Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Highlights of Sunday’s newspapers:

The Financial Express:

— Local businesses Saturday sought exclusion of criminal provisions in the proposed value added tax (VAT) act to make it more tax-friendly. They suggested for formation of a core group comprising relevant ministries and trade bodies in a bid to prepare the draft of the act business-friendly.

— The country’s overall import payments grew by over 23 per cent in the first quarter (Q1) of the current fiscal year (FY), mainly due to more than 100 per cent increase in oil import bill, officials said.

— Commercial extraction of the country’s proven coal reserve is unlikely to start, at least within the next couple of years, despite the desperate national needs for use of this fossil fuel to generate electricity, experts said on Saturday.

The Daily Star:

— With only hours to go before the commencement of the Narayanganj City Corporation polls, BNP-backed mayoral candidate Taimur Alam Khandaker pulled out of the race early today. Taimur announced his withdrawal from the election at a press conference at his Narayanganj residence around 1:30am.

— Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday reiterated her call to the developed economies to assist Bangladesh face the risks of climate change. “Bangladesh is among the countries most vulnerable to the global climate change. We’ve taken many steps to protect our people from its adverse impacts, but we need international support to successfully face the challenge,” she said.

— The main opposition BNP early today demanded resignation of the election commissioners for failing to make the government deploy the army in the Narayanganj City Corporation elections. The party also slammed the Election Commission for saying that it will not take the responsibility for any violence during the vote.

The New Age:

— The newly formed Narayanganj City Corporation goes to polls for the first time today amidst fear and panic as the government did not make army deployment, which the Election Commission, major candidates and voters had demanded.

— Dhaka stocks extended losing streak to fourth week as the panic-stricken retail investors found their ‘last hope’ that the commercial banks would inject fresh fund into the ailing market was dashed. The benchmark general index of the Dhaka Stock Exchange, or DGEN, lost 4.26 per cent, or 235.97 points, in five highly volatile trading sessions to close at 5,308.79 points.

— A senior Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Mir Quasem Ali, along with his US-based brother Mir Masum Ali, in the past year spent $310,000 (Tk 24 million) hiring one of the top United States lobbying firms to try and influence the country’s politicians and government officials on the ‘Bangladeshi War Crimes Tribunal’ and issues relating to the ‘political opposition,’ according to documents lodged with the US congress.

BBN/SSR/AD-30Oct11-9:42 am (BST)