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Wed, September 29, 2004

Compiled by SDNP

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Involve private sector to better Ctg port services
Participants at Transparency International Bangladesh roundtable say
Star Business Report

The Daily Star

Speakers at a roundtable in Dhaka yesterday called for involving private sector in port management and introducing performance-based salary for both port and customs officials to check corruption and improve services.

The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) organised the roundtable following the launch of its report which revealed massive irregularities in the country's main seaport.

The participants urged the government to raise the number of members of the port management body to six incorporating two from private sector, which they said would help better services. They also called for engaging private companies for efficient services, supply and handling of equipment, which is presently at the dictate of Dock Workers Management Board.

Blaming the Dock Workers Management Board for the frequent strikes and go-slow approach, the speakers recommended abolishing it.

They also called for autonomy of the Chittagong Port Authority that will enable them to have control on finance by reducing influence of the shipping ministry which now controls the port management.

Transparency International Bangladesh yesterday formally released a research findings titled "Diagnostic Study: Chittagong Port" at a function at Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka. TIB prepared the study report after one-year research on the port activities during July 2003 to June 2004.

The TIB study revealed that Chittagong Port and customs officials extract about Tk 783 crore from importers and exporters in terms of bribe and tip a year.

Professor Muzaffer Ahmad, treasurer, Trustee Board of TIB formally released the report.

Of the total illegal transactions at the port, customs officials take Tk 451 crore and port staff Tk332 crore. Customs clearance for imported goods involves the highest volume of illegal transactions. The customs clearance for imported goods involves Tk 672 crore as bribe and tip, loading and unloading involves Tk 41 crore and export clearance Tk 70 crore, the TIB said.

The research identified that the average tip for loading and unloading of one tonne cargo was Tk 19 meaning total tip amounting to Tk 40.8 crore per year for loading and unloading stage only.

The research detected that an importer had to bear Tk 354 as additional charge for clearance of per tonne cargo from the port and customs officials while an exporter was forced to count Tk 285 as excess charge for a tonne cargo.

To overcome the present situation, the TIB has made a set of recommendations that include setting up of coordination committee incorporating all stakeholders including the port users, giving responsibility to agents to appoint stevedoring staff, drastically reducing import stage, installing close circuit camera to identify unscrupulous officers and check pilferage.

TIB also called for Amendment to Port Authority Act 1976 for making port authority an autonomous body.

Speaking at the function, Professor Muzaffer Ahmad said the illegal charges are increasing cost of business and reducing competitiveness of Bangladeshi products and services. The readymade garment (RMG) that faces challenges of quota-free regime within few months cannot improve lead time due to poor services of customs and port officials.

He said the stages for clearance for a consignment are much higher than other ports. But high layer of bureaucracy creates the stage for corruption.

"The government should urgently take steps to reduce bureaucracy and number of stages for getting clearance at the port. Competitiveness of Bangladeshi exports will largely depend on service quality at the port in quota-free era," he said.

He said the government may introduce performance-based salary and other incentive package for customs and port officials to cut corruption and improve service quality.

Addressing the function, Kamaluddin Ahmed, first vice-president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said the main problem of the port is trade unionism .

"So, the Dock Workers’ Management Board must be abolished immediately to bring back discipline at the port. The port authority should be reformed as a trustee board incorporating private sector in cargo handling and security issues," he said.

At present, the port authorities has permission to spend only Tk 1 crore as emergency expenditure and all the expenditure needs prior nod of the ministry reflecting ministry influence over the management. The management should be empowered to spend at least Tk 5 crore for any contingency expenditure.

Economist MM Akash said the government should introduce performance benefit and other incentives to officials of port and customs to cut corruption. "The government should follow 'carrot and stick policy' that offers reward for good performers and punishment for the rule breakers," he said.

Iftekhar Zaman of TIB said the government should take measures to discourage politics in the port because it is the politics that is the main cause for work stoppage and other unrest activities at the port.

Maintain ethics, standards to ensure transparency
Altaf asks chartered accountants
Star Business Report

The Daily Star

Auditing and accounting professionals should maintain ethics and efficiently apply standards in preparing balance sheets to ensure financial transparency, said Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury on Monday at a seminar.

He said preparation of financial statements must be measured against proper application and compliance with the Bangladesh Accounting Standards (BAS) and Bangladesh Standards on Auditing (BSA) to avoid corporate financial debacles.

He was speaking at a seminar on "Bangladesh Standards on Auditing" and launching ceremony of latest edition of BSA organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) at its auditorium.

"An audit of financial statements enables the auditor to express opinion whether the statements are prepared in accordance with the BAS," Altaf said adding that the corporate failures in the United States and other countries in last couple of years had caused loss of public confidence in the accountancy profession.

The minister assured the ICAB of all possible support of his ministry to uphold the 'sanctity of the accounting profession.'

The ICAB, which is the regulating body of the chartered accountancy, has so far adopted 30 BAS standards and 35 BSA standards on the basis of international accounting and auditing standards.

The ICAB President Akhtar Sohel Kasem said the institute is striving hard to introduce and enforce the accounting and auditing standards, which are the benchmarks of quality in auditing, in preparing financial statements.

The ICAB Vice-president Showkat Hossain, Controller General of Accounts Faruque M Siddiqui, former ICAB presidents Badrul Ahsan and A K Chowdhury were also present on the occasion.

Three-day cosmetics show begins tomorrow
Star Business Report

The Daily Star

The first-ever exhibition of cosmetics, toiletries and perfumeries begins tomorrow at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel.

Dhaka mayor Sadeq Hossain Khoka will inaugurate the three-day fair styled as 'COTOPEX 2004'. Advisor to Commerce Ministry Barkatullah Bulu will also attend the inauguration.

Four pavilions and 22 stalls will be set up in the show. Besides local companies, a number of firms from Thailand, Iran and Pakistan will display their products.

Kazi Wahidul Alam, managing director of Triune Group that organises the event, at a press briefing yesterday said the aim of the exhibition is to extend the export market of local products.

Alam, also chairman of COTOPEX 2004, said Bangladesh exported cosmetics and toiletries worth Tk 84.54 lakh in 2002-2003 fiscal year, which is twice the exports of 2001-2002 fiscal year.

"Demand for Bangladeshi toilet soaps is very high in India. Of the total cosmetics exports, 50.31 percent goods were exported to Singapore, a standard-conscious country, in the last fiscal year," he said, adding that the government should promote this potential sector.

Anjan Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Cosmetic and Toiletries Association, and Kazi Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, executive member of the association and Managing Director of Mousumi Industry, were also present at the function.

Square Toiletries Limited will sponsor the fair. And the Prothom Alo and Channel-i will give media support to the show, which will remain open to all from 10am to 8pm.

Indian entrepreneurs keen to invest in pharma sector
3-day pharma expo begins in Kolkata Dec 3
Star Business Report

The Daily Star

Indian pharmaceutical entrepreneurs yesterday in Dhaka expressed interest to set up joint ventures in Bangladesh and also urged local companies to look for partners from the neighbouring country.

Pharma companies of both the countries that have strong manufacturing base will benefit from the tie-up, said Puranjit Mukherjee, chairman of Exhibition Committee of the 56th Indian Pharmaceutical Congress, which will also feature Pharmaceutical Expo 2004.

Mukherjee was speaking at a function to urge Bangladeshi entrepreneurs to participate in the programme. Over 150 exhibitors from India and abroad and about 5000 delegates will attend the three-day congress.

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) -- the apex business body of India -- is the organiser of the pharmaceutical exposition to be held concurrently with the congress in Kolkata from December 3 to 5.

Pharmaceutical industry in India is one of the largest and advanced industries in the developing world, Mukherjee said, adding that Indian companies make more than 400 bulk drugs and 20,000 formulations.

Bangladesh has a strong pharmaceutical manufacturing base with a turnover of approximately 1,900 crore Indian rupees (Tk 2,450crore), noted Mukherjee.

Pharmaceutical Expo 2004 will further boost the bilateral business between the two countries, he said, adding that pharma professionals from Bangladesh will be able to get themselves updated from the deliberations at the congress.

Sanjay Ganjoo, senior assistant director of FICCI, and RR Das, an official of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, also spoke at the function.

Finance chiefs see brighter world economy, but storm clouds loom
AFP, Washington

The Daily Star

World finance chiefs meeting in Washington this week will express satisfaction with a rebounding global economy, but also highlight risks from surging oil prices, turmoil in Iraq and other factors.

Meetings this week of the Group of Seven finance officials and annual gatherings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank also are expected to give greater recognition to China's economic clout, and to discuss further debt relief to the world's poorest nations.

IMF managing director Rodrigo Rato said recently that the organization was likely to upgrade its forecast for global economic growth. He said the outlook for 2004, set to be released Wednesday, would be "slightly above" the April forecast of 4.6 percent.

Rato noted however that "some downside risks have increased," including a recent spike in crude oil prices. But he said that even though some recent economic data had been below expectations, "the recovery should continue in 2004 and through 2005."

A recent cooling trend in the United States and some other countries, however, has given pause to some economic forecasters.

"The slowdown was most pronounced in the United States and Japan, but also evident in many other industrialized economies," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for the economics firm Global Insight.

Behravesh said that while global growth probably peaked earlier this year, "we do not expect that the recent 'soft patch' augurs the beginning of a much deeper downturn."

He said so far the rise in oil prices has had only a small impact on economic growth, China is still growing and that US economy "will probably not run out of steam soon."

But Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach sees a much more troubling economic picture.

"The world economy is on a collision course," he said in a recent essay.

"With the world's growth dynamic now being effectively driven by just one consumer, America, and just one producer, China, the odds are growing short that such an increasingly tenuous arrangement can be sustained."

The IMF, which holds its annual meetings over the weekend along with its sister institution, the World Bank, is expected to repeat its call for the United States to cut its fiscal and trade deficits, and for Europe and Japan to boost economic growth.

Economists point out that the US current account and budget deficits are a major threat, which could lead to a dollar collapse that creates economic turbulence.

Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo Bank, said he does not see a catastrophic situation, but a potential for a slow deterioration in the US economy and living standards.

"The US will be able to raise enough money to fund the deficits. The issue is the source of funding and the price," he said.

Totalgaz organises 'LP Gas & Safety' programme

The Independent

A consumer training programme on 'LP Gas & Safety' was held at Savar first ever of its kind in the country.

Thirty-five LP Gas users of various brand were present at the programme arranged by Totalgaz. How to use LP gas safely was topic of the training and was conducted by Munira Sharmin, Managing Director of Totalgaz.

B. Vijay Kumar, Head of Marketing and Sales, Monzur Morshed Siddiqui, Area Sales Manager, Sarder Jahangir Alam, as well as distributor, Owner of Combat Lub House Md. Nazim Uddin were present at the programme.

Phoenix Leasing opens branch in Khulna

The Independent

Phoenix Leasing Company Ltd. opened its 3rd branch at Fetama Tower 2/A, KDA Avenue in Khulna recently.

A Quadir Choudhury, Managing Director of the company formally opened the branch. Kazi Emdadul Hoque, Deputy Managing Director, Ahamed Ali, senior chief manager, Sarder Mahbub Ali, assistant manager of the branch and other high official of local Bankers, Financial Institutions' official and elite of the Khulna city were present at the opening ceremony.

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