Important Business News Extracts – September 25, 2017
SME loan disbursement surges by nearly 20pc in six months
Credit disbursement to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has increased by 19.86 per cent in the first six months of 2017, compared to the corresponding period in the last year, according to the Bangladesh Bank (BB) data. “The growth of SME loan disbursement witnessed an upward trend as the central bank has further strengthened its monitoring and supervision over the loan disbursement by the banks and financial institutions (FIs),” a senior Bangladesh Bank official told BSS on Sunday. All banks and FIs have already disbursed over Tk 835.06 billion in loans in January-June period in 2017, which was Tk 138.37 billion higher compared to the same period in 2016. They have already disbursed 62.39 per cent of their SME loan target in the year while the disbursement rate was 61.38 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous year. The central bank has set a loan disbursement target of Tk 1338.53 billion for 2017. The figure was Tk 1135.03 billion in 2016. Additional Managing Director of the Mutual Trust Bank (MTB) M Hashem Chowdhury said SMEs have already become the most powerful and sustainable pillars of Bangladesh economy, covering both non-traditional manufacturing and service sectors. “Bangladesh Bank is also working relentlessly towards the development of the sector to achieve higher GDP growth,” he added.
Despite making profit, Ansar-VDP Unnayan Bank has requested the government to exempt the bank from paying source tax and income tax and to consider the specialised bank as a non-taxable entity. In a recent letter to the finance ministry, the bank said that it needed the exemption as it was running its activities by borrowing money from scheduled banks due to lack of paid-up capital. In the letter, Ansar-VDP Unnayan Bank managing director Mohammad Jalaluddin also sought exemption from paying outstanding taxes accrued since the financial year 2002-2003 when the bank started to make profit. The bank was established in 1996 with an authorised capital Tk 400 crore (25 per cent government share and 75 per cent Ansar-VDP share). In the letter the bank said presently the institution was running its activities with the paid-up capital of only Tk 109.62 crore as the government paid Tk 75 crore out of Tk 100 crore and the bank raised capital only Tk 32.62 crore by selling shares to Ansar and VDP members in last 22 years against allocation of shares worth Tk 300 crore. According to the letter, the bank incurred losses in its first seven years and it started making some profit from FY03. The letter said that the non-scheduled bank was mainly involved in microcredit financial activities and the bank could get waiver from paying income tax as it was being operated like a cooperative society.
SJIBL set to emerge as preferred Shariah-based bank, says MD
Shahjalal Islami Bank Limited (SJIBL) is now working to emerge as a preferred Shariah-based bank by providing optimum services to its clients, the top executive of the bank has said. “We want to see the SJIBL becoming the most preferred Islamic bank of the country in near future,” said Farman R. Chowdhury, Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the private commercial bank sharing his future plans in an exclusive interview with the Financial Express (FE) recently. The bank’s strategic focus is on increasing market share, strengthening client relationships, leveraging existing strengths and building new capabilities to stay ahead in the evolving environment, the CEO disclosed. “We are confident that the bank has the comprehensive approach to further strengthen customer relationships, to benefit from growth opportunities and deliver consistent performance over the long term,” Mr. Chowdhury noted. The SJIBL has already undertaken a long-term strategy to expand the scale and scope of ‘fee-based investment’ for ensuring sustainable profit growth. Another key strategy of the SJIBL is to maintain profitability growth through improving operational efficiency by enhancing productivity, according to the CEO.
Bangladesh House Building Finance Corporation (BHBFC) plans to lower the interest rate for its flat loan scheme to single digit as some private banks have already cut the interest rates on flat loans. “We’ll soon send a proposal to the Bank and Financial Institutions Division of the Ministry of Finance for bringing down the interest rate for flat loan to single digit,” a BHBFC official has said. Chairman of the board of directors of BHBFC Sheikh Aminuddin Ahmed said BHBFC cut the interest rates for house building and flat loans at the beginning of this year. The interest rate for house building was brought down to 9 per cent from 12 per cent while the interest rate for flat loan was fixed at 10 per cent.
With a new law put on the backburner, government’s revenue authority decided to amend the existing value-added tax (VAT) rules to digitise the taxing. Sources said under the amended rules, the revenue board would carry out digitisation of the system and continue with the VAT Online Project (VoP). The amendments to the VAT rules will be made under the existing VAT law, framed in 1991, keeping all of its major provisions unchanged. Truncated base, tariff value, package VAT and a wide range of exemptions will remain unchanged in the amended rules. There was widespread confusion over continuation of the digitisation activity in VAT system after deferment of the new VAT and Supplementary Duty Act 2012. Enforcement of the new law, passed by parliament in 2012, has been postponed for two years. It was scheduled to come into force from July 1, 2017, but was jettisoned amid protest by businesses.
Govt awards package waiver on land-transfer charges
Registration and all other fees and stamp duty for land transfer by landowners to developers of private economic zones have all been waived as a stimulus. Government authorities believe the exemption of charges would considerably cut cost of investment in the EZs and rope in investors in larger numbers. Landowners and entrepreneurs will be able to save 15 per cent of the cost of investment on the registration and all other fees if they form consortium or joint-venture companies for developing private EZs. They won’t have to pay registration fees and all others at the time of transferring or selling land to the developers of private economic zones. However, the consortium or joint-venture companies have to be formed by the particular landowners or entrepreneurs. The law and justice division recently issued circulars and the Internal Resources Division (IRD) Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) on the waiver of fees and stamp duty respectively.
The ‘One-Stop Services Bill, 2017’, which has already been placed in Parliament, is expected to attract local and foreign investment in a big way after its enactment. The executive chairman of the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA), Paban Chowdhury, told The Independent that the government agencies concerned would have to offer mandatory services to make investments easier. The rules will be framed and sent to the law ministry after the enactment of the law, he said. “We’ve prepared an investment tool graph to show how projects are to be implemented in future,” he added. On the coordination of all departments, Chowdhury said “Before formation of this service an entrepreneur had to get approval from the different ministries before making an investment. The one stop service will cover all the services provided by 17 ministries”. The focal points and institutional arrangements should be made by integrating services of all 17 ministries, he added. According to the BEZA officials, the One-Stop Services initiative would house 17 ministries/government departments under a single umbrella to ease foreign investments in the country and boost economic development.
Export incentives beyond RMG for newer markets on the anvil
The government moves to offer cash subsidy on some more products in the new-market- expansion category to encourage businesses to expand country’s export trade. Presently, only apparel items enjoy the facility. Officials said the ministry of finance (MoF) recently asked the ministry of commerce (MoC) to find out the products suitable for receiving subsidy in the new-market expansion category as Bangladesh’s export sector is now dependent on traditional markets and narrow product basket. Sources said the MoC later engaged the export promotion bureau (EPB) to list out the products having the potential to trade on newer markets. Presently, the apparel sector gets an additional 3.0 per cent cash incentives for exporting goods to destinations other than the USA, Canada, and European Union. The government introduced the provision to encourage exporters to discover new markets instead of completely remain dependent on traditional ones. For sending goods to traditional markets the apparel-makers receive 4.0 per cent cash subsidy annually. A senior MoC official told the FE that country’s export earnings would not see significant boost unless goods are exported to new markets and new products are included in the product basket. “With the thin product basket we won’t be able to do a lot. So we want to promote new products and new markets,” he said.
Jute millers and traders are apprehensive that permitting use of plastic instead of the natural fibre in rice packaging would hurt farmers and affect the jute sector’s revival. The worries surfaced after the agriculture, commerce and food ministers at a meeting last week promised rice millers that the government would relax the provision of mandatory packaging of rice with pricey jute bags to curb the price spiral of the staple food. “This is a step aimed at destroying the jute industry,” said Abdul Quayyum, secretary of Bangladesh Jute Association (BJA). On Saturday, Bangladesh Jute Mills Association (BJMA) echoed BJA. BJMA said people have started using jute bags complying with a packaging law framed in 2010. The use of jute bags has increased with many handlooms and power looms in jute mills having started making bags to cater to rice millers. Many entrepreneurs have installed modern machines with loans from banks after the enactment of the law and employed many people, said BJMA. The jute sector has been on a turnaround thanks to the use of jute sacks in rice packaging, said BJMA Chairman Muhammad Shams-uz-Zoha. “So, if people revert to plastic bags, the jute sector will seriously be affected,” he said, warning that many people would lose jobs.
Final talks on $4.5b new Indian credit start today
Bangladesh and India are set to start the final round of negotiations for the neighbouring country’s latest commitment of $4.5 billion line of credit in Dhaka today. The negotiations will include representatives from the Indian side, officials of the Economic Relations Division and the concerned ministry, said a finance ministry official. Indian Exim Bank has already sent a draft agreement, which has been vetted by the various ministries and divisions. The terms and conditions will be the same as the previous two lines of credit extended by the neighbouring country in August 2010 and March last year of $1 billion and $2 billion respectively. The previous credits carry 1 percent interest rate with repayment period of 20 years and a grace period of five years. One of the conditions of Exim Bank is that the size of the import content of the credit line will be 75 percent of the overall procurement in case of goods. However, in case of public works, the limit is 65 percent. Another condition is that contractors will come from India but they have to win the contracts through competitive bidding. The line of credit can be used for consultancy if the services are taken from India. Bangladesh though will have the opportunity to take consultancy service from elsewhere for the projects but on its own expense.
Mobile operators have once again sought government permission for using local funds to invest in 4G services, something barred in a draft guideline despite being allowed at a July 18 meeting with Prime Minister’s ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy. The operators pointed out the issue at a meeting with State Minister for Telecom Tarana Halim at her office yesterday. In the guideline, Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission (BTRC) recommended mandatory sourcing of all investment for 4G services from abroad. Three private operators also raised concerns over a rule stipulating that permission be sought from the regulator prior to running activities under corporate social responsibility. “It will create a new window of corruption as we have to take no objection certificate from BTRC,” said a top executive of a mobile operator present at the meeting.
Bangladesh will make a ‘token’ contribution of $50,000 to the fund for the Technology Bank of Least Developed Countries or LDCs, the foreign minister says, reports bdnews24.com. AH Mahmood Ali, speaking at a press briefing in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Friday, also urged all other LDCs to make a “symbolic pledge” for the Bank. Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu was also present at the press briefing. Turkey hosts the Bank dedicated for LDCs. Bangladesh is the current chair of LDCs. The initiative is aimed at strengthening LDCs’ science, technology and innovation capacities, and facilitating the transfer of technologies to LDCs.
Consumption of liquefied petroleum gas in the country has been increasing at a faster pace since 2013 with growing allegations of charging higher prices and supplying the cooking gas without maintaining quality and quantity. Ban on providing new gas connections to households since 2013, price fall and rise of consciousness among eligible people about hazardous arrangements of daily cooking are the major reasons for the booming market, said officials. ‘Last year, the annual consumption exceeded 4,00,000 tonnes of LPG, which was less than 1,00,000 tonnes until 2013. Market players’ estimates say that the annual consumption would exceed 6,00,000 tonnes by the end of this year,’ state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid told New Age on Saturday.
Local handset brand Walton has started assembling smartphones on a trial basis at its own plant in Gazipur with hopes of starting commercial production from the first week of October. Customers will get the first locally assembled handsets from Walton at the end of this year, said Uday Hakim, senior operative director of Walton Group. State Minister for Telecom Tarana Halim is scheduled to officially inaugurate the first handset plant of the country on October 5.
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