Speakers at a seminar have proposed for raising the price of low-tier cigarettes to discourage smoking as well as minimize health risks. If the prices of cigarettes are raised, it will boost revenue generation of the government as well, they said. They came up with the suggestions at the seminar organized jointly by Dhaka Ahsania Mission and the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) titled “Tobacco Price and Tax” held at the ERF auditorium in the city on Saturday. Presided over by ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy, its general secretary SM Rashidul Islam, Dhaka Ahsania Mission deputy director Mokhlesur Rahman, CTFK Grants manager Abdus Salam Mia spoke, among others, on the occasion. The speakers said although the low-tier cigarettes occupy almost 75 percent of the whole industry, but its price remained unchanged over the last two years. As a result, the number of smokers at this level is not declining. Also read: E-cigarettes turn many young people into smokers: expert Director (research) of Unnayan Shamannay Abdullah Nadvy made the key-note presentation. The speakers said that the price of cigarettes at the low-tier has remained unchanged over the last two years. They suggested that the price of cigarettes should be increased considering the rise in per capita income and inflation. They said there is no alternative to raising the price of tobacco products to turn Bangladesh as a tobacco-free country by 2041. Nadvi in his key-note presentation said that the current duty structure of cigarettes is complex and it should be more simplified. He proposed for raising the price of every cigarette packet of 10 sticks at the low-tier to Taka 50 from the existing Tk 39 while in the mid-tier, the price of cigarette packets should be raised Taka 75 from Taka 63. Side by side, Nadvy suggested for raising the price of cigarettes at the high-tier specifically. “If this proposal is implemented, the revenue of the government will be boosted while the number of smokers will be reduced by 13 lakh. Besides, some 9 lakh youths will be discouraged to continue smoking.” he added. Also read: Hike in tobacco prices demanded to curtail harm In his welcome address, deputy director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission Mokhlesur Rahman said that the government has already announced to turn Bangladesh as a smoking- free country by 2041 and to materialize this, there is no alternative to raising the duty on cigarettes and tobacco products. CTFK Grants manager Abdus Salama Mia said that it is very much necessary to control the use of tobacco in turning Bangladesh as a developed country. “This will not only help alleviating poverty, but also reduce the cost of the government in addressing the tobacco related diseases.” ERF general secretary SM Rashidul Islam said that the government is in dilemma over tobacco as it wants to control tobacco at one hand, and the government also depends on tobacco products for boosting revenue on the other hand. “But, in order to reduce the number of smokers, the price of cigarettes at the low-tier should be increased as around 75% smokers consume cigarettes at the low-tier.” he added.
The Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF), an association of Bangladeshi reporters focusing on the economy, has been conferred with the World Customs Organization's Certificate of Merit for 2022. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) proposed ERF in recognition of its unique contribution to aware stakeholders of the steps taken by Bangladesh Customs and VAT for ensuring sustainable development, secure trade and uninterrupted supply chain. ERF president Sharmeen Rinvy and Secretary SM Rashidul Islam have thanked its members for their efforts in developing the business environment and awareness of business among common people regarding supply and demand of different product and goods. Read: FBCCI calls for extension of loan moratorium till June They also thank the NBR for nominating such an honor at the national level. The NBR will award the WCO Certificate of Merit on January 26 at a ceremony scheduled to be held in Dhaka on the occasion of celebrating ‘International Customs Day’.
Taxpayers now can pay income tax returns as well as assess their assets through an online web application -- digiTax. Desh Universal launched the web application to simplify the submission of income tax returns. Md Alamgir Hossain, member (tax policy) of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), inaugurated digiTax at a ceremony held at the auditorium of Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) on Saturday. Alamgir Hossain said a huge interest has developed now among people to pay income tax as the number of taxpayers is now growing day by day. Read: NBR moves to speed up revenue collection Alamgir said digiTax would help simplify further the stride towards digitizing tax-related services. Apart from allowing the submission of returns online, he said, the NBR would observe Income Tax Month from November 1 for which an 'environment of fair’ is being created at tax zones so that the taxpayers can submit their returns with ease and comfort. President of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) Mahmudul Hasan Khusru, Dhaka Taxes Bar Association President AKM Azizur Rahman, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) Director Khaled Mahmud Sujon, digiTax director Golam Shahriyer Ronju and ERF general secretary SM Rashidul Islam were, among others, present on the occasion. Read: NBR faces uphill task in achieving VAT collection target Highlighting the main features of digiTax, its team member Syeda Nusrat Haider said there are many taxpayers of different levels in the country who do not know how to calculate income tax properly. “In order to resolve this problem, we’ve come up with a new system through which the users can prepare their returns with ease and comfort through giving inputs as per their requirements,” she said.
Poultry growers have placed 11 demands including access to easy and soft loans for the grassroot level poultry farmers through stimulus package, and checking the illogical price hike of poultry feeds and chicks. Bangladesh Poultry Industry Forum (BPIF) placed the demands at a discussion meeting, organised by Bangladesh SME Forum, at Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) Auditorium in the city on Saturday. With President of both Bangladesh SME Form and Bangladesh Poultry Industry Forum M Mamun in the chair, the event was addressed by former additional secretary Dr Sheikh Rezaul Islam, Dhaka University teacher Dr Latiful Bari, ERF general secretary MM Rashidul Islam, Borhanuddin, Abdur Rahim, Lotus Parvez, Manik Sheikh, Sujan Sarker, Tahmid Hasan and Masuma Khatun. The BPIF leaders said the poultry industry has been experiencing a severe crisis due to recent increase in the price of its raw materials including feeds and chicks. Read: Govt forming policy to safeguard poultry, dairy industries “A strong syndicate of unscrupulous business has been responsible for the recent crisis and the government should find them out to punish them,” said M Mamun. The BPIF leaders alleged that although the poultry products are selling at higher prices in the local market, the actual farmers at the grass root levels are not getting the benefit of it. Rather, a middle group is being benefited from the increased price of the products, they observed. They also said that the industry owners are not receiving due financial support from the government although a stimulus package was announced for the industrial sector. Read: Thakurgaon poultry farmers brace for huge loss Many poultry owners had to shut down their industries facing a huge loss in the business during the Covid-19 pandemic situation. The farmers are now switching to other businesses from this losing concern, they observed. They also demanded formulating a pro-industrial policy to support the poultry industry.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Sunday said that it’s possible to give 50 to 60 per cent money back to the cheated clients of the Destiny Group and Jubok by selling the assets of the two companies which collapsed amid widespread fraud. “To my consideration, the cheated clients can get up to 50 to 60 per cent of the money back…. But the issue remains pending with the court for settlement”, he said while addressing a workshop organized by the Bangladesh Competition Commission (BCC) for the members of Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) at the BCC office in the city. The BCC organized the event to discuss the issues for creating a fair competition environment in the market through implementation of the Competition Law. Tipu said that he discussed the issue with the law minister who informed him that the law ministry has been working on how to compensate the Destiny and Jubok clients. As per the estimation by different government bodies, Destiny and Jubok have about Tk 7,000 crore assets.
The family of late Zahiduzzaman Faruque Sunday handed over budget documents and other economy-related books – collected by the economic journalist in the last 52 years – to the Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) Library. Faruque's son Mohiuzzaman Faruque and daughter-in-law Farhana Khan handed over the documents and books to ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy and General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam at a ceremony at the ERF Library in the capital. Economic journalist Faruque, who passed away on August 19, had worked for over four decades and would love to collect budget documents, other economy-related books and various data and information. He started keeping budget documents in 1968. Mohiuzzaman said: "The passion and profession of my father was journalism. He also loved to do research and write on the various aspects of the economy. The purpose of handing over these books and documents is to ensure proper use of these resources." ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy said Zahiduzzaman Faruque had worked throughout his life to spread economic journalism in Bangladesh. "So, he collected various documents on the economy which will contribute to economic journalism in future." ERF General Secretary SM Rashidul Islam said a separate corner would be set up at the ERF Library after the name of Zahiduzzaman Faruque where all the documents and books will be showcased.
Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Affairs Adviser Salman F Rahman on Tuesday said like Accord and Alliance in the RMG sector, a body would be formed for the domestic industries to ensure that they strictly follow compliance standards while the government would extend long-term financing and loans for becoming compliant. He also said that the factories of those industries which fail to be complaint would not be able to sell their products in the domestic market in future. Salman said these at a webinar tilted ‘Reviving the Leather Sector in the Aftermath of COVID-19’ as the chief guest jointly organized by the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF), Research Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) and The Asia Foundation (TAF) held through Zoom platform. Speakers at the webinar stressed the need for ensuring compliance in the local industries, especially in the leather sector, to become more competitive. They also stressed the need for forming a task force to look at the recommendations from different stakeholders and work on the betterment of the leather sector as well as improving rawhide management in an integrated way. They also advocated for modernizing and making more functional the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in the Savar Leather Village through addressing its loopholes, improving solid waste management, addressing the environmental and labour rights issues in this sector and thus manufacturing quality products and providing the same facilities to all other sectors that the RMG sector is now enjoying. Former Advisor to the Caretaker Government Syed Manzur Elahi joined the session as the guest of honor. Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Chairman, BFLLFEA Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin and Chairman, BTA Md Shaheen Ahamed joined it as the special guests. Professor & Director, ILET, DU Dr. M Mizanur Rahman, Managing Director, DTIEWTPCL (TIED) Brig. Gen. M Zahid Hasan and The President, Tannery Workers’ Union Abul Kalam Azad attended the webinar as panel discussants. Managing Director of Apex Footwear LtdSyed Nasim Manzur, Chairman of RAPID Dr. Mohammad Abdur Razzaque and its Executive Director Dr. Abu Eusuf jointly presented the keynote paper. Country Representative, The Asia Foundation Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj delivered the welcome remarks. ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy chaired the event while ERF General Secretary S M Rashidul Islam moderated the event.
Speakers at a webinar Tuesday stressed the need for framing a COVID-19 pandemic focused budget for the next fiscal year giving the highest priority to the health sector to mitigate the health-related risks alongside focusing on sound macroeconomic management, widening social safety nets, raising the tax-GDP ratio and generating more employments. They also emphasised strengthening the ongoing vaccination programme, carrying on necessary tax reforms as well as reducing the corporate tax rates, ensuring proper budget implementation and quality spending of development projects, addressing the livelihood issues in the context of pandemic, prioritising the CMSMEs and bringing the education sector under the purview of the stimulus packages. The recommendations came up with at a webinar on ‘Macroeconomy: Expectations from National Budget 2021-22’ jointly organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) and the Economic Reporters' Forum (ERF). The Economic Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Dr Mashiur Rahman agreed with the suggestions to enhance budgetary allocation on the health sector and thus strengthen the ongoing vaccination campaign. Stressing the need for carrying out necessary reforms in the financial sector and in the revenue sector, he said reforms in the capital market and bond market is also necessary to attract the large scale investors. Mashiur noted that if the lion’s share of the deficit financing could be made available from the foreign sources then its impact on the domestic sector would not be that much. He also stressed the need for boosting confidence among the businesses and investors, attracting more FDI, ensuring skills development and sound basic education up to the secondary level. Distinguished Fellow of CPD Prof Dr Mustafizur Rahman emphasised on generating more employments, giving relief to the import substitute industries through taxation, revisiting the import regulations, enhancing quality expenditure, and ensuring necessary reforms. He was also critical about the scope for whitening black money in the budget saying it is an injustice to the honest taxpayers. Executive Director of PRI Dr Ahsan H Mansur proposed allocating Tk 15,000 crore for vaccination in the next budget and that fund should be made available from day one. For the new poor being created from the impacts of the pandemic, he said only cash support is not enough for them, rather some permanent measures should be awarded. The renowned economist also suggested addressing the livelihood issues due to the pandemic, prioritising the SMEs in the stimulus packages, focusing more on expenditure and said the budget deficit could be stretched from 7 to 8 percent. Executive Director of SANEM Dr Selim Raihan called for expanding economic operations and not having an obsessed mindset on growth, rolling out social safety net schemes for the urban poor, boosting business confidence through necessary measures, increasing budget implementation and ensuring some visible reforms. Former adviser to the caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury said that the next budget should be a pandemic-focused one while the education sector should be brought under the stimulus package as the losses to this sector is huge and it is invisible. "Education sector must not be less prioritised," she said. Chairman of PEB Dr M Masrur Reaz suggested for bringing around 50 percent of the country's population under the vaccination programme in the next one year, otherwise, the revival initiatives and recovery would be much tougher. He also proposed allocating one percent of GDP as social safety net for the poor as well as awarding another stimulus for the SMEs, especially for the small and micro-entrepreneurs. Senior research fellow of BIDS Dr Nazneen Ahmed strongly advocated for reducing the corporate tax rate, prioritising those development projects which are nearing completion, keeping budgetary allocation on creating health awareness as well as on health disaster management, making cheaper the internet facilities and also making available the gadgets for the poor students. BGMEA President Faruque Hassan urged the government to provide policy support to the affected industries till the crisis ends so that those could make a turnaround. He also demanded the government to keep the tax rates stable for 10 years or at least for five years for turnaround of the Industries. Chairman of Trustee Board of BUILD Abul Kasem Khan suggested for the continuation of the stimulus packages in the next budget as well as rationalizing taxation measures and improving the investment climate. MCCI President Barrister Nihad Kabir put utmost priority on ensuring qualitative spending of development projects through real-time basis monitoring and evaluation by the IMED, raising the tax-GDP ratio, giving policy support to CMSMEs, and also to check the trend of dodging tax and laundering of money abroad. DCCI President Rizwan Rahman suggested reducing the corporate tax rate progressively by 2.5 percent in the next three years and thus brings it at 25 percent to facilitate the businesses. Coming down heavily on the scope for whitening undisclosed money, he said that the business community would not accept such provision for whitening the money coming from 'burglary'. "Otherwise, the honest businesses will not feel encouraged to pay tax from the next year," he added. BASIS President Syed Almas Kabir suggested keeping the digital transaction out of the purview of VAT for the next 3 to 5 years to facilitate online transaction and wider materialisation of the 'Digital Bangladesh' initiative. ICAB President Mahmudul Hasan Khusru said the tax net is not widening that is why honest and existing taxpayers are overburdened with incremental tax recovery target. “While we would be graduating as developing country, our preferential benefits would be eroded, we’ve to compete with other developing countries. Hence, human resource development is paramount important, capacity building of our institutions and adoption of advanced technologies and professional education are also important to emphasise in the budgetary allocation,” he added. FICCI President Rupali Haque Chowdhury, former President of AmCham AKM Aftabul Islam, chief news editor of the Daily Prothom Alo Shawkat Hossain Masum, ICAB vice presidents Sidhartha Barua, Md Abdul Kader Joaddar and council member of ICAB Mohammad Forkan Uddin spoke at the webinar. Former ICAB president Md Humayun Kabir moderated the function while its CEO Shubhashish Bose spoke. ERF President Sharmin Rinvy made the opening remarks while its general secretary SM Rashidul Islam gave the vote of thanks and ICAB Vice President Maria Howlader gave the closing remarks.
Speakers for tapping potential for FDI in agro processing, light engineering, blue economy, education sectors
Speakers at a webinar on Saturday stressed the need for reforming the taxation system alongside tapping the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) potentials in a wide range of sectors like agro processing, light engineering, non-cotton apparel, home textile, blue economy and education in Bangladesh to ensure export diversification and smooth LDC graduation. They also suggested extending the scope for whitening undisclosed money in the health infrastructure, economic zones, and in other infrastructure sectors alongside the existing sectors to create more employment opportunities. The participants also opined that all the concerned stakeholders need to extend their all-out cooperation to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) to attract more FDI in the country. The webinar was organized as part of the Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) Webinar Series in partnership with the Asia Foundation and Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID). As the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan spoke at the Webinar titled-“FDI for Export Diversification and Smooth LDC Graduation” while ERF Vice President Shafiqul Alam was chair. Chairman of RAPID and Director of Policy Research Institute (PRI) Dr Mohammad Abdur Razzaque made the key-note presentation and ERF general secretary SM Rashidul Islam moderated the function. MA Mannan said it is a fact that the country does not receive that level of FDI that it needs. “In this regard, all the concerned agencies need to accomplish their tasks in due time to attract more FDI,” he also said, suggesting overcoming the “cultural context” and thus move forward together with modern attitude. Also read: BIDA, BBF join hands to boost FDI BIDA Executive Chairman Md Sirazul Islam said BIDA needs to be empowered fully as it still needs to depend on others to facilitate the private sector. Noting that there is no lacking from BIDA to create enabling environment for attracting more FDI, he added that the Authority has made effective the One Stop Service (OSS) platform to ensure transparent and hassle free service delivery. Sirazul informed that some 47 services have so far been brought under online while the services of some 16 organizations including BIDA have already come under OSS platform. Listing various steps of the BIDA to further ease the doing business index, he informed that separate courts would be lunched in Dhaka and Chattogram to speedily resolve the commercial disputes. “We'll definitely try our best to face the challenges emerging before us. But for that the public and the private sector need to work together,” he said adding that the door of BIDA would always remain open for the private sector. Sirazul also opined that if the local Investment could be promoted further, there would be more FDI inflow. He suggested for providing COVID-19 vaccination facility to the legally employed foreigners in Bangladesh to show that Bangladesh values all lives equally and also to send a good signal to the outside world. Also read: FICCI roundtable upholds importance of FDI to Vision 2041 President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Barrister Nihad Kabir said the now defunct Board of Investment (BOI) was earlier regarded as the “Dead Stop Service” or ‘Full Stop Service’, but now BIDA has somehow managed to overcome that bad name, but still there is a lot to do. Expressing her resentment over the treatment of the businessmen in the country, Nihad said if the businessmen are not treated with respect in the country, then the foreign investors would not come to a big extent. She said although Bangladesh has an extremely courageous leader to run the country, but others are not moving ahead with the same pace that the Prime Minister has. Nihad also suggested for targeting the potential sectors, adopting a coherent policy strategy by BIDA, signing more Preferential Trade Agreements with potential countries, and thus extending all-out support to BIDA to attract more FDI. The President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) Rizwan Rahman underscored the need for reforming the tax rate as it is still high compared to the global and Asian average. He also suggested extending the provision for whitening undisclosed money in the health infrastructure, tourism and in economic zones alongside the real estate and capital market, otherwise there would be bubbles in the economy. Rizwan said that there is much more scope for attracting more FDI in the Blue Economy and education sectors of the country. He said that if the non-RMG sectors could be nurtured properly apart from the RMG sector, then the country would be able to realize billions of dollars of export earnings. Also read: Bangladesh seeks increased FDI in economic zones Citing an example that the Bangladeshi exports earn $1,089 by exporting 1000KGs of tea shirts, whereas the Vietnamese exporters earn $2,157 by exporting the same volume, Syed Nasim Manzur, Managing Director of Apex Footwear Ltd, said “bargaining power’ makes the difference here which needs to be addressed. He said it is the high time to recapture the Japanese Investment from Myanmar to Bangladesh adding, “This is the chance we must not lose,” About the taxation system, the country's leading entrepreneur in the footwear sector alleged that taxation system in the country is totally taxpayer unfriendly adding that new entrepreneurs would not come while the existing businesses would not flourish unless the taxation system is reformed. He also suggested ensuring duty free and quota free access in markets like Japan, EU, India and China by not looking forward only to the market of USA. Manzur cited huge FDI and Investment potentials in the country's agro processed food, light engineering, non-cotton apparel and home textile sectors for which there is a need for necessary tax reforms. In his key-note address, Dr Abdur Razzaque said the tax-GDP ratio needs to be revamped in Bangladesh while FDI can create modern job opportunities and bring in new technology and management practices for Bangladesh. Mentioning that public health expenditure is one of the lowest in Bangladesh, he said this budget needs to be increased while more investment is needed in the education sector. Mentioning that countries like Vietnam and Indonesia are greatly benefitting from FDI, Razzaque said their good practices can be applied in Bangladesh. Executive Director of RAPID and Dhaka University Professor of Development Studies Dr M Abu Yusuf and Country Representative of the Asia Foundation Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj gave the welcome addresses.
The Economic Reporters Forum (ERF) on Wednesday strongly condemned the reported threat by LR Global Asset Management Company to file a lawsuit against its member, journalist Niaz Mahmud, under the controversial Digital Security Act. "We think the threat is an assault against freedom of expression," the ERF said in a release. The release also said that the ERF believes every aggrieved person, firm, group or organization has the right to defend itself from an unlawful reporting or smear campaign. "But we strongly protest any move to use the Digital Security Act to target a journalist." In this connection, it mentioned that country's civil society, rights groups, journalist groups and the Editors Council have strong reservations about the DSA and have repeatedly demanded amendments to some of the key clauses of the laws. It also said that International rights groups such as the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) have highlighted how the DSA has been used since its enactment in 2018 to muzzle dissent and even rightful reporting practices. ERF in its release stated that Some rights groups even demanded repeal of the law, saying it was being used to target truth-seeking journalists. It hoped LR Global Asset Management Company Limited will reconsider its stand and act as a responsible and morally upright business organization. "The ERF stands against any move to silence lawful journalism by any member of the media."