Curbing inflation without destabilising macroeconomic situation presents challenge for budget: Selim Raihan
Economist Dr Selim Raihan believes the National Budget of Bangladesh for the fiscal year 2023-24 is being presented at a difficult time, when it will be a challenge to devise policies to manage inflation while also maintaining a stable macroeconomic situation, Dr Selim Raihan is Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, and the Executive Director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM). Talking with UNB on the upcoming budget, Dr Raihan pointed out two major challenges--controlling inflation and macroeconomic management for the upcoming budget. “Higher inflation for a long time creates instability in the domestic markets and lower-income people are affected severely,” he said. Read more: No new pay scale, govt employees to get 20% dearness allowance in new budget The government’s measures to cut inflation have not proved effective, so new measures to reduce inflation need to be included in the budget, he opined. Dr Raihan said the monetary policy is not working to curb inflation as there is a mismatch with interest rates - the continued delay in withdrawing the interest rate caps also prolongs inflation. Besides, a big challenge of domestic market management is that government agencies could not implement effective market management against monopoly businesses. As a result, prices of many essential items are higher in the domestic market relative to the global market. Notably, prices of some items increase in Bangladesh at the same time that there is a downward trend in the international market, said Dr Raihan. Read more: No let-up in safe drinking water scarcity in Khulna’s Dacop Regarding macroeconomic management, he said reducing the defaulted loans and achieving the revenue collection target are big factors for stability. Forex reserves management and foreign exchange rate fluctuation also worked for instability of the macroeconomic situation, which are required to make it stable, he said. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave conditions for reducing defaulted loans to a desired level, but the latest update revealed no headway in that regard, which Dr Raihan said was alarming. The IMF’s desired target of increasing the tax GDP ratio by 0.5 percent each year, till the 2025-26 fiscal, is also proving a challenge for the National Board of Revenue. Read more: Inflation, revenue shortfall, dollar crisis the major challenges for economy ahead of election-year budget The SANEM chief said although the revenue collection target increased every year in the budget, in the absence of any coherent plan and institutional capacity-building initiatives for NBR, there is almost no progress towards attaining those targets. In fact, the revenue collection shortfall keeps getting wider, he pointed out. Dr Raihan suggested joint initiatives of Bangladesh Bank and the Ministry of Finance to reduce the defaulted loans, saying the central bank alone cannot handle the issue. He also sought the central bank’s effective measures to ensure good governance in the banking sector, averting the pressure of any influential group. Dr Raihan also suggested increasing allocation and coverage under the social safety net, to ease the woes of vulnerable groups. Read more: Bank default loans surge to Tk1.31 lakh crore: BB
Sonali Bank Limited, a state-owned bank, has written off Tk 2,728 crore of its top 20 defaulters, including Hall-Mark, due to non-recovery. Sources said the bank has set a target of recovering Tk 272 crore, or 10 per cent of the loan cancelled this year but the latest data says the bank could not achieve even 8 percent of the target even after eight months. When contacted, Managing Director of Sonali Bank Md Ataur Rahman Prodhan told UNB that the loans have been written off as per rules. Also read: SC cancels Hallmark chairman’s bail; asks her to surrender “We’re trying to recover the loans …our teams are working in this regard. Writing off does not mean the loans won’t be repaid. It’s just keeping the loans in a separate balance sheet,” Ataur Rahman Prodhan said. Bangladesh Bank (BB) introduced a loan writing-off system in 2002 and then rule was amended in April 2019. As per the amended rule, a bank can write off its loan which is treated as bad loan for three consecutive years. It was five years previously, says Sonali Bank. According to the central bank, Sonali Bank has written off the highest amount of default loans of Tk 6,995 crore among the public banks. Of the total defaulted loans of the state-owned bank, 38 percent are with 20 defaulters, the BB data shows. Hall-Mark is among the 20 defaulters which have got its Tk 1,229 crore written off out of Tk 3,000 crore. Sources at the Bangladesh Bank said Sonali Bank could not yet overcome the burden of the huge scam since not a single penny could be recovered. Hall-Mark's loan scam had shaken the banking sector, casting a long-lasting burden on Sonali Bank’s investment. Also read: Two govt panels to probe alleged special treatment to jailed Hallmark GM Not only Hall-Mark, but also 18 others of the top 20 defaulters of Sonali Bank failed to repay 'zero' amount as of August this year. The other defaulters that got their default loans written off from Sonali Bank are: New Rakhi Textile Mills Limited (Tk 123 crore), Jasmi's Vegetable Oil (Tk105.55 crore), Fair Expo (Tk 96.30 crore), Alpha Tobacco (Tk 96.3 crore), One Spinning Mills (Tk 93.90 crore), Imperial Dyeing and Hosiery (Tk 90.13 crore), Rokeya Textile Mills (Tk 82.65crore) ,Sahil Fashion (81.18 crore), Imam Traders (Tk 80.85 crore), Sumi's Sweater (Tk76.7 crore), Riverside Leather and Footwear (Tk73.76 crore), Unity Knit (Tk 71.13 crore), Siddique Traders (Tk 69. 26 crore), KPF Textiles (Tk 68.56 crore), Moon Knitwear (Tk 67. 64 crore), AR Khan Sizing and Fabrics (Tk 66.86 crore), Jadu Spinning Mills Limited (Tk 50.34 crore), Sahil knitwear (Tk 57.68 crore) and Mask Sweater's (Tk 48.86 crore).
The outstanding loans of bank directors in the country now stand at Tk 171,616.1247 crore at the end of September 2019, which is 11.21 percent of the total loans disbursed by all banks.