What the papers say

Record After Record Remittances

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 5th November 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…The Bangladesh Bank introduced a new initiative to increase lending to small and medium enterprises. Remittance levels continue to defy expectations. And do green garment factories increase costs or profits?

Education and Labour Market

About 60 percent of the poor and low-income population who lost income during the economic downturn reported that they did not receive any support from either the public or private sector. The 39 percent who did receive support got an average of 4 percent of their lost income according to the survey of some 7,500 households from the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and the Brac Institute for Governance and Development (BIGD). “The overall story is that there have been months of low income,” said BIGD Executive Director Imran Matin.

To expand students’ access to online classes, the University Grants Commission is considering lending Tk 8,000 interest free to students for the purchase of a smartphone. The UGC has pursued this financial assistance measure for months but has been unable to acquire the funds from the education ministry. Now the UGC is reportedly looking into going forward with the measure without the funds from the ministry.

Sexual and reproductive health interventions for male youth need more funds, more programs and more skilled personnel according to researchers. These conclusions come from a survey of more than 11,000 males between ages 15 and 24 in which the researchers found that 63 percent of respondents agreed that “a man can hit his wife if she does not have sex with him” and 28 percent of respondents agreed that sexually transmitted diseases are a result of weak faith or the “evil eye”.

Financial Services

The Bangladesh Bank again extended the deadline for disbursement of the Tk 20,000 crore stimulus package for the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprise (CMSME) sector. As banks have only discharged 29 percent of the funds, this week the central bank also announced a 30 percent credit guarantee for loans given to firms in the CSME sector – to allow lenders to recover 30 percent of defaulted loans.

The percentage of bank branches operating at a loss has increased, from 12 percent in December 2019 to 18 percent in June. Although, most banks have managed to make a profit, despite loss-making branches. “Banks would have to accelerate their shift from the traditional branch-led model to digital banking,” said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh and the chairman of Brac Bank.

Bangladeshi migrant workers remitted $2.11 billion in October, an increase from the $1.64 billion they sent in October of last year. Last month’s total is the third highest, only ranking behind $2.59 billion in July and $2.15 billion in September of this year. One expert said the influx in remittances is in part due to local banks currently offering higher interest rates on deposits (4-6 percent) than many of the countries where migrant workers are based.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

India and Bangladesh continued discussions about construction of an India Special Economic Zone (ISEZ) in Chittagong. The Indian government has already approved $4.5 billion for the project, which is expected to create some 3 lakh jobs.

Garment buyers won’t pay more for more sustainably-produced garments to help offset the extra costs according to industry insiders. Bangladesh has more platinum certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) factories than any other country: 34 platinum factories, 79 gold factories and so on. Construction of certified factories is an average of 30 percent higher, although certified units can save 40 percent on energy and water.

Farmers and Agriculture

The Aman rice harvest is expected to be less due to the recent floods. The yield may drop by 2 lakh tons to 25 lakh tons, according the Daily Star’s analysis of data from the Department of Agricultural Extension and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. This means cereals will likely remain at higher prices.

In Rangamati, malta, a fruit similar to the orange, is becoming an increasingly popular cash crop. Paban Kumar Chakma, deputy director of Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) in Rangamati said that they hope to produce 2,000 tonnes of malta this year, on 210 hectares of land.

Other News

The latest news about Covid-19:

  • Recorded deaths crossed the 6,000 mark
  • The death rate is 1.45 percent
  • The testing positivity rate is 17.33 percent

About 80 percent of Covid-19 patients who died have had some underlying risk factor such as diabetes, lung diseases or hypertension according to a recent government study.

The government will import three crore doses of a coronavirus vaccine from India, said a top health ministry official. The vaccine could be available next year.