Nation this week
Bangladesh Bank instructed seven banks that failed to clear their dues with foreign airline companies on time to adjust their payments as soon as possible. Md Abul Bashar, acting spokesperson of Bangladesh Bank, informed journalists about this development at a press briefing at the central bank headquarters in Dhaka. A number of media outlets reported that foreign airline companies are owed $214 million by the seven lenders operating in the country, he said.
The central bank collected data in this regard and found that the actual amount is $177.79 million, Bashar added. On June 4, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of some 300 airlines or 83 per cent of the total air traffic, said Bangladesh was the second worst in the world in terms of blocking funds of carriers after Nigeria. Bangladesh is withholding $214 million of airlines' funds, it said, warning that this could result in carriers not serving Bangladesh.
A severe heatwave has been sweeping across the country for, at the time of writing, more than a week. Meteorologists are saying this is unprecedented. There is no previous record of a heatwave oppressing the country for more than five days at a stretch. That was in June 1979, according to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD).
The Met Office counts the current heatwave from May 28. That means the heatwave has been sweeping across the country for 10 days at a stretch. Regionally its intensity varies, of course. In some parts the heatwave is mild, in some it is moderate while in others it got severe. The forecast is for it to continue for another four days. Although dwarfed in length, the severe heatwave that prevailed across the country from June 1-5 in 1979 saw the temperature cross 40 degrees Celsius every day.
The price of onions, that had been artificially inflated to reach Tk 90-100 per kg, started falling finally as the government lifted its ban on imports, resulting in a sharp fall in the wholesale price. One wholesale trader from the capital's Shyambazar told vernacular daily Prothom Alo onion prices had dropped sharply due to the arrival of imported onions. Price of local onions fell by more than Tk 50 a kg at the wholesale market, he added, in order to compete with the much cheaper foreign variety. Customs data from the land ports showed the price of imported onions was Tk 19 per kg, including customs duty and taxes.
According to Agriculture Ministry sources, the government gave permission to import 433,000 tonnes of onions from India over the first two days after announcing it would allow imports on Monday (Jun. 5). An import permit issued by the Plant Quarantine Wing (PQW) of the Department of Agricultural Extension is required. Earlier the Agriculture Ministry had suspended the import of onions from March 15, considering the interest of local farmers.
Parliamentary opposition Jatiya Party MPs vented their anger, hoping to capture in their delivery something of the public's anger or frustration over the loadshedding situation in the country during a discussion on the supplementary budget. They said the government had some successes in the power sector. However, the situation has changed drastically. The way that loadshedding is increasing, it might stoke public outrage. The situation would not have been such if the primary fuels for the energy industry - coal and gas - had been imported in time, they added.
In reply to the criticism from the opposition, the state minister for power and energy, Nasrul Hamid, asked everyone to have patience. He said, "The situation will become normal again within the next 15 to 20 days. We could not open the letter of credit (LC) in time. We could not import coal in time due to the global system and the financial crisis. As a result, we had to shut down the Payra power plant for the time being. We will reopen it within the next 15 days."
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