English language What the papers say

Double Rice Productivity to Meet Demand in 2050

Scientists plan to increase rice productivity to meet demand predicted for 2050

Schools may reopen in September after 17 months of closure

Apparel sector stakeholders take sides on future of workplace health and safety

Corruption alleged in adminstration of business stimulus loans

A weekly round up of articles about work, employment, social security, business and the economy. Here is the news for the week ending:

2 September 2021

This week’s round up comes from:

The Daily Stary

This week in Bangladesh…

More mouths to feed: Labour productivity and mechanisation key to rice productivity

There are several steps needed to increase rice productivity. These are: introducing new varieties of rice, using uncultivated land, labour productivity and mechanisation, and pricing strategies.

News in Bangladesh for the week ending 2nd September 2021

Education, Work, and Social Security

Prime Minister says schools will reopen soon

Schools, colleges and universities were closed in March 2020 following the initial spread of Covid-19. The government has repeatedly extended the closure order. The current order runs until 11 September.

Ministry of Education and Ministry of Primary and Mass Education will hold a joint meeting. Senior officials from the respective ministries will assess the plan to reopen education institutions.

I have already directed the authorities to reopen the schools and colleges soon and measures were being taken in this regard

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

Schools will probably reopen after 11 September. But students would attend classes in person for a limited number of days each week.

Teachers have received vaccinations. Students of 18 years and above are also getting vaccinations in line with WHO guidelines.

Young people that are not studying must be at least 25 years before they can register for the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Workers’ health and safety in disaccord

The ongoing debate among stakeholders in the apparel sector continues. We first noted this ongoing disagreement last week.

The disagreement is about current and future arrangements for workers entitlements, health and safety.

Industry associations support the new nationally recognised RMG Safety Council (RSC) as the means of ensuring workers’ rights and safety.

On the other hand former signatories to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh have extended their commitments through the new International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry.

The signatories include global apparel brands and trade unions.

The Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have consistently supported the RSC.

BGMEA President Faruque Hassan highlighted $3 billion spent on industry-wide facory safety improvements under the former accord.

Hassan was also concerned that the new international accord was widening its remit from building safety programmes to establishing labour rights and freedom of association.

Now the BGMEA is joined by a local think tank – the Centre for Policy Dialogue – in questioning the need for the new international accord.

Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), says the new international accord is not needed.

But he also called for more involvement from trade unions, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and from The International Labour Organization in any new accord.

Nazma Akter of IndustriALL Global Union said the previous accord was about electrical, fire and structural safety in the garment sector in Bangladesh.

The new international accord will address health and occupational safety.

I hope the new accord will act to protect the occupational health, safety and good health of the workers so that they can work for a long time and get the benefits of service.

Nazman Akter, substitute executive committee member of IndustriALL Global Union

Business, Economy and Trade

Banks called to account for low savings rates

The central bank asked to 10 retail banks to justify high spreads between loan and deposit rates.

The central banks – in its regulatory and oversight role – sets a maximum spread of four per cent.

Some of the non-complying banks provided justifications. These reasons included large costs due to investments in digital infrastructure. Another bank indicated that it would soon comply with requirements by adjusting interest rates on deposits.

Research group advocates for improved stimulus programme

Government has pumped 1,280 billion Taka (about $15 billion) in business stimulus programming in response to the economic effects of Covid-19.

The South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) latest survey of firms reveals complaints that officials are demanding bribes to access the low-interest business loans.

There is a dearth of monitoring and transparency in the process for disbursement of stimulus packages…An assessment is urgently required on the stimulus packages implemented so far. Stimulus packages need to be redesigned and expanded amid the current wave of Covid-19

Selim Raihan, SANEM Executive Director

Good implementation of the stimulus programme is critical to economic recovery.

SANEM said 64 per cent of respondents termed the economy’s recovery weak.

The situation was worse for micro, small and medium, non-exporting and service sector firms and for businesses located outside Dhaka.

Remittances, export of goods and services, private sector credit, and vaccination programmes are the indicators to watch in assessing to the overall economic recovery.

To survive 67 per cent of firms had used savings and 20 per cent laid off employees in the absence of stimulus loans.

Climate, Energy and Environment

Green energy is a potential commercial advantage for suppliers

This week Mostafiz Uddin argues that RMG factories in Bangladesh could become more desirable suppliers if they use green energy sources.

Mostafiz Uddin is the Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited and a leading thinker on the RMG sector in Bangladesh.

Mostafiz notes that most western retailers and brands have reduced their carbon footprint as far as they can. Primarily they have reduced energy consumption in their outlets, delivery and warehousing.

But is this enough to address global warming and climate change in the wake of the latest warnings of the IPCC Report?

Mostafiz suggests that brands may look at the energy profile of their supply chain to further reduce their carbon footprint.

And so suppliers in Bangladesh will have a competitive advantage if they can switch to green energy sources and reduce factory energy consumption.

Farmers and Agriculture

Scientists plan to increase rice production to meet demand in 2050

Bangladesh is the third largest producer of rice.

Scientist predict that rice production must increase by 25 per cent to meet projected demand in 2050.

In 2020 the country produced 37.4 metric tonnes. But by 2050 it could produce 46.7 tonnes. This would meet the demand of a larger population.

According to the study – Doubling Rice Productivity – in Bangladesh by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute there are several steps needed to increase rice productivity. These are: introducing new varieties of rice, using uncultivated land, labour productivity and mechanisation, and pricing strategies.

Covid Update

Government plans to acquire about 245 million vaccine doses

The government has formally proposed purchasing 70 million doses of Johnson and Johnson, 30 million dose Sinopharm, and 73 million Sinovac vaccines from Covax with the finance support of the Asian Development Bank.