Imports soar 28pc on food grains, machinery, fuel oils
The country’s overall imports jumped by more than 28 per cent or US$1.09 billion in January mainly due to higher import of food grains, capital machinery and fuel oils, officials said. The settlement of letters of credit (LCs), generally known as actual import, in terms of value, rose to $4.98 billion in January 2018, from $3.89 billion in the same period of the previous calendar year, according to the central bank’s latest statistics. The actual import was $3.65 billion in December 2017. On the other hand, opening of fresh LCs, generally known as import orders, rose by over 23 per cent or $998.14 million to $5.33 billion in January 2018, from $4.34 billion a year ago. It was $3.89 billion in December 2017. “The overall imports increased last month mainly due to higher import of capital machinery, food grains, particularly rice and wheat, and petroleum products to meet the growing demand for the essentials in the local market,” a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB) told the FE. Import of capital machinery or industrial equipments used for production rose to $480.59 million in January 2018 as against $264.34 million in the same month of 2017. The central banker also said the import of capital machinery may increase in the coming months also following implementation of different infrastructure projects including Padma Bridge. Currently, the government is implementing nine projects under the supervision of Fast Track Project Monitoring Committee, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for ensuring their quick completion.
7 banks face Tk 9417cr capital shortfall
Four state-owned banks (SoBs) — Sonali Bank, Rupali Bank, Janata Bank and Basic Bank- are facing a capital deficit of BDT 76.26 billion, Finance Minister said. Among the 57 banks in the country, the four state-owned banks and three private banks face the capital crisis as per the data collected on September 30, 2017, he also added. According to the Finance Minister, the amount of capital deficit in the four state-owned banks is BDT 76.26 billion and that in three private banks is BDT 17.91 billion. So, the total capital deficit in the (seven) banks is BDT 9.41 billion. The three private banks are Bangladesh Commerce Bank, Farmers Bank and ICB Bank. The capital deficit is BDT 31.40 billion in Sonali Bank, while BDT 25.22 billion in Basic Bank, BDT 12.72 billion in Janata Bank and BDT 6.89 billion in Rupali Bank. Meanwhile the minister admitted that the food inflation in the first quarter of the current fiscal (2017-18) increased but the non-food one marked a fall. The overall inflation in the stipulated three months of the current fiscal was 5.57, 5.89 and 6.12% which was 5.40, 5.37 and 5.71% in the previous fiscal. The 12 months average after the quarter of the 2017-18 fiscal is 5.55% while it was 5.71 during the last fiscal. The remittance inflow has increased by 4.4% in the first quarter of the current fiscal compared to the previous year. Export earnings rose to 8.7% which was 8.1% in the previous year, import expenditure increased by 28.4% to USD 13.2 billion, the growth for opening import LCs is 36.5%, the private sector credit flow increased by 17.8% while the rate of general point-to-point inflation came down to 5.5% from 5.7% in September last.
Bangladesh Bank sells $18m to seven banks
The central bank of Bangladesh has sold US$18 million more to seven commercial banks to meet the growing demand for the greenback in the market. “We’ve sold the foreign currency to the banks on Monday to at market rate settle outstanding letters of credit (LCs) against imports particularly fuel oil, food grains and capital machinery for power sector,” a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB) told the BBN in Dhaka.
Growth of currency outside banks triggers concern
The volume of currency outside the banking system has grown significantly in recent months ahead of the national elections, raising suspicion about the use of such money. The currency outside the banking system rose by 14.06 per cent or Tk 156.41 billion to Tk 1268.83 billion until November last calendar year from Tk 1112.42 billion in the same month of 2016, according to the central bank’s latest statistics. It was Tk 1131.53 billion in December 2016. Senior bankers and experts, however, expressed concern over high growth currency outside the banking system and said flow of funds in excess of normal volume in the banking system will largely help meet the growing demand for liquidity. The presence of more than usual amount of currency outside the banking system has also affected the deposit growth than that of credit in the recent months, according to banking-sector insiders. Besides, the widening gap between credit and deposit growth continued in 2017 as many people with surplus funds stayed away from banks due to lower interest rates, they added.
Electronic KYC by June
Bangladesh Bank is set to introduce the electronic Know Your Customer (e-KYC) system under which bank accounts can be opened without filling in any paper-based documents. Those with e-KYC will be allowed to operate limited-scale transaction through the agent banking network and mobile financial services, in a development that is set to boost the country’s financial inclusion cause. “The new system will help the unbanked and underprivileged people enjoy banking services,” said Md Anwarul Islam, assistant spokesperson of the BB. The central bank will try to complete all process to introduce e-KYC, which has been in the works for the last two years, within June. The customers will also be able to put in money in deposit pension schemes and the government savings certificates. The regular KYC required filling up forms along with photo and supporting documents.
Cash incentive rules flouted
Kuliarchar Sea Foods, a Cox’s Bazar-based fish exporter, withdrew about Tk 19 crore in cash incentives from Mercantile Bank last year, violating government rules. Exporters cannot collect the incentive, meant to encourage exports, until the entire export earnings are credited by the importer to the exporter’s bank, according to a Bangladesh Bank circular issued in December 2001.
Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) staunchly defends its selection
Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) management sticks to their decision to select a Chinese consortium as the bourse’s strategic partner, saying they didn’t “compromise on competence”. Apparently to dispel ongoing contentions over the issue, DSE managing director said the premier bourse has chosen the best eligible strategic partner considering the price and technical soundness. He informed that the regulator (Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission) is looking into the proposal of the Chinese consortium. The DSE managing director also said that the government and the central bank are playing market-supportive role for the sake of the capital market.
S&P puts Bangladesh bank sector at higher risk category
Global credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s has put the Bangladesh’s banking sector at higher risk category amid rising non-performing loans, supervision gaps, overcapacity of banks and other irregularities in the sector surfaced in recent months. The S&P placed the country’s banking sector in the group ‘8’ on a scale of 1 (lowest risk) to 10 (highest risk) under its Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment report published on Monday. Some banks in Bangladesh will continue to face asset quality challenges, with sizable reported nonperforming loans, in addition to a high level of restructured loans, the report said. ‘Bangladesh is in the process of implementing international regulatory standards. However, we believe supervision has gaps and imposes limited market discipline. Also, the banking system has overcapacity and market distortions,’ it said. A supportive core customer deposit base and low reliance on external funding temper these weaknesses. Currently, the country’s banking sector is overcrowded with 57 banks including nine which got licences in 2013. The government is planning to give licence to more new banks following intense lobbying despite opposition of the central bank. The agency expects Bangladesh Bank continue to address the banking industry’s legacy stressed assets and gaps in governance, it said.
Government spending rises 4.8%
The government’s spending rose by 4.8% year-on-year to BDT 466.54 billion in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, Finance Minister said in parliament yesterday. The government presented a hefty BDT 4.0 trillion budget for the current fiscal year, but the pace of implementation was slower than the last year. Year-on-year, non-development expenditure increased by 2.3% to BDT 361.29 billion while the development expenditure rose by 39.1% to BDT 105.28 billion. However, the expenditure, according to the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), touched BDT 1008.39 billion in the year, which means the difference between the two government agency figures was BDT 234.74 billion. The total revenue in the first three months of the current fiscal year rose by 17.1% to BDT 511.27 billion. During the same time last fiscal year, the growth was 14%. The non-NBR revenue collection increased by 69% and NBR revenue 19.3%.
AIIB to give $60m for 220-MW plant in Bhola
China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is set to provide US$ 60 million for constructing a 220-megawatt (MW) combined cycle power plant in the southern district of Bhola. The board of directors of the multilateral development partner has approved the loan last week, AIIB officials revealed on Monday. This is the third energy project in Bangladesh, financed by the Beijing-based development financier. Once completed, the plant will increase the country’s power generation by around 1,300 gigawatt hours (GWh) annually, AIIB authorities said. “This investment will help Bangladesh increase its power supply to support industries that are vital to growth. It will also help reduce the number of individuals who currently live without electricity,” said AIIB Vice President and Chief Investment Officer D J Pandian. “The total cost of the project is estimated to be $271 million, out of which, our contribution is $60 million,” AIIB’s Head of Communications Laurel Ostfield, who is now in the capital, told the media. The $60 million loan for Bhola Independent Power Producer (IPP) will take AIIB’s total loan portfolio in Bangladesh to $285 million, AIIB officials informed. The IPP project is the first project that AIIB has financed alongside Islamic Development Bank and Infrastructure Development Company Limited. The project will be developed by Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure Capital Company Private Limited through Nutan Bidyut (Bangladesh) Limited, a special-purpose vehicle incorporated in the country for the sole purpose of developing the project, the officials informed.
‘Importing power from India may be better than production’
Electricity import from India is an economic option for Bangladesh as it is cheaper than all the other options including coal fired power plants, says a report. The report, published on Monday, said that importing of power will need less domestic power generation capacity. The money which was supposed to be invested in improving power generation capacity and fuel infrastructure development thus can be used for the development of non-energy sectors like agriculture, manufacturing or for consumption expenses.
NBR orders all Robi bank accounts frozen for tax-dodging
Government’s revenue authority enforced Monday a freeze on all bank accounts of telecom-operator Robi Axiata Limited for alleged tax-dodging. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) claims Tk 187 million in unpaid value-added tax (VAT) and supplementary duty (SD), officials said. Large Taxpayers Unit (LTU) under the VAT wing of the NBR sent in instructions to Managing Directors (MDs) of the commercial banks to freeze Robi’s bank accounts for three days, they added. LTU commissioner Md Matiur Rahman dispatched the letters to the commercial banks, in their last resort to realise the default taxes. As per the existing law, it is incumbent upon the commercial banks to go by the NBR instructions on this matter of realising overdue government revenue. And all of the bank accounts of the mobile-phone operator across the country have been frozen already in quick action at NBR directive, banking sources said.
Banglalink’s 4G to reach all district HQs by June: CEO
Banglalink aims to provide 4G mobile services in all district headquarters by June this year, reaching about 30 percent of the population. The third largest mobile operator has started providing the service from 400 of its 9,500 base stations and projected to cover about 3,000 by June, Banglalink CEO Erik Aas told reporters at the operator’s headquarters in the capital yesterday. The operator received 4G licence on February 19, and till date its 4G coverage has been extended to seven major cities, he said. Currently, a few lakh of its 3.20 crore customers are getting the 4G services and the number is increasing by 20,000 to 25,000 on an average every day. The operator faced huge challenges last year for flood along with low spectrum coverage, especially in 3G service, but it has overcome the situation, Aas said. “We had serious quality issue last year and have made a remarkable advancement in ensuring better customer experience by upgrading network capacity this month,” he said. The initial target is to provide customers with the latest service by Ramadan in June, he added.
Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) caps pay per use of mobile internet to BDT 5.0
With a view to protecting the mobile phone customers from bill shock, the telecom regulator has capped pay per use of internet by fixing BDT 5.0. Limit of pay per use will not exceed BDT 5.0, according to a BTRC directive. The directive will be implemented from March 1, 2018. However, if any customer wishes to raise the ceiling beyond BDT 5.0, operator has to collect consent from him/her for the use through USSD so operator or customer can show evidence for any complaint, said the directive.
Local and Global Stock Indices *
|Index Name||Close Value||Value Change||Percentage Change|
World Commodities *
|Commodity||Close Value||Value Change||Percentage Change|
|Crude Oil (WTI)||$ 63.86||↓0.05||↓0.08%|
|Crude Oil (Brent)||$ 67.50||↑0.00||↑0.00%|
|Gold Spot||$ 1,334.17||↑0.49||↑0.04%|
Major Currencies Exchange Rates Movement in Last Seven Days *
|USD 1||BDT 83.16|
|GBP 1||BDT 116.14|
|EUR 1||BDT 102.52|
|INR 1||BDT 1.28|
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