AB Bank is facing financial crunch after its provision shortfall totalled Tk 1,340 crore at the end of 2016. The first generation private commercial bank maintained only Tk 250 crore against the required provision of Tk 1,590 crore because of bad loans, mostly in its offshore banking unit. The bank will face capital shortfall if the deficit amount is maintained. The required capital of the bank was over Tk 3,000 crore while its capital surplus was only Tk 135 crore as of December last year. Amid this situation, the BB on May 3 appointed Sheikh Mozaffar Hossain, a general manager of the central bank, as an observer to AB to closely monitor the bank’s financial activities. According to a Bangladesh Bank investigation report, AB’s offshore unit disbursed over $55 million in foreign currency loans to four companies breaching rules in 2015. The companies are: Globatt ME General Trading LLC of the UAE, Semat City General Trading LLC of the UAE, ATZ Communications Pte Ltd of Singapore and Eurocars Holding Pte Ltd of Singapore.
Narrow spread, cut cost to save depositors: Bangladesh Bank
The central bank asked banks to narrow their interest-rate spread through lowering both operational costs and classified loans to shun interest squeeze on deposits. Officials said the major issues troubling the banking system were discussed at a last bankers’ meeting held in the central bank headquarters in Dhaka with the Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor, Fazle Kabir, in the chair. The banks had already been instructed to remain pro-active and help check the falling interest rates on deposits. BB’s latest move came against the backdrop of recurrent fall in the interest rates on deposits in recent times. The classified loans jumped by more than 21.0% or BDT 108.0 billion in the last calendar year despite close monitoring by the central bank. The aggregate amount rose to BDT 621.7 billion as on December 31 last from BDT 513.7 billion the same day of the previous year, the BB data showed. Meanwhile, the bank’s interest rates on lending decreased slightly in the month of March following persuasion of bankers continuously by the BB. The weighted average interest rates on lending fell to 9.7% in March last from 9.8% in the previous month while interest rates on deposits came down to 5.0% from 5.1%.
Bangladesh Bank relaxes farm loan release ratio for 9 new banks amid pressure
Bangladesh Bank has taken a decision to allow nine new commercial banks to disburse 2.5% of their outstanding loans as farm loans from previous limit of 5.0% in accordance with their (nine banks) wish. Nine new scheduled banks had been pursuing the central bank for long to withdraw many of the conditions, including disbursement of five% farm loan of their outstanding loans, under which they were given licenses in 2012. To push for their demand, the banks came up with a set of proposals at a meeting with the BB at its headquarters in Dhaka on November 21 last year. The BB earlier asked the fourth generation banks to disburse at least 5% of their total loans and advances as agriculture loans in a year. The previous generation banks have to disburse 2.50% of their total loans as farm loans in a year. The central bank will have to revise the conditions of licence which was given to the nine banks in 2012, a BB official told New Age on Monday.
BB to advance cautiously in liberalising MFS sector
Bangladesh Bank (BB) will follow a very ‘careful and cautious’ approach in liberalising the mobile financial services (MFS) sector given the growing usage of MFS for illegal channelling of remittance into the country. “It is very easy to open up and liberalise everything. But as a regulator, we have to consider the risk factors also,” BB Deputy Governor Shitangshu Kumar Sur Chowdhury said at an event in the capital on Tuesday. He noted that despite all the efforts to stop the recent phenomenon of using MFS for illegal channelling of remittance, remittance inflow into the country has dropped by almost 17 percent in the recent months due to growing usage of ‘digital hundi’.
Mobile money to flourish if stakeholders collaborate
Digital financial services are yet to flourish in the country for the lack of a participatory approach from the regulators and operators, which ultimately deprive customers from advanced services, experts said yesterday at a roundtable. “Bangladesh Bank needs to look from a wider angle and focus on modern technology to attract more investment in this sector,” said Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, chief executive of Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre. The dialogue — Role of digital financial services in promoting inclusive growth: challenges and opportunities — was organised by UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, Dhaka. Ali, also a former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, said the time has come to declare the mobile financial sector as a different entity. “The way banks are serving their customers is not fit to help flourish digital financial services,” said Ali, former chairman of the bKash board. Mustafa K Mujeri, executive director of Institute for Finance and Development, said in a keynote presentation that this is a huge untapped segment as less than 2.5 crore MFS accounts are active. The total number of accounts is 5 crore.
The central bank tightened its mechanisms to check fraud and forgery through improving internal control and compliance system in the country’s banking sector. Officials said under the just-proclaimed revised mechanisms, foreign- exchange transactions along with money laundering activities have also been brought under monitoring to prevent different types of fraudulence and forgeries in the banks. The number of questions for self-assessment of anti-fraud internal controls of the banks has been increased to 78 from previous 53, according to the Bangladesh Bank (BB) officials. The central bank issued a circular in this connection Tuesday, asking the chairmen of the board of directors and managing directors (MDs) & and chief executive officers (CEOs) of all scheduled banks to comply with the revised rules properly.
First Security to buy floor space in Italy for exchange house
At a time when many are closing down their foreign exchange house operations for mounting losses, First Security Islami Bank has decided to spend a hefty sum to buy a little space in Rome to put up its exchange house. The bank will purchase a floor space measuring 90.30 square metres (nearly 972 square feet) in the Italian capital for €360,000 (equivalent to Tk 3.20 crore), according to a statement posted on the Dhaka Stock Exchange website yesterday. The exchange house, which is named First Security Islami Exchange Italy, now has to take approval from the Bangladesh Bank to transfer the sum. The bank got the approval from the central bank to open the exchange house for €600,000 (Tk 5.31 crore) in 2009, the first Bangladeshi bank to do so. State-owned Janata Bank followed suit in 2010, expending €268,300 euro (Tk 2.37 crore), according to central bank data. Bangladesh received $396 million in remittance from Italy in the first ten months of the fiscal year. The BB has so far allowed banks to open 67 exchange houses overseas to facilitate remittance. Of them, 35 are now in operation, 10 closed and 22 did not set up shop at all.
Government spending up 25.0%, propped by development works
Total expenditure of the budget was 24.6% higher in the first half of 2016-17 than a year earlier thanks to an increase in development spending. Between the months of July and December last year, total spending stood at BDT 955.0 billion, according to a report from the Finance Division. Development spending rose 27.7% and non-development expenditure 23.7% during the period. The report, which provided the up-to-date picture of budget implementation and the economy, was presented in parliament on Monday by MA Mannan, state minister for finance and planning, in the absence of Finance Minister AMA Muhith. Muhith was in Japan to attend the Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting; he left a written speech that Mannan read out in parliament. The total size of the budget is BDT 3406.0 billion for 2016-17. Although development expenditure picked up from a year earlier, the actual amount spent is still low when viewed against the total allocation, said a finance ministry official. The ministries and divisions could implement only 20 percent of their total budgetary allocation in the first half of the fiscal year.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected a 6.9% economic growth for Bangladesh in 2017. The organization has also forecasted a 7.0% GDP (gross domestic product) growth for the country in 2018, according to IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific. Besides, it has also projected Bangladesh’s current account balance to be -0.5 percentage and -1.0 percentage of GDP in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The rate of year-on-year inflation in the country has also been projected to be 6.4% in 2017, while the rate would be 5.8% in 2018, according to IMF. The outlook also forecasted that a disruption of labour flows could also reduce remittance inflows to emerging Asian countries. Citing the estimates by the World Bank (2016), it said the remittances from the countries of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the euro area, the UK, and the US collectively accounted for about three-quarters of total remittance inflows to Asian emerging markets in 2015. Those remittances were particularly significant in Nepal (almost 25 percent of GDP), followed by the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Vietnam (4.5 percent to 7 percent of GDP).
VAT rate to be brought down to a ‘comfortable’ level: Finance Minister
Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on Wednesday hinted about a potential change in VAT rate stipulated at 15.0% in the new VAT law to make it more comfortable for traders and consumers. He the hint amid strong opposition from the businesses, experts and others stakeholders against the rate. The new Value-Added Tax and Supplementary Duty Act-2012 is scheduled to come into effect from July 1 this year that will impose 15.0% single rate VAT on almost all goods and services with some exceptions like essential foods, agricultural products, lifesaving drugs and education. Terming uniform 15.0% VAT ‘too high’, traders, economists and experts have been opposing the rate saying that it would push cost of living and increase inflationary pressure on consumers. Trade bodies including the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry and research organisations are suggesting the government to lower the VAT rate between 7.0% and 12.0% to avoid inflationary pressure after implementation of the law.
More products, services may get VAT waiver in FY ’18
The government is likely to exempt more products and services from VAT in the upcoming fiscal year (FY), 2017-18, under the new VAT law. Education and medical services may be fully exempted from payment of VAT (value added tax). The VAT and Supplementary Duty Act 2012 is scheduled to be implemented from July 1, 2017. It is set to offer a wide range of VAT exemptions compared to that of the existing VAT law, framed in 1991. Basic food items, life-saving drugs, agricultural products and their transportation, medical services, education, and newspaper printing, publication and distribution along with a few other items would get VAT exemption under the new law. Areas of basic food items and life-saving drugs may also be widened in the upcoming FY. Currently, there are some 535 products in the exemption list under the existing VAT law. Besides, some services are also enjoying VAT exemption. The number of products and services under VAT exemption may be increased to 1,200 in the new law, the sources also said. Officials said the new law has the provision of exempting small businesses having annual turnover of up to BDT 3.0 million from payment of VAT.
Steel manufacturers urged Wednesday the government to stop imposing 15.0% VAT in a new law on the products to let rod prices cool off. They said if new Value Added Tax and Supplementary Duty Act, 2012 is enforced from the fiscal year 2017-2018, it would push up the steel prices, thus creating an adverse impact on the industry. The industry leaders made the call at a joint-press conference organised by Bangladesh Auto Re-Rolling & Steel Mills Association (BARSMA), Bangladesh Steel Mills Owners Association (BSMOA), and Bangladesh Re-Rolling Mills Association (BRMA) at the National Press Club in the city. Presenting a written statement, BARSMA Secretary General Mohammad Shahidullah said, “Steel manufacturers now pay BDT 900 as VAT for each tonne of rod based on a tariff value system. But once the VAT and Supplementary Duty Act 2012 comes into force, price of each tonne rod will be increased by BDT 7,500 a tonne.”
Kunming Steel in talks with BSRM to invest USD 2.2 billion
Chinese company Kunming Steel is in talks with BSRM to invest USD 2.2 billion to form a joint venture and serve the fast growing domestic market, said a top official of the local steel giant. Negotiations between the two companies have been underway for a few months now, said an official of BSRM. Chairman and managing director of BSRM could not be reached over phone as they are abroad now. Representatives from Kunming Steel are coming to Bangladesh later this month for further negotiations with the Chittagong-based local steel mill, according to the official. The factory would be set up at Mirsarai in Chittagong, if the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) allocates land to the new venture. The mill will produce basic steel products primarily for the local market, and for export as well, the official said. Both the companies held meetings with BEZA for land allocation. Currently, BSRM meets more than 30.0% of the local demand estimated at about 4.5 million tonnes per year, the official said. BSRM also began exporting steel products to the Northeastern region of India a few years ago. Paban Chowdhury, executive chairman of BEZA, said officials of both the companies met him and collected forms to apply for land allotment at the Mirsarai economic zone. It is near the Bay of Bengal and gives access to the easy transportation of goods by seaways.
Steel millers demand continuation of 5pc VAT on rod prices
The re-rolling mills owners on Wednesday demanded for lowering the VAT to highest 5 per cent from 15 per cent stipulated in the new VAT law. Leaders of the sector at a press conference said that implementation of the new Value-Added Tax and Supplementary Duty Act-2012 from the next fiscal year with imposition of 15 per cent VAT on the sector would increase the price of rod by Tk 7,500 per tonne. Currently, VAT on rod is only Tk 900 per tonne. The government should fix the VAT rate between 3 per cent and 5 per cent for the sector, they said. The new law is scheduled to come into force from July 1 this year.
Bangladesh may begin commercialization of vitamin-enhanced rice in 2018
After years of research, Bangladesh may begin commercialization of vitamin-enhanced Golden Rice in 2018, according to a report by https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org. One application of agricultural biotechnology in Bangladesh that could have the most significant impact is the cultivation of vitamin-enhanced Golden Rice. For many GM researchers and scientists, the successful commercialization of Golden Rice is something akin to the Holy Grail. It could go a long way toward dispelling unwarranted doubts and fears about the safety of GMOs. Research on the rice began in the 1990s, but has proved devilishly difficult to perfect. Delays in bringing the rice to market have thrilled opponents, particularly Greenpeace, one of the most vocal objectors to Vitamin A rice as a means of dealing with Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD).
Rise in renewable energy production can create 0.4m jobs
An increase in renewable energy production in Bangladesh can create employment opportunities for over 0.4 million (four lakh) people, according to a study. The report of the study, published at the Bangkok office of the UN-ESCAP on Tuesday, said that around 400 megawatt of renewable energy, including hydroelectricity and solar power, are produced in Bangladesh at present which can be substantially increased in the near future. A lion’s share of the renewable energy, about 200mw is generated by the Kaptai hydro-electric project. The rest are produced by solar, biogas and wind-based power projects.
BTRC issues show cause notice on Citycell for fresh dues
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has issued a show cause notice to the mobile phone operator Citycell to explain as to why legal action would not be taken against the operator for non-payment of fresh dues. The telecom regulator in the notice issued on April 26 also asked the operator to explain in thirty days why legal action would not be taken against the operator on the same ground. BTRC issued the show cause due to the mobile phone operator’s nonpayment of dues to the commission for the period of October 2016 to March 2017, a BTRC official told New Age on Tuesday. The mobile service of the Citycell has remained suspended for the last few months following a dispute with the regulator over non-payment of dues worth around Tk 477 crore accumulated till October 2016.
Uttara land for BGMEA office not for commercial use
The government has allocated 110 kathas of land at Uttara 3rd phase in the capital Dhaka to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association to construct its new headquarters on condition that the trade body would not use the land for commercial or residential purposes. Recently, the BGMEA has received the final allotment letter of the land from Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha that asked the trade body to pay Tk 20 lakh a katha. In the letter, RAJUK said that two plots (7 and 7A) with total area of 110 kathas at lake drive of 17H1 sector under Uttara 3rd phase residential area have been allotted to the BGMEA setting initial price of the land at Tk 22 crore. RAJUK asked BGMEA to pay the price of allotted plots at a time by June 29 this year or in three instalments before handing over the land. Under the instalment facility, the BGMEA would have to pay Tk 8.80 crore (40 per cent of total price) by June 29 as first instalment, Tk 8.184 crore (including 12 per cent fee) as 2nd instalment by June 29, 2018 and Tk 7.392 crore (with fee) before handing over the land.
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