What the papers say

The Market May Double

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 19th November 2020.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…Bangladeshi migrant workers wanting Saudi visas are in limbo. This year’s rice harvest is less than usual, although not for the reasons you may expect. And how large is the pharmaceutical sector expected to grow?

Education and Labour Market

Some 34,000 Saudi visa papers are in the “prestamping” stage according to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA). Covid-19 interrupted the issuance of new and renewed Saudi visas for Bangladeshi migrant workers, but last month BAIRA started submitting visa renewal applications to the Saudi Embassy. Fresh migrant workers, however, are experiencing difficulties applying for visas due to a required medical report and police clearance.

Financial Services

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved its first loan for Bangladesh, nearly $257 million for the energy efficient technologies in the garment and textile sectors. The funds have been directed to the Infrastructure Development Company Ltd., which is set to distribute the money through three banks and one additional financial institution. The GCF is a fund operating under the United Nations, and according to the GCF, the garment and textile sectors in Bangladesh are the two largest contributors to CO2 emissions.

The government announced a fixed cash-out fee on social safety net funds disbursed through mobile financial services (MFS). For all its social protection programmes, the fee is now fixed at Tk 7 per Tk 1,000. Recently, the Bangladesh government has aimed to increase disbursement of funds through MFS.

Micro businesses, such as vegetable sellers, can now open personal retail accounts according to a new central bank initiative. The Bangladesh Bank said such businesses have special privilege to open a retail account without a trade license, although they must first procure a certificate confirming their profession. The initiative aims to bring digital banking to micro businesses and bring more unbanked people into the formal financial system.

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

Bangladesh continues to lobby international bodies to extend export duty waivers for its products after the country graduates from least developed country (LDC) status in 2024. The commerce secretary said that they have put forth requests for waivers due to the Covid-19 economic fallout. So far, only the EU has agreed to a continuation of waivers; the EU has said the zero-duty benefit for Bangladesh will continue for three years after LDC graduation.

The pharmaceutical market in Bangladesh is expected to double in a six year period, from $3 billion in 2019 to $6 billion in 2025. Exports were $130 million in 2019 and could reach $450 million in 2025 according to a report by the Irish firm Research and Markets. Their report also said that the market is 90% controlled by Bangladesh companies.

An active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) industrial park is being built to supply API to the growing pharma sector. Currently, the local industry imports $1.3 billion in raw materials every year for pharmaceuticals. “If the API park can become fully functional, it would cater to 50 to 60 per cent of the demand,” said SM Shafiuzzaman, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries. The government started the industrial park in 2008, and it is expected to be operational within two years.

Farmers and Agriculture

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that 2020-2021 rice production in Bangladesh may fall some 55 million tonnes, amounting to a one percent year-on-year decline. The reasons, according to the the latest Grain and Feed Update on Bangladesh, are not related to the Covid-19 pandemic, but severe weather.

The government is seeking to purchase 50,000 tonnes of rice from international market to increase its supply. Furthermore, Director General Sarwar Mahmud said they will likely seek an additional 50,000 tonnes soon. This year the country has faced reduced yields, rising prices and increased disbursement of rice through social safety net programs and efforts at price stabilization.

Rice reserves in government supply are now at 8.8 lakh tonnes, down from 17 lakh tonnes in July 2019. The government has failed to meet this season’s supply target by about 6 lakh tonnes in part because it set prices below the cost of production. The Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said they face a dilemma when procuring rice because they want to give farmers a fair return but also keep prices low for consumers.

Other News

A Bangladeshi teenager won the 2020 KidsRights International Children’s Peace Prize for developing a mobile app that helps young people report cyberbullying and cybercrime. Previous recipients include Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg.

Covid-19 Update: