Trade deficit continues to widen
Trade deficit almost doubled to USD 8.62 billion in the first half of the fiscal year as fears of depreciation of the BDT and pressure on foreign reserves mount. If the trend continues, the trade gap will surpass USD 19 billion this fiscal year, said an executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, a private think-tank. The economist blamed the soaring demand for imports from businesses for the growing imbalance in the country’s external trade. During the July-December period last year, imports stood at USD 26.31 billion, up 25.76% year-on-year, according to data from the Bangladesh Bank. At the same time, exports rose 7.8% to USD 17.69 billion. If the trade imbalance intensifies, it will have a terrible impact on the foreign exchange reserves and will lead to further depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar, said the executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh. At the end of December, the overall balance was USD 354 million in the negative in contrast to USD 2.26 billion in the surplus a year earlier. The rising trade gap dragged the current account deficit to an all-time high: in the first half of fiscal 2017-18, the deficit stood at USD 4.76 billion in contrast to USD 543 million a year earlier.
29% of refinancing fund goes undisbursed
Nearly 29% or BDT 2.58 billion of the BDT 9.0 billion capital market refinancing fund remains undisbursed due to poor response from the investors, who were the victims of the 2010-11 stock market debacle, officials said. Despite repeated attempts, the fund supervision committee and Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB) could not disburse over BDT 2.58 billion of the fund meant for the affected investors, an ICB official said. The timeframe has been extended until January 2019 for smooth implementation of the incentive package. Earlier, the scheme was set to end in December 2016. In September 2017, the government also reduced the fund’s interest rate by 1.5%. At present, the interest rate is 6.0% which was 9.0% earlier. Some seven entities have applied for over BDT 820 million against 3,197 small investors after reducing the interest rate of the refinancing fund scheme, extending the time for obtaining loan and placing different types of advertisements to disburse the fund by ICB. The process is now going on to scrutinize the applications aiming to disburse the funds, according to an ICB document. The government formed the BDT 9.0 billion fund in July 2013 to prop up the capital market, and mitigate the sufferings of investors, affected during the 2010-11 stock market debacle. Later, ICB was appointed as the fund manager. The central bank disbursed BDT 9.0 billion by three installments against the fund. Until January 31 this year, merchant banks and stockbrokers have disbursed BDT 6.42 billion among 25,262 affected-small investors through 34 entities. Over BDT 6.89 billion loan along with interest has already been realized from the borrowers. Before disbursing the fund, the BSEC identified some 954,000 investors, who are eligible for the loan facility, in line with the guidelines set for the capital market refinancing scheme. The affected-investors, who invested up to BDT 1.0 million during the period between January 2009 and November 2011, were eligible for the loan under the scheme.
BB, state-owned banks asked to check info leaks
The Financial Institution Division has directed the state-run financial entities to check any leak of ‘confidential’ information as reports on scams frequently grabs the headlines in local and international media tarnishing image of the ruling party. Officials said that the division gave the directive in a letter on February 1 asking the Bangladesh Bank, state-owned commercial banks and other financial entities to take necessary measures so that no confidential information relating to intelligence and security could be exposed to any person beyond the authorities concerned.
ADB provides $20m to EBL for Bangladesh apparel sector
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed an agreement with Eastern Bank Ltd (EBL) on Monday for a $20 million loan to support the development of Bangladesh’s textile and garment sectors. The agreement was signed by Christine Engstrom, Director for ADB’s Private Sector Financial Institutions Division, and Ali Reza Iftekhar, Managing Director and CEO of EBL, at a ceremony in the capital Dhaka.
ICB unwilling to invest in Farmers Bank shares
The Farmers Bank Limited (FBL), a fourth-generation private bank, has proposed to sell shares worth Tk355 crore to Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB) in order to meet its capital shortfall. However, the board of directors of ICB is unwilling to buy shares of the Farmers Bank, owned by former minister MK Alamgir, as the directors think that it will be risky to pour funds into a troubled bank. The Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) members of ICB have opposed the investment plan.
India, China in race for stake in DSE
Two economic giants — India and China — are in a race to buy 25 percent stake in the Dhaka Stock Exchange. A consortium of the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange has proposed to purchase 45 crore shares of the DSE for Tk 22 each.
Demutualisation of DSE draws scathing criticism
Probe-body chief Khondoker Ibrahim Khaled said Monday a “powerful vested quarter”, consisting of 200 persons, were behind the collapse of the stock-market and they still dictate terms. There is a “powerful vested quarter involved in it”, Mr Khaled, a former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, told a seminar organised at a city hotel by an online news-portal.
DSE board to try to reconfirm Chinese consortium’s selection
The Dhaka Stock Exchange board at a meeting on February 18 will try to reconfirm the selection of Shanghai Stock Exchange-led consortium for selling 25 per cent of its stake, shrugging off the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission’s pressure to select the second highest bidder, India’s NSE-led group, said a number of directors.
ADP spending up 37pc in Jul-Jan
The government’s development spending rose 36.88 percent year-on-year to Tk 54,718 crore in the first seven months of the current fiscal year on the back of an increased use of foreign aid. Project aid utilisation went up by 120 percent to Tk 23,336 crore during the period, according to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division.
4G mobile spectrum auction today
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is set to hold the much-awaited spectrum auction of different bands today (Tuesday) for introducing the 4G/LTE service in the country. Two mobile network operators (MNOs) are taking part in the auction, although four MNOs applied for vie it. According to BTRC Secretary and Spokesperson, Grameenphone and Banglalink are participating in the spectrum auction. He also said Grameenphone has secured its seat only for 1800 MHz and Banglalink for 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz.. Banglalink paid BDT 3.0 billion to bid for two bands while Grameenphone paid BDT 1.5 billion. In the auction, the BTRC will give away 25 MHz in 2100 MHz band at a floor price of USD 27 million per MHz. It will also put up for sale 18 MHz in the 1800 MHz band and 3.4 MHz in the 900 MHz band, both starting off with USD 30 million per MHz. But, now the 900 band will not be auctioned for reluctance of MNOs. Initially, four operators-Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Citycell-applied and became eligible for the much awaited auction. But, finally Robi and Citycell refrained from obtaining their seat in the auction not paying the bid earnest money. On the other hand, market leader Grameenphone deposited bid earnest money only for 1800 MHz while Banglalink for 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz. None of them showed interest for 900 MHz. The telecom regulator will finally hand over the much-awaited 4G licence to Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink, and Teletalk on February 20, capping off months of back and forth between the government and the mobile operators. The licence fee for the fourth generation network technology, which promises the fastest data speed from mobile devices, is BDT 100 million. All the operators are technically ready to roll out the service, so once they officially get the licences they can offer it to their subscribers, said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. The top three operators have completed their preparations for 4G roll-out and have already launched campaigns to drum up excitement for the forthcoming technology.
VAT on 4G license, spectrum fees to be set at 10%
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has decided to set the VAT rate at 10%, after reducing it from standard 15%, on fees and charges for 4G license and spectrum allocation to facilitate the auction for the technology. Value-added tax wing of the revenue board will issue an order soon after getting approval from the finance ministry. The NBR took the decision after Large Taxpayers Unit (LTU-VAT) in a letter last week requested it to issue an order reducing the VAT rate on different fees and charges for license and spectrum to be collected by the government from the mobile operators during the auction for ensuring revenue receipt. The telecom regulator on December 22 also requested the revenue board to issue an instruction clarifying its position on VAT rates on 4G license, spectrum fees and charges and other issues. NBR in 2013 slashed the rate initially to 7.5% and finally to 5% on 3G license fees from 15%, following pressure from the mobile operators. NBR was supposed to get around BDT 10.00 billion in VAT from 4G license and spectrum fees if the VAT rate would remain at 15%. Now, it would get around BDT 6.50 billion in VAT due to reduction in rate, officials said. LTU (VAT) recommended the revenue board to reduce the rate apprehending that the government might lose its expected revenue or revenue collection may be delayed without reduction of the rate. NBR officials said that the LTU assured the NBR to realize the revenue if the rate was set at 10%. LTU in the letter, however, estimated that VAT receipt would be BDT 7.50 billion if the rate is set at 12%.
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