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Bangladesh

Yearbook 2019

Bangladesh. The Government Party Awami Federation retained its strong grip on power after the election victory at the end of 2018. The party and its allies then strengthened their majority. According to CountryAAH, Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as prime minister in January. She is the first prime minister to win three consecutive elections in the country's history. She retained several ministerial portfolios, including defense, and appointed a new finance minister.

2019 Bangladesh

The handful of members elected for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (GDP) opposition party ceased their boycott of parliamentary work in April. Imprisoned GDP leader Khaleda Zia's health continued to worry and the party tried to get her free from bail to receive care abroad. She is serving judgments for embezzlement and bribery, crimes that her party believes are inventive.

In July, nine BNP leaders and supporters were sentenced to death for a fire bomb attack in 1994 against a train that Sheikh Hasina, then opposition leader, was traveling with. Several people were then injured. Twenty-five other GDP supporters received life imprisonment. The BNP Secretary General considered that the judges were destined to crack the party.

The Supreme Court confirmed on October 31 a death sentence against ATM Azharul Islam, prominent member of the opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, for crimes during the liberation war of 1971. He was sentenced in 2014 by the criticized National Crime Tribunal, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

Another notable verdict fell on October 24 when 16 people were sentenced to death for burning a 19-year-old woman to death. Nusrat Jahan Rafi had accused his principal of sexual harassment and refused to take back the charges. The government ordered 27,000 schools to form committees on sexual violence.

The Dhaka government reiterated the demand that over 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled from Burma in 2017 must return. In August, tens of thousands of Rohingya marked the anniversary of the flight. No solution to the crisis was aimed at. Bangladesh periodically shut down the internet in the camps and the interior minister announced plans to set up the barbed wire fence around the camps. The large amount of refugees poses a potential security risk to the region, Sheikh Hasina warned in several speeches, for example before the UN General Assembly in September. Some 30 human rights groups, including Amnesty International, welcomed in November that Dhaka temporarily froze plans to send Rohingy to an island in the Bay of Bengal with very little supply.

Bangladesh ranked 150th in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, a loss of four rankings compared to 2018. This was an expression of the continued press on individual organizations and independent media. The campaign against drug leagues such as the police and the elite police force RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) began in 2018 is believed to have required 466 lives, according to Amnesty International, which called for an investigation.

Economic growth continued to be strong. The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank reported that it was 8.1% in 2019, a few percentage points above the average in South Asia. In recent years, export of textiles has been very important, as have agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

One challenge is that just over 40% of the labor force is employed in agriculture, which accounts for 14% of GDP. But access to fertile agricultural land is declining and climate change is a real threat to the sector, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Sheikh Hasina visited India in October and signed several bilateral agreements, including on Indian law to use the ports of Chittagong and Mongla. The opposition party GDP was critical.

Cyclones, floods and disasters linked to climate change were a threat to almost every third child in the country, reports the UN Children's Fund UNICEF.

In recent years, readiness for cyclones has improved. In November, 2 million people were evacuated before the powerful cyclone Bulbul. The storm required twelve casualties, while at least 30,000 homes, as well as rice crops, were destroyed.

Former General and President Hussain Muhammad Ershad died in July, aged 89. He ruled after a coup in 1982 until 1990, when he was forced off by popular protests.

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