What the papers say

Export Woes

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. Here is the news for the week ending 23 July 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

Bagging mangoes can ensure an export-worthy crop.

…Apparel exporters lobbied for more stimulus money because, they say, they cannot pay workers wages without it. Bangladesh has a long-running mango exporting problem. And experts predict this years flooding will break records.

Education and Labour Market

A hundred schools have closed and put properties up for sale according to one Dhaka school administrator. Owners of these private schools said they have no other choice because without tuition fees, they are unable to pay rent and teachers’ salaries.

A new survey reported 93 percent child laborers cannot find regular work during the pandemic. The survey, by Action for Social Development, also found about 50 percent of these children are now begging to earn a living.

The youth population needs modernised and quality skills training to prepare them for the international labour market according to speakers at an online forum hosted by ActionAid Bangladesh and The Daily Star. While most countries have a national and vocational qualification framework, Bangladesh has yet to develop such a framework according to an education specialist who spoke at the forum. Although, he said implementation of a national framework began in 2012.

About 87 percent of daily-wage earners are struggling to get sufficient food according to a Right to Food Bangladesh survey. At the unveiling of the results, the food secretary said providing rice isn’t enough and a database of the poor and vulnerable should be developed to ensure assistance without irregularities.

Financial Services

Cottage, micro and small businesses can now get government stimulus loans under more favorable terms as the Bangladesh Bank relaxed the pay-back provisions. Although, as banks have been reluctant to lend to the small and medium enterprise sector, it remains to be seen whether banks will disburse loans under the new terms.

Banks have also been reluctant to give out farm loans. Last fiscal year, the banks reported negative growth in farm loan disbursement for the first time in years: Agriculture lending declined 3.67 percent during 2019-2020. The magnitude is large, as the agriculture sector accounts for 48 percent of the country’s total employment.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

Apparel exporters are seeking more financial support from the government. In a joint-letter to the finance minister, the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association requested another financial package and said under the current conditions, many garment factories will not be able to pay wages to workers for July, August and September.

Garment manufacturers are not able to take full advantage of the global market for personal protective equipment due to a shortage of international-standard testing facilities in Bangladesh. However, an advisor to the prime minister said the government is trying to create these testing facilities. The Daily Star also reported the Directorate General of Drug Administration is leading a technical group, including the World Health Organization, USAID and Japanese organizations, which is concerned with quality control for PPE made in Bangladesh.

Some businesses have benefited from the pandemic in unexpected ways: Textile mills serving local markets have experienced a dramatic increase in sales because the influx of cheaper yarns and fabrics from India stopped when the countries’ borders were closed due to Covid-19.

Farmers and Agriculture

Mango exports have declined almost 85 percent since 2016. A report from the Daily Star details how some exporters sent poor-quality mangoes abroad, thus reducing demand for Bangladeshi mangoes. The country first started exporting mangoes in 2015.

Potato exports brought in earnings 86 percent higher than in the last fiscal year. The country exported more potatoes and fetched higher prices due to production shortages in China and Pakistan. However, potato exports have largely declined since their peak in 2015 because of Russia’s restrictions on Bangladesh potatoes due to food safety and disease risks.

Other News

Flooding is set to be the worst in over a decade and may outlast the record 63-day flood in 1998. So far, flooding in 24 districts has affected some 2.5 million people and damaged crops worth about Tk 350 crore, or $41 million. Also, rains have caused waterlogging in Syhlet, Dhaka and Chittagong due to poor drainage systems.

Covid-19 Update: total number of cases surpassed 200,000, and deaths now total more than 2,800. Also in the news this week: