further the image of the country abroad.

The Ecnec meeting was also apprised of a report of the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), which states that Bangladesh will be among the top 20 economies by 2040.

Earlier in the Ecnec meeting, the planning minister handed over a publication titled “State of Development: Impact of Mega Projects” to the prime minister.

The publication was made by the Development Journalists Forum of Bangladesh (DJFB).

Source: Dhaka Tribune.

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