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ICT exports can fetch $250m
Imports record 23pc rise

          Country's overall import recorded a substantial increase during the first half of the current fiscal year with scrap vessels, rice, wheat and fertiliser remaining at the top of the shopping list, reports online news agency BDNEWS.
Bangladesh Bank records show that the imports increased by 23.2 per cent in July-January period of 2004-05 over that of the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.
Scrap vessels import shot up by more than five fold from US$ 35.77 million to US$ 236.25 million, rice from US$ 112.86 million to US$ 229.66 million, wheat from US$ 146.33 million to US$ 306.03 million and fertiliser from US$ 133.44 to US$ 284.18 million.
However, the LCs opened during the month of January 2005 was worth $1236.98 million which was 1.38 per cent lower than the LCs opened during December 2004.
The total value of import LCs opened during July 2004-January 05 was $8223.64 million compared to $6675.22 million of the corresponding period of previous fiscal. Import LCs worth $4958.42 million remained outstanding until January 31 last, said Bangladesh Bank statistics.
Meanwhile BSS reports from Chittagong adds: The country's present annual export earnings of about $50 million from the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector can be increased five-fold within less then next five years through efforts for exploiting its vast potential.
The sector can easily emerge as the second biggest export earning domain for the country after the readymade garments. Such views were expressed by speakers at a seminar on "Strategies to be taken for increasing export of ICT sector from Bangladesh" in Chittagong Monday.
The Chittagong office of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) organised the seminar, in collaboration with the Bangladesh Garments Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BGMEA) at the latter's conference room.
Shawkat Osman, a BGMEA member presided over the seminar.
BGMEA first vice president M A Salam was the chief guest while Habibullah N Karim, a leading ICT services exporter attended it as the key-resource person.
EPB director Mohammad Manzur-e-Elahi, Chittagong Women Entrepreneurs Association president Mrs Monwara Hakim Ali participated in the discussion as the special guests.
M A Salam said there is an urgent need for widening the country's current export basket. The overwhelming dependence on a single item in this competitive and rapidly changing global trade regime is always risky, he noted.
Exports of the ICT services can be the best and prospective alternative for Bangladesh in the future, he added.
Stressing the need for lowering the rate of interest on credit to a single digit as the sector needs a huge amount of investment for it to flourish.
Habibullah N Karim said the existing export market of 24 countries, increasing attraction of talented people to the sector, existence of a good number of internationally certified companies in the country and growing international recognition of the quality of Bangladeshi products by the importing countries are the positive signals for the country's ICT sector.
He said the sector has registered a growth between 5.0 and 10 per cent in terms of employment opportunities, its export contracts increased by 50 per cent and overall market growth has been turned out to be moderate from what it was earlier sluggish and government's supportive actions for the ICT have also been pro-active, he pointed out.
Mrs Monwara Hakim Ali said the ICT sector can open up a new chapter of economic development for the country by engaging a large number of educated, skilled but 'introvert and home-centred' women involved in its business.


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