The government is likely to float a tender on March 10 inviting international bidding for companies to explore for oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal. "We're hopeful a good number of companies will participate in the bidding round," chairman of Petrobangla Zanendra Nath Sarker told media recently. According to Petrobangla officials, the state hydrocarbon corporation, the bid invitation document will be published in different local newspapers. In addition, it will be published on the websites of Implementation Monitoring and. Evaluation Division (IMED) and Bangladesh's foreign mission abroad, they said.

Besides, the Petrobangla has a plan to hold a press conference on March 11 to brief the media about the plan and other nitty-gritty of the initiatives. Prime Minister's Energy Advisor Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury told our sister newsagency UNB that the government will try to wrap up the bidding in the next 6 months. Many foreign companies have contacted the government and expressed their interest to join the bidding round, he said.

The rate of inflation in Bangladesh fell slightly to 9.67 percent in February compared to 9.86 percent in January, which meant inflation continued to hover close to the double figure mark for 12 consecutive months. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), food inflation rate stood at 9.44 percent in February, while non-food inflation was 9.33 percent. In January, food inflation was 9.56 percent and the non-food inflation rate was 9.42 percent.

The food inflation had soared to 12.54 percent in August last year, before finally dipping back to 10.76 percent in November. Meanwhile, the wage growth rate in February marginally rose to 7.78 percent, however, it has been lagging behind inflation for the past 25 months. The president of the Bangladesh Chamber of Industries Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury (Parvez) recently said that domestic industries have been facing tough challenges due to high inflation and high rate of interest on bank loans.

Personal information of individuals registered with the country's Smart National Identity Card (NID) system was reportedly available on several Telegram channels, with instances of buying and selling such data coming to light. A quarter with vested interest has recently emerged, engaging in the illicit trade of customer data. To elevate the prominence of such data trading, there have been attempts to associate the names of reputable mobile banking institutions with the illegal trade.

According to Md Hassan Shahriar Fahim, managing director of cybersecurity firm Octagram, what began with the exploitation of Telegram bots has evolved into a more organised operation, with perpetrators setting up a dedicated website alongside Telegram channels to facilitate this illicit trade. These individuals are also actively advertising on social media platforms, falsely claiming to hold customer information from reputable Mobile Financial Services (MFS), thus aiming to mislead and deceive customers through various tactics.

A record number of Bangladeshis sought asylum in the EU Plus (EU and neighbouring European countries) region last year. According to the information released by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), 40,332 Bangladeshi nationals submitted applications seeking asylum in the EU Plus countries. Among them, 20,926 Bangladeshis applied for asylum from January to June, while an additional 19,406 submitted asylum applications in Europe from July to December in 2023.

According to EUAA statistics, 2023 witnessed the highest number of Bangladeshis applying for asylum in EU Plus in the past nine years. The organisation's website reveals that 33,731 Bangladeshis applied for asylum in 2022, followed by 19,994 in 2021, 11,269 in 2020, 14,375 in 2019, 13,340 in 2018, 19,128 in 2017 and 15,087 in 2016. Italy emerged as the primary destination for Bangladeshi asylum applications last year, constituting 58% of all Bangladeshi asylum applications in the EU Plus region.

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