Inflation drops to 8.5yr low
Inflation dropped to 5.02 per cent in January, the lowest in eight and a half years, on the back of the arrival of winter vegetables that contributed to the consumer price decline, official figures showed yesterday. This is the third straight month of overall consumer price decline. In December, inflation, a measure of changes in the prices of a basket of commodities and services, was 5.29 per cent, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). The price of coarse grain, a benchmark followed by policy-makers, was Tk 44 to Tk 48 each kilogram on January 31, down 3.16 per cent from Tk 45 to Tk 50 on the last day of 2020, data compiled by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh showed. Non-food inflation declined to 4.69 per cent in January from 5.21 per cent in December, BBS data showed. Consumer prices dropped in both rural and urban areas during the period. However, inflation may see some pressure in the coming months because of a general price rise globally, said the Bangladesh Bank on Tuesday. The World Bank said commodity prices continued to surge in January with energy commodities jumping 10 per cent and non-energy commodities rising 4.4 per cent. In December, energy and non-energy commodities rose 15.2 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively. Agriculture commodities rose 5 per cent, metals and minerals 3.2 per cent and precious metals 1.1 per cent. The BB has set a 5.4 per cent inflation target in the current fiscal year.
High tariffs at home major hurdle to FTAs
Bangladesh will face an uphill task in convincing major trading partners and regional blocs to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) because of higher tariffs as it looks to retain duty benefits after its graduation from the LDC group, according to a government report. In December, Bangladesh struck preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Bhutan, its first bilateral trade agreement, as it looks to retain duty-free market access after it becomes a developing nation in 2024. Under the deal with Bhutan, Bangladesh will get duty preference for 100 goods and extend the same benefit to Bhutan for 34 goods. Bangladesh may ink PTA with Nepal soon. Besides, the government is in negotiation with 11 more countries to sign FTAs. This might have discouraged more proactive market exploration initiatives through bilateral and regional trade deals that would have required exchange of trade concessions based on reciprocity. Post-LDC, Bangladesh may have to negotiate a trading arrangement with the EU and the post-Brexit United Kingdom to ensure favourable access to the markets, which account for more than 60 per cent of exports from the country. Bangladesh needs to build and nurture inclusive economic institutions that are effective in enforcing property rights, create a level-playing field for small and large entrepreneurs, encourage investment in innovation, adopt new technologies and develop skills for the future to attain and sustain high economic growth. The commerce ministry is the lead ministry in the preparation of technical inputs for trade policy-making and negotiations.
Bangabandhu Shilpa Nagar to go green
The government has undertaken a Tk 4,367 crore project to turn the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN) into an environment-friendly industrial city with a view to attracting more foreign investment. The fresh project for the development of the BSMSN was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) at its virtual meeting yesterday with its chairperson, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in the chair. Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) will implement the project between January 2021 and December 2025 in order to create an enabling environment for sustainable private investment and a dynamic local market for industrial land. The World Bank will provide $467 million (about Tk 3,970 crore) for the initiative under its Private Investment and Digital Entrepreneurship (PRIDE) project and the remaining Tk 380 crore will be borne by the government. The project will create opportunities in attracting domestic and foreign direct investment, rapid industrialisation, diversification of commodities, increase in export earnings and, above all, earning foreign exchange. In addition, the implementation of the project will generate employment for a large number of people, including women, which will help in poverty alleviation. In this context, the Planning Commission thinks that the project is worth taking into consideration. Some 548 acres have been developed for industries in the BSMSN-1, some 1,939 acres in the BSMSN-2 and 474 acres in the BSMSN-2B. A total of 114 industrial units have already been allocated land across the three zones under a phase-1. As of January 2021, numerous businesses from both home and abroad have come up with investment proposals valued at $20 billion for the industrial city, according to Beza data. The World Bank previously provided $500 million for the BSMSN’s development on condition that no factories would be set up before the utility connections were provided. Besides, the meeting also approved a project involving Tk 428 crore to develop the skills of 256,000 unemployed and disadvantaged women to turn them into entrepreneurs and create jobs. The project will aim to make 1,600 women self-employed by setting up 80 sales and display centres and an equal number of food corners and beauty parlours. The Jatiyo Mohila Sangstha, a welfare organisation for women under the women and children affairs ministry, will execute the project between January 2021 and December 2025.
Brac to raise Tk 1,350cr through bonds
Brac, a non-listed non-government organisation, has received the nod from the stock market regulator to raise Tk 1,350 crore by issuing zero-coupon bonds. A zero-coupon bond is a debt security that does not pay interest. Instead, it trades at a discount, rendering a profit at maturity, when the bond is redeemed for its full face value. The Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) yesterday approved the bond, whose face value is Tk 1 crore, according to a press release. The discount rate of the bond will be 8.5 per cent. This means an investor can buy a unit of the bond at about Tk 77,04,500. The NGO provided financial services to 7.4 million clients in 2019, according to its annual report. It disbursed $5.09 billion in loans among the clients in 2019, up 21 per cent year-on-year.
New MD & CEO of NRB Bank
Mr. Mamoon Mahmood Shah has been appointed as Managing Director & CEO of NRB Bank Limited. A Postgraduate in Accounting from the University of Dhaka, Mr. Mamoon Mahmood Shah started his banking career as Probationary Officer of IFIC Bank Ltd. Mr. Mahmood joined NRB Bank Limited as Additional Managing Director in 2019. He has to his credit a wide range of banking experience of more than 30 years which includes serving in key positions in a number of both local and multinational banking institutions such as EBL, HSBC, Standard Chartered, ANZ Grindlays, etc. Mr. Shah also held the position of MD & CEO of ICB Islamic Bank, National Finance Ltd., GSP Finance.