August 2017

The start of the new financial year (2017-18), by any measure, has not been that auspicious. The prospect of the economy hitting the growth target, set at 7.4% this fiscal, now appears clouded.
The new financial year inherited a few negatives such as falling remittance income, the lackluster growth of exports leading to the largest-ever trade deficit and stagnancy in investment from the previous fiscal year.

But on the top of everything nature after quite a long gap, ten years, to be precise, seems to be very hostile this time. Lately, it has started taking a heavy toll on the economy. Natural calamities such as recurrent floods are more likely to upset, at least partially, the arithmetic the policymakers have done about growth.
The flash floods in the Haor areas caused the first damage. Though the calamity occurred in the latter part of the immediate past fiscal year, its ill-effects do have a bearing on the performance of the economy during the current financial year.

Nearly one-fifth of the country’s the last Boro output was destroyed by the flash flood. The loss of crops coupled with callousness on the part of the Ministry of Food to maintain the government’s buffer food stock at a satisfactory level has put the country’s food security under threat.

Then again, the country has been reeling under these recurring floods over the last couple of months. More than 19 districts in the north, northeastern and central regions are severely affected. An estimated 17 million people in these districts are in distress. The floods have caused extensive damage to standing crops, and the prospect of next Aman rice crop in many flood-hit areas is not that bright as floods have destroyed seedbeds there. Farmers may not get enough time to grow Aman seedlings for transplantation. Thus, any substantial fall in following Aman output might prove a severe problem for the economy.

Though belated, the government has embarked on a program to procure a significant volume of food grains, rice in particular, from external sources. However, the timing of the government’s entry into the global rice market has not been perfect. The global rice market was dull until recently because of weak demand for the staple. But many rice exporting countries, namely, India, Vietnam, and Thailand, have raised their prices sensing urgency on the part of Bangladesh in the case of purchase of a substantial quantity of rice. The entry of the Philippines and Sri Lanka lately as procurers of rice has also heated up the market.

The country’s import expenditures in all likelihood would go further up because of the procurement of food from the international markets by the government and the private sector traders.
Besides, an alarming feature of the spending on imports has been the increase in capital goods import in recent years. The issue has been noted by various quarters with grave concern, but the policymakers have not yet tried earnestly to find the causes behind it. The rise in imports is supposed to be reflected in the country’s income from exports. But there has been a gross mismatch between the growth of imports and that of exports. It is widely suspected that funds are being transferred illegally through trade transactions, the capital goods import being the main conduit. This phenomenon is, undoubtedly, hurting the economy.

The country’s exports, in terms of value, recorded a notable rise to $3.2 billion in the first month of the current fiscal over that of the corresponding month of the previous fiscal, but the same was slightly below the target. Shipments of the major readymade garments totaled $2.4 billion, up 17% on year-on-year basis. The export performance in the first month of the new fiscal is quite encouraging. But the country’s foreign trade for the last few weeks suffered much because of severe congestion at the country’s premier port at Chittagong. Damage caused to two gantry cranes by a foreign ship while berthing is responsible for keeping many ships waiting at the outer anchorage. The situation deteriorated to such an extent that many international shipping lines levied surcharges on users of their services at the Chittagong port. Besides, some shipping lines are now refusing to use the port.

These are, however, recurrent problems that the businesses face in this country. They have learned to live with those, notwithstanding the fact that they have to count costs for all these. The government is now working overtime to improve the situation at the Chittagong port. But the fact remains that the port suffers badly from a shortage of equipment, efficient human resources, and space. A move is on to appoint an international operator to manage the affairs at the port. If that is done through a fair selection process, some improvement in port operations is expected.
As mentioned earlier, floods have done substantial damage to life and properties this year. There have been allegations that the government is not doing enough to help the people affected by the natural calamity. However, such charges are common in this part of the world.

What will be crucial under the present circumstances is the post-flood rehabilitation work in the affected districts. The government would have to spend a substantial sum on the program, only if the government is sincere in helping the flood-hit people.

The economy now faces the risk of inflationary pressure. The prices of many food items, including rice and vegetables, have gone up in the recent months. Though official data show otherwise, the people are now experiencing the bite of the soaring prices of many essential items. Despite the substantial import of rice by the government and the private sector, the prices of the main staple are sticking to higher levels. The central bank’s half-yearly monetary policy (July-December), announced some days back, was found to be particularly focused on the issue of inflation.
With a major post-flood rehabilitation task remaining on its shoulder, the government appears to be not comfortable with the revenue situation. It suffered a setback when it had to defer for another two years the enforcement of the new VAT law. The new law was supposed to mobilize an estimated Tk 200 billion to the state coffer. Thus, the government’s capacity to maneuver as far as spending is concerned this year seems to be limited. It might be forced to go for austerity in some cases.

The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached at zahidmar10@gmail.com

Submerged houses, displaced families and miles and miles of flood water. This is the scene which can be found in most of northern and southern Bangladesh, at present. Above average rainfalls in this monsoon season coupled with water diverted from India has led some to speculate that the flood in 2017 may rival that of 1988. Bangladesh being one of the largest deltas on earth is particularly prone to natural disasters. This leads to hundreds being killed, thousands losing their homes and being displaced and billions incurred in financial losses. In a 2015 report by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics titled ‘Bangladesh Disaster Related Statistics: 2015’ reveals that the country suffered losses amounting to $2.33 billion from 2009 to 2014.

The future looks bleaker since an expected 3-foot rise in the sea levels will most likely plunge could displace a significant portion of the population. And to add insult to injury Bangladesh is not even a responsible for this global change. It only contributes about 0.3% of the global emissions. But that hasn’t stopped the government’s efforts to push for cleaner fuel to decelerate the effects of climate change. I say ‘decelerate’ and not ‘completely halt’ climate change because that would be naivety on my part. The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) hopes to produce ethanol from some of the grains the country produces such as broken rice and molasses. Ethanol, with its benefits of being easily producible and usage of locally produced grains, are a boon for countries looking to reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and excess of grain production. In fact, according to growthenergy.org, a website representing the producers and supporters of ethanol in the USA, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 59% relative to gasoline.

However, I must reiterate the part of excess grain production. Our country is a net importer of grains and a move towards producing ethanol has been termed as ‘suicidal’ by Moshiur Rahman, who convenes the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Coordination Committee. Currently, Bangladesh only produces half of the maize it requires while importing the rest from USA and Brazil. Similarly, we also import molasses and rice. A rise in the demand for these grains means a direct impact on the food prices which we all know will disproportionately affect the poor and the lower middle-class income groups. With such a heinous impact on food security and prices, does ‘going green’ really add value to the life our citizens? Food security is a major issue of climate change with an absolute impact on for key areas: food availability, food access, food utilization and food stability.

Bangladesh is already on the precipice of being the worst afflicted region due to the irrevocable change to its food production capacity. Agriculture plays a vital role in the economy by accounting for 20% of the GDP and 65% of the labor force according to World Bank reports. But environmental degradation poses the risk of detracting all forms of economic benefit. Severe environmental degradation, due to population pressure on marginal lands will eventually lead to a fall in productivity in food production and per capita production.

To make matters worse, the cultivation of marginal lands is largely done by lower income groups; a group who can least afford to bear the losses of producing in these low-quality land. Thus overuse and changes in resource quality place further pressures on the scarce land and water resources thus further confirming the lives of these people to the vicious circle of poverty.
Bangladesh’s Vision 2021 and the consequent Perspective Plan aims to achieve complete food sufficiency for the population by 2021. In addition to this, the global community along with Bangladesh have adopted the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), or SDG 2, which aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030.

But while the GoB has gamely made promises of adapting the SDGs, policy decisions need to be revised to ensure that we achieve our SDG’s with the same speed and effectiveness that we had for the Millennium Development Goals. To start with, we need to address the financial incapability of the poor farmers. The government already had policies and programs in place which extends agriculture credit to farmers, but more often than not, it is the farmers with who already have large land who benefits from this. Furthermore, ‘almost 30% of the households do not own any land and another 30% own only up to half an acre.’1

Overhauling the existing land ownership related policies is another factor which can significantly change things for the better. ‘Tenancy farming is order of the day. People who own land largely don’t do farming while people who don’t own land mostly do the job as lessees’2. The end result of this is growing income disparity between the two groups in the rural regions and the social evils which follow when income disparity exists.

Another reason for growing food insecurity is the discrepancy between high food demand and limited choice scenario. Resources such as land are scarce while food demand continues to rise with the rising population rates. This also means greater demand for housing, roads, and industries which are simply taking away the farming lands. But the government has tried to be proactive with their environmental policies. In 2009, Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) was created which added to the country’s list of climate related interventions through effective policies and projects. The BCCSAP is a 10-year program which is dedicated to building the readiness of the systems to confront the aftermaths of climate change. ‘In order to cope with the threats to food security, efforts have been concentrated on community-level adaptation, agricultural technological extension, surveillance systems installation to track patterns of weather, pests, and diseases, and sanitation program implementation (BCCSAP, 2009)’3

However, here is the problem with BCCSAP. Almost nine years into its existence, no efforts have been made to upgrade its disaster management system. Given that this program looks into the problem of food security for Bangladesh, that is indeed a worrying thought. Nonetheless, not all is lost just yet. Bangladesh has made great strides in achieving its MDG’s and with proper policy implementation, investing in technology and quick thinking we can hopefully do the same with the SDG’s.

For instance, ‘in 2013, Asian Development Bank (ADB) inaugurated a $2.5 million experimental program to introduce crop insurance to Bangladeshi farmers. Supported by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Bangladesh government – will design and carry out the trial of WIBCI (Weather Index Based Crop Insurance) aimed at the small and destitute farmers who are in the most danger of losing everything to hostile environmental factors.’4

The insurance would enable a farmer to retrieve remuneration from the insurer when calamities occur. This form of safeguard would enable farmers to plan and save for long term despite their harvests being destroyed by tumultuous weather. One other way is to deal with the food shortage would be to scale up the public grain storage system. Most farmers do not have access to proper storage facilities which forces them to trade their entire harvest in bulk, leaving none for selling or consumption during disastrous times. ‘Currently, grain storage capacity provided by the Bangladesh Government is 1.62 million tons, provided mainly through conventional granaries and warehouses where the typical shelf-life of grain is less than 1 year.’5

Climate change, bad neighbors or poor governance: who are we to blame for all natural calamities? Perhaps, we should stop with the finger pointing and start coming up with solutions to better equip our citizens to fight these catastrophes. Government also needs to have cohesive relief plan for the victims which would act as some form of safety net for them. Frequent update of government disaster management policies is also advisable. And for all of us who are safe (till now) in our comfortable homes, maybe we should loosen our purse and heart strings and reach out to those who needs it the most.

1 Food security: It’s not only about production, The Daily Star, February 04, 2016
2 Same as 1
3 Climate Change and Food Security, The Daily Star, February 26, 2017
4 Proposed Grant Assistance People’s Republic of Bangladesh: Pilot Project on Weather Index-Based Crop Insurance, ADB, March 2013
5 mfsp.gov.bd/project.php

By M. Rokonuzzman, PhD

After creating enormous success stories in India and Philippine, the outsourcing of call center services has started to decline. Once, the progression of technology had helped such services to migrate from advanced economies to developing countries. However, further progression in that area is now enabling the software agents to take over these jobs. Does it mean that the high-paid job opportunities offered to the large student population of developing countries like Bangladesh through service globalization are heading towards the end? The question remains that in this era of outsourcing, what makes Bangladesh lack behind where previously, countries like India and Philippines have already seen success?

Technological progress has eliminated the barriers between people living in the remote areas and work processes to quite an extent. Such development has also contributed to the globalization of work processes, often termed as service value chain globalization or Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). During such transformations, certain work processes performed by human resources are often being taken over by technology. As a result, geographic redistribution of work along with the reallocation of job roles between humans and technology also takes place. For example, the expansion of international telecommunication circuits led to the globalization of call center services which transferred such service jobs from advanced countries to developing ones. On the other hand, the further development of technology has opened the opportunity of transferring such roles from remote service providers (call center agents) to software agents. However, that does not necessarily mean that the opportunity in service globalization is rapidly being eaten up by intelligent machines. Technological advancement is also opening the opportunities for globalization for many other work processes. For instance, it was previously an unthinkable option to create a linkage between older adults living in the remote areas and health services. Now technologies such as smart sensors, semi-autonomous assistive devices, or affordable augmented reality technologies have opened the possibilities of connecting the aging population of advanced economies like Japan or Western Europe to millions of potential remote care providers of Bangladesh as well as many other developing countries. Such translations are creating far greater global service opportunities than contact center jobs which are being transferred to machines from humans.

ITC (International Trade Center) has mentioned that the share of the developing countries in the world service export rose from 11% in 1990 to around 30% in 2010. This was aided by the increasing technological sophistication which led them to shift from the more traditional Transport and Tourism sectors to IT and other Commercial Services (business services). Service off-shoring activities accounted for $252 billion in export revenues in 2010 and employed 4 million people globally; UNCTAD’s 2012 World Investment Report points out that foreign direct investment in the service sector reached $570 billion in 2011. According to the World Bank database, commercial service export (other than travel and transportation) has increased from little over $1500 billion in 2000 to more than $4000 billion in 2011. Despite this growth potential, the share of the developing countries in world service export is still only 30% as very few of these countries are taking advantage of new opportunities that would arise from specializing in the export of services. Although low cost, low latency and high capacity broadband connections have created tremendous opportunities, Bangladesh is still failing to take substantial advantage by scaling up the piloted success of more than 200 export oriented software firms, IT service companies, ITES, and BPO organizations. On the other hand, among success stories, Philippines has succeeded in creating $18 billion BPO revenue while generating a million jobs.

Moreover, the reason behind the failure of scaling up these 200 firms must be addressed and worked upon to unlock Bangladesh’s potential. There are several reasons behind such failures. One of them being the demand driven expansion strategy of the local firms. These firms have insufficient access to risk capital. Moreover, the capacity in managing the risk of these businesses is also very limited, and they tend to serve small overseas clients. In serving small work orders of many small clients, Bangladeshi firms failed to benefit from reuse of digital assets, learning curve benefit, and economies of scale as well as scope. As a result, the cost of delivery of these firms is high which reduces the profit margin—limiting the ability of expansion using profit.

The decoupling of humans in getting the work done with the support of machines has been occurring and is expected to keep progressing further. Advances in automation, low latency connectivity, and the Internet of Things (IOT) is opening the possibilities of connecting millions of Bangladeshis to operate robots in advanced economies, to perform $8/hour routine work in an unpredictable environment. No robot is intelligent enough to carry out these tasks. The Avatar Economy may have far reaching opportunities, but the bottom line is that globalization of service value chain is opening tremendous opportunities for the world as a whole, and Bangladesh in particular. The combination of technology and globalization will have a profound impact on the way we’ll work in the future. The globalization of work by connecting people from anywhere in the world to work processes by low latency connectivity and sensor rich semi-autonomous machines are being influenced by five major forces:
1. Technological development
2. Globalization
3. Demographic changes
4. Social trends
5. Low carbon development

The application of humans in getting job done can now be accessed seamlessly, anywhere and everywhere, as the costs of communication and coordination have dropped to almost zero. There are several driving forces behind this mass virtualization of work. The first one being the cost, as it’s the fastest way to have more efficient operations. The second reason is counterintuitive, yet more profound. Communications and co¬ordination and the information revolution emerging from social networks, telepresence and mobility are enabling new levels of collaboration, changing the way we deploy technology, where and how we work and how the organization itself is structured.

To benefit from such expanding opportunities of service or work process globalization, instead of following the success stories, we should prepare ourselves to be at the right place at the right time with right capacity for capitalizing the unfolding opportunities. Instead of waiting to replicate the success stories, we should monitor and step in to lead the process of creating success stories. It should be noted that once an emerging opportunity takes off, leaders capitalize on the scale, scope and learning curve advantage to become cost effective and better producers, sometimes by engaging more expensive human resources than what new entrants may have access to. In the past, Bangladesh’s strategy of following leaders to capitalize on the service globalization strategy at the matured stage, whether it’s the call center industry or IT services, has failed because of this. It’s time to monitor, predict and manage the risks of entering a target industry segment to capitalize on the dynamic opportunity before it takes off. Such a strategy has the potential to connect a portion of 40 million students to the rapidly globalizing services and work process value chains to create an industry, which is mostly unimaginable to many of us at this stage.

The writer is an academic, researcher and activist. He currently works as the Dean of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences and as a Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North South University. He can be reached at zaman.rokon.bd@gmail.com.

Blockchain technology is somewhat like the internet when it first came about. It was really difficult to understand for the layman and yet had the potential to change the world. Similarly, blockchain technology has the potential to change the way we exchange digital and physical goods, information, and online platforms. The good news is that like the internet, you don’t have to understand how it works to derive its benefits. But to make the most of the technology, it could be highly beneficial to find out how it works.

A single proper definition for blockchain technology is quite difficult to come up with as the technology is still quite new and is always evolving. It encompasses a multitude of technologies which can be implemented according to a particular objective. According to Assistant Professor Christian Catalini of MIT Sloan, an expert in blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies, “At a high level, blockchain technology allows a network of computers to agree at regular intervals on the actual state of a distributed ledger. Such ledgers can contain different types of shared data, such as transaction records, attributes of transactions, credentials, or other pieces of information. The ledger is often secured through a smart mix of cryptography and game theory and does not require trusted nodes like traditional networks. This is what allows Bitcoin to transfer value across the globe without resorting to traditional intermediaries such as banks.”

DELOITTE HAS EXPLAINED IT MORE SIMPLY:
You (a “node”) have a file of transactions on your computer (a “ledger”). Two government accountants (let’s call them “miners”) have the same file on theirs (so it’s “distributed”). As you make a transaction, your computer sends an e-mail to each accountant to inform them. Each accountant rushes to be the first to check whether you can afford it (and be paid their salary “Bitcoins”). The first to check and validate hits “REPLY ALL,” attaching their logic for verifying the transaction (“Proof of Work”). If the other accountant agrees, everyone updates their file.
Blockchains record any kind of transactions in a chronological order and once recorded, cannot be manipulated. Clusters of transactions are stored in blocks which are then chained to one another, hence the term “blockchain”. The transactions can be private or anonymous, depending on how the technology is used.

One of the biggest advantages of using blockchains is the reduction in the costs of transactions. Every organization and business can make substantial savings by incorporating blockchain technology in their dealings. Each transaction requires a verification which is not always easy. An organization may be well acquainted with its clients, partners, and customers through years of interacting with them. But eventually, there will come a time when a problem arises, which may require an audit to sort out. Auditing is a very costly procedure. Not just monetary, but in terms of time as well. Resources diverted towards auditing could have been spent on more profitable endeavors.

Blockchains eliminate the need for auditing. If a transaction needs to be verified on a blockchain, the organization can always go back to the records at no extra cost. This is the very reason cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are gaining traction recently. It is possible to transfer money from one part of the world to another at almost zero transaction cost, with the ability to be verified at a moment’s notice. Intermediaries like banks or even PayPal have not required anymore.

In the longer term, blockchains can reduce the cost of running secure networks. Although experts like Mr. Catalini believe the technology is at least a decade away, he believes it will disrupt online transactions even further. Mr. Catalini foresees a future where blockchain technology coupled with cryptotokens can eliminate intermediaries like Uber or Airbnb which still charges customers a rent for using their services. With further developments in this technology, customers and service providers can exchange tokens directly using a highly secure network.

Blockchain can increase privacy options for individuals and businesses. In elementary terms, bartenders only need to verify age before serving. However, a driver’s license or a passport reveals much more than just a person’s age including your address, your blood type, and much more. Similarly, in a business transaction, all both parties require is to know whether their partners are reliable and trustworthy. But in today’s model, they have to reveal so much information just to prove their trustworthiness.

Blockchain would eliminate the need to provide private information by incorporating a model where individual attributes can be verified as true or false, using a decentralized structure, but the information does not constantly have to be out there. Think of it as an Uber score or an Airbnb score, but instead, it will be one rating which applies across all transactions.

CENTRAL BANKS: The central banks in Singapore, Canada, and the UK are exploring options to incorporate cryptocurrencies in their transactions. Adopting cryptocurrencies will allow central banks to lower settlement risk, more efficient taxation, faster cross-border payments, interbank payments, and novel approaches to quantitative easing.

FINANCE: This sector has seen the most applications of blockchain till now. Financial institutions are creating a faster and more efficient financial infrastructure which is capable of tracking and exchanging financial assets of any type.

MONEY TRANSFER: Transferring money between individuals could become extremely fast and costless in the near future. Digital wallets allow for the transfer of tokens using blockchain technology anywhere in the world. These tokens can then be exchanged for fiat cash (regular money) at various online exchanges.

MICROPAYMENTS: Blockchain enables micro transactions to take place for a minimal cost. For example, people do not have to pay a subscription for a newspaper but pay just for the articles they read. Freelance workers such as editors, or writers can also be paid for their work. The blockchain would verify the legitimacy of both parties and enable cheap transactions. A company called Brave is already attempting this.

PROVENANCE AND OWNERSHIP: Physical properties can be recorded on a blockchain to ensure authenticity and prevent fraud or counterfeiting. EverLedger, a company based in London, is using this technology to record and track the movements of diamonds. They are also expanding their services to include fine wine in their records.

AIRLINES: The current model of purchasing and obtaining airline tickets are vastly inefficient and can increase the risks. Often, it could take up to 45 days for the cash to reach the airlines from the moment a customer pays for, exposing the airlines to a prolonged period of risk. The money may travel through multiple locations before eventually reaching the airline. The airline incurs a lot of transactional costs which is passed on to customers. A blockchain technology can bring down the payment time from 45 days to 45 minutes. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is considering developing their own cryptocurrency to make the process more efficient and less risky.

The opportunities with blockchain technology are endless. As more of its functions are developed, we are likely to see even more novel innovations. But this technology will not hit the mainstream for at least another ten years according to experts. It is still in its infancy and like all technologies in the modern world, are vulnerable. There are a few instances of blockchains being used for nefarious activities, the most prominent of which is the use of bitcoins to facilitate the drug exchange Silk Road. If an entirely private network is developed, it could even lead to funding terrorism in a totally anonymous manner. On the other hand, the same privacy options can be used to protect people’s health records and prevent instances of healthcare breaches which occurred earlier this year.There is still a long way to go, but there are no doubts that if used correctly,

There is still a long way to go, but there are no doubts that if used correctly, blockchains have the potential to change our lives for the better.

With Bangladesh propelling towards becoming a middle-income economy and the integration of technology in almost every sector imaginable – we are living in the era of endless opportunities. Bangladeshi companies are thriving beyond borders as well, and many new ideas are taking shape into reality. Amidst all this glory and positive energy, what if you’re a student still pursuing your university degree? What if you are absolutely sure that you have an idea that can change the entire country? What if the inner entrepreneur in you is dying to come out of your cocoon? Do you take the leap of faith? Or do you graduate, take a job, gain experience, grow your network and then ‘safely’ start pursuing your dream after a decade?

Well, the latter is definitely a less risky option, but in case you belong to the first group, the following tips might come in handy for your upcoming entrepreneurial crusade:

1. Form a liaison with your faculty members – The teachers that take your courses every semester might be your biggest source of help at the moment. Not only do they possess immense knowledge across various disciplines, but many are former corporate personnel. Thus, you get a mixture of both experience and academics in your armament to carve your business idea to perfection. And there are even times when faculty members introduce you to other students that he/she thinks you can collaborate with; helping you to find several potential co-founders for your business.

2. Get in touch with your alumni – Often we run across our seniors and instead of just a casual interaction, reach out to the ones that you are close with. Tell them about your idea, try to get some meaningful feedback and let them hook you up with industry experts or any other resource that you might need. Alumni or seniors often have this sense of belonging to their alma mater and helping a fellow junior out is often an emotional journey for them. Hence, the amount of effort or passion that they will have in lending you a hand might surprise you!

3. Be a networking ‘spider’ – The secret to turning your idea into a fully functioning business lies in the fundamentals – knowing the right people. Robert Kiyosaki, a renowned American businessman, often used to say – “The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for a job”. Knowing who can help you with which piece of your puzzle is vital. And the platform to get acquainted with these individuals? Your university itself! There are countless seminars, workshops, business competitions taking place nowadays. Hop in, find your target and strike up an interesting conversation. Someone might even be interested in funding your business, you never know!

4. Seek help from your friends – One great thing about starting your business in your university days is the ability to have all your skilled friends at your fingertips. And to make things much better, most of them have plenty of spare time and would love to put their hammers in action. You have a diverse group of friends bringing an equally diverse set of skill sets to your business. And it’s way cheaper than a ‘formal hire.’ Need a brand identity plan for your startup? Treat your graphic designer friend on a fast-food joint and voila!

5. Utilize the ‘Buzz’ – You are practically part of the most vibrant community in the country. You have plenty of people eager to try your new product/service out and give you honest feedback. And besides, it’s comparatively much easier to get the word out. If your business luckily involves the student community or has anything to do with them, news about it will spread like wildfire. Your benefit? Unimaginable business growth with negligible marketing effort.

6. Easier to ‘cold call’ industry experts – Now this is a two-faced cannon. The upside is that you use your entrepreneurial charm to baffle a CEO and make him realize the potential of your business. On the downside – his receptionist might not respond to your phone call. But as Jay-Z puts it, “Gotta fake it till you make it.”

7. No external pressures –You’re in your 20s, your energy level is at its peak, and you have the whole world in front of you, waiting to be explored. You’re still not tied down to a rigid family life, and so, there is room for trial and error in your ventures. Besides, better to fail now than later, right? Do you want to fail and lose a million dollars right when your son will need his college tuition or do you want to fail now, learn from your mistakes and recuperate? Now is time to put your ideas to the test and filter out that one idea that hits the perfect note. Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox had a famous saying that fits beautifully in this scenario – “Don’t worry about failure, you only have to be right once.”

By S.M.Nazmul Ahsan Sarup

Trees contribute to the environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, enriching the climate, conserving water, preserving soil and supporting wildlife. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. In the last few decades, the number of forests and bio-diversities have been dwindling due to extreme urbanization and industrialization. However, with growing economic development and global consciousness towards nature, global leaders are once again moving forward to save the environment through plantations.

With the aim to neutralize the carbon footprint and to conserve nature, Epyllion Group organized an event named “Prakritir Chobi Aki” in collaboration with the Department of Environment (DoE) and Green Savers Association in observing the World Environment Day 2015. After getting an intensive hype from the participants and the organizing bodies, Epyllion Group decided to move forward with this idea. With Green Savers Association, Epyllion Group started the “Sailor Green Savers Plant for Planet” program. Starting with Viqarunnissa Noon School & College in 2015, this program has covered 19 other schools during the 2015-2017 sessions.

With the motto of, “Painting. Planting. Recycling”, Epyllion Group reuses the empty chemical drums from its textile division through this program. All the empty chemical drums are collected from the textile sector and are then cleaned and sent to the Green Savers. This non-profit organization then gives these drums a white coating and makes them ready to be painted on. Students from class eight to ten paint these drums in a group and make planters for their schools.

All the plants for this program are selected from the local genre of plants. Both the organizing partners keep the schools under a monitoring program to make sure that the plants are alive and in a healthy condition. Replacement and nourishment programs are also executed to keep these plants alive.

This program has collaborated with 19 schools with a further involvement of more than 2000 direct exposures and 5000 indirect exposures through social and print media. This initiative aims to achieve three key results, one of which is recycling of waste chemical drums. Schools students are encouraged in conserving nature and tree plantation. This program also ensures that the educational institutions of Dhaka, where the plantation is rarely seen due to the scarcity of open space, get a place rooftop gardening.

With this plantation program, Epyllion Group envisions to promote a green environment inside the majority of educational institutions in Dhaka city. Thus, it will not be long when all the schools are reached out to for the “Plant for Planet” project by 2020.

The writer is the Manager of CSR at Epyllion Group.

Having grown up in a country where piracy has remained the reigning norm for decades in every discernible industry – be it films, music or software – I have seen enough to say with confidence that our nation owes piracy a great deal. It is safe to say that we would not have come where we are if pirated software and entertainment did not exist so openly in the local market. Almost every computer in Bangladesh runs a pirated copy of some version of Windows with great aplomb. Microsoft Office is ubiquitously available, as is Adobe’s entire gamut of productivity packages, which would cost thousands of dollars if obtained legally. If you go to buy a new computer, the vendor only asks which version of Windows you want on it, and nonchalantly installs it off a well-worn disk image, and throws in a share of popular software, games and music on the second hard drive partition to boot – all without asking you to pay an extra cent. None of the original creators of said software and content get even a cent out of this.

Does this make us a race of thieves? The question of ethics regarding piracy is a debate best left for another day, but its impact on our lives is a sure one. Piracy has enabled countless people of our nation to have access to facets of modern technology and entertainment that would otherwise have indefinitely remained off-limits to us. They and their very lives have been shaped by piracy in a myriad of ways. For example, every graphic designer in our country has had access to a variety of high-end professional design tools from the infancy of their careers that most people in developed nations can’t even dream of until making a good bit of headway into their professional lives, not even with subscription-based models. This goes on to apply to all other pirated content, be it software or entertainment features. The dream of a digital Bangladesh would have been far away from our reach had it not been for piracy.

And now, in the advanced age of the internet, piracy is easier than ever. There are massive hubs dedicated to piracy on the web – entire forums devoted to sharing pirated software and contents, BitTorrent databases that are veritable archives of theft-worthy digital content, innocuous-looking blog sites laden with regularly updated links of pirated content (and also countless strains of malware awaiting careless wanderers). Piracy isn’t restricted to just computer programs either – even apps for mobile phones and tablets see a massive degree of illegal distribution, and the option of jailbreaking means that not even closed platforms like Apple’s iOS can prevent privacy from taking place.

Console games have also faced a large amount of piracy for several generations through unauthorized hardware modification of consoles which rendered them capable of running illegally obtained copies of games which would be rejected by unmodified hardware. The rising popularity of e-books ensures that literature is not spared from piracy either, and it is a common practice even in developed nations for financially challenged students to download illegal copies of expensive textbooks – or maybe even the next new Dan Brown novel.

The battle against privacy has endured as long as piracy itself. Attempts to get users to verify the legitimacy of their software through the entry of serial numbers and verification codes continue to remain commonplace. Many modern programs (especially games) often go the extra mile by forcing an online verification of their legitimacy on a periodic or per-run basis, and refusing to flat-out run if an internet connection is not detected. Many programs also come loaded with some form of DRM (digital rights management) mechanism integrated into them in order to stave off attempts at illegal duplication.

The sheer talent and tenacity of software pirates, however, is not something to be underestimated, as it has been proven over and over again. Many pirates are highly skilled programmers and hackers capable of dissecting software code on a deep level and discovering exploits which can be used to ‘fool’ the software into recognizing itself as legitimate, foregoing any online or offline verification, or disabling the time limitations of fully functional trial versions of certain programs. Over the past few years, a complex new DRM system called Denuvo was baked into many programs, particularly games, to prevent them from being illegally distributed. It took the pirates longer than usual to break through it, and many developers made bold claims in the meantime about its uncrackable nature. However, once Denuvo was torn apart, the tables turned rapidly.

It is interesting to note that pirates have no particular philosophy to abide by. Some hackers crack software to show off the might of their formidable coding skills, some do it for fun, and some do it because they believe all software should be free, and everyone should have access to all software. However, it is not at all uncommon for pirates to often leave little notes along with their cracked programs (or films, books, etc.) which politely ask the downloader, “If you like this, please consider buying it and supporting the developer.” While this may sound inherently bizarre and hypocritical, it is indeed interesting to note how many people actually follow this advice. In fact, many people download pirated software or entertainment content to check if it is worth buying – almost like an illegal demonstration of its abilities and/or qualities in a way, which is not always readily available.

I personally know a good number of people who have downloaded pirated copies of games and ended up liking them so much that they bought the legitimate versions afterward as a form of gratitude. In a fascinating turn of events, many developers have actively taken to shunning DRM measures and releasing their software without any anti-piracy protection whatsoever. According to CD Projekt RED, the developer of the massively popular Witcher series of video games, the best way to beat piracy is to create something even pirates would want to pay for. The incredible popularity of the best-selling Witcher series, which is proudly shipped DRM-free, is a bold testament to this statement.

It should also be noted that many people who download pirated software or content have no intention of buying any of them in the first place anyway, so their actions do not necessarily hurt potential sales, them being not part of the content’s target demographic. Unlike the theft of a physical object, piracy of software or content merely involves duplication and dissemination of the product instead of it being misappropriated and taken away from others. Furthermore, if someone intends to buy the product and support its creators, they would do so regardless of whether they try it out first in pirated form or not. There surely are many people who would readily pirate something only because they don’t want to spend money on it (despite being capable of doing so), but they do not comprise the market on their own.

If anything, piracy has allowed software and other digital content to penetrate entirely new demographics which they would otherwise not even come across. In a glorious turn of events, many developers are studying patterns of piracy around the world, and actively working to decrease the prices of their creations to make them more affordable for people in said markets, so that they can legitimately own the programs and enjoy official support and updates. For example, the online software distribution platform Steam prices its wares much lower for Russian and Indian markets, which are far refer with piracy, and as a result, this unprecedentedly generous move allows them to enjoy a great degree of sales in markets that are now warming up to the use of genuine software. Some developers even consider piracy to be a form of free advertising, and even encourage people to pirate their releases and spread them far and wide, while requesting them to buy the titles if they wish to. It works surprisingly well.

Ultimately, how digital piracy should be handled remains the choice of the individual developer. However, a comparison about this should put this matter further into context. When the world-renowned American thrash metal band Metallica discovered that the content-sharing platform Napster was facilitating illegal distribution of its songs, it sued Napster and caused it to shut down, but that did not keep its songs from being pirated anyway, as pirates simply moved on to more decentralized platforms such as BitTorrent over time. On the other hand, when British heavy metal legends Iron Maiden learned about the piracy of their music, instead of retaliating with fruitless legal action or DRM measures, they carefully studied where such piracy took place the most and scheduled live concert tours of said locations, including the likes of Chile and India. This not only allowed them to earn the respect and love of their fans but also brought in considerable amounts of revenue from these previously untapped markets. It is quite clear from this and other similar observations that the carrot works much better than the stick when dealing with pirates, and it can go on to spell win-win situations for everyone involved far more easily than one would believe to be possible.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DIN M SHIBLY

In some places, the impact of climate change is more apparent than in others. Bangladesh is one of the largest deltas in the world which makes it highly susceptible to natural disasters. The country’s physical, social, as well as, economic conditions make it even more prone to these circumstances which occur on a scale that involves unprecedented human tragedy.
Nearly one-quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level; two-thirds of the country is less than 15 feet above sea level. Most Bangladeshis live along coastal areas where alluvial delta soils provide some of the best farmland in the country.
One of the many plights of climate change is that sea level can rise. It can happen due to the oceans warming up due to increasing global temperatures or because of melting ice which then adds water to the sea.
Bangladesh has been suffering from both. With the temperature of the Bay of Bengal significantly increasing, scientists believe that Bangladesh has suffered from some of the fastest recorded sea level rises in the world. At the same time, melting of glaciers in the Himalayas has swollen the rivers that flow into Bangladesh from Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and India.
According to the government’s 2009 Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, “in an ‘average’ year, approximately one-quarter of the country is inundated.” Every four to five years, “there is a severe flooding that may cover over 60% of the country.” Rapid erosion of coastal areas has already inundated dozens of islands in the Bay. For example, Sandwip Island, near Chittagong, has lost 90% of its original 23-square-miles in the last two decades.
Climate change in Bangladesh has started what may become the largest mass migration in human history. Riverbank erosion, in recent years, has annually displaced from 50,000 to 200,000 people. It is also reported that a three-foot rise in sea level would submerge almost 20% of the entire country and displace more than 30 million people.
With all this in mind, ICE Business Times time travels through the Dhalghata Union in the South East of the country. Just to give you an idea regarding its location, Dhalghata lies on the South Eastern coast of Bangladesh, but towards the North of Cox’s Bazar. As mentioned before, the rapid erosion in these coastal areas leads to large masses of people being displaced. We travel to the villages of Saraitala and Bonjamiragona to observe how climate change can alter lives and landscapes over the six year period from 2011 to 2017.

13 SEPT. 2011

SARAITALA’S GOVERNMENT PRIMARY SCHOOL

A VIEW OF THE VILLAGE WHILE PARTIALLY FLOODED DURING THE MONSOON SEASON

We first see Saraitala in 2011 during the month of Ramadan. On the night before Eid al-Fitr, the full spring high tide (known locally as bhorakatal) destroyed the government made embankment sweeping away most of the village. The neighboring village, Bonjamiragona and its accompanying wards are also caught in the flood. Most of the villagers are then forced to migrate to higher lands in the union to escape the rising waters.

A STUDENT OF THE SCHOOL STARING OUT AT THE ENDLESS OCEAN WHICH THREATENS TO CONSUME THE SCHOOL AND THE VILLAGE

SOME FAMILIES USED TO TAKE SHELTER WITHIN THE SCHOOL WALLS AS THEY HAD ALREADY LOST THEIR HOMES TO PREVIOUS FLOODS. THESE FAMILIES TOOK TO THE SCHOOL ROOF DURING DAY TIME SO THE CLASSES COULD COMMENCE UNINTERRUPTED.

Ultimately the sea level rose above that of the village ground level during the high tide, forcing inhabitants to leave behind the lives they had built there.

THE VIEW OF THE VILLAGE FROM THE SCHOOL

CHILDREN PARTAKING IN SCHOOL TIME ACTIVITIES AT THE GOVERNMENT SCHOOL

4 MAY 2015

ONE OF THE FEW REMAINING HOUSES IN BONJAMIRAGONA OWNED BY MR. ZAFAR ALAM WHO WAS IN HIS 60S AT THE TIME.

ONE OF THE FEW SURVIVORS IN THE AREA, A FORMER CRAB FARM OWNER, REDUCED TO RANDOM FISHING TO MAKE A LIVING. LOSING HIS FARM HAS MEANT THAT HIS ONCE STABLE INCOME FLOW IS LOST.

THE ABANDONED BONJAMIRAGONA, MOSTLY SUBMERGED DUE TO THE RISING SEA LEVELS.

Around 4 years onwards, as we travel towards Saraitala again, we first visit its neighboring ward, Bonjamiragona, to observe the toll time has taken on the small village.

CHILDREN FROM THE BONJAMIRAGONA MAKE A 4 KILOMETER WALK EVERY DAY TO A HIGH SCHOOL TO THE NORTH OF THE AREA AS NO SCHOOLS CAN BE CONSTRUCTED ON THE BARREN LANDS NEAR THEIR HOMES.

THE STATE OF THE BARREN LAND IN THE VILLAGE.

BACK IN SARAITALA, THE VILLAGE LIES COMPLETELY SUBMERGED AND ABANDONED. WE CAN SEE THE PRIMARY SCHOOL WITH A FEW OF ITS FLOORS ENTIRELY UNDERWATER. THE BUILDING CAN ONLY BE REACHED BY BOAT NOW DURING LOW TIDES.

22 MAY 2017

BACK IN SARAITALA, THE DEPTH OF THE WATER HAS RISEN ALLOWING LARGER BOATS TO TRAVERSE THROUGH THE AREA. THE SCHOOL STILL LIES PARTIALLY SUBMERGED AND INACCESSIBLE.

ZAFAR ALAM’S PLOT OF LAND TWO YEARS LATER. AS THE LAND LOST ITS ARABILITY, HE ALSO HAD TO MIGRATE WITH HIS FAMILY OUT OF THE AREA.

Post-2015, the locals in Dhalghata raised around Tk 18 lac to build their own embankments against the rising waters. This was used primarily to set up salt farms in Bonjamiragona. The construction of this new dike, along with the salt farms, has meant that slowly families have started to migrate back to their former homes in the area.

SOME FAMILIES SET UP TEMPORARY HOMES RIGHT ON THE EMBANKMENT REMNANTS. THEY ARE HIGHLY VULNERABLE TO THE HIGH TIDES AND HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO MOVE IF THE WATER LEVELS THREATEN TO OVERRUN THEIR HOMES.

In this area, salt farming occurs from October to March due to the lack of rain and the lower pressure from the tides. The families can earn more from the salt farms, so the population grows during this time frame. However, from March to September, they once again have to migrate elsewhere as their income from the salt farms dwindles. These are the people climate refugees who don’t have enough money to relocate permanently. They come back when they can earn money from salt cultivation then leave again when the rains increase and the water levels rise.

ONE OF THE LOCALS WORKING ON THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED SALT FARMS IN BONJAMIRAGONA.

The photographer has been conducting this documentary style of work all across Bangladesh over the last 14 years. He visits various locations in the country and documents the areas over a few years so that the changes they go through can be observed. His work in the landscape genre, as seen in this photo story, depicts not only the alterations in the landscape, but also the changes in the lives of its inhabitants.

These are the conditions these people are forced into. Uprooted from their homes, they move back and forth between these semi-barren areas, coping with the frustrating reality that they cannot settle anywhere permanently. As the sea levels rise slowly with the passage of time, whatever scope of recovering these lands is also slowly being drowned in the process. Bearing this in mind, the government has to take a stance and allocate resources or establish programs for these displaced families and climate refugees so they can start new lives in safer territories. Another way to help them would be to build upgraded embankments like the ones on the Marine Drive in Cox’s Bazar. Considering the exasperating lives they currently lead, these steps can hopefully reassure inhabitants in these coastal regions that the lives they are trying to build won’t be washed away by these rising tides for much longer.
This unfolding calamity also demands a response from the international community. Wealthier nations generate most of the greenhouse gases that are harming countries like Bangladesh, creating climate refugees. If these countries are unwilling to absorb these refugees, there is a moral imperative for them to help. They must join in with the Bangladesh government and aid them in the construction of roads, water supply systems, housing and other infrastructure so these climate refugees can remain and thrive in their own country.

Sources:
i. Global Economic
Symposium
ii. Scientific American
iii. NCDO
iv. NY Times

This report will not be focusing on the origination or sociological standing of violence against women. It is not a rant on feminism or equality, rather it espouses on analyzing economic indicators which shed light on the demographic trend and evolution of this issue and attempt to enumerate its cost to the economy. The purpose of these analyses is to identify the underlying factors which drive this issue and the indicative policy implications which need to be internalized to address it.

THEREFORE, THE SCOPE OF THIS REPORT IS STRUCTURED TO COVER THE FOLLOWING TOPICS:

  • Brief overview of global prevalence and situation on violence against women.
  • Presentation and analysis of national data on the issue – both demographic and economic trends.
  • Policy implications and recommendations, based on national and international best practices which could suggest directed actions for the medium term.

1. Introduction

Humankind – in full possession of their senses are extremely assimilated to the concept of ‘violence’- from the very subtle to the extremely harmful and starkly apparent forms. Violence in any form and against any being is meant to strike fear regardless of the intentions of the perpetrator and any justification they may have. We as a race display the appropriate reactions – outrage and strong ethos. In most cases, people hold a very narrow definition of what constitutes violence, and a multitude of factors define their perspective regarding the matter. Most importantly, societal factors and the combined attitude of the community towards violence lead to the formation of the individual’s views regarding the issue. In today’s tech-driven world, it is acceptable to focus on incidences of violence ‘trending’ in the media, be it the latest murder, shooting, bombing. We argue, we rage, we protest till the nest incident woos our attention. However, at the end of the day, the terror is actually felt when we are the victims or when someone close to us is, and that is when the threat hits closest to home. Violence Against Women (VAW) – is an all-encompassing term used to describe all acts of aggression, half of the world’s population is vulnerable or subjected to. VAW has been a known as a blanket phenomenon for as far back as history goes, and it has remained persistent through the ages. At present, it is safe to say, violence against women, from its very primitive to the very modern form, still exists indiscriminately across the globe.
This violence manifests itself in a variety of ways and is widely discussed in almost all forums- from academics to the media. Autonomous bodies like the UN, to international and national players in the development sector, have perpetuated directed actions and policies to try and reduce its occurrence and prevalence with limited success. Bangladesh is no exception, both in terms of the existence and measures undertaken to address the violence against women. It is also the geographical focus of this article.

2. Methodology and Limitations

The basic analysis of demographic trends was conducted based on a national census and socioeconomic surveys conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). The main survey which focuses on the topic is the Violence against Women Survey conducted by BBS in 20111 , data from which has been extrapolated in light of the changing demographic face of the population. While this was a relatively simplistic exercise, the calculation of economic costs was equally complicated and difficult. A large number of research papers and studies conducted globally were reviewed to try and identify a widely accepted or used methodology which could provide the most accurate representation. Unfortunately, even the broad guidelines developed by the UN for this purpose, help define the issue and identify major categories of costs as well as suggest methods which could be implemented. However, none of the methodologies can be applied unless there is a rich national database which has much more varied socioeconomic indicators and extensive reporting systems to collect data on incidences of violence and its resulting direct and indirect costs.
“The absence of data is being felt and deplored in most countries of the region. In particular, victimization surveys and standardized data on the experience of women who personally face incidents of violence are lacking. The planning and monitoring of social and institutional change and the evaluation of its impact is not possible without such information.”2
The types and definitions of economic costs of VAW are categorized as direct and indirect costs under which there are also sub categories of tangible and intangible costs.
“While all tangible costs should be measurable, many are not due to a lack of data. All published estimates of the costs of violence against women include examples of direct tangible costs, and most include some indirect tangible costs, such as lost earnings from time away from paid work. Attempts to measure the direct intangible costs are less frequent and no studies attempt to put a dollar value on the indirect intangibles.”3

TYPES OF COSTS DEFINED
To simplify the understanding of these different costs, the types of costs can be combined into four categories: direct and tangible, indirect and tangible, direct and intangible and indirect and intangible.

Direct tangible costs are actual expenses paid, representing real money spent. Examples are taxi fare to a hospital and salaries for staff in a shelter. These costs can be estimated through measuring the goods and services consumed and multiplying by their unit cost.

Indirect tangible costs have monetary value in the economy, but are measured as a loss of potential. Examples are lower earnings and profits resulting from reduced productivity. These indirect costs are also measurable, although they involve estimating opportunity costs rather than actual expenditures. Lost personal income, for example, can be estimated by measuring lost time at work and multiplying by an appropriate wage rate.

Direct intangible costs result directly from the violent act but have no monetary value. Examples are pain and suffering, and the emotional loss of a loved one through a violent death. These costs may be approximated by quality or value of life measures, although there is some debate as to whether or not it is appropriate to include these costs when measuring the economic costs of violence against women.

Indirect intangible costs result indirectly from the violence, and have no monetary value. Examples are the negative psychological effects on children who witness violence which cannot be estimated numerically.

Source: ‘The Economic Costs of Violence Against Women: An Evaluation of the Literature’, The United Nation

CATEGORIES AND EXAMPLES OF COSTS RESULTING FROM VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN (SOURCE: ‘THE ECONOMIC COSTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: AN EVALUATION OF THE LITERATURE’, THE UNITED NATION)

CATEGORIES AND EXAMPLES OF COSTS RESULTING FROM VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN (SOURCE: ‘THE ECONOMIC COSTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: AN EVALUATION OF THE LITERATURE’, THE UNITED NATION)

JUSTICE
• Police: vehicle use, dispatch center use, emergency response teams, interrogations, training, administrative time, criminal investigations, forensic services, in-court time, restraining orders, coroner.
• Legal: prosecuting and defending lawyers’ time in office, preparation and in court, legal aid, judge time, court time, jury costs, witness time, courts of appeal, Supreme Court hearings and decisions.
• Penal: jail time both before and after sentencing, probation, parole, therapies.
• Related: prisoner support organizations, victim compensation payouts.

HEALTH
• Direct costs include short run and long-term healthcare in doctor’s offices, clinics of all types and hospitals including:
• Capital invested in buildings, infrastructure, laboratory equipment, machinery, and vehicles.
• Labor for an ambulance, emergency, and services, hospital admissions, outpatient clinics, support staff, of the physicians’ offices, mental health services and clinics, physicians, nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists, other specialists, psychiatrists, psychologists, alternative healers, dentists, etc.
• Materials needed for diagnostic procedures, treatments, medication, food, etc.
• Health insurance and premium payouts.
• Indirect health costs borne by individuals include reduced longevity, the effects of poor health on lifestyle choices, reduced mobility for participating in public life. HIV/AIDS from coerced sex and health consequences of practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).

SOCIAL SERVICES
• May apply to victim, perpetrator or children,
• Publicly funded services such as shelters, crisis lines, and services, social workers, counseling, home visits, children’s services, emergency response teams, firefighters, therapeutic support groups, retraining, networked support services.
• Government’s time in addressing laws on violence against women, administration of ministries responsible, government research and policy analysis.
• Research grants, conferences, publications, policy papers, advocacy groups, public awareness campaigns.
• Privately funded services such as hotlines and helplines. Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, community support groups, church-run support, perpetrator therapeutic support groups, volunteer hours, and volunteer agencies.

EDUCATION
• Special education for children who witness violence.
• Job-readiness, training in the local language, re-training for victims and their children.
• School programs aimed at reducing violence against girls.
• Indirect cost of reduced educational attainment for women and their children.
BUSINESS AND EMPLOYMENT COSTS
• Reduced productivity, reduced output, reduced profits.
• Administrative time and costs of searching, hiring and training replacements.
• Programs for creating safe workplaces, training staff, on-site medical services, Employee Assistance Plans.
• Overtime paid to co-workers who cover for the victim.
• Relocation, separation pay, benefits, insurance premiums.
• Grievances for incidents occurred at work, supervisory time, processing complaints, litigation, court time, compensation expenses.
• Lost tax revenue from reduced output and income, lower GNP

PERSONAL OR HOUSEHOLD COST
• Lost earnings from time off work, lower productivity, less attachment to the labor force, expenses of a new job search.
• Medical fees, therapies, counselling, transportation for doctors or legal appointments, childcare for same, medications, prescriptions, treatment programs, alternative healing, self-help materials.
• Lower savings and investments.
• Lost household productivity in unpaid work, loss of economies of scale if separating.
• Legal fees for assault, custody, separation or divorce cases.
• Ongoing child custody disputes, custody arrangements or visitation problems requiring time, attention and resources to solve.
• Interest on loans, car rentals, lost deductibles on insurance claims, bad debts of ex-spouse, loss of shared pensions or transfer payments.
• Expenses incurred from relocation, replacing destroyed articles, repairing damage to home or possessions, temporary accommodation.
• Funerals and burials.
• Other out-of-pocket expenses such as interpreters, drugs, alcohol, protection services, self-defense courses, rehabilitation and recovery programs, special diets, unlisted phone numbers.

INTANGIBLES
• Pain and suffering of the victim and her children.
• Death of victim or perpetrator, including suicides.
• Second generation effects on children who witness violence.
• Loss of freedom for incarcerated perpetrators.
• Fear of violence among women in society.

For our purpose, while the VAW survey by BBS does help in reporting the prevalence and occurrence of the incidents of VAW, the calculation of economic costs was limited to extrapolation of small scale studies conducted on the topic by various donor agencies. Most importantly, owing to severe economic development challenges faced by a large number of the population and underlying social attitudes towards female population, it is not possible to calculate the intangible costs (psychological costs mainly) of VAW which is a major cost borne by the victims and by extension their families and the entire female population of a nation. The negative externalities of incidences of VAW in any community, whether in the form of psychological impacts on the development of the young female population or the additional stress caused to families with female children is not possible to enumerate, simply due to data limitations.
Despite these limitations, care has been taken to calculate and present information based on existing data with sound economic and mathematical justifications, as applicable. Readers must therefore take heed on considering the numbers as absolute or fully representative and focus more on the broader implications of what the data suggests.

3. International Concepts and Trends on the Prevalence and Causes of VAW

Despite these serious declarations and recognitions of the problem, a WHO Factsheet on VAW reports distressing information as shown below in the following table:

TABLE 1: MAJOR POINTS FROM THE FACTSHEET ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
 Violence against women particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence are major public health problems and violations of women’s human rights.
 Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
 Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.
 Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner.
 Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health, and may increase vulnerability to HIV.

Source: Factsheet on Violence Against Women, WHO, November 2016

Figure 1:
Percentage of Women who experienced violence by current husband, by different types of violence

Source: Report on Violence Against Women Survey 2011, BBS

4. National Demographic Trends And Economic Cost Analysis Of Vaw

The VAW Survey of 2011 was the first of its kind and conducted during the formulation of domestic violence act of Bangladesh. Perhaps owing to the timing of the survey and its larger purpose of contributing and shaping the Act, the focus was majorly on domestic/marital/intimate partner violence and less so on non-intimate partner violence. Despite that, the VAW Survey 2011 does provide some staggering figures which does raise several red flags.
The VAW survey recognizes four (4) main forms of violence – physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence. The survey reports on violence perpetrated by intimate partner and non-intimate partner and for each type of violence the respondents provide two indications of the timeline, violence experienced in the past twelve months and violence experienced at any point in their lives. The summary findings for violence perpetrated by intimate partner at the national level, mainly referring to husband, by type of violence and aggregate figures are shown in Figure 1. When referring to the past twelve months, 77% of women reported having experienced some form of violence from their current husband. This figure basically indicates that at least 7 out of every 10 married women have been subjected to violence by their current husband in the past year. When looking at the breakdown by types of violence, incidences of psychological violence was the highest reported form whereby 72% women mentioned having experienced it. This is followed by a little over 30% women reporting physical and economic violence, and 24% reported having experienced sexual violence. These figures are alarming when considering that this represents the condition nearly half of the country’s population, who are therefore oppressed in some form, within their own households. Given the social stigma surrounding sexual violence and the conservative and often aggressive perception regarding this in our societies, it is safe to assume that the sexual violence figures are an understatement. Additionally, since we are referring to intimate partners here, sexual violence within a marriage is not even recognized by the victims or the perpetrators. The reported incidents are usually in case of extreme sexual violence whereby the victims perhaps could not cover it under the semblance of ‘marital issues’ only.

Table 2:
Percentage of Women who experienced any type of violence in last 12 months by age group, according to locality

Source: Report on Violence Against Women Survey 2011, BBS

Table 3 shows the VAW findings on incidents of violence reported by women by non-partners, therefore mainly referring to perpetrators other than their husbands. The nationally reported figure for this is much lower at 8.4%, which is in sharp contrast to the intimate partner violence incidents discussed above. However, 25.1% women reported having experienced some form violence by non-intimate partners in their lifetime. This effectively means that at least 1 out of every 4 women of the country have experienced some form of violence from non-intimate partners in their lifetime. This is once again quite disconcerting, since this basically indicates that the female population is at risk of experiencing violence regardless of whether they are married or not, and more so, if they are married. If a national survey shows these high figures of prevalence, it indicates deep rooted misogynistic societal beliefs and also a general acceptance of the phenomenon as ‘normal’ behavior. In section 4.1, we will further explore these figures by age groups to analyze the demographic trend and highlight the age groups of women who are potentially most vulnerable to violence.

Table 3:
Percentage of Women who experienced any type of violence from non-partners, according to locality.

Source: Report on Violence Against Women Survey 2011, BBS

A USAID study, ‘Summary of Domestic Violence Against Women: Cost to the Nation Report’ was a small scale study conducted at three locations and calculated costs of the victim and their families for justice, health and lost income which was then extrapolated to calculate national costs. Within its limited scope, it reached the following findings-
“The total national cost of domestic violence against women is at least Taka 14,358 crore. This is about 12.54 percent of the government expenditure for year 2010 and 2.10 percent of GDP.”
The economic costs calculation for the purpose of this report will be broadly drawn from this study and extrapolated to estimate costs at current time period. It must be noted that the study covered three rural locations only and therefore costs calculated for victims are not nationally representative. Despite that, this would also mean that figures are understated and calculations of same at national level will indicate much higher figures. The detailed discussion of economic costs and analysis will be covered in section 4.2.

4.1 Demographic Trends and Future Estimated Direction

Table 2 shows the age-wise distribution of the percentage of women who experienced any type of violence in the preceding year. While the average percentage of women subjected to violence seem to vary marginally across age cohorts, the higher figures are clustered towards the younger age cohorts mainly the age group of 20-24 years of age of which 82.03% of women reported having experienced some form of violence. Unfortunately, the percentage for almost all the age groups except that of the 60+ years are non-discriminately above 70% which is once again an alarming figure considering that it affects more than half the female population of the country. The demographic trend also shows that the prevalence of violence is clustered majorly between the age group of 20-40 years of age and tends to decline gradually in the subsequent cohorts. This therefore requires further examination as to identify what the factors which are affecting the occurrence of incidences of violence, impact of which is getting reduced as the women ages. The factor which affects violence across age groups could be of many forms, from exposure to experience or even a general increase in tolerance among women after they reach a certain age. Identification of what is the main factor that is changing in the older age groups is what is essential to recognize the psychological and relation pattern changes which affect these declines.

Table 4:
Percentage of Women who experienced any type of non-partner violence during lifetime or in the last 12 months, by age group, according to locality

Source

Demographically, the age-wise distribution of violence against non-intimate partners presents a distinct pattern which would be far extending repercussions at the policy level. Table 4 taken from the VAW survey shows the age-wise distribution of women who have been subjected to any form of violence by non-intimate partner in their lifetime and over the last 12 months, at the national rural and urban levels. The interesting figure is the higher percentage of women in the younger age groups 15-19, 20-24 and 25-29 years who are particularly subjected to non-partner violence as opposed to other age groups which report single digit percentages. What is unfortunately notable here is the implication of these figures which essentially points to sexual harassment or abuse of women outside of an intimate relationship and therefore also encompasses child abuse. This demographic pattern is further corroborated by figures of rape in recent years collected by Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK). These ASK figures are shown in Table 5.

The implications of the demographic patterns shown more importantly denote the need for focusing on both intimate and non-intimate violence experienced by the younger age group of women, particularly between the ages of 15-29 years of age. The abuses they face include both child and domestic abuse and this has serious repercussions for the psychological, physiological and economic status of these women/girls. Given that this also denotes the age group which also contains a majority of the child bearing age women, the abuse they face may have repercussions for health and wellness of future population as well as the economic empowerment and proliferation of half of the population of the country and by extension, the country as a whole.

4.2 Economic Cost of VAW

The economic cost calculation of cost of VAW was only limited to cost of domestic violence, since this is the only form of violence against women which has been subjected to some form of study/research. For our purposes, we are drawing extensively from the USAID study 8 which was a small scale study based on three districts conducted as household survey on a sample of 500 households. The survey calculated the economic cost of in the form of direct costs to the victims and their families in the form of justice cost, medical cost and indirect cost to same in the form of lost livelihood opportunities or income owing to damage caused by domestic violence. When referring to domestic violence here, the study referred to physical violence mainly and so for our purposes we have also calculated the costs for same, as shown in Table 6.

Table 5:
Violence against Women (Rape)

Source: Rape Report, Ain o Salish Kendra

Since the study was conducted in 2010, the costs were adjusted for inflation for each of the subsequent years and then calculated in light of the population statistics for the victims extrapolated from the VAW survey data. This simplistic exercise shows that the cost of domestic violence, under a very conservative approach, while declining, still constitute about 3.2% of the GDP in 2016. A more staggering figure is that this cost is equivalent to about 21.2% of national budget as of 2016, which is higher than the combined budgetary allocation of the health, education and social safety net combined. These figures only reveal a portion of the costs associated with VAW as costs associated with the psychological trauma and other intangible costs is not even possible to compute due to unavailability of necessary data on average labor force income. This essentially means that a very rudimentary calculation of the cost of only domestic violence shows that 23.6% of the female population is affected by this and they alone constitute costs which can be equalized to more than one-fifth of the national budget. In sharp contrast, the government social safety net programs which contain most of the limited programs targeted towards VAW as a whole constituted only 13.6% of the national budget. This clearly indicates the significant gap in the funds allocated to address the problem and the estimated costs of the same.

Table 6:
Population Statistics and Cost of Domestic Physical Violence against Women in Bangladesh

Source: Report on Violence Against Women Survey 2011, BBS

5 Policy implications, recommendations and concluding remarks

 One of the major reasons behind conducting studies to calculate economic costs of VAW has been stated as follows:
“Measuring the costs of violence against women demonstrates how violence drains resources from many sectors including private businesses and agencies, the government, community groups and individuals. This is particularly true in the developing world where it is especially important not to remove scarce resources from the promotion of healthy and viable communities. Violence against women impedes economic and social development. To make development funding go farther, reducing rates of violence is an important component of social policy. Demonstrating the waste of resources resulting from violence against women through estimating the economic costs of violence is therefore a useful exercise.” 9
 A stellar example of a developing nation and a country where the prevalence of VAW is widespread in the spheres of society and through all income groups, Bangladesh needs to take some major steps to at least collect data and conduct studies on the issue to understand it better. Upon better understanding of the issue it will allow for more evidence based policy which could than provide actual help to 50% of its population.
 Bangladesh has a budding young population which is expected to contribute greatly to its future economic growth and development. This cannot be achieved without basic security and protection of 50% of its population.
 “Factors associated with increased risk of experiencing intimate partner and sexual violence includes low education, exposure to violence between parents, abuse during childhood, attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.” 10
Awareness campaigns and incorporation of information on domestic violence into school curriculum could go a long way to address behavioral and perspective changes towards VAW.
 An Act on domestic violence will not suffice and rather behavioral and perspective changes need to be perpetuated through education and awareness at school level, especially to address the violence faced by the younger age group.
 Need for reporting anonymously even could be a basic starting point. This has to be a collaborative effort between NGOs and Government with the victims being provided with anonymity and support as and only if asked by victims. The aim being the collection of sufficient data to create evidence backed policy which will hopefully instigate changes in mindset and perspectives in the long run.
 Bangladesh has immense potential and economic empowerment programs for women have proven time and again that development indicatives’ cannot be successful without full participation and economic and social freedom of women.
 It is time our policies reflect this, not simply through providing aid to destitute women rather trying to ensure women do not reach that state.
 Collection of data may seem like a non-direct policy initiative but in order to address such a sensitive issue, one must first understand the depth and prevalence of a problem and identify why and how it manifests itself.

DRAWING & ILLUSTRATION BY JASON SABBIR DHALI INSPIRED BY PICASSO

Tahera Ahsan is a Policy Specialist, Advocacy for Social Change at BRAC. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not necessarily condoned by the organization. She can be reached at tahera_ahsan@hotmail.com

1. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), Statistics and Information Division (SID) and Ministry of Planning (2017). Report on Violence Against Women Survey 2011. Dhaka.
2. Violence in the Americas – A Regional Analysis Including a Review of the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women: Executive Summary, 2000.
3. Day, T., Mckenna, K., Bowlus, A., 2005, ‘the Economic Costs of Violence Against Women: An Evaluation of the Literature’, The United Nation Unies.
4. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, UN Doc A/RES/48/104, Article 1, 20 December 1993
5. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, UN Doc A/RES/48/104, Article 2, 20 December 1993.
6. Siddique. K, ‘Summary of Domestic Violence Against Women: Cost to the Nation Report’, 2010.
7. Et. al
8. Summary of Domestic Violence Against Women: Cost to the Nation Report’, 2010.
9. Day, T., Mckenna, K., Bowlus, A., 2005, ‘the Economic Costs of Violence Against Women: An Evaluation of the Literature’, The United Nation Unies.
10. WHO, Violence Against Women factsheet, November 2016.

When we are allowed to live out our fantasies without consequences, they eventually blur the realities of our real lives. HBO’s Westworld merges the innovation of virtual reality with the classic western. Westworld is your a typical futuristic amusement park that allows visitors to explore their every fantasy in a western world through robot host. However, as time progresses these artificial robots develop an incipient consciousness, altering the dynamics of a reality that humans seek to have sole control over.

Boasting a star cast of Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, and Sir Anthony Hopkins, the sheer star power of Westworld is enough to capture audiences. Nevertheless, the show is supported by an intense, action gripping script, disturbing concept, and excellent writing. The most grappling aspect of the entire show is how it seamlessly merges the classical western narratives with futuristic robots that result from a dystopian corporate structure. Westworld also highlights the abuse of power that humans experience when they are given too much of it. The mannerism, exploitation and constant rewiring of the robots are somewhat metaphoric to the hypothetical limits that civilization will come to when given the opportunity.

Many may look at Westworld and think that it is a future that is not their concern. Contrary to popular belief, the virtual reality market is expanding at an exponential rate, and our addictions to mobile devices are playing a key role. Even apps like Tinder are providing a virtual dating experience to enhance the accessibility of their services. North America is leading the way by taking just less than a quarter of the $403 million in revenue in 2016. The market is expected to grow to $1 billion in 2017, shifting to Asia as the primary market with 45% of the revenue. According to research from SuperData, the truly astonishing phenomenon that is virtual reality will grow 20 folds from 2016 to 2020 and become a $38 billion dollar industry. It leaves one questioning, are we going to solve the problems that will plague us in the future or will we just create a reality that allows us to escape it?

Weighing in on Westworld: 5 Reasons Why it’s Worth the Binge

If you’re looking for a few days of staying in during this holiday weekend, the HBO hit is the ideal companion.

1. Visions or Video Games
The show depicts a reality where reality and the video game world merge into a disturbing reality. It’s quite difficult to draw the lines between the fantasy park and just how much of the world it has taken over.

2. Heinous Human
A vast majority of shows depict a future reality in which robots take over and destroy all that is left of peace. Westworld flips this concept and illustrates the power of man when he is left to his own devices without any thought of the consequences.

3. Attention to Aesthetics
Though the show is set in vastly different worlds; the cinematographers have managed to capture both with meticulous detail. The virtual reality amusement park is nothing of a trip to the old south while behind the scenes, it is a mechanical concrete fortress.

4. Plots and Possibilities
When repercussions are non-existent the story lines are endless. While viewers feel a sense of remorse for the robots, one also has to understand that their realities change everyday, leaving each character’s future in uncertainty.

5. Maestro Makings
Ramin Djawadi, who also works on the score for Game of Thrones, composes the musical score for the show. Ramin flawlessly takes contemporary songs and arranges them in the tradition of the Western style piano. This not only enhances the Western theme, it subtly reminds viewers of the modern setting.