Boost private investment to create more jobs
Bangladesh must increase the stymied private investment to boost economic growth and help generate enough jobs for its burgeoning workforce, the central bank recommends. “To reach the next phase of growth, Bangladesh needs to increase the level of private investment to create jobs and support growth. Public investment can crowd in private investments by easing infrastructure bottlenecks,” the Bangladesh Bank (BB) said in its annual report for the fiscal year (FY) 2016-17. Its observations came against the backdrop of a rising trend in public investment in the gross domestic product (GDP) while private investment almost stayed static in the recent years. Public investment showed a gradual rise from 6.6 per cent in 2013 to 7.4 per cent of GDP in 2017, whereas private investment kept hovering around 22-23 per cent of GDP, according to the BB report.
BB set to allow banks to expand OBUs in EZs, hi-tech parks
The central bank is set to allow banks to expand operations of their offshore banking units (OBUs) to facilitate implementation of the economic zones (EZs) and hi-tech parks with availability of foreign currency support. Under the proposed policy, the hi-tech parks and EZs will come under the OBU operations along with the existing export processing zones (EPZs). The government has set a target to establish 100 EZs and 28 hi-tech parks across the country. “We’ve included the two new areas in the policy, considering its impact on the overall economic development of the country,” a senior official at Bangladesh Bank (BB) told the FE on Thursday. He said necessary preparations have almost been completed and expected the policy to be announced next week. Loans under OBU operations will be reported to the CIB (Credit Information Bureau) of the central bank, according to officials. Under the existing provisions, any outstanding loan worth Tk 50,000 or above is included in the CIB reporting system.
Remittance finally looks up in Jan
Remittance is finally snapping out of its two-year-long slump, hitting a five-month high in January on the back of the depreciation of the taka against the US dollar. Last month, migrant workers sent home $1.37 billion, up 37 percent from a year earlier and 18.55 percent from a month earlier, according to Bangladesh Bank data. Remittance is a major source of foreign currency for Bangladesh and its descent since fiscal 2015-16 has become a matter of concern for the government. Last fiscal year, the receipts were the lowest in six years. January’s inflows take this fiscal year’s receipts so far to $8.31 billion, up 15.82 percent from a year earlier. The higher inflow reflected a confluence of factors, including the BB measures to bring remittance through banking channel by way of reducing the transaction cost, said Faisal Ahmed, chief economist of the BB. A strong pick-up in global economic activities, especially in the Middle Eastern nations, helped the country maintain the upward trend, he said, adding that the market-based exchange rate also had a positive impact on the receipts. “The near and dear ones of the Bangladeshi diaspora have been getting a favourable rate over the last few months,” said Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Dhaka Bank. The local currency has been depreciating heavily against the American greenback for the last few months, prompting Bangladeshis living abroad to remit more money through the formal channel.
MFS transactions surge in 2017
Transactions through mobile financial service platforms posted more than 34 per cent increase in 2017 with continuing the momentum of mobile-based money transactions in the country in recent years. According to the latest figures published by the central bank on Thursday, transactions worth of Tk 3.14 trillion have been made through mobile financial services platform back in 2017, up from around Tk 2.34 trillion MFS transactions that were made during the preceding year of 2016. The total number of MFS transactions has also increased from around 1.47 billion in 2016 to 1.87 billion in 2017, posting a growth of 27.21 per cent. Similar growth can also be witnessed in the amount of average daily transactions and the number of average daily transactions when compared year to year.
Banks use expired credit ratings for lending
Many banks are allegedly using expired credit ratings of businesses while sanctioning loans to wriggle out of the regulatory requirement to keep a certain percentage of capital against the loans. This prompted the central bank on January 24 to instruct all banks to calculate their capital requirements properly by using the latest credit rating of businesses. The use of expired credit rating by banks will create an impediment to implementing the BASEL III guidelines in the banking sector, according to the central bank letter. As per Bangladesh Bank rules, the credit rating of a business entity is valid for one year, but some banks have frequently been disregarding the directive.
Bankers seek exemption from labour act
A proposal put forward for exempting banking companies from the purview of the labour act aiming to help protect the sector from possible challenges is now under scrutiny, sources said. After receiving the proposal, made recently by the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh (ABB), the finance ministry has referred the matter both to the labour and law ministries for taking next course of action. “We have already sought opinions from the law ministry, but we are yet to get any response in this regard,” a finance ministry official told the FE. When asked, senior secretary of financial institutions division Md Eunusur Rahman said it is a matter of the labour ministry. “We also have communicated with the law ministry. But the ministry is yet to give any opinion in this connection. This is a problem.” He said, “We have already got in contact with the ministry concerned several times in this connection. We will write again to ministries concerned.” “The finance ministry has written to the labour ministry that there is need to keep the banking companies out of the labour act. But no action has been taken in this connection,” immediate-past chairman of ABB Anis A. Khan told the FE. “We sent a letter to financial institutions division (FID) most recently. The finance ministry asked the secretary of the division to request the law ministry for excluding the banking companies from the existing labour act,” he mentioned.
Muhith blames banks’ ballooning bad loans on govt ‘interference’
In soul-searching over banking problems, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said Saturday government’s increased “interference” is largely responsible for the ballooning bad loans state-owned banks (SoBs) are now burdened with. He particularly cited the state of affairs of Sonali Bank ltd that bears a large amount of classified loans, as the SBL came under the scanner at its annual meet. “We are mainly responsible for the existing higher rate of classified loans in the Sonali Bank,” he said. “Besides, poor compliance with KYC (know your client) procedure by the state-owned SBL is also partly responsible for the situation.” Elaborating on the interference syndrome, he said: “We are responsible, because, we have six banks (public sector banks) and we interfere in their activities, and Sonali Bank gets interfered with most because it is the largest.”
BB still waits to get back $66m in stolen money
Two years have gone by since the Bangladesh Bank cyber heist, but Bangladesh could not bring back the major chunk of the $81 million wired to the Philippines from BB’s account with the New York Fed. Also, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has yet to complete its investigation into the transnational crimes, one of the world’s biggest cyber thefts ever reported. As part of the probe, the CID sought information from several countries about the suspects, but only the Philippines has responded so far. The BB is now considering suing Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), known as Rizal Bank, as a last resort to retrieve the money.
What type of attack was the central bank reserve heist?
Two years after the theft of $101 million from the Bangladesh Bank reserve, many mysteries persist. One of the mysteries is what type of attack it was – a criminal heist or something state-sponsored and thus inherently more sinister?.
Sonali should jack up loan growth: governor
While the central bank has mounted pressure on private banks to reduce their loan-deposit ratio (LDR) to rein in aggressive lending, state-owned lenders, particularly Sonali Bank, is sitting on a huge amount of idle money for its reluctance to attract good borrowers. Finally, the regulator has stepped in to address the issue, which is no way sustainable for a bank. Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir yesterday asked Sonali to accelerate its loan growth to make the business commercially sustainable. He gave the instruction at Sonali’s annual conference 2018, at the Institution of Diploma Engineers, Bangladesh (IDEB) in the capital.
BRAC Bank wins SAFA Award
The South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA), an apex body of SAARC, has awarded BRAC Bank Limited with the Best Presented Annual Report Awards and SAARC Anniversary Awards for Corporate Governance Disclosures, 2016, said a statement. BRAC Bank Limited won the most prestigious corporate disclosure awards in the South Asia outshining counterparts in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan in the Private Sector Banks Category (Including Co-operative Banks). This award has been conferred on BRAC Bank Limited on the basis of evaluation administered by SAFA’s Committee for Implementation in Transparency, Accountability and Governance. A. K. Joaddar, Deputy Managing Director & CFO; Zara Jabeen Mahbub, Head of Communications & Customer Experience, Abdul Ohab Miah FCA, Head of Reporting; BRAC Bank Limited, formally received the award from Dr. Suvod Kumar Karn, President of SAFA, at a ceremony at Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza in Kathmandu, Nepal recently.
WB approves $300m to improve cash transfer
The World Bank approved on Thursday a $300 million financing to improve the transparency and efficiency of major cash transfer programmes in Bangladesh, reports UNB. This will benefit about 5.0 million of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The Cash Transfer Modernisation Project will help the Department of Social Services under the Ministry of Social Welfare modernise some of the country’s largest cash transfer programmes for the poor elderly persons, widows and people with disabilities. The project aims to shift the operating processes of these programmes from a manual, paper-based system to an automated, integrated and electronically-managed system. This will ensure greater effectiveness in the overall cash transfer service delivery process, said the WB on Wednesday. “Bangladesh has cut by half the number of people living in extreme poverty. This is a remarkable achievement. Yet many people remain poor and vulnerable,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “The World Bank is helping the government modernize its safety net programs by improving pro-poor targeting, streamlining administrative systems, and addressing program fragmentations. This will help reach people in need and use public resources more effectively.” The project will help upgrade the Department’s management information systems.
Govt keen on ITFC credits as ADB looks noncommittal
A government body eagerly looks to the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) as main source for financing huge investment needs in the emerging LNG sector, officials said. It found the rate of interest charged by the ITFC, 3.8 per cent, lowest among other financiers and possible sources and so drew the conclusion that steps could be taken to negotiate loan from this trade financing arm of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group. Power Division additional secretary Zakir Hossain headed the inter-ministerial committee which was formed last October to search out sources of funds for the LNG (liquefied natural gas) sector-being billed as a major alternative source of much-needed fuel. According to committee officials, some Tk 280 billion will be needed annually to finance LNG import and infrastructure-development works for this energy turf. The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission approved using some Tk 70 billion from an existing energy-security fund to cater the LNG-sector needs. The committee viewed that the present fund demand could be met with the Tk 70 billion- revolving fund provided the LNG-sale proceeds are received in time and no subsidy need to be provided. But officials said to make this liquefied gas available to consumers at a rational rate, subsidy has to be provided to some extent. Besides, the sales proceeds may not reach Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL) immediate after the selling of LNG. So, a financial gap may occur which may not be covered with the revolving fund of Tk 70 billion, said a member of the committee. Sources said the committee was told that the Economic Relations Division (ERD) wrote to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) regarding LNG financing but was yet to receive any response.
Plastic industry poised to play big role
With net export earnings of $46.63 million in the first six months (July-December) of the current fiscal year (2017-18), compared to only $27.93 million in fiscal year 2015-16, the plastic industry has started playing a significant role in the national economy. The government is also offering 10 per cent cash incentive on the export of plastic products and will take all necessary steps to ensure the progress of the country’s plastic industry. Experts and stakeholders said proper policy support and more financial incentives could lead to a threefold increase in this sector’s export earnings in the next couple of years. Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA) president Jashim Uddin told The Independent, “Bangladesh imports more than 155,000 metric tonnes of raw plastic materials each year and the figure is growing continuously.” “Today, we have around 5,000 small, medium and large plastic goods manufacturing units, while the number was around 3,000 units a couple of years back,” he said. Approximately, 1.2 million people are engaged in this sector, he said. About the export factories, the BPGMEA president said, “To meet overseas demand, most of the export factories are enhancing their capacity. We have been exporting reasonable quantities of film plastic, garment accessories made of plastic, and household plastic items to many countries of the world.” A total of 680 business entities of 360 companies from 16 countries, including China, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, UAE, Singapore, Italy and the UK, participated in the 13th Bangladesh International Plastic, Packaging and Printing Industrial Fair, which ended at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital yesterday.
Gas supply to soar by 500 mmcfd from April
The country’s gas supply is likely to increase by 500 million cubic feet a day (mmcfd) from April this year amid an apprehension that there might be a substantial rise in price for consumers. Currently, the gas supply is about 2,550 mmcfd against a demand for over 3,000 mmcfd, reports UNB. The 500 mmcfd gas will be added to the national gas supply network through import from Qatar and some other countries as Bangladesh’s first FSRU (floating storage and regasification unit) is set to go into operation in April next. A second FSRU will be coming into operation in October to double the supply of imported LNG to 1,000 mmcfd, officials at the Energy Division and state-owned Petrobangla said.
Businesses cautiously optimistic about economy: survey
Bangladesh’s top business executives have a reasonably high level of confidence in their economic outlook thanks to increased investment in power generation, green revolution and mechanisation in the agriculture sector, according to a new survey. Higher disposable income and consumer spending, growing health awareness, and the government’s particular interest in the ICT sector also boosted the confidence level. ICT and IT-enabled services, pharmaceuticals, agro-processing, power and energy, footwear and garment hold the highest growth potential in the coming decade, said the LightCastle Business Confidence Index 2017-18. LightCastle Partners, a consulting firm based in Dhaka, unveiled the results of the survey of 102 top executives across 12 industries and spanning two major cities, namely Dhaka and Chittagong, at a programme held yesterday at the capital’s Lakeshore Hotel.
Dhaka may seek Delhi nod for Kolkata airport use for B’deshi cargo shipment
Dhaka may request New Delhi to allow Bangladeshi businesses to use Indian airports particularly the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata of West Bengal for export cargo shipment. Bangladesh government may raise the issue at the next commerce secretary-level meeting to be held in Dhaka in February 7-8.
Berger, Fosroc to jointly produce construction chemicals
Berger Paints Bangladesh has tied up with UK-based construction solutions provider Fosroc International to set up a joint venture company that would produce construction chemicals. Rupali Chowdhury, managing director of Berger, and Ian Watt, group CEO and director of Fosroc, signed the deal on behalf of their respective organisations at Le Méridien Dhaka on Wednesday. Each party will hold equal stakes in the entity, Berger Fosroc Ltd, which will be built at an estimated cost of Tk 60 crore. Berger Fosroc Ltd will provide solutions to all sectors of the construction industry, specialising in solutions for building construction, industrial facilities, power plants and all types of transportation and civil infrastructure. The new company will create employment of over 100 people, according to Sadeque Nawaj, general manager of Berger.
PRAN-RFL starts exporting toiletries to India
Swift Toilet Cleaner, Glitter Dish Wash, Glass Cleaner and Ray Detergent Powder, the toiletries products made in Bangladesh, are now available in India, Bhutan and Nepal. Exports of such products increased in the three countries as there are demands for toiletries products. “This month, we have started exporting our toiletries products to Mizoram, Manipur and Meghalaya of India,” said Kamruzzaman Kamal, Director (Marketing) of PRAN-RFL Group. “We started our journey in India in August last year by exporting Swift, Glitter, Ray branded toiletries products to Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya. Our target is to spread toiletries products across India in phases.”
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector showing signs of promise
Earnings of the business process outsourcing sector rose 24 percent year-on-year to about $210 million last year, riding on the massive expansion in the area in the last few years. Companies in the sector now hope to hit the $1-billion mark soon, said Towhid Hossain, secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of Call Centre and Outsourcing (BACCO). “Our local market is huge. The sector needs to grow further and we need to explore it,” said Hossain, one of the leading entrepreneurs in the sector. Currently, more than 40,000 young people work in about 100 companies in the sector in Bangladesh and the figure will reach 100,000 by 2021, Hossain said.
Beza tourism initiative to transform Cox’s Bazar
Plans have been set in motion for some time now to transform the tourism sector of Bangladesh. As of now, the government has taken up three projects, specifically Naf Tourism Park, Sabrang Tourism Park and Sonadia Eco Tourism Park, which are all based in the district of Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh Economic Zone Authorities (Beza) Executive Chairman, Paban Chowdhury said to Dhaka Tribune: “We want to transform the tourism industry within the next five years. The norm as it stands when it comes to boosting tourism usually revolves around building hotels and motels. But we want to redefine that and we are currently developing three tourism parks in three islands in Cox’s Bazar. Our hope is that it will attract tourists from both home and abroad and it will create scope for additional foreign and local investment.” Beza aims to generate $2billion for the economy and create two hundred thousand new jobs from these parks, which they feel will also encourage development across the country.
Only 36% subscribers use 3G
Only 36.49% mobile subscribers use third generation mobile phone service (3G), more than four-and-a-half years after the service was launched. According to the annual report of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission for the year ended on June 30, 2017, around 496 million mobile phone subscribers opted for 3G services till end of June, 2017. According to the annual report of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission for the year ended on June 30, 2017, around 496 million mobile phone subscribers opted for 3G services till end of June, 2017. Total active mobile phone subscribers was 1.359 million at the end of June last year that has already reached 1.415 million around the end of December, 2017. Although the number of 3G subscribers rose by 69.75% during the fiscal year 2016-17, the number of 3G subscribers could not be termed ‘satisfactory’ prior to the launch of fourth generation mobile phone service in the country by March, 2018, said BTRC officials. Total 3G mobile phone subscribers reflects 72% of the country’s internet users as the number was 686 million at the end of FY17.
Telcos get nod to lay fibre optic cable on condition
Mobile phone operators will have the right to layout optical fibre cable connectivity if the nationwide telecommunication transmission network providers fail to give connectivity within 25 days, following a change in the stance of the telecom regulator. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission gave the right to mobile phone operators under a clarification following queries from the operators.
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