What the papers say

Lobbying for Loans

A weekly round up of articles about employment, the labour market, skills training and workforce development. This week’s round up is drawn from The Daily Star and The Financial Express. Here is the news for the week ending 21 May 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…financial uncertainty looms for many sectors, including garments, farmers and migrant workers. Businesses work together to lobby the banks for loans, and the government sends aid money using mobile phones.

Education and the Labour Market

Protests from garment workers continued. Thousands of workers organized this week according to numerous reports. Workers expressed demands such as the reopening of factories and the payment of monthly salaries and Eid bonuses.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association asked the government to close 46 factories that failed to pay workers’ salaries in March. Paying March salaries is one requirement garment factories must meet to be eligible for loans from the government stimulus package.

At the same time, many factories are open and operating. Reports of coronavirus cases among workers are limited, but one report said  “more than 60 workers from 37 garment factories got infected” as of 16 May.

An online government program will give IT training to 40,000 young adults. The Information Communications Technology division will offer courses in graphic design, web design and digital marketing through Zoom and Google Meet with the goal of expanding Bangladesh’s digital workforce.

Approximately 7,000 to 8,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers in Bahrain have lost their jobs due to the shutdown according to officials at the Bangladesh embassy in Manama. Two thousand are from the construction industry, the largest employer of Bangladeshis in Bahrain. Meanwhile, 12,600 undocumented Bangladeshis applied for amnesty through an amnesty program started in April. In total, there are about 150,000 Bangladeshis working in Bahrain.

The International Organization for Migration said they expect a few hundred thousand unemployed Bangladeshi migrant workers will return home once travel restrictions are relaxed, and it could be a long time before these workers can return to work abroad. The IOM has set up a hotline for migrant workers, which can found at their website,

Financial Services

The government distributed cash support via mobile phones. With the help of mobile financial services, the disaster management and relief ministry’s program aims to dispense aid to five million people in need.

Businesses said banks are not distributing stimulus loans. As a result, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) has begun creating sector-wise councils to work with the banks and help distribute the loans.

Remittance flow was down 12 percent in March from March last year said sources at the Bangladesh Bank. The World Bank has projected Bangladesh will see a 22-percent decrease in remittance earnings this year.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

The National Board of Revenue removed all tariffs and taxes on the import of raw materials for personal protective equipment and face masks. This is an addition to last week’s removal of value-added tax on the production, trading and supply of these goods and an earlier tariff exemption for raw materials used in hand sanitizers, coronavirus testing kits and PPE.

China waived the duty on most goods from Bangladesh, although tariffs remain high at 25 to 30 percent.

Farmers and Agriculture

Tea farmers began selling their harvests this week after much delay. Weekly auctions scheduled to begin 24 March only began this week. With the delay of sales and less demand, many tea estates are struggling financially.

Other News

The latest COVID-19 numbers are 408 dead and 28,511 total cases. The number of cases continues to increase, and the number of new infections may accelerate as cyclone Amphan forces people in coastal areas to evacuate and move into close quarters.

Amnesty International found hospitals that refused service to people with COVID-19 symptoms. The investigation concluded these hospitals had the capability to diagnose and treat the patients, but hospital staff feared being infected with the virus.

A survey from Save the Children Bangladesh found 64 percent of households in marginalized communities are facing serious food crisis. The foreign ministry objected to the report, citing the sample size of 121 children as reason not to generalize the results. A foreign ministry official further said Save the Children expressed regret for publishing the survey to the foreign ministry. At the time of writing, Save the Children has not withdrawn the report.

Image provided by Subash05102001 under Creative Commons license.