What the papers say

Beginning Again

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 17th September 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

… As business resumes, some small garment factories face unique challenges. Meanwhile, the long-term future of state-owned jute mills (and the workers) remains uncertain. And soon, Bhutan may increase trade with Bangladesh.

Education and Labour Market

State-owned jute mills have been closed since 1st July, and their future remains unclear. While the government seeks to lease the mills to private investors, negotiations are ongoing as potential investors desire longer leases and favorable loans.

Some of the workers from the closed jute mills started receiving unpaid dues this week. A ceremony marked the occasion, although outside a group of workers laid-off from the jute mills protested. They alleged the process has been uncoordinated and complicated. One worker said, “Many of us are illiterate. We don’t know … how to fill out its forms.”

Some small garment factories are reportedly struggling to open as they are unable to avail loans, negotiate with unions over back pay or remain in poor compliance with regulations. The report says most factories that have reopened are doing subcontracting work, although this type of work is not unusual as many small factories rely on subcontracting work.

Financial Services

Most banks saw an increase in deposits during the last fiscal year; for example, deposits at private banks rose 11.25 percent. Experts credit some of the increase to record remittances.

About 66 percent of people who receive payments from the government’s social safety net programme are actually ineligible for the programme according to a recent survey done by the Centre for Policy Dialogue. The CPD also noted that the SSNP budget appears larger due to the inclusion of pensions for retired government officials which constitute “almost a third” of the budget. 

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

A trade agreement between Bangladesh and Bhutan is being finalized, and may be signed next month. The preferential trade agreement (PTA), would be the first bilateral trade agreement between Bangladesh and any country, and the terms are set to give 100 Bangladeshi goods duty-free access to Bhutan and 34 Bhutanese goods duty-free access to Bangladesh.

Transparency International Bangladesh said contracts from several government institutions are not always given to the most meritorious bidder. “Political influence, collusion between influential people, and syndication still play a key role” according to the Daily Stars’ summary of TIB’s report titled “Governance in Public Procurement: Effectiveness of e-GP in Bangladesh”.

Traditional artisans are financial suffering; their income decreased nearly 88 percent on average during recent months, said the Bangladesh Institute Theatre Arts. Potters, folk singers, and musical instrument makers are among those affected. BITA’s survey also found few were able to get financial assistance from the government.

Farmers and Agriculture

Hilsa traders welcomed the government’s announcement that 1,475 tonnes of hilsa fish can go to India, as a recent increase in hilsa has pushed local prices down. This allotment is up from last year’s allotment of 500 tonnes, although some 200 traders reportedly applied for permission to export the fish, but only nine traders were granted permission.

The Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission announced the country will need six lakh tonnes more onions to meet domestic demand before the next harvesting season. Almost immediately, Bangladesh’s main source for imported onions, India, banned the export of onions. Onion prices have dramatically increased: nearly 100% in the last month to about Tk 50 per kilogramme, by one report. Although prices are nowhere near last year’s high of Tk 250 per kilogramme.

Onions are not the only vegetables increasing in price. Prices of many kitchen essentials have risen recently, in part due to the widespread flooding this year.

Floodwaters have receded, and now local people are facing with the aftermath. In the Sirajganj district, 3,259 people are homeless, and the damages totals an estimated Tk 300 crore. Assistance has come from NGOs, which have provided loans to some individuals, and the Department of Agricultural Extension in Siraganj, which said the DAE has started distributing seeds and saplings to affected farmers.

Other News

Bangladesh was elected to the executive boards of three UN organisations: the UNDP, the UN Population Fund and the UN office for Project Services for the 2021-2023 term. At the moment, Bangladesh is an executive member on the Unicef and UN Women boards.

Bangladeshi-American Dr. Ruhul Abid was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonprofit organisation Health and Education for All, which operates in Bangladesh. The nonprofit has provided medical treatment to some 30,000 garment workers and 150,000 Rohinga refugees and community members in Cox’s Bazar.

Anannya Magazine awarded its yearly honor to ten Bangladesh women for their contributions to fields such as education, organization, social work, fine arts and music.

Covid Update: the total number of cases increased to 342,671, and deaths now total 4,823. And as of Wednesday, 3,100 Covid-19 patients were in general wards and 301 were is ICUs at designated hospitals.

  • Trains started moved from operating at half capacity to opertating at full capacity
  • Child malnutrition may increase “chronic stunting”; the current rate is 31 percent, and according to projections related to the pandemic, it could reach the 2011 rate of 41 percent