A top official of the US National Security Agency suggested on Tuesday that North Korean computer hackers were behind the $81m heist targeting Bangladesh Bank’s account at the New York Federal Reserve last year. According to a Foreign Policy magazine report, National Security Agency’s Deputy Director Rick Ledgett appeared to say North Korea was the culprit during an exchange at a discussion forum in Washington, DC, suggesting that private sector researchers had linked the Bangladesh Bank heist to the hack on Sony Pictures in 2014, which the US administration attributed to Pyongyang. Hackers attempted to steal $951m from the New York Fed, but only got away with $81m, some of which was later recovered. Computer security experts described the heist as technically sophisticated. Speaking at an Aspen Institute roundtable, Ledgett said: “If that linkage from the Sony actors to the Bangladeshi bank actors is accurate — that means that a nation state is robbing banks. “That’s a big deal.” The moderator of the event, John Carlin, a former Assistant Attorney General of the US Department of Justice, followed up with: “Do you believe that there are nation states now robbing banks?” Ledgett answered: “I do.” On February 4, 2016, hackers attempted to steal $101m from Bangladesh Bank’s account with Federal Reserve Bank in New York which was noticed on February 6. On March 15, 2016 investigation began after a case was filed on the same day the then governor of Bangladesh Bank Atiur Rahman resigned.
Bangladesh Bank has planned to place a proposal before the government to give cash incentives to non-resident Bangladeshis who send up to $200 in remittance to Bangladesh. The central bank has taken the move to encourage the remitters to send money through legal channel amid the drop in remittance inflow to the country because of rise in hundi, an illegal channel for sending money. BB is now preparing a proposal for the finance ministry for giving the cash incentives to the NRBs who send remittance in legal banking channel. NRBs will get 1 per cent to 2 per cent cash incentives against remittance between $1 and $ 200, said officials. An NRB can get cash incentives twice a month for sending remittance up to $200 each time, according to the draft BB proposal. BB officials said that the government might be given two options, either government would give the incentives or the banks would provide the incentives. In case of government providing the incentives, an NRB sending $200 will get between Tk 160 and Tk 320 as cash incentives if the proposal of giving 1-2 per cent cash incentives is approved. The beneficiary of the remittance here in Bangladesh will get the incentives on behalf of the remitters, explained a BB official.
The defaulted loans in the country’s new generation banks increased alarmingly as they have disbursed significant amount of loans violating rules and regulations, sources at the central bank said on Wednesday. According to data available with Bangladesh Bank (BB), the defaulted loans in the nine banks increased to Tk 274 crore as of December 31, 2016 from Tk 44.44 crore as of December 31, 2015. The nine banks are: Meghna Bank, Midland Bank, Modhumoti Bank, NRB Bank, NRB Commercial Bank, NRB Global Bank, South Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank, The Farmers Bank and Union Bank. The central bank provided licences to the nine banks on political consideration despite severe criticisms from different quarters. Most of the directors and chairmen of the nine new banks are directly involved with either the politics of the ruling Awami League or those of its allies. The BB has recently detected huge anomalies in disbursing loans by some of the banks and the classified loans in the banks increased massively as a result of the wrongdoings. The central bank appointed observers to The Farmers Bank and NRB Commercial Bank to save the banks from further corruption. However, authorities of this bank together now came up with a set of ‘irrational’ proposals to the central bank for consideration. “Nine new banks have mounted pressure on BB to withdraw many of the conditions, including expansion of banking in rural areas, under which they were given licences in 2012,” a high official of BB told the New Nation preferring anonymity.
Major budgetary, financial systems overhaul underway
A major reform in the public financial system for making government budget management and public accounting more transparent and accountable is now in its final stages. The recast, which accounts for both revenues and expenditures, will ensure public fund control, budget formulation and its effective execution, people familiar with the developments at the finance division told the FE. They said the reform signifies that it will help predict accurate fiscal spaces, which are now assumed on unreliable data, apart from forecasting government spending. The reform measures are expected to yield benefits in assessing government assets and liabilities, which is now hardly possible to estimate under the existing system, introduced 18 years back. Budget preparation under the new system is set to be introduced in next October for its experimental uses for the fiscal year 2018. It will go fully from fiscal year 2019. Styled budget and accounting classification, the new system has already got the the nod from the President of Bangladesh as any change in such-classification issues mandatorily requires his clearance.
The National Board of Revenue has exempted the industries located in public and private export processing zones from providing bank guarantees to the customs houses for import of all sorts of machinery and spare parts. Customs wing of the revenue board on March 14 issued a statutory regulatory order saying that entrepreneurs will be exempted from paying any types of duties and taxes, including customs duty, supplementary duty, regulatory duty and value-added tax, on import of machinery and spare parts for industries established in the EPZs. Officials of the revenue board said that since the beginning of establishment of EPZs in the country in 1984 there had been no duties and taxes on import of the items till fiscal year 2014-2015, when NBR mistakenly left out the EPZs from the benefit in the budget. NBR then issued an interim order allowing the EPZ investors to import the products by providing bank guarantee against the duty at the rate of 1 per cent applicable for general importers. Now, investors need not submit any bank guarantee for the release of imported machinery and spare parts from the port, a high official of NBR told New Age on Wednesday. The decision will reduce the cost of investment of entrepreneurs as a huge amount of working capital would not stuck in the form of bank guarantee with the customs authorities, he said.
The benchmark index of the Dhaka Stock Exchange rose to its highest level yesterday since the introduction of the index in January 2013. DSEX, which replaced the DGEN more than four years ago, advanced 11.45 points or 0.2 percent to touch the new high of 5,736.3 points. “Market participation remained encouraging,” IDLC Investments said in its analysis. Banks dominated the turnover chart for the eighth consecutive session, capturing 32.5 percent of yesterday’s total trade value. Of the top 20 shares in terms of transaction value, nine were from the banking sector. The daily turnover, another important indicator of the market, rose 2.2 percent to Tk 1,290.38 crore, with 43.39 crore shares and mutual fund units changing hands on the DSE. Of the traded issues, 141 advanced, 139 declined and 49 closed unchanged on the premier bourse. Beximco dominated the turnover chart with 1.3 lakh shares worth Tk 46.51 crore changing hands, followed by AB Bank, City Bank, Islami Bank and One Bank. Among the major sectors, non-banking financial institutions gained the most, 1.88 percent, followed by mutual funds 1.08 percent, life insurance 1.02 percent, banks 0.53 percent, pharmaceuticals 0.31 percent and textiles 0.31 percent. Conversely, food and allied sector took the biggest hit, declining 1.46 percent, followed by cement 0.76 percent and fuel and power 0.23 percent.
Even higher growth unlikely to end extreme poverty fully: SANEM
Bangladesh would not be able to fully eliminate poverty by 2030 even with a 9.0 per cent annual GDP growth, a leading regional economic think tank has said. Even in a high growth situation, the rate of extreme poverty would be no less than 4.0 per cent by the year 2030, South Asian Network for Economic Modelling (SANEM) said in its quarterly economic review released Wednesday. In such a scenario, the country would not be able to meet one of the major global targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the stipulated period, it added. “Our research suggests that even with a 9.0 per cent GDP growth, the rate of extreme poverty will be around 4 per cent by 2030,” SANEM director Professor Dr. Selim Raihan told the reporters in the capital. “At the same time, reducing the current poverty rate by half with a GDP growth of 9.0 per cent seems highly unlikely,” he added. The SANEM also called for preparing a roadmap for developing 100 special economic zones (SEZs) by 2030 and suggested introducing a regular updating mechanism on the progress of the SEZs. It also noted that while the share of private investment in GDP has remained static in the country over the years, its share in total investment has fallen. Even under a very optimistic scenario, it added, the investment-GDP ratio has to be increased annually by 0.98 per cent from the present rate of 0.28 per cent. It called for raising the ratio of infrastructure investment to GDP from the present 1.6 per cent to at least 5.0 per cent.
The High Court yesterday stayed for two months the process of holding the election of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The bench of Justice Md Ashfaqul Islam and Justice Ashish Ranjan Das passed the order in response to a writ petition filed by Aminul Haque Shamim, president of Mymensingh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, seeking stay on the process. As per rules, a director is supposed to be nominated from the Mymensingh division but the nomination was not present in the apex trade body’s voter list, Shamim, who is also an elected director of the FBCCI, claimed in the petition. The FBCCI election was scheduled to be held on May 14, petitioner’s counsel Barrister Bodruddoza Badal told The Daily Star. Citing the petition, the lawyer said the commerce ministry is required to publish a gazette notification in respect to the nomination of directors from the divisional chambers of commerce and industries under the Trade Organisation Ordinance, 1981. But, Mymensingh Chamber of Commerce and Industries has been left out of the list in the gazette, although Mymensingh has been declared a division in 2015, he said.
Ministry finds mobile phone towers emit harmful radiation
Mobile phone towers in the country are emitting a harmful level of radiation, a government report has found, reports UNB. The health ministry submitted a report on the radiation levels of phone towers to the High Court on Wednesday with a directive to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to take necessary measures to lower the degree of radiation. A High Court bench of Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Md Salim asked the authorities concerned to submit the report in affidavit on March 28 and directed the BTRC to submit another report on the progress of action on the Health Ministry report. Advocate Munzil Morshed stood for the writ petitioner, a local environmental group, while Khandaker Reza-e-Rakib represented the BTRC and deputy attorney general Kazi Zinat Haque argued for the state. Advocate Munzil Morshed said that according to the health ministry report the mobile phone towers are emitting high levels of radiation which is injurious to health. In 2012, environmental group Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh filed a petition before the High Court over the radiation levels of mobile phone towers. It also sought a directive to determine the health risks through the World Health Organisation.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday urged Thai businesses to invest in Bangladesh. The Thai investors will be provided with places at special economic zone if they want to invest in Bangladesh, the minister said. Ahmed spoke while inaugurating a four-day trade fair—Thailand Week 2017—at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka. The Department of International Trade Promotion, the commerce ministry, the Thai government and the Thai embassy are jointly organising the annual trade fair. Bangladesh exported $35 million worth of goods to Thailand in 2015-16 while the import figure touched $668 million in the period, he said. He also asked the local investors to export more to the country to narrow the trade gap. The main purpose of the fair is to strengthen the trade relation between the two countries, said Panpimon Suwannapongse, Thai ambassador in Dhaka. Thai exporters, Bangladeshi traders who import Thai products and agents of Thai companies are showcasing Thai products only at the 15th edition of the fair. Different kinds of products, including healthcare services, cosmetic, beauty and wellness products, bedding accessories, electrical appliances, fruits and jewelry, will be showcased at the show. The fair will start at 10am and end at 8pm every day.
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