The central bank relaxed its regulations allowing foreign tourists to get unspent Bangladesh Taka (BDT) reconverted to foreign exchanges from any licensed moneychangers. Officials said the Bangladesh Bank (BB) issued Tuesday a notification to this effect, asking all licenced MCs (money changers) and banks to follow the latest instructions for reconversion of unspent BDT to foreign exchanges by foreign tourists. Under the existing regulations, MCs are allowed to reconvert up to US$500 in cash of the unspent BDT funds of foreign tourists on production of encashment certificate provided conversion of foreign currency was done by itself earlier. In order to ease reconversion by foreign tourists, any licenced MC, whether it en-cashed earlier or not, may reconvert the unspent BDT belonging to a traveler within the permissible limit provided that the tourist submits system generated encashment certificate provided by any licensed MC, according to the notification. Source: http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2017/03/01/63046/Central-bank-relaxes-forex-rules-for-foreigners
Govt under pressure to amend law
The government is under pressure to amend the Banking Companies Act 1981 to increase the number of family members in the board of directors of private commercial banks. Officials said that the maximum number of directors from a family might increase to four from the existing two following demand by Bangladesh Association of Banks. In 2013, the government amended the act restricting to maximum two the number of directors from a family the board of directors of a bank to check irregularities and indiscipline. The mandatory requirement to get approval from Bangladesh Bank for appointing directors to the board might also be relaxed in the proposed amendment to the act, said the officials. The government might bring about another change to the act allowing a director to serve maximum nine years in a bank’s board of director instead of the existing six years. Experts said that the proposed changes were contrary to good governance in the banking sector that already suffered from bad loans and loan scams. Bank and financial institutions division secretary Eunusur Rahman said that they were directed by finance minister AMA Muhith to prepare a bill seeking some amendments to the act. He expressed hope that they might place the proposed bill before the cabinet in March. In October 2016, the Bangladesh Association of Banks submitted demands for the amendment to the act at a meeting with Muhith.
Overall capital of banks rose 7.81 percent in the last quarter of 2016, but 11 banks failed to maintain the capital in line with the new international standards. As per the Basel III framework, the state banks are in capital shortfall with Sonali, BASIC and Bangladesh Krishi Bank or BKB on top of the list. Eleven out of 57 banks failed to maintain minimum capital. Rupali, Janata, Agrani, Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank, Bangladesh Commerce Bank, Farmers Bank, AB Bank and ICB Islamic Bank are among them. Most of the private and foreign commercial banks succeeded in the field. The central bank last year took steps to improve banks’ financial health by increasing their CRAR in line with Basel III standards, introduced in January. Basel III is a comprehensive set of reform measures, developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, to strengthen regulation and supervision and reduce risks of the banking sector globally.
Agri loan disbursement likely to exceed target: BB
Disbursement of agriculture loans will exceed the target in the current fiscal year (FY17), says Bangladesh Bank (BB) Chief Spokesperson Subhankar Saha. “The trends of recent credit disbursement indicate that the disbursement target for the current fiscal is likely to exceed,” he told BSS on Tuesday. According to BB statistics, all specialized, state-owned and private commercial banks, including foreign commercial banks have already disbursed 69.28 per cent agriculture credit in seven months from July 2016 to January 2017. In the current fiscal, agriculture and non-farm rural credit disbursement target for schedule banks is Tk 175.5 billion, which is 7.01 per cent higher than that of the previous fiscal. The banks disbursed a total of Tk 121.58 billion till January. Subhankar Saha said the country has been able to exceed the agriculture loan disbursement target in the last couple of years due to the BB’s strict monitoring over the firm loan disbursement trend of the schedule banks. Every month, BB holds a meeting with scheduled banks to expedite agriculture loan disbursement activities, he added. BB’s disbursement target was Tk 145.95 billion for 2013-14 fiscal, but the disbursement surpassed the target and stood at Tk 160.37 billion. Fiscals 2014-’15 and 2015-’16 also followed the similar trend with disbursement of Tk 159.78 billion and Tk 176.46 billion against the targets of Tk 155.5 billion and Tk 164 billion respectively. Source:http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2017/02/28/63011/Agri-loan-disbursement-likely-to-exceed-target:-BB
Internet banking transactions record phenomenal growth in 2016
Internet banking finds a fast rise, with over 41 per cent growth recorded in the country in 2016, amid a healthy growth in real-time fund transfers, e-commerce and online penetration. A total of Tk 307.52 billion was transacted through internet banking in the past year, according to latest statistics obtained from the central bank this week. The figure is up from Tk 217.57 billion that was transacted in the previous year (2015). The number of transactions through internet banking has also posted a healthy 21.34 percent growth, the Bangladesh Bank data reveal. While around 6.39 million banking transactions took place online in 2015, the number rose to around 7.75 million last year. The average value of each internet transaction also rose from Tk 34036.51 in 2015 to Tk 39661.44 in 2016. Asked about the reason for this phenomenal growth, industry-insiders attributed it to rising mobile and internet penetration in the country as well as the convenience factor that is highly valued by the expanding middle class when it comes to banking.
The government made a net repayment of Tk 21,696.40 crore against ‘low-interest’ loans to the banking sector in the first seven months of the current financial year as it borrowed more than Tk 24,000 crore through ‘high interest’ national savings tools during the period. Bangladesh Bank officials and an expert said that the government would have to count huge interest to manage its budget deficit as the rate of interest on savings certificates and bonds was much higher than that of the treasury bills and bonds, through which the government takes loan from banks. BB officials said that typically, the government had bank borrowing over thousands of crores during the first seven months of a financial year but this year the government had no net borrowing. ‘As the government is now inundated with the sales of huge amount of national saving certificates and bonds, it has now surplus cash in its account,’ said an official.
The Dhaka bourse passed another volatile session as investors remained active on both sides of the trading fence although sellers dominated the market at closing. Brokers said stocks closed slightly lower after passing a volatile session. However, sale pressure was obvious in market following the previous session. Selling of shares was dominant mostly in the bank, telecom and fuel and power sectors. Accordingly, the bank, telecom and fuel and power sectors eroded 0.79 per cent, 0.75 per cent and 0.48 per cent respectively. The market started with a positive note and the key index of the major bourse rose 13 points within first 40 minutes of trading. However, market moved downwards prompted by the profit-taking in the stocks of bank, NBFI and power sectors which continued throughout the rest of the session.
Mahbub Ahmed’s tenure as ADB top executive extended
The government has extended the tenure of former senior finance secretary Mahbub Ahmed as the alternative executive director to the Asian Development Bank for another 15 months. The public administration ministry issued a gazette notification on Monday to this effect. According to the gazette, Mahbub’s tenure as the global lender’s alternative executive director was extended till March 8, 2019. His tenure as the ADB top official was scheduled to expire on December 30, 2017. His contract as the senior finance secretary ended on December 29 last year. He has served the public for over 33 years.
Capital market can be a new source of long-term investment for the private sector to attain Bangladesh’s higher growth, said Misuhiro Furusawa, deputy managing director of International Monetary Fund (IMF). “There is clear scope to pursue capital market development to provide new vehicles to channel savings toward long-term investments”, he said while delivering a lecture at Dhaka University yesterday. He addressed some challenges for the Bangladesh economy. He said Bangladesh needs to increase private investment, which is very important if the country wants to sustain the recent high levels of growth, he said. At the same time, a significant increase in public investment is also necessary to maintain competitiveness and generate further productivity growth, Furusawa said. “Another way to achieve this needed increase in investment is to focus on raising revenues and lifting foreign direct investment,” the visiting IMF official said. He also suggested Bangladesh implement the VAT law. In addition, policies that remove red tape and simplify the trade regime should be put in place, he noted.
Garment’s green initiatives impress top IMF official
A top official of the International Monetary Fund has expressed optimism about the future of Bangladesh’s garment sector after he saw firsthand the industry’s efforts to embrace green practices. “The future of Bangladesh’s apparel industry is very bright because of the good workers and the vibrant private sector entrepreneurs,” Mitsuhiro Furusawa, deputy managing director of the IMF, said yesterday. He said the garment sector of Bangladesh has progressed a lot over the years, and turning the factories into green units to save water, energy and the environment is a good initiative. The IMF official visited two green factories — Eco Couture Ltd and Ecofab — both owned by Viyellatex Group, a leading garment maker based in Gazipur.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to open on Wednesday eight power plants alongside new transmission and distribution lines to produce 1,375 MW power and reach electricity to rugged areas of Bangladesh. Power Development Board (PDB) officials on Tuesday said the prime minister was expected to inaugurate the systems under 21 projects through video conference at her office in Dhaka. “The projects included eight newly-built power generation plants, a newly built substation and a transmission line . . . these will ensure cent percent electrification of 10 upazilas and reach power to a rugged upazila in Bandarban,” a PDB spokesman said. – source BSS Source: http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2017/02/28/63040/PM-opens-eight-new-power-plants-Wednesday
Strike takes a toll on transport of commodities
The transport workers’ strike has started to affect the movement of goods across the country, said industry insiders yesterday. Business leaders in Dhaka have expressed their concern over the strike and said that the supply chain of export, import goods and essential commodities would be affected if the strike continues. “If the strike prolongs, it will have a disastrous impact on our exports and imports,” said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. Apparel accounts for over 80 percent of the country’s annual exports. Rahman demands an end to the strike for the sake of the economy.
A new window of opportunity has opened in the tourism sector as around a hundred ocean cruise tourists recently visited several areas of Bangladesh’s costal belt, putting the country on the world cruise map. Tourists from 95 different nations visited Maheshkhali Island in Cox’s Bazar and the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, between February 22 and 24 on a ship named Silver Discover. The country earned Tk 35 lakh in foreign currency from that tour, said the tour operator Journey Plus yesterday at a press meet at the civil aviation and tourism ministry. Another team with tourists from 67 nations will be in the country today to travel to different coastal regions as well. “This trip will also bring in a similar amount of foreign exchange, and at the same time, help spread our reputation,” said Toufiq Rahman, chief executive of Journey Plus. The government has taken this opportunity seriously and has arranged everything to make it possible; various ministries and government agencies play an important role here, said Rashed Khan Menon, tourism minister.
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