Ms. Annette Dixon, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region has stated that World Bank will strongly support Bangladesh in its development efforts. She expressed happiness on the way Bangladesh is progressing in terms of economic development and poverty reduction. The World Bank has classified Bangladesh as a lower-middle country but Ms. Dixon assured that all support will be provided to Bangladesh to help it to move up within middle income country status. She believes that in order to continue its progress Bangladesh will need continuing reforms. In order to help Bangladesh in the best possible way, The World Bank is working on a Country Partnership Framework which will serve as a guide towards its involvement in the country.
The Country Partnership Framework is being prepared in such a way that it will be aligned with Bangladesh’s seventh five year plan. It will even follow the same planning cycle as the current five year plan. World Bank believes that providing more and better employment opportunities to its citizens, creating a key driver for growth, and ensuring shared prosperity should be the main priorities for Bangladesh and it will help in all of these areas. The World Bank will also continue its ongoing work in supporting Bangladesh to obtain sufficient power, improve transportation, manage urbanization, improve health facilities, and ensure better education to its children and youth.
Bangladesh’s foreign currency reserves keep showing an upwards trend as they crossed $26 billion mark for the first time in history on August 17, 2015. On this date the exact figure for the forex reserve was $26.03 billion which showed an increase of 17.8 percent as compared to last year. This is good news for Bangladesh as the current forex reserve puts it in a very good position and makes it possible for it to meet all of its import bills for the next seven months. It also provides resilience to the country’s economy making it capable of withstanding any external or even internal economic shock. The growing forex reserves are helping to create better economic conditions by enabling thof Bangladesh to maintain a stable exchange rate.
The central bank accredited the increase in forex to foreign direct investments (FDIs), earnings from exports, foreign sourced loans, and remittance. Bangladesh’s import bills have also been seeing a decline for some time and that has also played its role in making the foreign currency reserves jump. Food grains and petroleum products are among the main imports for Bangladesh and the bills for both of these categories have reduced. Imports in the garment sector have also gone down as instead of importing the accessories used in this sector Bangladesh is now getting them from local industries.
The Central bank of Bangladesh was much relieved to see a drop in the number of default loans. The political disturbance in Bangladesh led to the increase in bad loans during the January to Match 2015 period. In March 2015, 10.47 percent of the total loans awarded by the bank were bad loans. However, by June, 2015 this percentage dropped to 9.67 percent. At the end of March’s, defaults stood at Tk 54,658 crore but in the second quarter of the year the default loans dropped 3.91 percent to Tk 52,519 crore.
Except or foreign lenders, all other banks saw a decrease in defaults in the period ranging from April to June. Specialized banks saw a huge improvement in situation as their soured looks decreased by 21 percent. The government owned commercial banks saw a decline of 1.12 percent in their sour loans. The big decrease in the default loans of BASIC Bank is one of the biggest factors contributing to the decrease in default loan figures over all government banks. BASIC Bank’s defaults were 57 percent of their outstanding loans amounting to Tk 5,080 crore in March. In June, default loans dropped to 47 percent of outstanding loans amounting to Tk 4,308 crore.
BASIC Bank made a lot of efforts in an attempt to retrieve loans including rescheduling the bad loans and showing the as regular ones which also made the bank’s balance sheet look stronger. Some of the bad loans were the result of forgeries and they amounted to over Tk 3,000 crore. This entire amount was transferred to a block account to show a healthy balance sheet. Defaults at private banks also fell down by 1.12 percent at the end of June. However, bad loans of the foreign banks bad loans increased by 5.6 percent during this period.
Bhutan has been the most reclusive among all of the South Asian countries and throughout its history it has mostly remained closed for the outsiders. However, recently this mysterious and breathtakingly beautiful Himalayan kingdom gradually started opening up its doors to the outside world as it began its journey towards embracing democracy. The transition from absolute monarchy to multi-party democracy has been a huge stride forward for Bhutan. The first democratic elections in this nation began in 2007 but the roots of this transformation had been laid a bit earlier in December 2006 when the fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, abdicated all of his powers as King to his son, Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.This was a well thought out move carried out with the particular motive of readying the young King for the country’s political metamorphosis in to a multi-party democracy.
Incidentally, 2006 was also the year when Bhutan’s first independent newspaper started. The name of this newspaper was ‘Bhutan Times’ and it started circulating the nation in April, 2006. This was a giant leap forward for the media of Bhutan as prior to this all media here had been government owned. In the later part of the same year, Bhutan got its second independent newspaper named ‘Bhutan Observer’. Today Bhutan has one government majority-owned newspaper and five private newspapers that operate freely and have the freedom to criticize government policies when they don’t agree with them. This might seem quite natural to the outsiders but it’s a completely new experience for the residents of Bhutan who have lived an era where saying anything against the government was a taboo. According to Bunty Avieson, who worked as a consultant for ‘Bhutan Observer’, the people of Bhutan were not used to looking at their culture from an outsider’s point of view.
Now that the residents of Bhutan have started to get used to democracy and its underlying principles, they have become more comfortable with looking inside their own culture and even discussing the problems and issues that need to be addressed. In earlier times, everything was accepted as is because no criticism was allowed and there wasn’t even any platform for bringing up societal issues. Until the year 1999, Bhutan did not have television and that explains how far it was lagging behind the rest of the world. Today, things have started to change and social media has been a major factor behind bringing about this change. The social media revolution in Bhutan has propelled the country many decades forward in a very short span of time. Despite the fact that it ventured into the web age late, online networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have caught on very quickly in the country.
Today there are an expected 80,000 Facebook clients in Bhutan, which amounts to more than 10 percent of its populace. Buddhist Bhutan used to be a profoundly restricted nation where contradiction and feedback were uncommon. Be that as it may, online networking is providing an open platform to Bhutanese youth where they can express their perspectives and power positive change.
Bhutan’s government lifted restrictions on loan in September last year and this is showing a positive effect as the credit given by financial institutions’ (FIs) to different sectors has grown by about Nu 9.2B. In August last year FI’s contribution to credit was Nu 61.46B and this year by May it has already reached Nu 70.66B. The highest credit growth has been seen in the tourism sector which reached Nu 11B in May this year. The trade and commerce is at the second spot and the construction sector has also seen significant growth and it stands at the third place in terms of credit growth. The growth in credit can be interpreted to mean that economic activities are picking up which in turn is leading to more investments.
Agriculture employs about 56 percent of the people in Bhutan and it is heartening to see that the credit to this sector has increased as well. The total money lent to various sectors equals 67 percent of Bhutan’s GDP which can both be a good thing and a bad thing. It can be a good thing as this money will into some form of investment which will lead to the increase production of goods and services. The downside can be over consumption which can worsen the balance of payment. The Bank of Bhutan has contributed the maximum credit which is about 30 percent of the total credit while Bhutan National Bank is at second place with 28 percent. In 2014, Bhutan experienced a very low GDP growth rate of at 2.1 percent but this year is looking good as GDP is expected to grow by 6.8 percent.
Ziro Festival of Music is a popular event held in Arunachal Pradesh every year. Ziro is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh which is in the running for being declared a World Heritage Site. It’s a charming beautiful valley town with breathtaking scenic and picturesque locales. This town has been hosting the musical event for four years now and each year the popularity of this musical festival is growing by leaps and bounds. Last year’s Ziro Music Festival was a huge success and it featured well known and accomplished Indian musicians and bands such as Indus Creed, Omak Komut Collective, The Vinyl Records, menwhopause , Prateek Kuhad, Taba Chake, Guru Rewben Mashangva, Warklung, Tankbund, The Ganesh Talkies, Yesterdrive, The Superfuzz, The Ska Vengers, and The Supersonics. Newer bands like We The Giants from Nagaland and Freddy’s Nightmare from Mizoram also made their presence felt and thoroughly entertained the crowd.
Last year’s Ziro Music Festival offered immense variety to the whole wide range of music lovers as most contemporary musical genres were represented. This year’s artist lineup promises that Ziro Festival of Music 2015 is sure to be another great event. The artists expected to entertain the guests this year include alternative/electro-rock band The F16s, electronica producer-guitarist Dualist Inquiry, electro organic act Nicholson, four-piece acoustic rock band Neel and The Lightbulbs, singer-songwriter Dayglocrazie, Indie folk act Run! It’s the Kid, Pune musician Gowri Jayakumar, guitarist composer Takar Nabam, Burmese indie rock-punk outfit Side Effect, eclectic artist group North and another band from Delhi named The Pilgrim. Festival attendees will also get a chance to explore the beautiful nature of the region through bird-watching treks, heritage walks, and cycling trips. One can also watch presentations of tribal dance, buy handicrafts, and enjoy regional cuisine.The scheduled dates for the event are September 24 to 27, 2015.
A very specialized hydro-breaking (HF) work strategy has been introduced by the Tripura division of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). As per ONGC, the reason behind this move is to intensify exploration of natural gas so as to be able to meet the increasing needs of the state.So, far 190 wells have been dug up in Tripura out of which 94 wells have been found to be gas bearing.HF technology is being currently utilized in Khubal and Baramura fields. Baramura is an ageing oil field where the productions have considerably declined. The use of HF technology is expected to help in increasing production from tight sands of the region. The discovery of commercial gas in Khubal occurred in early 2009 after which ONGC dug seven wells in the region.
Out of these seven wells, two are oil bearing and HF technology is being used here in order to enhance the production from these two wells. ONGC has plans to engage two more high power rigs at Khubal so as to explore two more gas wells. The main goal is to find out the genuine capability of gas reserve there. ONGC expects to obtain 20,000 to 25000 lakh cubic meter gas from a well where HF technology is being utilized. Tripura state government has begun an initiative that aims at setting up a fertilizer plant in Unakoti district. Speaking on this matter, ONGC’s Tripura Asset Manager, Mr. V. P. Mahawar said that ONGC will be willing to invest in the project once it is assured that the plant will be able to offer gas supply for at least 15 years.
August 24, 2015 proved to be a historic day for Nagaland as this was the day when a peace accord was signed between the Government of India and the rebel Naga group NSCN-IM. The issue of Naga insurgency has been a grave danger and a big cause of worry for both the residents of northeastern states and the Indian government. The issue of Nagaland goes as a back as the year 1881 when Naga Hills became a part of British India. The Naga leaders have wanted a separate and independent Naga state. However, with time the demands of most of the rebel factions have somewhat changed. Now they are not demanding Independence from India but they want all Naga-inhabited contiguous areas to be combined into one state which they call ‘Greater Nagalim’.
The current area of Nagaland 16,527 sq. km but the map of Greater Nagalim as claimed by the Naga insurgent parties has about 1,20,000 sq. km of land. They are claiming several districts from the Indian states of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur and along with that they are also want a large tract of Myanmar to be a part of the Naga state. This is one of the main reasons why other northeastern states especially Assam, Arunachal and Manipur have been wary of peace settlements with the Naga rebels as they fear it will affect their territories. However, after the current peace deal Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has stated that no change in current boundaries has been promised. He further stated that this deal will benefit entire northeast. Mr. Modi further said that India will develop only if the northeast develops. The peace and stability brought in the region will pave the way for development and prosperity.
The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has decided on setting up six solar cities in northeast. The six cities which will benefit from this Solar Cities Program include Kohima and Dimapur in Nagaland, Guwahati and Jorhat in Assam, Agartala in Tripura, and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. The program is being implemented at a swift pace in Tripura and Agartala is all set to become northeast region’s first solar city. Agartala is the second biggest city in the northeast with Guwahati being the biggest. In the initial phase of the program, many of the street lights and some other lights as well will be replaced by solar lights and it is expected to reduce 10 percent the power use. Northeast is facing an electricity crisis at the moment and the use of solar power can help in resolving it.
As per the Solar Cities Program, some other steps will also be taken to shift the use of power towards solar energy. Current electricity powered hot water systems being used in hospitals, health centers, nursing homes, hotels, tourist lodges, school hostels, temples, government circuit houses, government bungalows and even the governor`s residence will be replaced by Solar hot water systems. In the northeast, 90 percent of the cost of the program will be borne by MNRE and the state governments will bear the remaining 10 percent. In other parts of the country, state governments will bear 30 percent of the cost and 70 percent will be borne by MNRE. In order to increase public awareness about solar energy and to make it appealing to public, lakhs of specially-designed ‘solar caps’ and ‘solar torches’ would be distributed among rickshaw pullers and students.