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Eid to the poor

As most of the people of our country suffer from the worst of all diseases, 'poverty', they never get the chance to enjoy and share the joy of Eid. As the elders were busy discussing their stories of how the haggling for purchasing their sacrificial animals at the cattle market went, many street kids, even on the day of Eid were begging meat from door to door. The sad truth is that even if they got meat from different houses, they sold it somewhere as their family was not able to cook that meat for them. It's really sad For them, the Eid days are the only days when they can get some good food to eat. For a rickshaw puller, the Eid is the day when he gets some extra money. It's our duty to make them happy for everyday.


Indiscriminate killing of wildlife endangers humanity

Md. Atikur Rahman Humans, animals and plants are all important elements of the natural environment. But humans are cruelly destroying plants and animals and thereby creating a danger for all including themselves. Destruction of forests and other habitats is causing extinction of various plants and animals every day. These losses are particularly severe in the areas of tropical forests which although cover only 7% of the surface of the globe, but provide living space for 50% to 80% of all the world's wildlife. Many wild animals and birds such as pandas, bears, tigers, alligators, wolves, eagles, falcons, kites and buzzards are faced with the threat of extinction today.

Many animals die of starvation due to draught, winter and natural calamities. Their decline has been accelerated by the destruction of their feeding and nesting places, by the collection of their eggs, and above all by the widespread use of chemicals and pesticides which enter their food chains leading to sterility and mass deaths. Hunting of birds and animals is another cause of their extinction. In fact, indiscriminate killing of animals have already put many animal species to extinction or near extinction. Destruction of their natural habitats adds to the misery of animals forced to leave their dens for unsafe living. Displacement is often accompanied by scarcity of food and enhanced danger of being hunted. These displaced animals are exposed to many new dangers posed by man and other predators. We know that all species are important for maintaining ecological balance. If one is lost, the whole natural environment changes often for worse. In order to protect the environment from being spoilt, we should protect our wildlife. The good news is that many countries are now taking action to protect their endangered species. Conservationists are trying to create awareness among people for wildlife conservation. Scientists are warning of grave consequences and governments are coming up to protect wildlife species. We definitely support the proposition that government of our country should also enact more strict laws to protect its own wildlife. Many scientists and researchers have studied wildlife extinction and its effects. Animals and other living species are very important for our ecological balance. Animal species maintain a systematic balance in the wilderness, elimination of a number of species from the system may result in the systems atrophy. If we understand why people kill wildlife, we will better understand the issues of conservation. First, wildlife killing was a way of life in most primitive societies. Many agrarian and backward societies still view wildlife as sources of food. Secondly, predator animals are viewed as security threat to people and their livestock. Birds, rodents and other creeping animals often damage their harvest. Thirdly, poachers kill elephants and rhinos, take away their tasks. Ivory jewelries and ivory inlaid boxes have a lucrative market in the East, especially China and Japan. Awareness campaign and laws against killing, selling and trading will help to protect wildlife. For example, conservationist campaigns in the west throughout the 1980's have effectively reduced the use of expensive fashionable fur jackets once popular among women. In the face of international criticism, Japan government has banned whale killing and selling of its meat. Our government should not only enact rules to stop killing of animals, but also ban illegal trading of animals' meat, skin and tasks. The law should be enforced strictly while conservationist organizations can be used as ally. George Haycock, author of several books on wildlife, writes: Mankind must develop a concern for wild creatures and determination that these wild species will not perish. We should save the earth's wild creatures to save ourselves. To be kind to animals is to be kind to all. The writer is librarian, BIFT

Promoting renewable energy sources

Over half the households in Bangladesh have no connection to the national power grid, according to government statistics. The country's power plants can generate about 4,200 megawatts of electricity, but the demand is more than 5,500 megawatts a day. Only 30 per cent of our people have access to electricity, meaning the overwhelming majority still depends on kerosene and wood for meeting their daily energy needs. But now villagers are buying more solar panels, mostly on credit, from private organisations that promote renewable energy. The use of solar panels is growing, as a range of non-profit groups are now providing solar panels at a low cost across the country. As the government has committed to produce at least 5 percent of the country's energy through renewable sources by 2015, and 10 percent by 2020, it has to act fast to achieve the goal. --------xxxxx--------

How to troubleshoot the economy

Tackling soaring food inflation is a key challenge for the government. Photo: STARSadiq Ahmed

Bangladesh is facing serious macroeconomic challenges and I have written a lot explaining them in a series of articles published in The Daily Star and in The Financial Express. In this new article I am going to write specifically about how Bangladesh could address those challenges while also mobilising substantial external financing in a flexible form that will help both the balance of payments and the budget. This kind of financing will also be helpful in lowering inflationary pressures. It is fashionable in developing countries to blame the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for economic problems at home. Politicians in particular love scapegoating these institutions for their own mismanagement. I am going to argue that for a change the government of Bangladesh can turn around and use these international financial institutions (IFIs) to benefit the country. The trick is to put the country's interest first, apply the mind to developing an adjustment programme that is good for the country, and then use this adjustment programme to seek flexible balance of payments/budget support financing from the IFIs (including the Asian Development Bank). As a former director of economic management of the South Asia region of the World Bank, I have managed many budget support operations dealing with a range of countries as varied as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and a number of states in India (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkand, Karnataka, and Himachal Pradesh). In each of these cases, the political sell was done on the basis of empowering the concerned finance ministers to be in the driving seat. Being a South Asian, it was easy for me to play that role, but I can understand that it is often an exception than a normal situation in the IFIs. However, Bangladesh does have skills outside the government who can be mobilised on a need basis to help the government in various areas including macroeconomic management. In that spirit, I would like to offer the government a design of a home-grown programme that serves the needs of the country while also likely meeting the standards of the IFIs for financial support. What are Bangladesh's current macroeconomic challenges that the government needs to address to put the economy on a sound growth path? In summary, the immediate challenges are to reduce inflation, stabilise the exchange rate, and increase investment to support higher growth without creating further inflationary pressure. The solution requires reducing the growth of money supply to prudent levels, lowering the budget deficit, improving the financing of the budget deficit from inflationary to non-inflationary sources, diversifying and increasing the growth of exports, lowering the growth of imports to normal levels, attracting direct foreign investment, and mobilising flexible foreign financing that helps both the budget and the balance of payments. Given the objectives and the solutions, the design of the adjustment programme will need to be based on the following core policy actions, which I summarise under two broad categories: macroeconomic policies and structural policies.

The core macroeconomic policy reforms should include: (1) keeping the growth of money supply (technically known as broad money or M2) within prudent limits of 15-16 percent per year for the next 2-3 years; (2) containing the budget deficit to 5 percent of GDP (gross domestic product); (3) raising the tax to GDP ratio by 3 percentage points over the next 2-3 years by closing all the loopholes in income taxation including capital gains tax on real estate and gains from stockmarkets, and also introducing a broad-based property tax system; and (4) cutting back energy subsidy by half from the present unsustainable levels ($4 billion). The main structural reforms should include: (1) reforming the trade taxation regime including supplementary duties with a view to lowering and rationalising the nominal and effective rates of protection that is hurting export diversification; (2) streamlining annual development programme by systematically reviewing the relevance of the 1,200 plus ongoing investment projects and dropping all projects that are not relevant or consistent with the objectives and targets of the sixth five-year plan; (3) reforming the state-owned commercial banks by setting performance targets and putting them under the supervision of the Bangladesh Bank in order to ensure that they are in full compliance with all prudential norms; (4) decontrolling energy prices in a phased manner over a 2-3-year period so that they are no longer determined by the government but instead they are market-based (gasoline) or set by a regulatory authority (electricity and gas prices) based on international norms; (5) increasing public spending on health, education and social safety net programmes in a manner that is consistent with the growth of tax resources while keeping the budget deficit under 5 percent of the GDP range; and (6) reinvigorating the failed public-privatepartnership initiative for infrastructure financing by inviting firms (domestic or international) with internationally competent team and with a demonstrated track record of performance and good governance who could launch and manage this initiative under a fee based contract from the government. The above programme is in the best interest of the country and is politically feasible. It has only 10 policy actions that are very concrete in terms of being measurable and monitorable. By keeping the number of actions small, the programme is much more implementable and manageable than a programme with many more reforms. It will correct the macroeconomic imbalances while allowing higher investment rates, thereby supporting the growth momentum. The programme is also designed to improve equity by lowering inflation tax and increasing public spending on health, education and safety nets. It will of course hurt the rich by increasing taxes on income and wealth (as it should be) and by reducing open-ended energy subsidies. Some energy subsidies that directly benefit the poor (minimum threshold level of electricity consumption; subsidy on kerosene, etc) can be protected while phasing away most of the energy subsidies over a 2-3-year period. This programme can be easily taken to the IFIs for flexible financial support in the range of $2.0-$3.0 billion over a 23-year period. This way the programme is home-grown and not based on the dictates of the IFIs. A reform programme supported by the IFIs will also likely trigger additional capital flows from private sources in the form of foreign direct investment (FDIs). It is possible that the IFIs, especially the World Bank, will ask for one additional reform: anti-corruption measures. In principle this should be fine as the Prime Minister has publicly announced that the government has no tolerance for corruption. What the specific actions might be can be discussed and properly formulated for implementation. Actions against corruption will also unlock the impasse on the financing of the Padma Bridge. It looks and sounds simple. A citizen might ask why is this not done and where is the catch? The catch is whether the political forces are willing to put the country's interest first before their own interest. This is a tough challenge and I do not have a readymade answer. As a development economist I will only like to draw the attention of the government and other political forces in opposition that they must look around the world and see the economic and political turmoil going on elsewhere. The political fallouts in the Middle Eastern countries and in Africa and the economic turmoil in the US and Europe that is causing citizens to walk out in the street with demonstrations against corporate greed and incompetent public policies are clear indications that citizens globally want their governments to be much more responsive and sympathetic to their needs. A stitch in time saves nine. Letting economic problems fester for too long can be very costly and ought to be avoided.

The author is vice chairman of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh. He can be reached at

Harmful impacts of cartels on consumers

Munshi Abdul Ahad A cartel is an anti-competitive arrangement between two or more competing businesses. Anticompetitive agreements, particularly cartels, harm consumers in urbanised society, as well as in the emerging countries. In adding together, cartelised industrial sectors lack competition which certainly reduces competitiveness in the long run and may have a negative impact on the overall performance of a country's economy. Widespread shapes of cartels conduct are: price fixing, market sharing, bid rigging and output control. Price fixing take places when competing businesses make an agreement that has the purpose or effect of fixing, controlling or maintaining the price of goods or services prices. This may be in the form of agreed selling or buying; agreed minimum prices; agreed formula for pricing or discounting goods and services; agreed rebates, and allowances or credit terms. Such agreements may be in writing but are often informal and verbal. Market sharing refers to agreements between competitors that split up the market so that the participants are privileged from competition. Such agreements include allocating customers by geographic area; dividing contracts within an area; agreeing not to compete for established customers; agreeing not to produce each other's products or services; and agreeing not to expand into a competitor's market. The key is that competitors agree among themselves how the market will operate, rather than allowing competitive market forces to work.

Bid rigging comes about where two or more competitors agree they will not compete genuinely with each other for particular tenders, allowing one of the participants in the agreement to win the tender. Collusive tendering is a dangerous form of anti-competitive behaviour, some of the more common bid rigging tactics: Cover bidding -- competing businesses choose a winner while the others deliberately bid over an agreed amount, which ensures the selected bidder has the lowest tender and also helps to establish the illusion that the lowest bid is indeed competitive. Bid suppression -- a business agrees not to tender, thus ensuring that the pre-agreed participant will win the contract. Bid withdrawal -- a business withdraws its winning bid so that a competitor will be successful instead. Bid rotation -- competitors agree to take turns at winning business, while monitoring their market shares to ensure they all have a predetermined slice of the pie. Non-conforming bids -- businesses deliberately include terms and conditions that they know will not be acceptable to the purchasers, ensuring that they will not win the bid and that the pre-agreed business will be successful. Output controls, decided on between companies, can occur in the form of production or sales quota arrangements that involve an agreement between competitors to limit the volume of particular goods or services available on the market; they have the effect of inflating prices in the market. Output restrictions occur when the participants in an industry agree to prevent, restrict or limit supply. The purpose is to create scarcity in order to increase prices (or counter falling prices) while also protecting inefficient suppliers. Community, consumers, businesses and even governments can be forced to pay higher prices for goods and services. Cartels also distort economic markets, and serve to slow innovation -- after all, companies charging abnormal prices have little incentive to spend money on research and development. The fighting of cartels is given a high priority all over the world. Cartels that damage the interests of consumers are a very serious form of economic crime. However, identifying, detecting and proving cartels are a difficult task that requires a combination of law and economic competencies. Market economy and free trade promote growth and prosperity in structured market. There is a need of co-operation over the frontiers in order to achieve more effective functioning of markets. There are, however, different views on how cartels could be defined and detected and on what instruments competition authorities should use to fight cartels that are detrimental to consumers. Serious anti-competitive practices are, almost by definition, kept behind locked doors. Competition authorities have different ways and means to collect the necessary evidence that could bring these harmful practices to an end. Globalisation, the rapid development in the field of information technology, electronic commerce and the so-called new economy are all current phenomena that bring about new challenges for companies as well as for competition authorities. Bangladesh is going to enact an act styled Competition Policy and Law. The objective of competition law and policy is to eliminate such anticompetitive practices, including cartels, thereby enhancing consumer welfare and contributing to country's competitiveness. CUTS International (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) India is working to protect the interest of consumers and fashioning the awareness building against the cartelist activities. CUTS International called 5th December 2011 World Competition Day (WCD) with theme cartels and its harmful effects on the consumers. CUTS considers that an agenda to discipline cartels would provide multiple benefits both to the agency/government and consumers. Cartels steal billions of dollars from businesses, taxpayers and ultimately from consumers. Consumers benefit from competition through lower prices an d better choice and quality products and services.

The writer is a research fellow of Faculty of General Studies, Bangladesh University of Professionals. ----xxx---What Does Islam Say About Relationships? Whats Wrong With Having Boy/Girlfriends? In the name of Allah the most Beneficent and Merciful. Pre-marital relationships (boy/ girlfriends) are strictly Haram (forbidden) in Islam. For non permissible males to have a relationship with non permissible females is one of the major sins in todays era. Unfortunately we see this western influence spreading like an illness amongst the Muslim youth. As barriers of work and study have been relaxed by parents, as they would like to see their children prosper, it has brought its evils with it...