What the papers say

A Boost to Business

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 1st October 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…there were numbers on job losses and reduced consumption. The government introduced initiatives to encourage the economy: grants to boost exports, more microfinance and more entrepreneur-friendly terms. And the garment supply chain goes virtual.

Education and Labour Market

Girls in rural Bangladesh have limited access to distance education according to a recent survey: 69 percent reported no access to distance education programs on television, and while 97 percent of parents are using mobile phones, only 23 percent of parents have smartphones. This work was done by Empowering Girls through Education, a project of Save the Children in Bangladesh, which assessed alternative forms of education as schools remain closed throughout the country.

A group of migrants have been arrested upon returning to Bangladesh. Thirty-two Bangladeshi migrants who returned from Syria were recently taken to jail after a quarantine period. In total, since the pandemic began 416 migrants have been arrested upon returning to Bangladesh – under Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

How many protests have been held during Covid-19 times? A report from Dhaka University, totaled 292 protests in Bangladesh: 96 for unpaid salaries and Eid bonuses; 55 for aid, relief or food; 39 due to lay-offs, closures, and pay cuts; 37 for reasons related to the health sector; 36 for various reasons such as lockdowns, bus fares, the budget and general accountability; 17 for tuition fees; and 11 against irregularities in relief, aid and food distribution.

A World Bank survey reports that some 68 percent of people who stopped working jobs in Dhaka and Chittagong due to the pandemic situation have lost their jobs. The report gives a number of statistical points about livelihoods and labor in Bangladesh, including 69 percent of households reduced food consumption, 42 percent used savings and 38 percent received government assistance.

Financial Services

The government is seeking applications for grants to improve production in the leather and leather goods, footwear, light engineering products and plastics sectors. The commerce ministry launched the grant program this week, as part of the Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) Project, which is supported by the World Bank. Two grants are available: $40,000 for business and technical services and $200,0000 for services and fixed asset expenditures, with some matching from entrepreneurs as a condition.

And the central bank introduced “more entrepreneur-friendly” terms for the Entrepreneurship Support Fund to further its goal of creating new entrepreneurs in the food processing, agriculture, and ICT sectors. The new guidelines define minimum and maximum loans from the ESF, how much entrepreneurs must invest and woman entrepreneurship.

More money can flow to microfinance institutions according to new government terms attached to the Tk 3,000-crore stimulus package – previously, the Bangladesh Bank said a maximum of 2 percent could go to MFI, but this week the central bank raised the ceiling to 5 percent.

Some 23,000 marginalised households affected by Covid-19 will receive emergency cash support through the Manusher Jonno Foundation under the Excluded People’s Rights in Bangladesh Programme, supported by the UK government. The beneficiaries include Dalits, sex workers, destitute woman, disabled, and other often excluded people.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

Incentives for tannery effluent plants are possible, as the government is pursuing the option to assist in boosting the number of tanneries with Leather Working Group certifications, and consequently, the value of leather exports. Bangladesh is currently lacking in LWG certifications – the country only has 3 LWG certified tanneries whereas India has 100 and Vietnam has 14. Without compliance and accreditation, Bangladesh leather exports can often only attract buyers who pay lower prices.

There is a new online platform to assist garment manufacturers and buyers in selling and buying: “Merchant Bay” offers to verify and audit suppliers, retailers and exporters and allow them to then connect and do business online, on the website. E-platforms could be the future of garment exports, as the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has also said BGMEA is working on launching its own online marketplace.

The 5.8 million solar home systems in Bangladesh have created 137,000 jobs in sales, installation, maintenance and assembly, said the International Renewable Energy Agency. Furthermore, some three percent or less of the electricity in Bangladesh comes from renewable resources, putting Bangladesh behind its goal of 10 percent electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Farmers and Agriculture

A new variety of onion has shown promise: test cultivation of the BARI-5 onion from June on has been successful, said the Spices Research Center, a branch of the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute, and it could lead to future production in September and October. Such production could alleviate the onion import and price hikes at this time of year. Meanwhile, the prime minister and the Department of Agricultural Extension have made a goal to increase onion production from 25 lakh to 33 lakh tonnes of onion a year over the next few years.

Dates are showing potential to be a cash crop in the dry and arid parts of Bangladesh. One entrepreneur, Obaidul Islam Rubel, since 2017 has plated 250 saplings and sole 3,000 more in the Barind region of Nachole upazila. He said he acted after noticing similarities in the climates of Suadi Arabic and his home region: “If so much sweet dates grow there, why won’t they grow here?”

A fourth round of flooding is expected to damage crops in the northern region and further decrease the supply and increase the price of vegetables.

Other News

A court issued a verdict using a pseudonym for the victim, the first time a victim has been allowed to remain anonymous in Bangladesh. The plaintiff was the victim of personal blackmail when she ended a relationship with a man, and the offender was sentenced to jail time and a fine.