China offers Bangladesh ray of light in darkness

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka, Nov 4 (EFE).- China has offered Bangladesh help in meeting increased energy demand as it grapples with an escalating power crisis that has left homes and industries in the dark.

In July, Bangladesh banned imports of liquefied natural gas and shut down all diesel-fired power facilities due to price hikes.

It affected electricity output, causing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to undertake a series of austerity measures to reduce power use.

Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming told reporters in late October that Beijing could step up if conditions deteriorated.

“If there is an emergency, I think, as always, China will not sit idle and watch. We will also take some actions,” Jiming said at Dhaka’s Diplomatic Correspondent Association conference on Oct.26.

Jiming said both countries were working on cooperation in the energy sector after a request by Bangladeshi authorities to explore the possibility of an emergency supply of fuel oil.

Experts said China could help Bangladesh resume LNG imports by selling its excess supply, allowing it to restart its closed power plants and boost the supply for industries and households.

“In energy trade, there is nothing called help because there is no global supply shortage,” said Mohammad Tamim, a professor at the Department of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

“It is all about pricing. China had pre-ordered LNG at a lower price, but its demand decreased. If it wants to help Bangladesh, they can resell their LNG to Bangladesh at the previous market rate,” he said.

The petroleum expert said Bangladesh now has to work out a plan on how it could get help from China.

Bangladesh’s business community urged the government to devise a plan immediately to save their businesses and keep the economy rolling.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Faruque Hassan said due to gas and power supply shortages, textile production was affected, leading to delayed shipment of export items and cancellation of orders in some cases.

“On the one hand, our order was reduced due to the economic recession in western countries, and on the other, production was hampered here. We cannot give timely delivery, so the buyer is asking for a discount again. It’s a major crisis,” he said.

“Europe was not getting gas. They were buying it from where we usually buy it. As a result, gas prices increased, and our government cannot afford them. We need to do something quickly to overcome the situation,” Hassan said.

Textiles accounted for more than 82 percent of Bangladesh’s $52 billion exports in 2021-22.

Some independent analysts say the economic crisis could help China tighten its grip on Bangladesh.

“Security aside, Bangladesh’s biggest priority is socio-economic development. In these fields, China’s cooperation has surpassed that of all countries,” said former ambassador Munshi Foyez Ahmed.

“They are our biggest trade partner. We buy a lot of things from them and sell them a little as we do with India, we need this import to facilitate our export. If we had not bought it from China, we would have had to buy it from other countries with more expenses,” he said.

“So, it is the right thing to do. We also need Chinese help for our infrastructural development,” he added.

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