What the papers say

Human Capital Potential

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 24th September 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…we hear about the factors in unlocking a child’s potential. Grants give some marginalized people the ability to invest in small business. And Bangladesh nets more hilsa – but how will the fish be stored?

Education and Labour Market

Some 10,000 of the estimated 30,000 migrant workers trying to return to Sauid Arabia gathered in the street this week, after they were unable to avail tickets to return to Saudi Arabia before 30th September when their visas were to expire. However, Saudi Arabia later announced workers can renew their visas at the Saudi embassy in Dhaka, and their work permits will extend until 17th October.

Migrant workers who have returned will receive certifications for their skills and new training, says the government. Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad said a training and vocational qualification curriculum for returnees will be implemented at technical training centers.

Some advancements in human capital may be lost to the Covid-19 pandemic according to the World Bank Group. Even before the pandemic, the average child was unlocking only 56 percent of their potential, and this number is at risk due to the economic and pandemic-related impacts to health, nutrition and school enrollment.

It’s long been known that women are disproportionately burdened by unpaid work, but a Daily Star report this week highlighted the issue. In 2016, 2017 and 2018 women did an average of 6.5, 5.2 and 3.9 more hours of unpaid care work each day according to ActionAid Bangladesh. And a recent study from Brac reported 91 percent of working women said they do more unpaid care work and 89 percent said they have no leisure time.

Financial Services

About 77 percent of the Tk 33,000 crore stimulus package for industrial and service sectors has been distributed, and the deadline for banks to disburse is the end of the month. The central banks is adamant lower banks disburse the remaining sum – Bangladesh Bank Executive Director Abu Farah Md Naser said, “Disbursement of the whole stimulus package will have to be completed within the next month at any cost in the interest of the quick recovery of the financial sector.”

A reported 1,500 marginalized people in the Lalmonirhat district received grants worth Tk 18,000. The recipients included cobblers, barbers, artisans and potters – several of whom said they will invest the money in their businesses.

A banking program designed to enroll women, including new bankers and homemaker, was launched by Prime Bank. The initiative, named “Neera” will introduce the country’s first loan program to collateralize gold, allowing women to use the common personal asset to secure a loan.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

No duty should be imposed on raw jute exports, said the Bangladesh Jute Association. The BTA said there is a surplus in the market due to the closure of the state jute mills in July. But jute millers say otherwise: they’ve asked for a ban on exports, and meanwhile the government has said it’s considering a duty due to a rise in domestic prices, caused by this year’s flooding and the pandemic.

China may assist in four development projects in Bangladesh, as the Economic Relations Division is currently seeking a loan agreement with China. The ERD is in talks with China for $2.4 billion in loans to fund an elevated expressway, digital connectivity, a surface water treatment plant and TV stations. China has already promised funds for 24 other projects and disbursed $1.54 billion.

Light engineering may play a greater role in Bangladesh’s future as the country looks to diversify the economy. “The sector’s potential is immense,” said Md Abdur Razzaque, president of Bangladesh Engineering Industry Owners Association. “But has remained untapped for years because of lack of government support.” The industries ministry has plans to set up five light engineering industrial parks. And in January, Sheikh Hasina declared light engineering the “product of the year”.

Farmers and Agriculture

Because hilsa supply is up, the supply of ice is down. In three fishing ports, the price of ice has almost tripled. One fisherman said “What’s the point of netting so many fish, if we cannot store or preserve them properly?” Cold storage facilities are needed to preserve the fish, according to people involved; in recent years, fishermen and produce farmers have asked for cold storage facilities.

The price of the staple onion climbed and fell this week. The price skyrocketed from about Tk 50 to Tk 100 per a kilogram after the news the domestic supply was short and India banned onion exports. However, the price again dropped as traders moved to import more onions, which are scheduled to arrive in the first week of October.

Other News

Hijra, for the first time, will be a gender category on the national census in 2021.

Covid Update: the total number of cases increased to 352,178, and deaths now total 5,008. In the most recent 24 hour period, 28 people died. The 30th of June had the highest number of deaths, 64.

  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other government officials warned that a spike in infections is likely in the wintertime.
  • A new form of covid-19 test, antigen-based testing, was approved by the government. The results of these tests less accurate than the tests currently use in Bangladesh, but they deliver faster results on site.