Important Business News Extracts – September 19, 2017
BB to bend rules for banks to invest beyond limit
Banks may be allowed to break the barrier and lend beyond 25 per cent of their paid-up capital to single borrowers to facilitate installation of large power plants. Sources said the Bangladesh Bank (BB), in this case of government priority, could bend certain conditions of the Bank Company Act which debar banks from crossing the 25 per cent limit. An inter-ministerial committee has made such suggestion as power division needs nearly US$30 billion by 2021 to help implement the government plans for providing electricity to all, officials said. According to section 26 B (2) of the Bank Company Act a bank is not permitted to lend an amount exceeding 25 per cent of its paid-up capital to a single borrower, as a safeguard against any big loan anomalies. The committee, led by finance division additional secretary Jalal Ahmed, also suggested that the government, if need be, should provide state guarantee for large-sized loans considering power as a high-priority sector.
Bangladesh Bank (BB) has issued a new guideline titled “Prudential Guidelines for Agent Banking Operation in Bangladesh” aimed at taking the banking services to the doorsteps of the people. The central bank on Monday in a circular asked all banks to establish agents as channels for delivering banking services in cost effective manner and increase outreach of the banking services and promote financial inclusion within a safe and sound financial system environment. BB also instructed the banks to outline activities which can be carried out by an agent as well as provide a framework for offering branchless banking services and serve as a set of minimum standards of data and network security, customer protection and risk management to be adhered to the branchless banking services.
Loan defaulters barred from getting agent banking license
Bangladesh Bank on Monday issued guidelines on agent banking, barring loan defaulters from getting licence to operate the services. Through the guidelines, the central bank also asked the managing directors and chief executive officers of all banks not to allow any person, who is convicted by a court of law, to get the licence before three years after completion of his/her sentence or penalty. The persons, under investigation for any criminal charges and money laundering or terrorist financing activities, will not be allowed to get the licence.
All four state-owned commercial banks failed to recover loans from the top 20 defaulters as per targets set by the central bank for the first half of the year. The banks recovered a total of Tk 195 crore of the bad loans as of June, much lower from the target of Tk 1,565 crore. Sonali, Janata and Agrani could recover less than 5 percent of the bad debts as of June. This is far below the satisfactory recovery level of 40 percent as per the banks’ agreements with the central bank. Among the four, Rupali performed better, as it recovered 68.33 percent of its bad debts, according to a review report prepared by the banking regulator.
The employees of BRAC Bank Limited stood beside thousands of flood affected people across the country. The employees of the bank donated one day’s salary that generated a fund of Tk. 4.3 million to help the flood affected people. With the fund, BRAC Bank employees distributed relief material to more than 4,000 people in the badly affected areas covering Mymensingh, Netrokona, Jamalpur, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Sunamganj, Hobiganj, Sirajganj, Dinajpur, Naogaon, Rangpur, Nilphamari, Bogra and Rajshahi districts.
Government goes for augmenting non-tax revenue to meet needs
The government plans to augment non-tax revenues and non-NBR tax collection by exploring new areas to meet its growing fund needs, officials said. Besides, a hike in fees on different items under different ministries, divisions and departments is likely as the government authorities contemplate re-fixing the rates after a review. The finance division has taken the decision at an inter-ministerial meeting on non-tax revenue and non-NBR (National Board of Revenue) taxes. Senior secretary of the finance division Hedayetullah Al Mamoon presided over the meeting. The current move is mainly for potential sectors and new avenues for increasing earnings to meet revenue target of the government, a source concerned said. Currently, some 18 to 20 per cent out of total revenue earnings are received from non-tax revenue and non-NBR tax areas annually, according to the finance ministry. The government will search for new sectors to impose fees for enhancing its earning, the sources said. The decision to postpone enforcement of the new VAT law by two more years has unsettled the government’s budgetary projection on the revenue collection for the current financial year. It is estimated that non-enforcement of the law would deprive the state coffer of tax revenue worth Tk 200 billion.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) is set to loan Bangladesh $200 million for a project to strengthen urban governance, improve urban infrastructures and service delivery in municipalities across the country. To this end, Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Kazi Shofiqul Azam and ADB Country Director Kazuhiko Higuchi will sign an agreement on behalf of their respective sides on Tuesday at the NEC Conference Room in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, according to a press release. After the successful implementation of earlier phases, the project titled “Third Urban Governance and Infrastructure Improvement (Sector) Project (UGIIP-3)-Additional Financing” will provide investment funds to 35 pourashavas based on their governance performance, as per a report on BSS. ADB will provide the loan to develop urban roads in addition traffic management and to ensure water, other urban infrastructures as well as services of pourashavas for environmentally sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The urban services include urban flood protection, urban policy, institutional and capacity development, urban sanitation, urban slum development, urban solid waste management and urban water supply.
The estimated cost of the much-hyped Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project is likely to see a rise for the third time by around Tk 14.0 billion (1,400 crore), reports UNB. The new rise will take the overall project cost up to Tk 301.93 billion (30,193.38 crore) as acquisition of additional land is required for the project. The last and second revision of the Padma Bridge Project was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on January 5, 2016 with an estimated cost of Tk 287.93 billion to be implemented by December 2018. The Padma Bridge Project was first approved by Ecnec in 2007 with an estimated cost of Tk 101.61 billion. Later, the length of the bridge was increased due to change in design for which the estimated cost hiked to Tk 205.07 billion which was approved by Ecnec in 2011. Talking to UNB, a Planning Commission official preferring anonymity said in the original Development Project Proforma (DPP), Tk 12.99 billion was allocated for the acquisition of some 1,530 hectares of land and the amount has already been spent. “But, now there’s a need to acquire some 2,698 hectares of land for which additional Tk 14.00 billion is needed.” Under the present circumstances, the official informed, there is a need to acquire additional 1168 hectares of land in Munshiganj, Madaripur and Shariatpur districts.
August imports fall over 7.0pc despite big rice buy
Overall imports fell by over 7.0 per cent or US$294.53 million in August despite big emergency rice buy from abroad. One obvious reason cited by sources is that lower imports for industries tipped the balance a little bit. The settlement of letters of credit (LC), generally known as actual import, came down to $3.75 billion in August 2017 from $4.05 billion a month before, according to the central bank’s latest statistics. In August 2016, the actual imports were worth $3.43 billion. “The overall imports decreased slightly during the period under review mainly due to lower import of capital machinery and back-to-back imports for readymade garment (RMG) accessories,” a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank (BB) told the FE Monday. He also said the upward trend in food-grain import, practically rice import, may continue in the coming months to keep the price of the main staple stable in the local markets through boosting its supply. Both the government and the central bank have already taken different measures to encourage the importers to import more rice to meet a growing demand for the essential item.
Apparel exports to major European markets rose significantly during the first two months of the current fiscal, according to data, in a turnaround from a past crisis. Exporters and experts attributed the upturn to the strong euro against the US dollar, order shift from China and restoration of buyers’ confidence in Bangladesh following the ongoing safety and compliance initiatives. Export earnings from Germany, the country’s largest export destination in the EU, grew by 9.72 per cent to $992.39 million during the July-August period of the fiscal year 2017-18. The previous mark was $904.46 million, according to official data with the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB). The country received $733.78 million from the UK, recording a 29.38 per cent growth, during the period compared to $567.17 million of corresponding period of last fiscal. Apparel exports grew by over 41 per cent to the Netherlands to 178.80 million during the first two months under review. The growth in export earnings from Spain was recorded 26.22 per cent with shipments accounting for $439.99 million during the period, according to the EPB count. France imported apparel products worth $289.70 million from Bangladesh, 10.43 per cent higher than the earnings in the corresponding period of last fiscal.
Bangladesh has decided to import rice from Myanmar in face of instability in the market of the prime staple and in the backdrop of Rohingya crisis. A decision to import 1 lakh metric tonnes of white rice has been taken up, food ministry officials told The Daily Star today on condition of anonymity. The purchase will be made at USD 442 per tonne. The decision came following a meeting between a delegation of Myanmar and the food ministry last night. Last month, Bangladesh faced a bout of instability in the rice market. The government was compelled to encourage exports from neighbouring countries. Import duty on rice was brought down to two percent from the preceding 20 percent. But less than a month into such move, the price of rice has soared up again. The government again stepped in and started the sale of subsidised rice under its open market sale programme from this week – selling Tk 30 per kg, Tk 20 less from that in the market. Also, the decision to import rice from Myanmar comes in the backdrop of Rohingya crisis – the latest refugee toll pouring into Bangladesh rising to over 412,000.
Govt to import 0.1m tonnes of sugar to make up flood loss
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu has said that the government has taken a decision to import 100,000 metric tonnes of sugar for uninterrupted supply of the commodity during the month of Ramadan next year, and to recover the loss of sugarcane during the recent floods in the country. According to UNB and BSS reports, he asked the Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) officials to maintain highest level of transparency while importing the daily commodity into the country. He also called for using the profit from sugar import in the development of sugar industry. The Minister came up with the view on Monday while addressing the inaugural programme of a conference arranged in participation with the Managing Directors of sugar mills under the BSFIC, held in the city’s Dilkusha area, as the chief guest. When speaking at the programme, Mr Amu said, “Some 30,000 people with their families and sugarcane growers are involved with the country’s sugar industry. The sugar mills are playing an important role in socio-economic development.”.
‘Long-term policy soon to fix price of blending gas’
The government is going to frame a long-term policy to fix the price of natural gas after its blend with imported LNG so that industries can take long-term investment plans. State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid made the remarks while addressing a views-exchange meeting at the Petro Centre in Dhaka, reports UNB. “The government does not want to do business with imported liquefied natural gas (LNG). Rather, our priority is to make sure that the industries are getting imported gas at a fair price,” the junior minister said. The Energy and Mineral Resource Division arranged the meeting with the representatives from different stakeholders in the gas sector to discuss the strategy to supply the imported LNG to the industries and commercial customers. Nasrul Hamid said there should be a specific long-term plan to utilise the imported LNG after mixing it with local gas and fix the gas price. “Once there’s a sustainable price management plan, it’ll help entrepreneurs take proper investment plans. The gas sector needs to take up plans in an expediting manner,” the minister said.
Textile millers have demanded duty-free import of heavy fuel oil or furnace oil to keep their factories up and running. They said the tariff of gas was hiked by 222 percent in the last two years, which was eating up the profitability of the businesses in the primary textile sector as spinning, weaving, finishing and dyeing mills need uninterrupted gas supply. “We have already started talks with the government to make HFO import duty-free so that the primary textile sector can run well,” said Tapan Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, yesterday. The noted industrialist was talking to a group of reporters. He spoke about the current situation of the primary textile sector, which supplies 90 percent of the raw materials required by the knitwear sector and 40 percent by that on weaving. Currently, importers pay 35 percent duty to import the oil, which, they say, was too high for the users.
Akij Jute Mills, a concern of Akij Group, may finally get the government approval to purchase a Malaysian company along with its subsidiary for $80 million, or Tk 652 crore, making it the seventh Bangladeshi company to invest abroad. The local company intends to acquire Malaysian Robin Resources and its fully-owned subsidiary Robina Flooring — both of which manufacture reconstituted wood products — as soon as they get the green light. Akij has sought the approval to remit $20 million to Malaysia; the remaining $60 million needed to acquire the businesses will be loaned from banks overseas, according to a plan submitted to the Bank and Financial Institutions Division recently.
The government will not make any profit out of imported LNG (liquefied natural gas) so that consumers get the new fuel at rational prices, said a minister. In another measure for ensuring that the subscribers are not cheated at billing, the state-run Petrobangla received an order for updating the billing system so that they make payment for the same quantity of gas as they use.
Grameenphone’s exclusivity in using the Bangladesh Railway’s fibre optic network is set to come to an end after 20 years as the government looks to make the most of the resources available to realise its Digital Bangladesh vision. In 1989, BR under a modernisation project of its signalling system installed the optical fibre network at 300 stations with financial assistance from the Norwegian government. As the capacity of the fibre optic remained mostly unused in 1997, Grameenphone, majority owned by Norwegian company Telenor, signed an agreement with the then railway division to use, maintain and run the business operation of the fibre optic cable, after winning an international bid. The government has now taken an initiative to withdraw the exclusivity agreement between Grameenphone and BR as the cable is a public resource and should be open to all such that they can digitise the country. A joint committee comprising representatives from Grameenphone and BR has started working on reviewing the terms of agreement between the entities.
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