Djokovic: The people’s champion

Novak Djokovic may not seem like the intimidating tennis virtuoso athlete from the outset; rather, like somebody one might approach in a room full of strangers to ask for the Wi-Fi password, for instance. Fondly referred to as the Djoker, his demeanour in general, feels so vibrant and likeable that one might feel like cracking an informal joke with him; and he seems humble and humane- way more than an average superstar athlete or a comic superhero, yet he has morphed into a champion hero for the ages and for all ages.

Even before his latest outstanding win in the finale against the rising star from Greece- Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Serbian superstar Djokovic had reached 6 finals appearance in all four Grand Slams at least six times- the only player ever to have achieved so; and that too, was by beating the lavaesque hot favourite- the immovable force from Spain, that is Rafael Nadal. In an epic, herculean display he had figuratively slayed the “King of Clay” against all odds, where only two players in history had beaten the Spaniard at French Open before in his illustrious career, and Djokovic was one of them.

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The 4-hour 11-minute semi-final, turned into an all-time classic, had all the ingredients of build-up and suspense before it began. At the Roland-Garros prior to it, none had beaten the indomitable Nadal in semi-finals, for starters; none had beaten him ever without taking the match into the fifth set. And none could ever go on to win by going a set down.  But all of those aforementioned unprecedented events transpired in Paris in a nail-biting thriller cinema- full of twists and turns at every other interval, with signs of potentially unfolding dramatic sequences were evident right from the first game and the first set.

The crucial third set, through which the Serb took a lead, will be remembered for a very long time for the players’ spectacular fireworks-of-a-display. Even halfway into the fourth set, that eventually became the decider, very few could have placed a bet against the 13-time serial-winner of French Open, given the game was played at none other than the Spaniard’s favourite terre battue.       

The victory in the final against Tsitsipas was no less of a herculean feat. If the colossal victory against Nadal was akin to conquering Mt. Everest, then the comeback win against the talented Greek — fifth ranked player in ATP rankings at the time — was going to be analogous to climbing down the Everest in hostile conditions with impending blizzards and avalanches on forecast.

Although Djokovic was the hot favourite on paper, his fitness was still a huge concern, having had apparently exhausted it all against Nadal. Moreover, the Spaniard’s defeaters historically could never manage to go on to lift the French Open trophy.   

That is why the 34-year-old Djokovic’s unbelievable triumphs of late, especially in post-pandemic era where he reached all two finals at French Open and this time, redeemed himself to win it. Thus, his great showcase of late, puts him in parallel to the classic mythological figure like Hercules- whose inner strength and ability to endure hardships to overcome monsters and generally doing the impossible, gave him an appeal as a protector of the people and made him a champion of the weak.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 22-year-old runner-up, interestingly mirrored another character from Greek mythology- Sisyphus, a king and also the founder of Olympic Games, who was punished by the gods for his audacious acts of trickery. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus, coming across many a fallen hero, sees Sisyphus and his eternal punishment:

“Then I witnessed the torture of Sisyphus, as he wrestled with a huge rock with both hands. Bracing himself and thrusting with hands and feet he pushed the boulder uphill to the top. But every time, as he was about to send it toppling over the crest, its sheer weight turned it back, and once again towards the plain the pitiless rock rolled down.”

So near yet, so far, as they say. Tsitsipas, who reached the final on his preferred clay surface, missed out on the trophy. In the grand final, he confidently took the first two sets against the depleted Djoker and started to smell victory, yet the boulder fell from near the peak. Young still, but he may have to wait a long while before attempting another sisyphean task in a Roland-Garros final with Rafael Nadal at the helm to remain the likely favourite in the upcoming years.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic can sit back and bask in the glory of the supernova explosion that he created, with the replica of La Coupe des Mousquetaires (translates to The Musketeers’ Trophy that is awarded to the winner of the Men’s Singles competition at the French Open) in his heroic hands. Even the replica, made of solid silver, takes over one hundred hours to be made; such is the French Open’s prestigious, elite nature. Yet, it remains, as ever, as the tournament for the people, considering the nature of hurdles it present.

And besides, if we think of the average common man’s life’s stage as a tennis court, it would be most likely made of clay. To be more precise, it would be composed of red brick dust, crushed white limestone, coal residue, crushed gravel and drain rocks- just like the courts featured at Internationaux de France de Tennis.


DPL Super League to be telecast live on TV

The Super League stage of the ongoing Bangabandhu Dhaka Premier Division T20 League will be telecast live on T Sports and GTV,  informed Kazi Inam Ahmed, chairman of Cricket Committee of Dhaka Metropolis (CCDM), today.

The Super League matches will be held on June 19, 20, 22, 23 and 25 with the top six teams of the table participating.     

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“We are excited to share that the BDPL all the T20 super league matches will be live telecasted jointly by T Sports and GTV. The league so far has produced some really exciting matches with all National team stars participating in this league. I am sure the viewers will enjoy watching the Super League from their homes.  All 6 teams will be playing every day in 3 matches and all games will be at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium,” Inam said.


Bangladesh donates $7.66 million to debt-ridden Sudan

Bangladesh government has donated about US$ 7.66 million to debt-ridden Sudan, a member country of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The government provided the money on Tuesday following the call of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a press release of the finance ministry said today.

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The government hopes that this funding as debt relief will further strengthen Sudan’s struggle for poverty alleviation, it said.

Last year, as part of the IMF’s initiative, Bangladesh also provided more than Tk 8 crore, equivalent to an SDR of 0.70 million, to alleviate poverty in the African country of Somalia.


South Korea willing to help in developing Bangladesh pharma and ICT sectors: ambassador

Noting that South Korea has played a key role in developing Bangladesh’s RMG sector to become the world’s second-largest exporter, Ambassador Lee Jang-Keun highlighted the importance of furthering bilateral commercial ties beyond RMG to various sectors such as bio-pharmaceutical and ICT.

Attending a virtual discussion today on trade and investment opportunities between Bangladesh and South Korea, Ambassador Lee spoke of Korea’s further commitment. He also added that Samsung R&D Institute has been operating in Dhaka since 2011, employing 460 young software developers in Bangladesh and that Korea Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) has recently inaugurated a 100-acre Hi-tech Park within its premises.

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Ambassador Lee pointed out that despite the growth of overall trade volume of the two countries respectively, bilateral trade has remained at a standstill for the past decade with a trade volume of $1.7 billion. To realise the full potential of the South Korea-Bangladesh commercial ties, he emphasised the importance of fostering a business-friendly environment, including addressing the challenges faced by companies doing business with the other country, particularly in tax and tariff policy, repatriation of profit, and streamlining administrative procedures.

The virtual discussion, organised by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Seoul, was also attended by Salman F Rahman, advisor to the Prime Minister on Private Industry and Investment; Paban Chowdhury, Executive Chairman of BEZA; Md Sirazul Islam, Executive Chairman of BIDA; Sultana Afroz, Secretary and CEO of PPPA; and Md Nazrul Islam, Executive Chairman of BEPZA.


Money laundering upsets me as well, says Kamal

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal today said he gets upset just like the general mass when the issue of money laundering comes forward.

“For money laundering, my heart bleeds the same way as yours.”

He made the comments in a virtual press briefing after a meeting of the cabinet committee on public purchase.

Money laundering will decline to a great extent when 15 laws including new and amendment will come into force. The laws will get passed by the parliament in the next six months, he expected.

“The marked money launderers have already been jailed. Legal procedures are going on against them.”

At the briefing, journalists also raised question whether parliamentarians have any participation while passing any bill in the parliament other than saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

The finance minister said the parliamentarians are supposed to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the time of passing any bill. This is the rule.

“It’s not true that they can’t discuss issues related to any bill when it’s placed in the parliament. They get time to discuss and they also give their feedback.”

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Nestle starts infant formula processing in Bangladesh

Nestle Bangladesh today started its infant formula processing, filling and packaging plant at its factory in Sreepur of Gazipur at a cost of Tk 150 crore.

The state-of-the-art plant’s annual production capacity is 6,000 tonnes and it will generate around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.

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At the primary stage, Lactogen 2 and Lactogen 3 would be processed there. Later, Lactogen 1 and Nano would be processed.

Some 34 factories in the world have this kind of plant and Nestle Bangladesh joins this league with this plant.

Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun inaugurated the plant in an online programme where Md Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, was also present.


UK inflation hits 2.1%, jumping over Bank of England target

British inflation unexpectedly jumped above the Bank of England’s target in May when it hit 2.1%, part of a post-lockdown climb in prices that is expected gather pace.

The acceleration of the consumer price index from April’s 1.5% largelyreflected how weak inflation was in May 2020 when the economy was reeling from its first tight lockdown.

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The figure represented the first time inflation has gone above the BoE’s 2% target in almost two years and was above all 33 forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists which had pointed to a rise in inflation to 1.8%.

Yields on British government bonds rose early on Wednesday with the yield on two-year gilts – which are sensitive to speculation about BoE policy moves – briefly touching their highest in nearly a month.

Investors around the world are assessing the risks of a sustained jump in prices, especially in the United States where annual inflation hit 5.0% in May, the highest in almost 13 years, and where President Joe Biden has proposed a $6 trillion stimulus package.

“Today’s inflation print was much stronger than anticipated and confirms that as the UK economy proceeds in its reopening, inflationary pressures continue to build,” Ambrose Crofton, Global Market Strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, said.

The CPI data showed fuel prices in May were almost 18% higher than a year earlier while clothing and footwear costs rose by 2.1% as people, emerging from their lockdown isolation, bought new outfits.

The price data was collected on or around May 11, before pubs and restaurants were allowed to serve customers indoors and cinemas and hotels reopened from May 17.

“All eyes now turn to the Bank of England meeting next Thursday for an indication on how and when it plans to start on the path to more normal policy,” Crofton said.

The BoE has said it expects inflation to hit 2.5% by the end of this year before settling back to its 2% target as the impact of post-lockdown energy price rises fades along with other cost pressures, such as bottlenecks in supply chains.

Previous surges in inflation since the 2008 financial crisis proved temporary, as the labour market was too weak to create the type of wage-price spirals which occurred in the 1970s.

The central bank is expected to leave policy unchanged on June 24 after its latest meeting.


Jack Leslie, an economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said the speeding up of price growth from 0.3% in November to 2.1% in May represented the fastest six-month rise since sterling collapsed after the 2008-09 financial crisis.

“But UK inflationary pressures are different – and nowhere as near as large – as those causing fierce debate in the U.S.,” Leslie said.

Sterling rose slightly after the ONS figures.

Core inflation, which excludes the price of food, energy and other volatile items, rose to 2.0% in the 12 months to May, the Office for National Statistics said.

While BoE Governor Andrew Bailey and most of his colleagues say the climb in inflation will be temporary, Chief Economist Andy Haldane said last week the central bank faced the “most ­dangerous moment” since the European Exchange Rate Mechanism crisis in 1992.

There were signs of further price pressure ahead in Wednesday’s data.

Prices paid by manufacturers for their inputs rose by 10.7% in the 12 months to May, the highest since September 2011, and the prices they charged rose by 4.6%, the biggest increase since January 2012.


Japan exports jump most in 41 years, machine orders rise

Japan’s exports rose at the fastest pace since 1980 in May and a key gauge of capital spending grew, helping the world’s third largest economy offset sluggish domestic demand as COVID-19 vaccinations boost business activity in key markets.

The jump in exports largely reflected a rebound in shipments from last year’s pandemic-driven plunge, but was a welcome sign as the economy struggles to rebound from the first quarter’s doldrums amid a prolonged coronavirus state of emergency.

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The solid data will likely bolster the view that the central bank will stick with its ultra-easy policy at its June 17-18 policy meeting, although it may extend pandemic-relief programmes to back a fragile economic recovery. The government recently extended coronavirus emergency curbs in Tokyo and other major areas.

“We cannot count on private consumption, but an uptrend in exports and capital spending will help pick up the slack in the second quarter,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

“Still, export growth may lack strength as a global chip shortage will put a drag on car production over the next half year or so,” he added.

Ministry of Finance data on Wednesday showed exports grew 49.6% year-on-year in May, versus a 51.3% increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll, led by U.S.-bound car shipments.

The jump followed a 38% rise in April and marked the sharpest monthly increase since April 1980, when shipments surged 51.4%.

May’s rise largely reflected the recoil effect of a 28.3% plunge in May of 2020.

By region, exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, grew 23.6%, led by chip production equipment, hybrid cars and scrap copper, the trade data showed.

Exports to the United States, another key market for Japanese goods, jumped 87.9% in May, a record for year-on-year growth according to comparable data going back to January 1980, driven by cars and auto parts.

Imports rose 27.9% year-on-year in May versus a median estimate for a 26.6% gain, resulting in a trade deficit of 187.1 billion yen ($1.70 billion), against the median estimate for a 91.2 billion yen shortfall.

Separate data by the Cabinet Office showed core machinery orders, which serve as a leading indicator of capital expenditure in the coming six to nine months, rose 0.6% in April from the previous month, below an expected 2.7% gain.

The Cabinet Office left its assessment on machinery orders unchanged, saying a pick-up was stalling.

A government official said solid overseas demand for chip manufacturing equipment helped support external orders, which jumped 46.2% in April, rebounding from a 53.9% fall in March.

Core orders, which exclude those for ships and electrical utilities, grew 6.5% year-on-year in April, versus an 8.0% gain expected by economists, the data showed.

The Bank of Japan is widely expected to keep its policy interest rate at minus 0.1% and the 10-year Japanese government bond yield target at around 0% at its policy meeting this week.


DSE sues Banco Securities

The Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) has filed a case against Banco Securities on discovering a shortfall of Tk 60 crore in its consolidated customers’ account.

Such accounts are meant to hold money which investors provide to a brokerage house to do trade with on their behalf. Whatever transactions made are supposed to add up in the balance.

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The case was filed with Motijheel Police Station on Monday night, confirmed a top DSE official.

Earlier in the day, the premier bourse suspended Banco’s trading activities on deciding upon it at a board meeting.

A DSE investigation on the brokerage firm is ongoing.

Preliminary findings were sent to the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) and the stock market regulator recommended to suspend the trading and filing a case.

The regulator also asked to inform the relevant government authorities to bar top officials of the firm from going abroad.

Earlier on November 16, 2020, the BSEC barred Banco from subscribing to the initial public offering of Robi Axiata on finding that it had got deals in advance for trading Robi’s shares.

Banco Managing Director Shamiul Islam could not be reached for comment as his cellphone was found switched off by the time this report was filed yesterday.   


UK sees record jump in employee numbers in May

The number of employees on British company payrolls surged by a record amount in May as Covid restrictions eased and pubs and restaurants resumed indoor service, though it still remains more than half a million below its pre-pandemic peak.

Tax data released on Tuesday showed that British companies increased their number of employees by 197,000 in May, the biggest single-month increase since records began in July 2014, taking the total to 28.5 million.

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Tuesday’s figures also showed the fastest headline wage growth since 2007 in the year to April, although statisticians warned that this was distorted by comparisons with depressed wages a year ago and greater job losses among low-paid staff.

“The level of employment is still well below its pre-crisis level, suggesting there is still plenty of slack in the labour market,” said Thomas Pugh, UK economist at Capital Economics.

The headline unemployment rate fell for a fourth month in a row to 4.7 per cent for the three months to April, in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists. “The latest forecasts for unemployment are around half of what was previously feared and the number of employees on payroll is at its highest level since April last year,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said.

The jobless rate has been kept down by the government’s furlough programme. This paid wages on 8.9 million jobs at its peak in May 2020, during the first Covid lockdown, and supported 3.4 million jobs in April 2021.

More recent ONS survey data pointed to a further fall to just over 2 million jobs by mid-May, and Tuesday’s data showed the most job vacancies since the pandemic began.

The biggest rise in vacancies was in the accommodation and food service sector. The sector was hit hard hit by the pandemic, and will face an extra challenge in coming weeks as the full lifting of Covid capacity constraints has been delayed until July 19 due to the spread of a new, more infectious, Covid variant.

The Bank of England predicted last month that unemployment would only rise modestly when the furlough scheme stops at the end of September 2020, and is keeping a close eye on inflation pressures – though it still sees substantial slack. The proportion of working-age men classed as inactive rose to a record-high 17.8 per cent. This category includes students and people caring for family, as well as those who have given up looking for work.

Average weekly earnings in the three months to the end of April rose by 5.6 per cent compared with a year earlier, its biggest rise since March 2007 and above forecasts. The ONS said that although there were some signs of employers offering sign-on bonuses to attract staff, most of the rise reflected base effects and other distortions. It estimated underlying wage growth was around 3 per cent.