Banks, power producers get a boost from BB
The central bank has exempted banks from keeping provisions in opening letters of credit to import equipment for electricity plants in order to fast-track the completion of power projects. As per the new directive issued on Wednesday, banks will be eligible for the zero provision facility for power projects, which secured letter of intent from Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). The same preferential treatment will also be made available for the projects which will receive letters of intent from BPDB within September 30, 2018. Banks usually have to keep one percent provision against their liabilities of LCs for all types of products. The central bank has taken the initiative to ensure higher economic growth by implementing power projects within the deadline, according to the circular. The initiative will also help supply electricity to the agriculture and industrial sectors round the clock, it said. The government is prioritising the power sector, so the instruction will help generate electricity at a faster pace, a BB official told The Daily Star recently.
Troubled banks worry Muhith
Some banks are in serious trouble. A number of sponsors are bankrupting banks, while another group is out to grab power of banks. Some directors, in collaboration with a few sponsors, are busy trying to change ownerships of banks. These were among the observations reportedly made by Finance Minister AMA Muhith in a recent letter to the Bangladesh Bank governor. It is time to merge one or two problematic banks and the Bangladesh Bank should consider this, he said in the letter. “It is my view that time may be right to start the initial process of merging the banks,” said Muhith mentioning the problems in the banking sector. The finance minister sent the letter to the central bank on December 28 last year, an official of the finance ministry told The Daily Star recently.
Auto-loans power sales of reconditioned cars
Sales of reconditioned vehicles have boomed in the country in recent times on the back of increased auto-loan facilities from financial institutions, business insiders have said. Some 9,461 cars have been sold in the country in the first five months (July-November) of the current fiscal year 2017-18, while the figure was 20,149 units in FY 2016-17, according to available data. Traders are hopeful of the rising trend to continue in the coming days. They said enhanced purchasing power of the customers, necessity of a private vehicle in the face of poorly managed public transport system and continuous development of road network are also helping the market grow. However, sector insiders said it was high time the government bring necessary change in policy to import more hybrid cars for the sake of environment. They added nearly 90 per cent of the country’s private cars is reconditioned vehicles mostly imported from Japan. Of those, more than 80 per cent cars is manufactured by Toyota.
Go for centralised banking to reduce risks, costs
Banks in Bangladesh should adopt a centralised banking system as it helps lenders reduce costs as well as credit and operational risks, a top banker said yesterday. Ahmed Kamal Khan Chowdhury, a former managing director of Prime Bank, said the system also improves efficiency and ensures responsibility and accountability of bankers. He said had Sonali Bank been a centralised bank, the Hall-Mark scam could have been averted. “A centralised banking system could have detected why a branch had been opening so many letters of credit for Hall-Mark. The malpractice could have been stopped just after one case,” he told The Daily Star at a views-exchange meeting at The Daily Star Centre. The good thing is that, he said, some local private banks have already adopted global best practices. Brac, Eastern, The City, NRB Bank and Prime have introduced the system. Of the foreign banks, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Citi have been following the system for long. Under the centralised system, a bank manages its business and operations from the head office through a strong technological backbone. As a result, the traditional branch becomes just a mere sales and services point and is banned from disbursing loans. Even a branch manager can’t open an account without sending it to the central processing system. But there is pain too for adopting the system. “The subject is very technical and lots of process reengineering, restructuring and communication are required. It takes a minimum five to six years to stabilise the system,” said Chowdhury. There is also a shortage of quality workforce capable of understanding the process, he noted.
Forex reserves under pressure
Bangladesh’s foreign-exchange reserves (forex) came under pressure following higher external payments, particularly as food and fuel costs fired up the bills. Sources said import payments swelled as consumer items, including food-grains and fuel oils, cost higher. The reserves fell below US$32 billion Thursday following a routine payment to the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) against imports during the November-December period of the last calendar year, according to officials. After the payment, the country’s forex reserves came down to $32 billion on Wednesday from $33.11 billion of the previous working day, according to the central bank’s latest statistics. It was $31.999 billion on Thursday.
Exports rise 7pc in Jul-Dec
Exports rose 7.15 percent year-on-year to $17.92 billion in the first half of the fiscal year, maintaining the growth momentum largely on the back of garments, jute, jute goods and furniture. Bangladesh also beat the export target for July-December by 0.23 percent, according to the Export Promotion Bureau. Alone in December, exports receipts stood at $3.09 billion, up 8.42 percent over the same month in the last fiscal year. The monthly target was, however, missed by 1.84 percent. Garments, which account for more than 80 percent of Bangladesh’s total exports, logged in $14.77 billion in the first six months, up 7.75 percent from the same period a year ago.
Deficit financing jumps 48pc in July-Oct
Financing of the budget deficit in the first four months of the current fiscal year (FY18) stood at Tk 208.04 billion, according to the latest statistics of the central bank. The amount was 48 per cent higher than that used in financing the deficit in the same period of the past fiscal year, it said. Bangladesh Bank estimation showed that budget financing during July-October reached 1.05 per cent of the projected Gross Domestic Product against 4.80 per cent as envisaged in the national budget for FY18. Though the first-half of the current fiscal year has passed, data for only four months or first one-third period of the current fiscal year is available. The central bank data showed that budget financing from the domestic sources rose to Tk 119.75 billion during July-October of this fiscal year, which was Tk 103.41 billion in the corresponding period of FY16.
Move underway to digitise management of savings tools
Some reforms are in the offing for modernizing management of the savings instruments and converting those to a sustainable source of deficit financing by the government. To this end, official sources said, a move is under way to create a database of the existing savings tools under the Directorate of National Savings (DNS). Besides, overall management of the instruments will come under automation. The finance division, recently, sent a proposal to this effect to the finance minister for his approval, they added. The division has proposed some short-term reform measures under the DNS in the first phase. According to the proposal, a self-sufficient central database of clients/investors in national savings certificates would be created linking with the National Identity Card under the DNS.
DBBL launches VIP banking Lounge at Gulshan
Dutch-Bangla Bank recently launched 2nd VIP Banking Lounge on the premises of Gulshan Circle-1 Branch at 23, Gulshan Avenue, Dhaka for the prime customers of the Bank. Abul Kashem Md. Shirin, Managing Director & CEO of the Bank formally inaugurated the lounge. To be qualified as a VIP Banking customer, an account-holder needs to maintain an average balance of Tk 2.5 million in his/her savings/ current/ SND account, Tk 5.0 million as FDR or Tk. 0.1 million in his/her salary account with DBBL. The VIP Banking customers will enjoy unlimited free access facility & special refreshment in Balaka VIP Lounge at airport (with spouse and children), all DBBL VIP Lounges in the city or at the manager’s private corner of all the branches, higher ATM withdrawal limit, more reward points and waiver of different charges & fees.
City Bank gets $10m from Norwegian lender
City Bank has recently secured $10 million funds from the Norwegian Development Bank (Norfund) to support its offshore banking unit and project financing requirements of customers. A financial closure ceremony was organised in Oslo, Norway where City Bank Managing Director Sohail RK Hussain and Norfund Chief Executive Officer Kjell Roland signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organisations, City Bank said in a statement. City Bank’s Head of Wholesale Banking Sheikh Mohammad Maroof, Head of Structured Finance Mahbub Jamil, Norfund Head of Financial Institutions Erik Sandersen, and Senior Investment Manager Marianne Halvorsen were also present on the occasion, it said.
$245m more WB fund for safety net programmes
The World Bank will provide additional $245 million for the project to improve the equity, efficiency and transparency of major safety net programmes in Bangladesh, reports BSS. “To this end, an agreement between the government and the World Bank will be signed on Tuesday at the Economic Relations Division (ERD),” said an official at the World Bank’s local office in the city. ERD Secretary Kazi Shofiqul Azam and World Bank Country Director to Bangladesh Qimiao Fan will sign the agreement in the afternoon on Tuesday. With the additional financing, the World Bank’s total commitment to the project stands at $745 million, the official said, adding the project will end on June 30, 2019. The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional lending arm. The credits are interest-free and repayable in 38 years, including a six-year grace period, and carry a service charge of 0.75 per cent.
Govt signs 200MW power purchase deals
State-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) Thursday inked deals to purchase around 200 megawatt (MW) of electricity for 15 years from a furnace oil-fired power plant of Desh Energy Chandpur Power Company Ltd. The plant, to be located in Chandpur, is expected to be commissioned by May 9 this year. Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MPEMR) selected the contractor to build the power plant under the ‘Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provision) Act 2010’ bypassing the tendering process.
Govt gives guarantee for US$ 1.0b Chinese loan
The government has issued a US$ 1.0 billion worth of state guarantee in favour of Chinese loan for implementing a 1320-mw Payra coal-based power plant project, officials have said. A senior finance ministry official said the fund will be sourced from Exim Bank of China which requires a guarantee from the government. The finance ministry has recently given guarantee to the bank. Bangladesh-China Power Company Limited (BCPCL) will build the coal-based power plant in Patuakhali. It is 50:50 joint venture between North-West Power Generation Company Ltd (NWPGCL) of Bangladesh and China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC).
New NBR chief shares his plan on wider tax net
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) would focus on the residents, both tenants and flat owners, of different residential buildings in the capital to widen the tax net, the new NBR chief said on Thursday. All of them may not have tax files, but revenue collection would grow significantly, if they can be motivated to pay tax, Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said citing a suggestion that came after his appointment Wednesday as senior secretary of the Internal Resources Division (IRD) and NBR chairman. “We are motivating people but yet to get expected result,” he added. He also said many of the renowned businessmen are not getting recognition as highest taxpayers. The NBR will have to talk to them and motivate them to receive the honour, he said at the NBR premises while talking to newsmen and senior NBR officials on his first day in office at the revenue board. “We know many businessmen in the country and get impressed to see their images, name and fame. But, they are not the country’s highest taxpayers,” he added.
RMG sector facing skilled manpower crisis: FBCCI president
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Shafiul Islam at a seminar on Saturday said that the readymade garment factories of the country were facing acute crisis of skilled manpower. Dhaka University’s Industrial Relations and Labour Studies organised the seminar on ‘Social Compliance in RMG Sector of Bangladesh’ where textile entrepreneur Mohiuddin said that without expert manpower the industry would never go ahead. As chief guest of the inaugural session of the seminar managing director of Onus Group Mohiduddin urged the Dhaka University authorities to create need-based expert people. Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president (finance) Mohammed Nasir said RMG factories have to pay $4 billion every year to the foreign nationals particularly Indians, Sri Lankans and Chinese, who is working currently in Bangladeshi factories.
Bangladeshi juicy fruits hold potentials in China
Bangladeshi lemon, jackfruit, mango and guava have considerable potentials in the growing Chinese market where consumption of such juicy fruits is gradually gaining ground. Such agro items would not only be financially viable for entrepreneurs of both the countries but also giving enough impetus to Bangladesh’s basket of limited exportable products, officials, consumers and businesses said. At the same time, they expressed the hope that such item would be able to dominate the Chinese market once these products would get entry because of mouthwatering taste of Bangladeshi fruits.
Opportunities abound in the Chinese Belt Road Initiative
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) amendment of its constitution to include a charter pledging to “pursue the Belt and Road initiative (BRI),”approved at the close of its recent twice-a-decade 19th Party Congress, underlines the importance of BRI for President Xi Jinping personally and his growing desire for China to take a global leadership role. It can also be argued that the increasingly inward-looking United States, under President Trump, has left a global leadership vacuum that China’s President Xi Jinping has been keen to fill. And BRI will be instrumental in that respect.
Demand for cheap smartphones lifts cellphone imports in 2017
Cellphone imports climbed by 17.6 per cent last year, as the country’s ‘price sensitive’ market continues to be driven by demands for feature phones and low-priced smartphones. Around 35 million mobile handsets were imported in the country last year, the total sales value of which was around Tk. 100 billion, according to the data from the Mobile Importers Association. This is a consistent jump from the previous year of 2016 when the handset import increased by around 18 per cent from the previous annum. When asked about the main growth drivers of this Bangladesh’s cellphone market, industry insiders attributed it to the demand for feature phones and low cheap smartphones.
ACI, Asian Paints to pump $ 321m into Mirsarai zone
Leading conglomerate ACI Ltd will invest US$ 315 million in Mirsarai Economic Zone to set up new industrial plants on 100 acres of land to expand existing business. The new ACI industrial unit will create job opportunities for around 5,000 people. Asian Paints will also invest $ 6.70 million in the next two years at the zone as part of its business expansion to grab the growing market of paints in the country. ACI Ltd and Asian Paints Bangladesh Ltd on Thursday signed separate agreements with Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) for land allocation at Mirsarai Economic Zone (MEZ) in Chittagong. The signing ceremony was held at the BEZA headquarters in the city’s Karwan Bazar, the BEZA said in a statement.
Global franchise consulting firm opens Dhaka office
Singapore-based franchise consulting and brokerage firm FranGlobal has recently opened its office in Dhaka with an aim to introduce 50 global brands in Bangladesh in the next two years. The company will invest $39 million in the country, said Ekansh Kumar Dewan, senior manager for marketing at Franchise India Holdings Ltd, the parent company of FranGlobal. “FranGlobal will also take initiative to help Bangladeshi brands expand globally,” he told The Daily Star recently.
Dhaka south to offer free WiFi in public places
Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is set to bring all public places under free WiFi coverage from the next month, allowing residents to get uninterrupted internet access, officials said. To facilitate such civic amenity in the era of information of technology, the city corporation will sign an agreement with the state-owned Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) next week. Contacted, deputy chief revenue officer Saidur Rahman said 50 key public places of the south have been brought under the free internet coverage.
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