Foreign loans rose 14.3% through the banks’ offshore banking in the last quarter of fiscal 2015-16 thanks to low interest rates. The total outstanding foreign loans of offshore banking stood at BDT 380.9 billion in the April-June period, according to Bangladesh Bank statistics. In the previous quarter, it was BDT 333.1 billion. Individuals or institutions can take short-term foreign loans through offshore units of commercial banks. Usually, the loan is taken through deferring the payment against letters of credit. The tenure of the loans tends to be one year and the rate of interest a maximum of 6.0%. As of June 30, the total loans taken through local private banks were BDT 213.4 billion. The amount of loans from foreign banks was BDT 166.3 billion. The loans taken from state-owned commercial banks were BDT 1.2 billion. The multinational companies and garment factories take most of the foreign loans through the offshore units, said an official of a private bank. Of the 56 banks, 51 have the central bank’s approval for offshore banking. However, the borrowers have taken the loans through only 35 banks.
Permanent committee formed to review rates on savings tools
The government has formed a nine-member permanent committee to review and re-fix the interest rates on savings instruments twice in a year to tighten the galloping borrowing from the costly instruments as their skyrocketing sales put a dent on the economy. April and October are the months fixed for revisions to be conducted by the committee, a senior official of the finance ministry said. The finance ministry will announce new rates for savings tools in January and October of each year, an office order of the ministry said. The order, issued last week, said the prime objective of the committee is to recommend new rates for savings tools comparing those with the current bank interest rates. The committee will assess the fiscal implications caused by the mad rush for high-yielding savings tools, consider the revenue income, non-development expenditure and cash reserve portfolio of the government while proposing revision. The trend of the government’s borrowing from the schemes, commission expenditure and beneficiaries of the tools are the guiding fundamentals of the committee, the office order said. Headed by an additional secretary of the finance division of the finance ministry, representatives from Bangladesh Bank and National Board of Revenue have been included in the committee.
Finance Minister says BASIC Bank in danger: Asks Bangladesh Bank to cut down consultants’ number
Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on Sunday said that the scam-hit BASIC Bank was now in danger because of unscrupulous activities. Muhith, at a program at Bangladesh Bank, also said that a lot of money had been ‘looted’ from Sonali Bank. BB organized the program marking the National Mourning Day. Muhith said that they were taking actions against officials and board members involved in the BASIC and Sonali Bank scams. Although Muhith did not elaborate why BASIC Bank was facing danger, officials of finance ministry said the bank was facing huge capital and provision shortfall and increased amount of defaulted loans. He said that they had started the process of reform at the two state-owned commercial banks. More than BDT 100.0 billion were embezzled from the two banks in last few years with the association of bank officials and board members. Muhith asked BB to cut down the number of consultants and complete the technical assistance programs quickly at the central bank.
The government will regulate the pricing of LPG or liquefied petroleum gas for use in automobiles as it has decided on this fuel’s larger-scale consumption, officials said. In tune with the move to increase LPG consumption substantially, the government will issue new licenses for installing auto-gas stations, they added. Currently around a dozen auto-gas re-fuelling stations are in operation across the country — all run by private-sector entrepreneurs and the prices regulated by the private sector itself. The Energy and Mineral Resources Division (EMRD) under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MPEMR) has already prepared country’s first-ever policy guidelines for installing re-fuelling stations and conversion workshops and their maintenance across the country, EMRD Deputy Secretary Akramuzzaman told the FE Sunday. After approval, the licensee must build such a gas station and conversion workshop within 12 months. This time could be extended by six more months following appeal by the licensee, under the policy. Interested license-seekers have to complete auto-gas sale and purchase agreement with the marketing companies to get final approval.
A total of six joint venture companies with local and foreign investment have applied to bid for the country’s first Mobile Number Portability (MNP) auction next month. The telecom regulator is currently assessing the qualification of these six companies. The full list of the qualified entities will be circulated on September 05. All the companies, which have applied for the bidding process, are joint venture companies having both local and foreign investment, a BTRC high official told the FE. The auction is scheduled to take place on September 21. Prior to that, a consultation on the auction procedure will take place on September 19. Once operational, the MNP scheme will allow a mobile number subscriber to switch from one operator to another without having to change the existing number. Apart from a number of countries in North America and Europe, the service is already available in India and Pakistan. Earlier, the government in its MNP guideline had stipulated that Any Bangladeshi or expatriate Bangladeshi-owned company registered in the country will be eligible for participating in the auction. However, foreign companies having partnership with their Bangladeshi counterparts could also take part in the auction, the guideline said.
A state-of-the-art factory of Square Group is producing denim fabrics and supplying the value-added products to local apparel exporters. The group has set up the unit at a cost of BDT 4.0 billion at Habiganj that has gone for production since July last year aimed at catering to the growing demand for the item both in the local and global markets. Tapan Chowdhury, managing director of Square Group, said that his company has planned to set up a spinning unit on the same premises by the end of next year. China and Turkey are opting for high-end products creating potential for countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, he said, adding Bangladesh has much prospective as it has strong garment manufacturing base and can produce more value-added products. The unit, which is currently supplying fabrics to local garment exporters, will use their produced fabrics in its proposed garment making unit that is expected to go for production in November this year.
Telcos propose to hike charge for mobile wallet users
Telecom operators have urged the regulator to raise the cost of messaging service for mobile money transfer to BDT 2 from almost zero, which means customers will have to pay more. The Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh has recently submitted its proposal to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, saying 86% of unstructured supplementary service data or USSD traffic and 100% of SMS are free of charge. That resulted in a cumulative industry revenue loss of BDT 449.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2015 alone, according to AMTOB. The telecom operators said they face huge pressure on their networks, especially at peak hours, due to an increased volume of free texts and millions of USSD sessions from the MFS providers. This service, which is 86.0% free of charge, creates extra pressure on the operators’ networks, leading to more call drops and poor services, they added. However, the mobile money companies said telecom operators are earning much more than when the service was launched in 2011 because the volume of transactions has gone up significantly. So, the telecom operators should cut the cost instead — to benefit customers, they added. The MFS providers also said they are not making money from these services either and rather, they are sharing the revenue with the mobile operators.
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