We're looking for alternatives: PM on coronavirus' raw materials import from China
12:00 AM, February 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:57 AM, February 19, 2020

We're looking for alternatives: PM about coronavirus' impact on imports from China

"We're facing a little problem; many things have to be imported from China. But we're cautious enough," she said in parliament. 

The prime minister was taking part in a discussion on the thanksgiving motion on the president's speech. It was her concluding speech at the sixth session of the current parliament.

"We're taking steps to import raw materials, including chemicals, for the pharmaceutical industry … we're enquiring about the alternatives, we're taking measures to import even from markets that may cost us more. There's nothing to panic about." 

She urged businesspeople not to stock any essential items out of fear, warning that if they do so, that might be a waste.

Hasina also claimed that Bangladesh is now economically stronger than Singapore. "I can at least claim that we are stronger than Singapore in terms of economic progress," she said.

Earlier, in her valedictory speech in the House, Opposition Leader Raushan Ershad asked how did Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal say Bangladesh would cross Singapore in terms of economic progress.

Hasina said, "But I will say that Singapore is a small country with a smaller population. The [Singapore] country is a disciplined one. We are a small country but we have more population."

She said that ensuring development in Bangladesh was very tough. "Besides, Singapore has no opposition [party]. There is a state-run newspaper in Singapore and that newspaper is controlled by the government.

"Ensuring development in Singapore is easy due to the political and economic environment that prevails in the country. On the contrary, we have to face arson attacks, killing and torture."

She also said Bangladesh was receiving a huge amount in investments.

"Bangladesh is the most attractive destination for investment in the South East and South Asia … Not only among the South Asian countries, we are also ahead among the South Eastern countries."

In her speech, Raushan also said, "Many take out loan but don't invest the money. The money is being siphoned off abroad … there is no money at banks, there has been a debacle in share market … how the country will cross Malaysia and Singapore?".

In reply, Hasina said there was enough money at banks.

"She [Raushan] said there is no money in banks but our reserve now stands at $32b. There is no problem. If there was no money at banks, how are we carrying out all these development works?

"I will urge her [Raushan] to read the president's address in parliament. It will help her forget her frustrations".

Raushan said many Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia were passing their days in agony. "I met many of them in Saudi Arabia. They broke down in tears. They said they were not getting work or proper wages."

On this issue, Hasina urged Bangladeshis wishing to go abroad to work to properly follow the procedures.

"Expatriate Bangladeshis who go abroad through the wrong path, through middlemen, they face problem. We have to bring them back spending our money.

"I don't understand why they go abroad through middleman. There is Probashi Kallyan Bank, they can take loan from there, they do not need to go abroad by selling their home and land."

Referring to rape incidents, Hasina termed rapists beasts and said her government announced a zero tolerance policy against rapists. She urged people to help law enforcers arrest those involved in the crime.

"How can a person have such a heinous character? We're taking proper action against them as we did against [those involved in] militancy and illegal drug trade. The government will surely take legal action against such criminals."

Raushan also claimed there were hardly any anti-mosquito drives in the city and that the authorities hardly care for its waste management. "We will not give any tax. Why will we pay tax as there is no service?" she asked.

She also criticised Education Minister Dipu Moni, saying she stays abroad most of the time. "She [Dipu Moni] remain absent in parliament. She stays abroad. How will there be improvement in the education sector?"

The sixth session, which is the first session of the calendar year, was prorogued yesterday after 28 sittings. Seven bills were passed during the session, which began on January 9.

The session also unanimously adopted a thanksgiving motion on the president's speech delivered in the first sitting. Altogether, 224 MPs spent 54 hours and 24 minutes participating in the general discussion on the thanksgiving motion.

Hasina's comments came at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has left large swathes of China's factories as desolate as a ghost town. The country's latest official figures released yesterday put the overall death toll at 1,868 and 72,436 infections.

In such a situation, many of Bangladesh's manufacturers are left playing a nervous waiting game: will normal service resume anytime soon in China?

Bangladesh imports the most from China, starting from the simplest needle to high-tech capital machinery, industrial raw materials to finished consumer goods and foodstuff.

Last fiscal year, about 26 percent of Bangladesh's imports worth $52.19 billion came from China, according to the central bank's country and commodity wise import data. A year earlier, the share of imports from China was 23.8 percent.

At a press conference at the capital's Jatiya Press Club on Monday, the Chinese envoy in Dhaka, Li Jiming said, "In view of these concerns of the business community, I would like to say, please have faith in China and rest assured. Right now China is making huge economic sacrifices to contain the virus. Chinese companies are also losing money both at home and abroad, and many Chinese projects are being halted."

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