Private sector credit growth crossed the 16% mark for the first time in six months in March on the back of higher investment in government’s infrastructure projects and a surge in SME lending amid lower interest rate. In March, credit growth stood at 16.1% — which is close to the monetary target of 16.5% set by the Bangladesh Bank for the second half of the fiscal year. In February, the credit growth stood at 15.9%. At the end of March, the banking sector’s total outstanding loans stood at BDT 7386.4 billion, up 1.5% from the previous month, according to data from the BB. The government’s mega infrastructure projects meant that imports surged, which, in turn, contributed to the higher credit growth, said Mohammed Nurul Amin, managing director and chief executive officer of Meghna Bank.b Moreover, banks focused on lending to agriculture and small- and medium-sized enterprises to expand their business activities, which also helped in bumping up private sector credit growth.
Local investment proposals rise by 28.8% in Q3 of FY’17
Local investment proposals rose by 28.8% during January-March quarter (Q3) of 2016-17 financial year (FY17), according to the latest data of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority. During the three months, BIDA received proposals for investing a total of BDT 296.8 billion from the local entrepreneurs for investing in 469 industrial units, which in term of value was 28.80% higher than the proposed amount in the previous quarter of FY17. The proposed amount was BDT 230.4 billion for 444 industrial units in October to December quarter. From January to March, BIDA received from overseas investors for investing a total of BDT 75.4 billion for investing in 20 fully foreign owned industrial units and 21 joint venture units with local entrepreneurs. During January to March period, BIDA received proposals for investing a total of BDT 372.2 billion from the local and the foreign entrepreneurs for investing in 510 industrial units. According to BIDA, the highest number of proposals came for the service industrial sector, which was 31.2% of the total proposed amount. The chemical industries came next with 17.6% followed by textile with 10.5%, food and allied with 12.5%, engineering with 4.8% and others 23.5%. The BIDA said that the investment proposal from local and foreign entrepreneurs would create a total of 73,797 jobs in the newly 510 registered industrial units.
Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves rose to USD 32.5 billion at the end of April, the central bank said on Tuesday, up nearly USD 300.0 million from the previous month, reports Reuters. The reserves are sufficient to cover imports for about nine months and are USD 4.3 billion higher than a year ago. Garment exports and remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas, the key drivers of the country’s more than USD 200.0 billion economy, have helped build reserves in recent years.
Bangladesh Bank fears pressure on forex reserves to rise further
Bangladesh Bank fears that pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves will increase if the government approves overseas equity investment by the local firms. Bank and Financial Institutions Division said it is not clear whether the local firms may return home their equity investment. The central bank feared the pressure on foreign exchange reserves as Akij Group, Nitol Niloy Group and Ha-Meem Group are now interested to invest overseas. Local firms’ investment proposals in aboard will go to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs as the Bank and Financial Institutions Division did not take decision for its own in this matter. Bank and Financial Institutions Division has forwarded the Bangladesh Bank proposals to the cabinet committee. Bank Division’s proposal will be placed at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs next week as Finance Minister AMA Muhith is going to Japan this week to attend the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank.
Remittance inflow drops by almost USD 2.0 billion in 10 months
The inward remittance decreased by USD 1.96 billion or 16.0% in the July-April period of the current financial year 2016-17 compared with the corresponding period of FY16. The inflow dropped for the 10th month in a row this financial year. The country received USD 10.3 billion in remittance in July-April of FY17 against USD 12.3 billion in the same period of FY16, according to the latest Bangladesh Bank data. BB officials said that many non-resident Bangladeshis opted for illegal channels like Hundi to send their money home because of a lower rate of the US Dollar against the BDT in the banking sector. The monthly remittance inflow on year-on-year basis also dropped in April, for the 10th month in a row. The country received USD 1.09 billion in remittance in April, down by 8.3% from USD 1.19 billion received in April 2016. A BB official told New Age on Tuesday that the remittance inflow continued to drop because of illegal Hundi, an informal system for transferring money, as there has been a significant US Dollar rate gap between the banks and the curb market for long. The exchange rate gap between the banks and the curb market has recently decreased with easing of cash Dollar crisis in the banking sector, he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office has taken an initiative to formulate an overseas investment policy for Bangladesh as the government is considering Bangladeshi companies’ investment abroad. The PMO on March 14 formed a sub-committee headed by Ajit Kumar Paul, executive member of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, in this regard. To collect necessary information on feasibility of Bangladeshi investment in foreign countries, the committee held its first meeting at the board room of BIDA in the city on Tuesday. At the meeting, Ajit said that the government was positive about overseas investment by Bangladeshi companies and the recommendations made by the stakeholders and experts would be considered to formulate the investment policy. Committee members suggested that before allowing investment abroad, the government should ensure foreign exchange reserve enough for settling import payments, according to a BIDA press release.
Bangladesh Bank eases loan burden of raw jute exporters
Bangladesh Bank on Tuesday took a relaxed credit policy for the raw jute exporters who are inflicted with debt crisis. The BB issued a circular to managing directors and chief executive officers of all scheduled banks asking them to transfer the disbursed loans for the raw jute exporters to the block accounts. The BB asked the banks to impose a fresh interest rate equivalent to their (banks’) cost of fund on the raw jute exporters. The banks include cost of fund and administrative cost to set their respective interest rate. The raw jute exporters will be able to repay the loan within 10 years and will also get a two-year grace period in line with the new policy. The BB asked the banks to give the new facility to the exporters based on their credit outstanding as of March 31. The banks will withdraw the cases against the exporters following the alternative dispute resolution.
Recruiting agencies at a media dialogue on Monday demanded to reduce the migration cost. WARBE Development foundation and Reporters for Bangladeshi Migrants (RBM) jointly organised the dialogue title ‘Observation and Recommendation of UN Migrant Workers Committee to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers’ at the VIP Lounge of the Jatiya Press Club in the capital, marking the International Labor Day-2017, reports UNB. Earlier, WARBE also formed a solidarity human chain programme under a banner ‘Protect Migrant Workers Rights and Dignity’ in front of the press club. The dialogue started with the key speech by M Naila Akter, Programme Officer of HELVETAS Swiss Inter-cooperation Bangladesh, and M Jasiya Khatoon, Director of WARBE Development Foundation.
StanChart rolls out apps to expand banking services
Standard Chartered Bangladesh has launched two mobile phone applications to expand its retail banking services across the country. The foreign bank, which has pioneered modern banking in the country, introduced the apps — ‘SC Mobile Bangladesh’ and ‘Good Life’ — at an event at Westin Dhaka on Sunday. The SC Mobile Bangladesh app will allow account-holders to do their banking from home or any other place, even sitting in a car, said Abrar A Anwar, chief executive officer of SCB.
Bangladesh Bank on Tuesday said ICT sector freelancers would be allowed to repatriate their foreign incomes (inward remittance) through their international credit cards. . The BB issued a circular to the authorised dealer branches of all banks saying that they would be allowed to issue international card or ‘freelancer card’ having duel currency units with features of being prepaid in favour of individual developers and freelancers for repatriating money from abroad. A freelancer will be allowed to keep 70 per cent of his or her inward remittance in the form of foreign currency with the export retention quota and the rest 30 per cent will be kept in the form of local currency, the circular said.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday hinted a cut in value-added tax rate for businesses in the upcoming fiscal year, when the government aims to implement the new VAT law. “We will give you a more comfortable rate,” he said at a discussion on national budget, jointly organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry and private television channel NTV at the capital’s Sonargaon Hotel. When reporters asked him later on the possible cut in VAT rates, he refused to divulge any further details. Apart from the new VAT law and the VAT rate, the issues of cost of doing business and incentives to encourage investment and exports were also discussed.
The government in its latest projection said that the per capita income is expected to rise to US$ 1598 in the fiscal year (FY) 2017, up by $ 113 from that of the last fiscal year, according to official documents. The per capita income was $ 1465 in 2015-16, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). The government also expects that the per capita income will expand to $ 2141 in 2019-20. The per capita income is an important indicator as the World Bank takes it into consideration for ranking a country status.
Capital flight: Bangladesh lost as much as $75.84 billion in 2005-14
A substantial amount of fund, ranging between 12 per cent and 17 per cent of its total trade value, had annually flown out of Bangladesh during last one decade, ending in December 2014, through trade misinvoicing and other illegal transfers. Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based research organisation unveiled the estimate in its latest report titled ‘Illicit Financial Flows to and from Developing Countries: 2005-2014’. It also put Bangladesh’s total trade value for 2005-2014 at $446.153 billion. If the 17 per cent of trade value turned into illicit financial outflows, the amount stood at $75.84 billion in last 10 years.
The government renewed the ‘Ashrayan-2 project’ with a 314 per cent cost escalation, with its past outcome being rated well below par. With the steeply upward revision, approved Tuesday, the cost of the project for rehabilitation of landless-homeless people now stands at Tk 48.40 billion. The original cost estimate was Tk 11.69 billion, officials said. With Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in its meeting endorsed the project along with four others at an aggregate cost of Tk 57.11 billion.
Confidence Cement to sell entire shares of ECPVL, ECPVCL
Confidence Cement will sell entire shares of Energypac Confidence Power Venture Limited (ECPVL) (11 M.W) and ECPV Chittagong Limited (ECPVCL) (108 M.W) as per share purchase and payments agreement to be executed amongst the companies, said an official disclosure on Tuesday. Earlier, an agreement was signed among the Confidence Cement, Confidence Steel, Energypac Power Generation, Energypac Confidence Power Venture and ECPV Chittagong.
The board of directors of Apex Footwear has decided to enhance the existing production capacity of the company, said an official disclosure on Tuesday. Estimated total project cost would be BDT 815.0 million (BDT 81.50 crore). Building construction cost will be BDT 600.0 million (BDT 60 crore), machineries cost BDT 150.0 million (BDT 15 crore) while cost of retrofitting would be BDT 65.0 million (BDT 6.50 crore), said the disclosure. Target completion period of the project is December, 2018.
New policy for renewable sources of energy on cards: minister
The government plans to adopt a new policy and regulation for renewable sources to ensure energy security and cut carbon emission, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid said yesterday. The government relies on conventional sources—coal-fired, hydro-electric and nuclear for base grid—of energy, as its renewable sources are unstable, the minister said. The government is purchasing lands to install solar panels, as part of its efforts to add 1,000 MW of electricity to the national grid, he said. The Minister spoke at a roundtable on “Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (Tarrif for Rooftop Solar PV Electricity) Regulations, 2016 (Draft)” at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka. The Asia Foundation organized the event.
India’s Reliance Power moves to ink final deal on LNG terminal
India’s Reliance Power has moved to ink final contract to build Bangladesh’s first floating storage unit (FSU) of LNG (liquefied natural gas) at Kutubdia island in the Bay of Bengal to facilitate import of the fuel, said officials. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Reliance Power and state-run Petrobangla was signed in this regard in presence of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during PM Hasina’s visit to India early last month, a senior Petrobangla official told the FE. The proposed FSU would have the capacity to store around 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of LNG, he said.
Bangladesh will start using maize, broken rice grains and molasses to produce ethanol to mix with petrol fuel at a 5.0 per cent ratio, according to a Reuters report. The government has taken the decision in a gazette notification early this year to make its fuel greener, energy ministry officials said. However, economists and experts of the country warn the move could hurt food security in a country, said the report. Energy ministry officials said in a gazette notification early this year that the country will begin using maize, broken rice grains and molasses to produce ethanol to mix with petrol fuel at a 5 percent ratio.
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