What the papers say

Health & Care

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 4 June 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…university students might get health insurance. The government could help paddy farmers by buying direct, the European Union considers direct payments to garment workers through mobile financial services and Japanese companies decline to make the move to Bangladesh.

Education and the Labour Market

Students of Dhaka University may get health insurance: A six-member committee, including the vice chancellor, voted to provide the service to the public university’s 37,018 students. If implemented, the measures would fix the premium cost for care at different hospitals.

School start dates remain uncertain. While grade-ten students received secondary school certificates and exam results this week, officials postponed enrollment for higher-secondary level classes. The online admissions process was abandoned because many students do not have internet access and would have to visit local computer shops to enroll, a move that could spread coronavirus. Schools have been closed since 17 March, and the current directive extends until 15 June.

At Chattogram Port, some 12,000 people come and go every day, and workers say it’s impossible to social distance. Daily only 15 samples are collected from port employees to test for COVID-19; thirty-five employees have tested positive and three workers have died.

An Asian Development Bank study found 87 percent fewer job postings on the country’s leading job site; on, job postings were way down in April compared to April last year.

In Libya, 26 Bangladeshi migrant workers died in the custody of human traffickers after traffickers abducted the men and demanded $12,000 in ransom from each migrant’s family. An additional 11 Bangladeshis were injured and remain in Libya. Libya is a destination for migrants because of its oil-funded economy and route to Europe.

Financial Services

A few large businesses have arranged for stimulus loans, but much of the government stimulus has not been disbursed. Banks have agreed to loans from the stimulus package for large industries and service sectors – the largest recipient by far being Biman Bangladesh Airlines, but as of 1 June banks had not dispersed loans from the other stimulus packages, including packages specified for small and medium enterprises and marginal businesses and farmers.

Affected garment workers may directly receive a portion of €90 million from the European Union. The EU had meetings with industry business associations from Bangladesh to consider direct distribution of financial aid to the workers, possibly through mobile financial services. The business associations said they are preparing a list of worker who have been laid off.

The International Monetary Fund agreed to lend $732 million to Bangladesh without the usual condition to reduce public expenditure. A finance ministry official said part of the funds will be used as interest rate subsidy on loans to micro, small, medium and large entrepreneurs, farmers and exporters.

Business, Investment, Trade and Growth

Japanese companies will probably not move from China to Bangladesh, despite earlier speculation that companies would want to leave ground zero of the pandemic. The Japan External Trade Organisation said that 99 percent of Japanese companies in China plan to stay where they are and only 0.9 percent of companies said they may move to another country in the next two years.

A number of Bangladesh businesses announced their intention to offer more affordable products to attract consumers with reduced purchasing capacity. For instance, Square Toiletries said they are working on a cheaper version of their feminine napkin brand Femina.

Farmers and Agriculture

To help farmers, the government should buy rice paddy direct from farmers rather than purchase it from middlemen rice millers, said a study commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture. In 2019, the government purchased 81.1 percent of its stock from millers. The study estimated that if they had purchased direct from farmers, the 2019 market price of paddy could have risen from Tk 15 to Tk 22 per kilogram.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina advocated for sustainable use of oceans and aquatic systems by the international community. In her speech at the “Virtual Ocean Dialogues” hosted by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action, she also highlighted how Bangladesh has increased fish production through marine fisheries.

Other News

COVID-19 Update: The number of cases continues to increase, with a record number of people testing positive for the virus each day – 2,695 more people tested positive on Thursday. A reported 746 have died and 55,140 have been infected.

Public transportation resumed, although with some caveats: city and district buses are allowed at half capacity and come with a 60 percent fare increase. Some rail lines are operating but also at 50-percent capacity, and tickets are only available online. In addition, airlines can fly domestically, but several canceled routes after low demand.

However, drivers with ridesharing apps have to wait to resume operations: the authorities opted to keep the suspension on ridesharing services in place.