57 banks charging double digit interest rates
All 57 commercial banks in the country are charging double digit interest rates on loans from businesses, Bangladesh Bank (BB) says. Some banks are charging more than 15% interest rates on industrial loans, the central bank said in a report published in February. According to the report, business persons have to pay double digit interest on both short and long term loans. Both state-owned and private banks have simultaneously hiked the interest on loans to double digits. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during a recent meeting of the ruling Awami League, called on banks to bring down interest rates to single digit in the interest of the country’s development instead of making profit. Exporters Association of Bangladesh (EAB) President and Premier Bank Director Abdus Salam Murshedy agreed with the prime minister. “Interest rate should be lowered to single digit. Otherwise it will be difficult to make profit in business. Due to high interest rate, the production cost is increasing. It also impedes investment,” he said. Murshedy said it is possible to reduce the rate to single digit if the bankruptcy tendency is curbed. Banks already charged double digit interest rate on long-term loans but now they charge it on short-term loans also. The BB report said of the eight state-owned banks, Janata Bank Limited, Basic Bank Limited, Bangladesh Krishi Bank and Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank are currently charging 13% interest rates on both short- and long-term loans. Businesses have to pay high interest on term, current and SME loans too.
Exchange rate rises 3.54pc in one year
Country’s foreign exchange market witnessed larger payments in the week ended Thursday. The Bangladesh Bank kept the exchange rate of the dollar at BDT 82.96. The BB continued selling dollars into the market. This week, the central bank has released $ 35.00 million in the market, according to the weekly analysis of Commercial Bank of Ceylon (CBC). According to market data, exchange rate rose by 3.54 per cent within a period of just one year as on March 15 of last year, the import settlement rate or BC selling rate of dollar was Tk 80.65. On March 15 of this year, the rate was Tk 83.50. The inter-bank rate for the dollar against taka on the same day last year was Tk 79.55, while it was Tk 82.96 this year. The average daily inter-bank USDBDT transaction volume was about USD 103.01 million against USD 103.00 million of the preceding week.
Proposal on loan facilities for jute sector under scrutiny
The government is scrutinising a proposal sent by the jute ministry to provide the jute sector with block account facilities for outstanding bank loans for the development of the sector, officials said. “We have asked the central bank to provide information on outstanding loan status of jute mills under Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC). The Bangladesh Bank has already sent the latest loan data on the BJMC mills. We are sincerely working on the issue,” a high official of the financial institutions division told the FE. In April last year, the ministry of textiles and jute (MoTJ) proposed providing the jute sector with loan facility for 25 years at a rate of 9-10 per cent interest with 10-year moratorium to repay the existing outstanding loans, he added. The finance minister at an exchange of views meeting with raw jute exporters organised by Bangladesh Jute Association (BJA) in the city on March 17 said the government would provide jute exporters with block account facility. Some 20 jute mills under BJMC owed Tk 7.53 billion to four state-owned banks — Sonali, Janata, Agrani and Rupali– as of March 2017, an official said.
BB seeks Tk 3.0b for EEF operation
The Bangladesh Bank (BB) has requested the government to release a sum of Tk 3.0 billion for smooth operation of the Equity and Entrepreneurship Fund (EEF). “We have requested the finance ministry to allocate Tk 3.0 billion for the agro-based projects and information and communication technology (ICT) under the EEF,” a BB official said. When contacted, an official of the financial institutions division said, “We have received a letter from the central bank. We are now working on the issue.” The government introduced the EEF in the fiscal year (FY) 2000-01 to help promote entrepreneurship and create employment opportunities in the areas of agro-based industry (excluding conventional sub-sectors such as rice mills, flour mills, fishing trawlers, cold storage etc), and information technology (IT).
Banking sector powers Visa’s business
Global payment technology titan Visa is planning to introduce its new solution option in Bangladesh this year, a senior company official has said. The company looks to launch the contactless payment option named ‘Visa payWave’ sometime in October, said Joe Cunningham, Head of Risk of Asia Pacific operations at Visa. “This year is a very important year for our clients in Bangladesh”, Cunningham, who was in the capital recently to attend Visa Risk and Security Forum, said in an interview with the FE. “From October onwards, every Visa card issued in Bangladesh will be payWave capable”, Cunningham said, adding, “By 2023, all Visa cards in Bangladesh will be contactless”. The Visa official noted that apart from being fast and convenient, the contactless features of payWave are also safe and secured. “payWave is the fastest way to pay. It is safer and more convenient”, he said “The payment is complete in less than a second without the need to insert or swipe the card or wait for a PIN or signature”. “Customers simply hold their payWave card up to the special contactless reader, wait for the ‘beep’ and it is done”, Mr Cunningham said.
Thrust on popularising hedging to curb risks
Bangladesh needs to develop an effective benchmark interest rate along with broadening secondary bond market to popularise hedging mechanism for mitigating risks in future, senior bankers and experts have said. They also emphasised hedging, particularly for foreign currency loans, received from overseas sources by the corporate entities through offshore banking unit (OBU) operation of the banks, following the recent rising trend of LIBOR (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate). The observations came during the discussion at a research workshop on ‘Benefits and Potentials of Interest Rate Hedging: Bangladesh Perspective’. It was held at Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) in the capital on Thursday with Banking Reforms Advisor of Bangladesh Bank (BB) S K Sur Chowdhury in the chair.
BB urged to reconsider banks’ stock exposure limit
The finance ministry has asked the Bangladesh Bank to reconsider the proposals of DSE Brokers Association and Bangladesh Merchant Bankers Association, including calculation of banks’ stock market exposure limit at cost value, said DBA president Mostaque Ahmed Sadeque at a press briefing on Thursday. Sadaque said that their proposals were discussed in a meeting of senior officials from finance ministry, Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, where the ministry asked the central bank to reconsider the proposals as soon as possible. He said that if the central bank approved their proposals, the current severe liquidity shortage in the capital market might get improved to some extent. Despite holding enough liquidity, financial institutions could not inject fund in the capital market due to Bangladesh Bank’s market price-based valuation of banks’ investment in the stock market, said the DBA president.
Brokers push for BB steps as capital market wrestles with cash crunch
The capital market stakeholders have demanded immediate implementation of the recommendations made by the Ministry of Finance intended to infuse new life into the moribund stock market. The demand came at a press briefing held Thursday on the Dhaka Stock Exchange premises. DSEX, the prime index of the Dhaka Stock Exchange, has lost 672 points or 10.76 per cent since January 1, 2018. Identifying liquidity shortage as the key reason for the market’s freefall, the leaders of Bangladesh Merchant Bankers Association and DSE Brokers Association of Bangladesh recently sent a set of proposals to the ministry of finance. The proposal includes the revision of exposure limit to help revive the capital market. They also proposed redefining of banks’ capital market exposure, extending the timeframe for lowering banks’ loan-deposit ratio and increasing the investment capacity of the state-owned Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB).
DSE shareholders back China as bourse partner
Dhaka Stock Exchange shareholders decide for the bid-winning Chinese consortium as strategic partner and want the deadlock settled as soon as possible. Their views came at the bourse’s 56th annual general meeting, held Thursday at the DSE Tower in Dhaka’s Nikunja with DSE Chairman Abul Hashem in the chair, according to a statement. The securities regulator, which has been against the selection of the Chinese consortium from the very beginning, Monday expressed its inability to approve the consortium’s bidding offers for being strategic partner of the premier bourse of Bangladesh. In returning the DSE-forwarded bidding documents, the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission, however, set five conditions for the bidder to fulfill and submit a ‘revised’ proposal. Meanwhile, K.A.M. Majedur Rahman, the DSE managing director, said they will send a revised proposal to the securities’ regulator within a month after tackling certain issues raised by the regulator.
Mercantile Bank, Biman Holidays ink agreement
Mercantile Bank Limited signed an agreement with Biman Holidays (a wing of Biman Bangladesh Airlines) at the Bank’s head office recently. Under the agreement, Biman Holidays shall provide 10 per cent to 20 per cent discount on air tickets and other tour packages to MBL card holders. Md. Abu Sakin, Senior Vice President & Head of Card Division of Mercantile Bank Limited and Md. Shawkat Hossain, Deputy General Manager of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organisations.
FSIBL launches new trade finance product ‘Tasdir’
First Security Islami Bank Limited (FSIBL) has launched new trade finance product ‘Tasdir’ recently, according to a statement. Ahmed Jamal, Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank was the chief guest and Syed Waseque Md Ali, Managing Director of the bank presided over the programme. Among others, Tim Nicolle, CEO of PrimaDollar, Syed Habib Hasnat, Additional Managing Director, Abdul Aziz and Md. Mustafa Khair, deputy managing directors of First Security Islami Bank along with other high officials were present in the programme. Tasdir is an innovative trade finance solution for the exporters of Bangladesh.
WB approves $15m loan for quality statistics
The World Bank (WB) has approved a $15 million loan to help Bangladesh produce timely and quality statistics. “This will help the country make more evidence-based policy decisions,” the WB said in a statement, issued from Washington on Thursday. The National Strategy for Development of Statistics Implementation Support Project will improve the capacity of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) to produce and disseminate quality statistics in a timely manner. “Quality statistics are necessary for development and poverty reduction efforts. They provide evidence for policy decisions. Timely, reliable, and publicly available statistics are central to understand needs, plan resource allocation, and monitor development progress,” said Rajashree Paralkar, World Bank Acting Country Director for Bangladesh.
Revenue target may be Tk 340,000cr next fiscal year
The finance ministry plans to set a revenue collection target of Tk 340,000 crore in the next fiscal year, up 18 percent from that in the current fiscal year. This is a preliminary target, an official of the ministry said. The revenue collection goal for fiscal 2017-18 is Tk 287,990 crore. The resource committee of the finance ministry will finalise the target by April 10 after discussing it with the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
VAT on port services Export sector to enjoy waiver: NBR
The recently-imposed 15 per cent Value Added Tax on port services will not be applicable to export-sectors, the revenue board said. The National Board of Revenue issued a letter Tuesday after confusions over the VAT collection by the state-run Chittagong Port Authority from export sectors. The VAT wing of the board requested the port regulator to stop collecting VAT from the exporters on services.
Expensive projects fail to deliver
Undertaking expensive projects like flyovers and metro-rail have ‘failed’ to deliver, a number of experts said Saturday and offered alternatives for resolving the city’s traffic snarls. They called for creating public pressure on all concerned to go for the viable infrastructure building to resolve what they termed unbearable traffic jams that cost the economy dearly besides upsetting normal life and appointments. The cry for right decisions and actions came from transport experts, university teachers and planners at a roundtable in the city, with main focus towards immediate building up of efficient bus and pedestrian bays and byways. Coming down heavily on “metro-rail-like far-distance options” taken so far by policymakers to ease traffic congestion, they contended majority decisions and actions failed to bring any change in the city snarls due to a high degree of ‘politicisation’. Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and Road Safety Foundation jointly organised the roundtable titled ‘Dhaka city traffic gridlock: Economic and health impact’ to highlight adverse impacts of traffic congestion on the economy and civic life.
Paperless trade measures can cut costs by 30pc: UN
Full implementation of the World Trade Organisation’s digital trade facilitation agreement will slash trade costs by more than 30 percent for Bangladesh, according to a recent United Nations report. Digital trade facilitation refers to the application of modern information and communications technologies to procedures involved in moving physical goods across borders. The least-developed countries and the Pacific Island countries such as Bangladesh and Samoa have the most to gain from the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), said the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap). Implementing digital trade facilitation to the level currently seen in China could increase the region’s annual gross domestic product by more than 3.8 percent and its exports by 11.2 percent by 2030, said the Escap’s Digital Trade Facilitation in Asia and the Pacific report. Full implementation of the TFA together with other paperless trade measures is projected to reduce trade costs in Asia and the Pacific by 26 percent or yield $673 billion in savings every year.
Wärtsilä: 20 years of powering Bangladesh
Wärtsilä, a global technology company, stands ready to help Bangladesh in its pursuit of energy security by way of liquefied natural gas, said the top executives of the Finnish company. “As Bangladesh is investing in having gas as the source of fuel for cleaner energy, Wärtsilä is very well-positioned to facilitate that,” said Javier Cavada, president for Energy Solutions of Wärtsilä Corporation. The Bangladesh government has a solid plan to develop the energy sector, said Jaakko Eskola, president and chief executive officer of Wärtsilä Corporation.
First mother vessel reaches Ctg port from Korea
A new way for container transport was introduced from Korea to Chittagong port on Friday, which would help traders to cut the travel time by a half. For the first time, a mother vessel carried containers from Korea to the Bangladeshi port in 14 days. It used to take around 30 days, as the containers had to wait in Singapore port to be unloaded and to reach Chittagong through feeder vessels. In its maiden voyage, the mother vessel Sentosa Trader of Hyundai Merchant Marine Company Ltd set sail from Korea’s Bussan port, said Md Jahid Hossain, manager for sales at Ocean International Ltd, the local agent of the vessel.
Fish production increases by 1.23m tonnes in eight years
Fish production in the country increased by over 1.23 million (12.35 lakh) tonnes in eight years as a result of various effective programmes taken by the government, reports BSS. “We are getting 60 per cent animal protein from the fisheries sector….. The government is attaching priority to fisheries sector to meet the growing demand of protein,” Director General of Fisheries Department Dr Md Goljar Hossain told the news agency on Saturday. He said fisheries production of the country was more than 2.89 million (28.99 lakh) tonnes in fiscal year 2009-2010, while it rose to over 4.13 million (41.34 lakh) tonnes in 2016-17, meaning the fish production increased by over 1.23 million (12.35 lakh) tonnes. According to Bangladesh Economic Survey-2017, 23.81 per cent of total agriculture income comes from fisheries sector.
Boro acreage goes up on rising prices
Farmers have planted paddy on an increased area of land during the current boro season, encouraged by high prices of the staple food, agricultural officials and traders said yesterday. Acreage of boro rice plantation stood at more than 48 lakh hectares, exceeding the preliminary estimate of 47.25 lakh made by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) for the ongoing season, said a senior official of the DAE. “It appears that farmers have not left any place fallow during this boro cultivation season. Because paddy becomes more profitable now than other crops such as potato,” said KM Layek Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Auto Major and Husking Mills Association. Prospect of a good crop is high if no natural calamity occurs in the remaining days till harvest of boro crop, starting from the end of April, he said. Favourable weather conditions and adequate input and water supply have supported planting operations, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation’s said last month.
Economists contradict BBS claim on ‘job-rich growth’
Despite having higher economic growth, Bangladesh couldn’t create requisite job opportunities, thereby putting the country’s sustainable growth potential at risk, economists said. They said a higher number of unemployed people (0.1 million), as the latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2018 shows, is a piece of bad news for the country. They also raised question on the data of the latest LFS as there are some “inconsistencies” in the calculations. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in its survey 2018 showed that Bangladesh’s unemployed people were 2.7 million in the financial year (FY) 2016-17, and termed the economic growth job-rich. The number of jobless in the previous survey period in FY2015-16 was 2.6 million, its report said. Economist Dr Mirza Azizul Islam, rather, termed the current economic growth “job-less”. He told the FE that since Bangladesh could create only 1.3 million fresh jobs against the entry of nearly 2.0 million into the labour force, the employment rate is still very low.
Products of Tk 4.5cr sold at tourism fair
Sales at the Dhaka Travel Mart, a three-day international tourism fair that concluded yesterday, were up about 40 percent to Tk 4.50 crore this year from a year ago. Tour operators, hotels, and airlines sold a large number of tourism products that beat their targets in the exhibition organised by the Bangladesh Monitor, a travel publication, at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka. About 15,000 people visited the fair and most of them are prospective tourists, said Kazi Wahidul Alam, chairman of the Dhaka Travel Mart 2018. “People’s disposable income has increased significantly in recent times and this has been reflected by the sales of tourism products,” said Alam, also the editor of the Monitor. Airlines such as state-run Biman and private carriers US-Bangla, Novo Air, and Regent Airways received a good response and sold tickets worth about Tk 3 crore for local and international destinations, according to the organisers.
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