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 3rd December 2020.
This Week in the Bangladesh English News…
…river dredging, and a lack of river dredging, is causing different populations different problems. Moreover, some people are still acutely affected by Cylcone Amphan. And, its tax filing time and a revenue-generating amnesty program is in full effect.
Education and Labour Market
Many migrant workers have returned to Bangladesh to face unemployment, and meanwhile, have not availed stimulus loans earmarked for their aid. Some 272,000 workers returned from abroad from the months of April to November says the Expatriates’ Welfare Ministry, whereas, according to the available data from the first few weeks after the September launch of a Tk 200-crore fund ($24 million) for assistance loans, only about Tk 1 crore had been dispersed to some 60 returnees. It is not clear whether more workers have since received funds in the more recent weeks that have passed; however, some say the terms are not favorable as they include a 4-percent interest rate and a 1-month period before payments start. Moreover, about 70 percent of returnees surveyed in August said they were unemployed, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
For would-be migrants, there’s now a smartphone application and online platform to guide them through the migration process. The app and website – www.bdeshjaatra.com – comes as the result of a European Union-funded IOM project. In Bangla, it aims to help migrants stay informed and know their rights during all stages: pre-decision, pre-departure, migration and return. And, its stated purpose is to help migrants access support and services.
Nineteen public universities have agreed to centralised admission tests to enroll students in the next academic session. This is a new course of action as, as of last year, most universities administered separate exams: 32 of the 39 public universities gave separate exams; only the seven agricultural universities used the same exam.
About 39 percent of the total stimulus funds were dispersed as of 31 October, said a finance ministry report. That means Tk 47,615 crore has been dispersed from the Tk 1,21,00 crore sum (which is $1.4 billion and 4.34 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product). The ministry’s analysis of the dispersement of stimulus funds used three categories: 1.) job retention, restoration of demand and maintenance of supply chain; 2.) employment creation and revitalising rural economy; 3.) and enhancing social security and food supply. The Daily Star’s detailed breakdown of the analysis is available here.
The deadline for cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) to avail loans from their industry-specific stimulus package is 31 December, but only about 23 percent of the Tk 30,000 crore fund has been dispersed. Former Bangladesh Bank governor Atiur Rahman and other speakers called for an extension of the deadline. At a virtual meeting organised by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Rahman also said the garments industry should be given a second stimulus package.
Measures to allow taxpayers with undisclosed “black” assets and money to “whiten” their money and concurrently, give the government more tax revenue, are now in effect and have shown some success. The National Board of Revenue has reportedly collected some Tk 380 crore from 3,220 taxpayers who have disclosed undeclared properties, including land, buildings and flats. The new measures, which are in effect until 30 June, 2021, incentivize disclosures by granting individuals amnesty: no questions will be asked about the source of the income. In related news, the government has extended the deadline for submitting income tax returns from 30 November until 31 December.
Business, Investments, Trade and Growth
Bangladesh will connect to a third submarine cable by June 2024, boosting the country’s current internet bandwidth capacity. From its current two submarine cable connections, the country has a bandwidth capacity of 2,600 Gbps, and the additional cable will expand the capacity 7,200 Gbps. However, one of the current cables is said to be nearing the end of its lifespan, so the new capacity will, in part, replace some of the current capacity. Nonetheless, any increased capacity is surely welcome, as last month, Bangladesh ranked 133 out of 138 for mobile data speeds and 98 out of 175 countries for broadband speed in Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index.
Farmers and Agriculture
Dredging of the Jamuna river in the Bhuapur upazila has sparked protest from some locals who say that the excavation of the river is destroying private land and crops. The Water Development Board (WDB) of Bangladesh says that the purpose is to keep the normal course of the river and prevent erosion, and a WDB executive engineer said that the river is being dredged according to a survey completed three years ago, when there were no crops in the area. Thus far, 6.5 kilometers of the Jamuna river have been dredged.
Moreover, the inability to dredge parts of the Padma river is causing commuters difficulties. The ferry service, unable to navigate the river between Najirganj and Joukura, has been disrupted, and thousands of daily commuters are now depending on smaller boats to cross the mighty river.
In two unions, Pratapnagar and Sriula unions of Satkhira’s Assasuni upazila, land remains submerged some six months after Cyclone Amphan. Since Amphan broke river embankments, a reported six of the nine breaches have been repaired. However, Chairman of Pratapnagar UP Sheikh Zakir Hossain said, “Out of 18 villages in the union, 17 are completely submerged. There are regular tidal surges in the whole union now.” In addition, there is a lack or sanitation and safe drinking water in the area.
Infections with the Covid-19 virus are increasing: the latest data from 1 December shows total cases are at a three-month high.