What the papers say

The Largest Yet

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 18 June 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…excitement and disappoint about the proposed budget. The future of education was revealed, and is the future of cash aid MFS? Plus, some seasonal farmers showed signs of success.

Education and the Labour Market

Schools, closed since 17 March, will remain closed until 6 August. These days the government airs lessons on television; even so, not all students have access to a TV – many of the children on Bangladesh’s chars, or river islands, live without electricity and now without schooling.

Fifty-two factories in the Gazipur district remain closed, and 810 are open according to the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments. In addition, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association reported reported on association members in the key garment industrial hub: 121 BGMEA factories are closed and 709 are open as of 13 June.

Female boutique owners in the Rangpur division depend on the holiday shopping periods for revenue and profit, but this year, there was no shopping boom because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Without this income, shop owners report they are bust and not able to pay the female artisans who stitch their clothing.

Period poverty is affecting more women due to household budget crises making sanitary products, a luxury good even in normal times, more unaffordable.

Financial Services

For returnee migrant workers, the government promised skills training and some Tk 80 million in loans. At an online consultation, where officials and NGOs also discussed how to combat human trafficking, the Bangladesh foreign secretary suggested the government is considering measures aimed at illegal migration seekers and their families.

The World Economic Forum published “Bangladesh faces a crisis in remittances”. The NGO said the 25-percent fall in remittances shows a need for digital solutions and better cooperation over migration. Conversely, they praised the government’s incentive scheme to encourage remittances through legal channels.

Nagad, the digital financial branch of the Bangladesh Post Office, proposed mobile financial services be used to disburse all social welfare funds. Mandating MFS will ensure transparency and instant disbursement, the managing director said.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

The finance minister revealed a proposal for the 2020-21 budget, the largest budget yet in Bangladesh’s history. Other groups revealed their criticisms of the budget, like no stimulus for small farmers and inadequate allocation for social programs for the poor. Likewise, The Centre for Policy Dialogue voiced concerns the GDP growth and revenue collection projections are unrealistic.

Transparency International Bangladesh criticized the budget proposal to expand money whitening schemes. Such schemes would allow investors to legally use illicit income in a number of ways, and a provision of the proposal would revoke authorities’ allowance to question to the source of black money or assets.

Mobile data usage and calls are now subject to a 15 percent supplementary duty, or are they? When the finance minister revealed the tax increase from 10 to 15 percent, telecom companies rushed to raise prices for users, but some provisions said the tax goes into effect 1 July.

The Asian Development Bank greenlighted a $100 million loan for rural roads. The funds will aid the $449 million Rural Connectivity Improvement Project, which aims to develop some 2,600 km of roads.

Farmers and Agriculture

Litchi farmers are faring well this season, despite early fears the pandemic would hinder their business. In northern Dinajpur, the number of wholesale buyers from the major cities is down, but this year, many buyers are placing their orders via mobile phone.

The shrimp sector is struggling. In a joint statement, stakeholders asked for financial assistance to help them respond to the fallout from the pandemic and cyclone Amphan. One request was an assistance package for small shrimp farmers, who account for 90 percent of shrimp production and exports and many of whom do not have access to formal institutional finance.

Some news to tease your taste buds: Researchers at Bangladesh Agricultural University said they have developed three new mango varieties and these new fruits could extend the season for mangoes until September.

Other News

The number of known coronavirus cases passed the 100,000 mark. The latest government figures report 98,489 cases and 1,305 deaths at the time of writing, and the number of new cases continues to increase each day. The World Health Organization said Bangladesh is the 10th worst hit country due to the high number of new cases.