Strong taka heightens real exchange rate, hits export
The local currency’s real effective exchange rate, which is closely linked to trade situation, remained high and hit hard the country’s export-competitiveness. As per official count, the rate was an all-time high last December. And people familiar with development told the FE that such higher appreciation of the taka could impact growth, tax revenues and banks’ asset quality. The REER stood at 150.01 in December 2016, 140.31 in December 2015 and 126.58 in December 2014, according to a report prepared by the central bank. The calculations were based on the nominal exchange rates and inflation rates of the major trading partners. The IMF guidelines take into account inflation situation in 20 major trading partners in the case of Bangladesh. The REER or real effective exchange rate, which used to measure international price-and cost- competitiveness, as adjusted for the effects of inflation, was at less than 100 earlier in Bangladesh.
Lower interest rates on bank deposit pushed depositors to opt for National Savings Certificates (NSC) largely, shows a number of data available. According to a Central Bank data, the monthly net investment in the national savings certificates and bonds hit its all-time high at Tk 5,420.59 crore in January this fiscal year (2016-17). The net investment increased by 64.39 per cent in January year-on-year as the figure was Tk 3,297.38 crore in the corresponding period of the last fiscal, data available with the Directorate of National Savings (DNS) showed. The previous monthly highest investment was Tk 4,402.85 crore in November last year. Money market experts said the national savings tools have become a ‘political instrument’ as the politicians and bureaucrats are now investing heavily in the instruments to enjoy higher interest rates. The huge net investment in the savings certificates and bonds has already created a risky situation for the country’s macro-economy as the government will have to face a budget mismatch due to providing huge amount of money as interest against the savings tools, they said. According to the latest DNS data, the net investment in national savings certificates and bonds also skyrocketed to Tk 28,894.15 crore in the first seven months of the current fiscal compared with that of Tk 16,602.97 crore in the corresponding period of the financial year.
Salary payment into bank accounts spurs savings: study
Wage payment through electronic system, particularly to bank accounts, encourages workers to save, said a study unveiled yesterday. “It also causes them to shift away from the informal system and into the formal one,” said Emily Breza, assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, after presenting preliminary findings of the study at a programme. UK-based International Growth Centre and Brac Institute of Governance and Development jointly organised the event at the capital’s Six Seasons Hotel. Over 3,000 workers of two garment factories were interviewed for the study. The study found that the workers did not empty their bank accounts as soon as their salaries came. And the women tend to save more and also prefer to get their salaries into their bank accounts, according to the findings. “Across the board we see a pretty big increase in trust in the financial system. Workers get exposed to financial products and are better able to smooth shocks that happen,” Breza said.
The government is trying to reduce the cost of mobile banking, Finance Minister AMA Muhith has said. In reply to a query from an MP in Parliament on Saturday, the minister also said Tk 6.9 billion changes hands through mobile banking daily. In mobile banking, the customers are charged up to Tk18.5 to draw Tk 1,000. “It is possible to provide banking services through mobile phones in comparatively lower costs instead of wasting time by going to the banks. The government’s efforts in this regard are on,” Muhith said. “Bangladesh Bank sat with the related banks and mobile-phone operators several times to cut the mobile banking charges more. It will be possible to provide the services at lower costs in the future,” he added. – source UNB
School banking to help promote inclusive banking: BB Governor
Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir has said that School Banking will help promote inclusive banking and play a vital role in creating economic awareness among students in the country. He made the observation on Saturday as the chief guest at the School Banking Conference-2017 organised by United Commercial Bank (UCB) Limited at Gopalgonj. UCB organised the programme as the lead bank, said a statement issued by the bank on Sunday.
Net foreign investment in Dhaka Stock Exchange soared two and a half times year-on-year to Tk 238.46 crore in February, as the Bangladesh stockmarket is gradually becoming lucrative for investment. Overseas investors bought shares worth Tk 435.67 crore and sold shares worth Tk 197.21 crore in the month, according to Dhaka Stock Exchange. Many international fund managers see the Bangladesh stockmarket as an emerging one in the region and that is why more funds are being injected here. The Government Pension Fund Global, the world’s biggest wealth fund, invested $112 million in the Bangladesh’s stockmarket in 2016 — a six-fold rise from the previous year. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund invested in 15 companies that are listed on the premier bourse.
Govt plans 25pc ceiling on int’l consultants’ fees
The government has planned to put a ceiling on the fees of international consultants to check ‘undue influence’ of lenders on the technical assistance projects. Officials said that the fees of the international consultants would not cross 25 per cent of the total costs of the technical assistance projects. There are instances that major portion of the lenders-driven technical project is spent on the international consultants, said the officials. In 2015-16, the government implemented 178 technical assistance projects with the foreign fund of Tk 1678 crore under the annual development programme. The officials said that the new provision would be incorporated in the proposed National Policy on Development Cooperation likely to be framed soon. The Economic Relations Division is also considering inserting into the draft of the policy a provision for an ‘effective role’ of the government in the appointment of the international consultants, they said.
Dismal growth for B’desh even as competiting nations shine
Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the US witnessed a meagre growth of less than one per cent in January 2017 while its competitors including China and Vietnam registered double-digit growth in terms of square meter shipments. On the other hand, the country’s earnings from apparel exports to the US grew negatively by 3.24 per cent to $ 481.54 million in the first month of the current calendar year from $ 497.66 million in January 2016, according to the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) under the US Department of Commerce. During the month, Bangladesh exported 177.09 square meters of apparels to the US- the single largest destination– marking a 0.82 per cent growth. Vietnam recorded the highest growth both in square meter and value — 23.49 per cent and 18 per cent growth respectively. It exported 348.16 million square meters of apparels against 281.93 square meters and fetched $ 1.09 billion in January last which was $ 926.08 million in January 2016, data showed. China exported 1.06 billion square meters of apparels marking a 13.26 per cent growth in January 2017. The country earned $ 2.52 billion, up from $ 2.41 billion, showing a 4.63 per cent growth during the month. Cambodia, Indonesia and Pakistan recorded 12.66 per cent, 11.89 per cent and 11.62 per cent growth respectively in exporting apparels in square meter in the first month of 2017, according to the data.
Ha-Meem Group, a leading garment manufacturer, is going for massive expansion to double its export receipts to $1 billion in the next six years, said its chief. At present, Ha-Meem Group’s annual exports stand at $535 million, and it counts retail giants like Gap, Esprit, American Eagle Outfitters, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Kohl’s, Tommy Hilfiger, JCPenney, Mango, Zara, Next, Tom Tailor and Oshkosh as its major buyers. The group will invest $60 million in one year for the expansion, said its Managing Director AK Azad, adding that the expansion works will involve the denim plant in Maona. As per the expansion plan, Azad said a denim unit with a production capacity of 1.5 million yards a month has been set up and will go into operation from next month. Another one with the same production capacity will go into operation from June.
The government has moved to introduce an automatic annual pay rise for civil servants keeping pace with inflation instead of increasing salaries through pay commissions. “The new system will be put in place before we leave, and the next government will implement it,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith said after a meeting at the secretariat. Muhith chaired an inter-ministerial meeting which decided to form a nine-member committee led by the secretary for coordination and reform of the cabinet division. The committee will submit a report within three months. The government, at the time of implementing the last pay scale, said that no pay commission will be formed in the future, said Muhith. Instead an automatic system will be put in place to take care of the inflation factor. A cell will be formed to deal with the subject, he said. “We sat to discuss how the pay will rise in the future,” said Muhith.
The government’s earnings from incoming international telephone calls fell 23.4% year-on-year to BDT 12.0 billion in 2016 because of a sharp decline in inbound voice traffic and a rise in the call routing rate. The government earned BDT 15.7 billion in 2015 from incoming international calls. In 2013-14, the government’s earnings from international incoming calls stood at BDT 18.5 billion, although the daily call volume was less than half then. At that time, the call termination rate was 3 cents a minute, 51.75% of which went to the state coffer; the government reduced the floor rate to 1.5 cents in early 2015 and its share to 40.0%. The telecom regulator found that the international incoming call minutes declined 46% within a span of 20 months. Total incoming voice calls stood at 3.8 billion minutes in May 2015, but it dropped to 2.1 billion minutes at the end of December 2016. The international gateway operators (IGWs) formed a platform called IGW Operators Forum (IOF) in early 2015. It raised the international incoming call rate by 33.3% to 2 cents a minute in August 2015.
Duty on raw materials for SIM, smart cards cut 24.0%
The National Board of Revenue has allowed a special waiver of duty on import of the basic raw material needed to produce SIM and smart cards in the country. The revenue board on March 2 issued a statutory regulatory order in this connection, saying that only VAT-registered companies will enjoy the benefit. In the SRO, the NBR reduced customs duty to 15.0% from 25.0% and withdrew 10.0% supplementary duty and 4.0% regulatory duty on import of the materials called scratch off label. The materials include self-adhesive plates, sheets, film, foil, tape, strip and other flat shapes, of plastics. Due to the waiver, the overall tax burden on the value-added tax-registered importers will decrease by 24.0%. VAT-registered importers now will have to pay only VAT at the rate of 15.0% and advance income tax at 5.0% along with 15.0% customs duty.
Major Currencies Exchange Rates Movement in Last Seven Days
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