What the papers say

More social security for the unemployed needed

A weekly round up of articles about work, employment, social security, business and the economy. This week’s round up comes from The Daily Star and The Business Standard. Here is the news for the week ending:

1st July 2021

Transport workers lose income in pandemic

…think tanks urge Government to spend more on social security for the unemployed, questions about the Post Office “Nagad” service continue, and experts reveal that the Government’s stimulus packages is not reaching critical businesses.

Education, Labour Market and Social Security

Unemployment in Bangladesh went up last year amid the pandemic.

The Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies says the budget for social safety nets is not enough.

The Institute writes that around 4 million people are usually engaged in domestic or household work. Ninety per cent became unemployed following the outbreak of Covid-19.

In addition, hospitality, retail, and transport services suffered similar job losses. The Government has allocated twenty-five billion Taka ($289 million) in food assistance for the unemployed.

But less than half of the has been disbursed to date. And only around 20 per cent of a fund for poor old people and widowed women has been utilised.

In a similar study, Brac University’s Centre for Peace and Justice recommended the creation of a “Solidarity Package.”

The Package would be a social security programme for those most affected by the pandemic. It would include domestic and household workers, day labourers, and transport workers.

Other suggestions for social protection schemes include more fair price outlets as managed by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh. The proposal would help people that have cut back on food due to reduced income.

The study surveyed RMG workers, an equal number of workers in other sectors, and also returning migrant workers.

About 9 in 10 RMG workers lost some income and on average RMG workers monthly income decreased 21 per cent. And 84 per cent of migrant workers did not receive any severance pay.

Financial Services for the Poor

Controversy hangs over Nagad. Nagad is the brand name of the Mobile Financial Service operated by the Bangladesh Post Office.

But there are continuing questions about Nagad’s compliance with regulation. Its ownership structure is unclear and even its operating license is temporary. And so it has been running under quarterly interim approvals by the Bangladesh Bank.

There are also questions about the legitimacy of its of trust-cum-settlement accounts. Mobile Financial Service providers use these accounts to hold the substantial collective balance of deposits against the issuance of e-money.

Nagad has over 50 million customers and transacts 7 billion Taka daily ($82 million). The Mobile Financial Service industry has nearly 100 million account holders and the average daily transaction is 2115 Taka ($25).

Business, Trade and the Economy

Banks should make more loans to cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises. These businesses account for 25 per cent of the economy.

But businesses have not been able to access government stimulus arrangements.

Banks either lack capacity or appetite to loan to small businesses. So, less than 1 in 8 businesses have been able to access loans under the 200 million Taka stimulus fund.

The Government has halted 10 coal-fired power plants citing lack of progress on their construction.

A local environmental movement says this is a good step towards sustainable development.

And more coal-fired projects may also be cancelled if construction has been equally slow.

Farmers and Agriculture

Bangladesh is the second biggest producer of jute after India.

Other news

State Minister for ICT, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, and High Commissioner of India, Vikram Doraiswami, inaugurated a Webinar series about startup ventures.

The conferences will share learning on startup ecosystems and potentially promote cooperation between Bangladesh and India on specific business startups.

Microsoft registered for VAT in Bangladesh following earlier registrations by Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Covid headlines

2.5 million Moderna vaccine doses will arrive in Bangladesh soon

15 million Sinopharm vaccine doses from China and will arrive in 3 phases

3 per cent of the Bangladesh population is fully vaccinated

14,000 have died due to Covid-19 in Bangladesh