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Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Compiled by SDNP
Tk 100 cr maintenance cost a year too high to afford, says Khaleda
M Anwarul Haq
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has said that her government intends to dispose of eight MiG-29 fighters procured two years back from Russia by the Awami League government.
"The planes are sitting idle. The state is losing money just to keep them," Khaleda told a group of journalists in the capital yesterday, according to an Associated Press (AP) dispatch. "Bangladesh wants to sell eight Russian-made MiG-29 fighter planes because it cannot afford one billion dollars a year for spare parts and maintenance."
The prime minister was speaking to members of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) at her office. Hasan Shahriar, Farid Hossain and M Mukhlesur Rahman, president, secretary-general and organising secretary respectively of the CJA, were present.
Shamsuddin Ahmed, executive member of the Bangladesh chapter, was also there.
The eight MiG-29 Fulcrum jet fighters were purchased in a $124 million state-to-state deal between Dhaka and Moscow. Each aircraft was priced $11 million and the remaining $36 million was allocated for training and spare parts. Some ten pilots and 70 technicians underwent training in Russia as part of the deal to familiarise themselves with the aircraft.
The government of Khaleda Zia has levelled allegations of irregularities against her immediate predecessor Sheikh Hasina in procurement of the fourth-generation multi-role jet fighters.
Hasina, the leader of the opposition in parliament, has dismissed the charges and said that the fighter planes were purchased at competitive prices for 'defence of the country'.
The Bureau of Anti-corruption (BAC) has lodged a case with the Tejgaon police station, implicating Hasina and some high officials of her government for alleged irregularities in procurement of the MIG-29s.
In a volume of the recently published White Paper, the government of Hasina is also accused of willful wrongdoing in purchase of the military equipment from Russia. The prime minister told the newsmen that most of the MiGs had been grounded and become a burden to the exchequer.
If sold out now, the aircraft will fetch a good price, the prime minister is learnt to said. Otherwise, she added, the country will require at least 100 crore taka every year for their maintenance.
"It is therefore better to sell them and spare the exchequer from such a heavy, recurring burden," she concluded.
Besides the half squadron MiGs, the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) is learnt to have a fully trained outfit to fly five squadrons, each having a standard of 16 jets. It has three squadrons of fighter jets. The fleet comprises Chinese A-5 ground attack aircraft, F-7 MB attack and defence role fighters and Czech manufactured L-39 jets. It has also some obsolete MIG-21 aircraft procured years back. It also possess two dozen helicopters, US made Bell and Russian MI-17.
The Chinese government is learnt to have offered to sell at least one dozen F-7 MB fighters which have proved to be less expensive and suitable for Bangladesh during the last government's tenure on deferred payment basis, but the deal was not accepted.
It was learnt that in an evaluation memo by one of the country's top security agencies it was told that the purchase of eight MiG-29 aircraft will not increase the combat capacity of the BAF, rather it might reduce it. "Maintenance requirement of the MiG-29s will exhaust the budget provision.
Other fighter aircraft may lose their effectiveness for lack of maintenance," it said. Ahead of the MiG purchase in February 1999, a military technical co-operation agreement was signed with the Russian Federation in Dhaka. Some analysts said it was not clear why such a comprehensive agreement was required to purchase eight MiG-29s.
While the US was unable to offer Bangladesh a comparable fighter jet at a competitive price, it attempted to prevent the government from buying Russian aifcraft, according to defence sources..
Tripura businessmen want
to use Sylhet airport
Our Correspondent, Moulvibazar, The Daily Star
Tripura chamber leaders have proposed to use Sylhet airport for exporting some perishable items including fruit and vegetable to European countries.
The proposal came when a 27-member delegation of India's Tripura Chamber of Commerce & Industry (TCCI) had a meeting with Moulvibazar chamber leaders on Sunday.
Besides, the Tripura chamber leaders urged Bangladeshi businessmen to export more products to the Indian state.
Tripura, one of the northeastern states of India, has been producing good amounts of perishable items every year but these are being wasted mainly due to lack of marketing facility. Dhaka will also be benefited if Bangladesh government allows Tripura businessmen to use Sylhet MAG Osmany International Airport for exporting their products to European countries, TCCI leaders said.
Both TCCI and the Moulvibazar Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) leaders identified some trade related problems including high tariff, lack of infrastructure like L/C stations in Bangladesh side and bad road communication.
During the TCCI's three-day visit to the district beginning on July 13, a 12-point memorandum of agreement (MOA) was also signed between the two chambers to extend co-operations. MCCI President Syed Mohsin Ali and President of TCCI and delegation leader M L Debnath singed the agreement on behalf of their respective sides.
The TCCI delegation also at a meeting exchanged views with local journalists. TCCI President ML Debnath, Amitara Dutto, a member of state legislature, and MCCI President Syed Mohsin Ali, among others, were present at the meeting.
A reception was also accorded to the TCCI delegation at local M Saifur Rahman auditorium. The Indian team left Moulvibazar on Monday.
The Daily Star
The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) has formulated special programmes to promote investment in EPZs, says a press release.
This was disclosed by Executive Chairman of BEPZA Brig. General (Retd) M Mofizur Rahman while addressing an investment promotion seminar held at Bogra on Monday. Jointly organised by Bogra Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority, the seminar was presided over by President of Bogra Chamber of Commerce and Industry Amzad Hossain. Azir Uddin Ahmed, commissioner of Rajshahi division, was special guest.
Under the three-point programme, BEPZA is arrange seminars at home and abroad meet the elite and CIPs and distribute investment promotional materials among prospective investors, multinational organisations, various trading houses and different chambers.
Such seminars were arranged in Bagerhat, Khulna, Sylhet, Feni, Chittagong and Comilla. recently.
Reuters, Seattle, The Daily Star
Forget the keyboard and the mouse, what the newest edition of Windows XP really needs is a common household gadget the remote control.
Microsoft Corp announced an addition to its flagship Windows XP series of operating systems yesterday, Windows XP Media Centre, which aims to transform desktop computers into remote-controlled digital entertainment hubs.
The world's biggest software maker said the new entertainment-friendly edition of Windows XP will debut in stores in the United States, Canada and South Korea in time for this year's US holiday season, which typically begins late November, and be packaged together with personal computers specially designed to deliver its key media features.
The PCs, to be built by Hewlett-Packard Co, Japan's NEC Corp and Korea's Samsung Electronics Co, will have extensive digital music, video, TV and DVD video playback capability.
Remote controls shipped with the computers will feature a "Start" button just like that on all Windows desktops, which brings up a screen to replace the standard Windows graphics with a sleek, simple design that provides quick access to various entertainment media and functions.
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