What the papers say

At Risk: Workplace Protections Expire Soon

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 3 June 2021.

This Week in the Bangladesh English News…

…Few of the 190 global clothing retailers that signed the original Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh agree to renew it. Unvaccinated migrant workers face an uphill battle. Google and Amazon get registered in Bangladesh. And Rohingya tell the UNHCR ‘we don’t want to live here’.

Education and Labour Market

After more than a week of Saudi-bound workers missing flights due to their failure to pre-book hotels for quarantine upon arrival, the government has said it will subsidize up to Tk 25,000 of the cost of a hotel stay. The issue arose 20 May, when the kingdom announced the mandated quarantine period. Workers said more than 1,000 migrant workers missed flights, and they did not get help from the airlines despite the KSA’s direction that hotels should be booked through the airlines. The travel advisory does not apply to vaccinated people, but most workers are unvaccinated as only people above age 40 are eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations in Bangladesh.

Middlemen who work with recruiting agencies to connect workers with oversea employers are unregulated and sometimes deceive workers. But a proposal aims to curb fraudulency by requiring middlemen to register as “sub-agents”. In a drafted amended law, the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry wrote that each agent will be able to register a maximum of 20 “sub-agents”. At least one critic said the plan is not viable as 20 sub-agents will not be enough; most recruiting agencies are based in Dhaka, but potential workers are found in the thousands of villages within the 64 districts of Bangladesh.

Financial Services

Fitch Solutions, an affiliate of the credit rating agency Fitch Ratings Inc., published a report on the outlook for the banking sector in Bangladesh. “Outlook for Bangladesh banking system remains poor,” reads the report. The analysis points to factors such as the requirement for high provisioning with loans, weak capital buffers, a weak outlook for credit growth and high-levels of non-performing loans (NPLs). And it says state-owned commercial banks (SOCB) are disproportionately responsible for at least one factor: “SOCBs account for almost half of total sector NPLs despite only having a quarter of total sector assets.”

Business, Investments, Trade and Growth

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh expired 31 May as only two of the 190 original signatories agreed to renew the agreement. But 1 June, a three-month extension was announced on the UNI Global Union website.

The signatories to the original agreement, global clothing retailers like Primark, Tesco, H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, Marks & Spencer and Inditex, signed the Accord after the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 brought attention to unsafe working conditions in factories. It was a binding agreement that carried the threat of litigation if buyers sourced from factories other than Accord-verified factories. The original agreement expired in 2018 but was extended until 2021.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Faruque Hassan said this about the Accord: “We do not recognise the transition Accord and neither does the Government of Bangladesh, which will expire on 31 May, 2021. Any other extension or new Accord will similarly not be recognised and will not be a part of any initiative related to the safety Bangladesh is looking forward to. We like to point out that no organisation or authorities like Accord exist anywhere in the world where garments are manufactured.”

The Government of Bangladesh signed with the global news network CNN International to promote “Made in Bangladesh” exports. The agreement is a non-financial understanding between the Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) and the commercial arm of Bangladesh. Spellbound Communications Limited, a local agency, will also be a part of the marketing campaign.  

Google and Amazon registered for the purpose of collecting value-added tax. This comes two years after the National Board of Revenue (NBR) requested the companies set up offices or appoint agents for collecting VAT.

The NBR penned rules for the transit of goods from India through Bangladesh to northeast India. Goods must transit through Bangladesh within seven days of leaving the port of entry according to the rules. Moreover, the rules outline procedures for issues that might arise. The tariff structure and a road charge were previously dictated by other authorities.

Other News

Several thousand Rohingya refugees residing on Bhasan Char reportedly demonstrated as two high-level United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) officials visited the island. A UNHCR statement said, “we are deeply concerned to learn of reports of refugees who have been injured during today’s events on the island,” but gave no word of how the Rohingya were injured. The AFP reported the words of a local police chief, “They broke the glass on warehouses by throwing rocks. They came at the police… Their demand is they don’t want to live here.”