IMF says Bangladesh loan program on track

Updated 07 December 2012
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IMF says Bangladesh loan program on track

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund said Bangladesh was making progress with reforms under an IMF loan program and may be eligible for the second aid payment.
An IMF mission to Dhaka met with senior Bangladeshi officials in the first review of the country's performance under a $987 million Extended Credit Facility granted in April.
Bangladesh's performance under the loan program so far has been generally sound, said IMF mission leader David Cowen.
"Quantitative targets are broadly on track, with all performance criteria met at end-June 2012 — the first test date under the ECF," he said in a statement.
Under the three-year loan deal, Bangladesh has pledged wide-reaching structural reforms to get its economy back on track and ease long-term poverty.
Bangladesh received some $141 million in an initial disbursement in April.
Cowen noted progress on structural measures as well as commitments by the government on several measures, including containing the budget deficit to 4.5 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal 2013.
The government also pledged to boost efforts to curb subsidy costs, particularly through a fuel price adjustment formula, and to take steps to lessen the negative impact on the most vulnerable.
The IMF Executive Board is expected to complete its review in January, which would make the second disbursement of some $141 million available to Bangladesh.
The government sought the IMF aid after rising global oil prices delivered a double whammy, spurring inflation and taking scarce foreign currency out of the country.
Under the IMF agreement, the government must hike prices of oil, power and fertilizer to bolster the country's shaky balance of payments. But poor farmers have relied on deep subsidies for decades.
"Despite global headwinds, Bangladesh's economy performed well in FY12, with preliminary estimates pegging growth at 6.3 percent," Cowen said.
The IMF projects GDP growth of about 6 percent in the current fiscal year, citing external uncertainties and the broader global slowdown.


SoftBank’s Son says Japan is ‘stupid’ to disallow ride-sharing

Updated 19 July 2018
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SoftBank’s Son says Japan is ‘stupid’ to disallow ride-sharing

  • ‘Ride-sharing is prohibited by law in Japan. I can’t believe there is still such a stupid country’
  • SoftBank and its nearly $100 billion Vision Fund have invested in ride-sharing firms Uber, Didi, Ola and Grab, as well as in other technology companies

TOKYO: SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Masayoshi Son blasted Japan on Thursday for not allowing ride-sharing services, calling it “stupid” and saying the country was lagging overseas rivals in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI).
“Ride-sharing is prohibited by law in Japan. I can’t believe there is still such a stupid country,” Son said at an annual company event aimed at customers and suppliers.
The comments reflect Son’s frustration with Japan where he built SoftBank’s domestic telecoms business, the cash engine that has powered his investments. The group has, however, focused its growing range of technology investments overseas.
Son has also been highly critical of the government previously when SoftBank was still a fledgling telecoms service trying to break up a cozy duopoly in Japan.
“A country that gives up on the future has no future,” Son told attendees at the SoftBank World event, saying Japanese business is lagging behind countries such as the United States and China in employing AI.
Japan outlaws non-professional drivers from transporting paying customers on safety grounds and the country’s taxi industry lobby has vigorously opposed deregulation.
Its strict rules have confined ride-sharing firms to providing limited services, with SoftBank and China’s Didi Chuxing saying on Thursday they will trial a taxi-hailing service — matching users to pre-existing taxi operators — in Osaka beginning autumn of 2019. Uber is also piloting a taxi-hailing service.
When asked for a response to Son’s comments, a spokesman for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport said that an issue with ride-sharing services was that while the driver was in charge of transporting passengers, it was unclear who was in charge of maintenance and operation.
“The ministry believes that offering these services for a fee poses problems from the points of both safety and user protection, and careful consideration is necessary,” he said.
Ride-sharing is not the only service in Japan feeling the impact of government restrictions. Strict new rules on home-sharing came into force last month that have radically reduced the number of lettings on sites such as Airbnb Inc.
The curbs on Japan’s nascent sharing economy come despite a rapid rise in the number of inbound tourists likely to access such sharing services, and at a time when Japan is wanting to show its international face ahead of hosting the Rugby World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2020.
While Son, an ethnic Korean born in Japan, has at times criticized the Japanese government, he can also be politically suave. He has praised US President Donald Trump with warm words and pledged to invest billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs in the United States.
SoftBank and its nearly $100 billion Vision Fund have invested in ride-sharing firms Uber Technologies Inc, Didi, India’s Ola and Southeast Asia’s Grab, as well as in other technology companies.
The event on Thursday saw presentations from executives at portfolio companies including Didi, General Motors’ autonomous vehicle unit Cruise and India digital payments firm Paytm E-Commerce Pvt Ltd.
Artificial intelligence is the common thread linking these companies, Son said, with that technology in the future able drive vehicles, diagnose diseases and power financial services.