Inflation worry forces BB to squeeze credits
The central bank unveiled Monday a new monetary policy that limits credit flow to check inflation and improve country’s financial stability while promoting job-centric economic growth. Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Fazle Kabir announced the monetary policy statement (MPS) for the January-June period of the fiscal year (FY) 2017-18 at a press conference held at the central bank headquarters in Dhaka. The MPS for the second half of the fiscal is particularly intends to help the sectors in achieving sustainable growth by holding in check inflationary pressures on the economy and discouraging money flow into less-productive sectors. “The new monetary policy targets employment-focused growth with stability,” the central bank chief said while explaining the main objective of the MPS. The central bank, however, kept unchanged its domestic credit (DC) target at 15.8 per cent for the second half (H2) of the FY 18 while target of broad money (M2) supply came down to 13.3 per cent from previous 13.9 per cent. “Although broader monetary policy targets (M2, DC) have been redesigned cautiously to support growth while balancing inflationary risks, vigilance and continuous monitoring is required as the monetary programme and economic development unfold,” the MPS explains. On the other hand, the BB enhanced its private-sector credit-growth target to 16.8 per cent against a previous projection of 16.3 per cent. The revised private-sector-credit-growth target, however, is significantly lower than that of the existing level at 18.13 per cent in December 2017. The growth in credit flow to private sector rose to 19.06 per cent in November 2017 on a year-on-year basis from 18.63 per cent a month before, the BB data showed. The latest revision came against the backdrop of rising trend in the private-sector-credit flow in the recent months due to higher trade financing for settling import-payment obligations, particularly for food- grains, fuel oils and capital machinery.
BB not against new banks, says governor
Bangladesh Bank (BB) is not against allowing new banks, but it would depend on the decision by its board of directors, the central bank governor said Monday. “We are not making a u-turn regarding allowing of new banks. At the same time, we will scrutinise such proposals and place those before the board,” BB governor Fazle Kabir told journalists, replying to a question about allowing two more new private banks. His response came during the release of the new monetary policy statement (MPS) for the January-June period of the current fiscal year at central bank’s board room. “In this free market economy, no business can be prevented,” he said.
H2 monetary policy a tough call: economists
Economists on Monday said it would be tough for Bangladesh Bank to implement the monetary policy the central bank announced on the day for the second half of the fiscal year of 2017-2018. The private sector credit growth was 18.1 per cent in the first half of FY18 against the BB’s target of 16.3 per cent, while the central bank has set the private sector credit growth target at 16.8 per cent for the January-June period of FY18. Economists observed that the new monetary policy was a reflection of the reality and continuation of the previous policy. It would be tough for the central bank to implement the policy targets including the private sector credit growth target and checking disbursement of loans in the unproductive sectors. According to Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh executive director Ahsan H Mansur said, it’s going to be tough for the central bank to keep private sector credit growth within 16.8 per cent considering the actual growth (18.1 per cent) in the first half.
Trade deficit may hit record $13b: BB
Trade deficit would hit a record $13 billion this fiscal year due to higher import payments against lower export earnings, Bangladesh Bank said yesterday. The widening trade deficit would put a pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserve, analysts said. At the end of 2016-17, the trade deficit stood at $9.47 billion, up 46.62 percent year-on-year, according to data from the central bank. Trade deficit never crossed the $10 billion-mark but it might this fiscal year, the central bank said in its latest monetary policy statement for the January-June period. The projected trade gap indicated that the country’s export earnings would also see a moderate growth this fiscal year while import payments would increase heavily. The trade deficit in the first five months of 2017-18 stood at $7.60 billion. The current account balance would register a deficit of $4.34 billion in 2017-18 in contrast to a surplus of $4.26 billion a year earlier, according to the central bank’s projection. The import of capital machinery and industrial raw materials has registered a significant growth in the first half of 2017-18, BB Governor Fazle Kabir said. The sudden increase of import payment has led to a 2.5 percent depreciation of the local currency against the dollar in the July-December period of the fiscal year. The current account deficit also widened putting a pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserve, he said, adding that the central bank has focused on the issues in the latest monetary policy.
Interest on bank loans hiked to double digits again
With the growth of bank loans to the private sector, the interest on said loans have also grown. Due to an increase in demand for loans, many banks have started charging 10-12% interest rates, whereas they were charging below 10% only a few months ago. According to officials from private banks and Bangladesh Bank, some banks are reportedly granting more loans than their limits, creating liquidity crisis. Hence, they are trying to raise the interest rate to recover their funds. Bangladesh Garments Manufacturer and Exporters’ Association President Siddikur Rahman told the Bangla Tribune: “The interest rate has been hiked back to double digits. We now have to take out loans at 10-12% interest.” The BGMEA president said the increase in bank interest rates lead to an increase in business expenses. He called upon Bangladesh Bank to regulate the interest rate and bring it down to single digit. According to a Bangladesh Bank report, as of December 2017, over 40 banks have hiked the interest rate on bank loans, and 30 of them are charging 10% or more. The same report said the credit growth was 19.06% in November 2017, a remarkable increase from 15.66% in June 2017.
BB CYBER HEIST: Another $7.2m might be recovered
The central bank hopes to recover another $7.2 million out of the $81 million stolen from its reserve account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2016. About $14.45 million has so far been recovered, said Bangladesh Bank Fazle Kabir while unveiling the monetary policy statement for the second half of fiscal 2017-18 yesterday. The court in the Philippines, where the hacked amount went to, has issued an asset preservation order to return $1.2 million to Bangladesh and a civil forfeiture case has been filed for recovering another $6 million. A joint team of the central bank and the Criminal Investigation Department yesterday left for the Philippines to complete the formalities.
Foreign fund inflow for microcredit may dry up
Microcredit sector might face some challenges, including less inflow of foreign funds, after Bangladesh’s gradation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status, the regulator predicts. In its concept paper, the Microcredit Regulatory Authority (MRA) says the normal growth in microcredit will be affected because of fund crunch, thus affecting poverty-alleviation drives. Contribution of microcredit to government’s poverty-reduction activity, including different activities geared towards achieving current sustainable development goals (SDGs), is likely to dwindle away. Inclusive and sustainable extension of the MFIs may be impeded if the institutions faced with the challenges. Besides, continuous trend in huge job-creation activity might also be hindered if foreign fund inflow for microcredit dries up. Currently, 702 MFIs across the country are registered with the MRA and 151 have got licences from the authority on a temporary basis. The microcredit disbursement by the registered microfinance institutions came to BDT 782.67 billion at the end of fiscal year 2015-16. The country’s MFIs received BDT 5.22 billion from the donors at the end of 2015, according to the annual report of the MRA.
Premier Bank gets new AMD
Golam Awlia has recently been appointed as additional managing director of Premier Bank. Prior to the appointment, he was the deputy managing director of United Commercial Bank, Premier Bank said in a statement yesterday. Awlia started his banking career with United Commercial Bank as a probationary officer in 1983.
Korea’s EDCF to give $500m for infrastructure
Bangladesh will get loans of up to $500 million from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of Korea for 2017-2020. It will finance several high-priority projects, such as the construction of a second railway-road bridge over the Karnaphuli river and 160 upazila ICT training and resource centres for education. Several other projects have also been identified for financing. Kazi Shofiqul Azam, secretary of the Economic Relations Division, and Ahn Seong-Doo, Korean ambassador to Bangladesh, signed a framework arrangement to this effect at the conference room of the National Economic Council in the capital’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar yesterday, Korea Eximbank said in a statement.
Import-export thru Benapole port halted for 4 days
The import and export activities through Benapole Land Port remained halted for four days since Thursday following an indefinite strike enforced by Indian traders at Petrapole, causing loss of Tk 48 crore revenue collections. Due to the strike, 10,000 goods-laden trucks got stranded at Petrapole Port to enter Benapole port. General Secretary of Petropole C&F Agents Staff Welfare Association of India Kartrik Chakrabarty said they went on the strike on January 25 protesting customs’ unnecessary delay in filling up forms of goods with the photographs of drivers and helpers for exporting goods. Benapole port director Aminul Islam said export-import through the port remained halted for last four days. But loading and unloading of goods at the port was also normal.
Per capita plastic use to grow five-fold by 2030
Bangladesh needs to enhance its waste management capacity to cope with the health and environmental hazards to be caused by an enormous rise in the plastic consumption in the next 12 years, plastic makers said on Monday. According to them, per capita consumption of plastic products in the country is expected to rise up to 30 kilogram by 2030 from six to seven kilogram (kg) now. So the waste management will have to be improved gradually, otherwise it will create a big problem for the environment, they cautioned. They were speaking at a press conference on the eve of the International Plastic Fair-2018 (IPF-2018). The four-day exposition will kick off tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed is expected to inaugurate the fair as the chief guest.
Operators witness jump in SIM, internet connections
Mobile operators passed a very successful 2017 adding a record number of customers to their networks and connecting more people to internet, in a massive boost to the government’s Digital Bangladesh vision. Overall internet connections grew 20.87 percent year-on-year to 8.05 crore, according to a report of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) that was published yesterday. Mobile phone operators acquired 1.87 crore new users, recouping the loss they suffered in 2016 because of biometric re-registration. At the end of 2017, active SIMs totalled 14.45 crore.
Draft of Digital Security Act Approved: Gag on freedom of expression
The freedom of the press and expression was put to the sword, feared journalists and rights defenders as the cabinet yesterday approved the draft of the Digital Security Act-2018 yesterday. There would be every chance of the act being misused against people’s right to express themselves after it is passed by the Jatiya Sangsad, they observed. They also felt duped by the government as section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act was kept in the proposed law with some changes, despite assurances in the past of eliminating the controversial provision. Section 57 deals with defamation, hurting religious sentiments, causing deterioration of law and order and instigating against any person or organisation through publishing or transmitting any material in websites or in electronic form. It stipulates maximum 14 years in prison for the offences. Now, the draft of Digital Security Act-2018 splits these offences into four separate sections with punishment ranging from three to 10 years’ term. The proposed law describes some crimes as “non-bailable” and allows a police official to search or arrest anyone without a warrant in special circumstances. A cabinet meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office, gave the approval and Cabinet Secretary Md Shafiul Alam later briefed the media at the secretariat. He said the government has formulated the act to combat growing cyber crimes that are affecting many public and private organisations including Bangladesh Bank.
Supplier seeks to hike tariff as cement co sticks to terms of deal
State-run Jalalabad Gas Transmission and Distribution Systems Ltd (JGTDSL) has sought to increase the tariff of natural gas it makes available to LafargeHolcim Bangladesh Ltd for running its captive power plant. Arguing that the tariff rate is lower than the rate fixed by the country’s energy regulator, the JGTDSL pointed out that LafargeHolcim was paying less for gas it consumes to run its standby captive power plant. The multinational company LafargeHolcim, however, claimed that it was paying tariff in line with a gas sales agreement (GSA) signed between JGTDSL and then Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd in January 2003. Gas tariff for captive power plant is BDT 9.62 per cubic metre while for industries it is BDT 7.76 per cubic metre as per the BERC’s latest gas tariff hike effective from June 1, 2017. But the cement factory has been paying BDT 7.91 per cubic metre as gas price for its captive power plant, which is the ceiling price at USD 2.8 per Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) as set in the GSA between the two companies. Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) also protested the lower gas tariff for the LafargeHolcim’s cement factory.
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