Productivity in govt factories low for a lack of skilled employees
Experts have recommended taking prudent steps to control pollution and accelerate efforts to mitigate climate change (CC) impacts, as a recent global report said Bangladesh is losing about US$6.0 billion due to lower labor productivity.
A US-based organization – The Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Centre (Arsht-Rock) – in the report also said the loss is estimated to be more than 8.0pc of its annual labor output.
This could increase to 10pc by 2050 if immediate initiatives are not taken, it stated.
The report – ‘Hot Cities, Chilled Economies – Dhaka, Bangladesh’ – assessed the social and economic impact of extreme heat in 12 cities around the world, including Dhaka.
It revealed that the labor productivity of the people in Dhaka is affected more than in any other city due to extreme heat.
Other affected cities, such as Abu Dhabi and Bangkok, are more exposed to heat stress, while Dhaka is unusually vulnerable to its effects, due to its labor-intensive economy and low rate of active cooling, according to the report.
Worker protection projects, such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent’s FbF solution, can be scaled up to provide broad-based social insurance against extreme heat for vulnerable workers.
The report also suggested investment in the built environment and nature-based solutions.
Talking to The Financial Express, Professor of Chemistry Department at Dhaka University Abdus Salam observed that both global warming and local pollutions, mainly caused by manufacturing and transport sectors, and brick making are mostly responsible for the extreme heat and temperature.
The government should take immediate action to curb all sorts of pollution in this regard. Though the country is enacting laws and taking some actions, the higher focus should be on enforcement and execution, he pointed out.
Professor Salam also said Bangladesh should look for ways to use environment-friendly sulfur fuel to a great extent to curb pollution.
He underlined the need for using eco-friendly electric vehicles and alternative fuels to reap better benefits.
Apart from Dhaka, the 11 other assessed cities were – Athens (Greece), Bangkok (Thailand), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Freetown (Sierra Leone), London (United Kingdom), Los Angeles (United States), Miami (United States), Monterrey (Mexico), New Delhi (India), Santiago (Chile), and Sydney (Australia).
The average loss across the 12 cities was $44 billion in 2020. If measures are not taken to reduce the temperature, this loss could reach $84 billion by 2050, it said.
Agreeing with the report findings, Sharif Jamil, General Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh An-dolon (environment movement), suggested changing the mindset of policymakers right at this moment after recognizing economic and public health impacts.
He urged the government to collaborate and coordinate with the stakeholders concerned, including technical experts, while enacting new policies and laws to reap better benefits from them.
These losses capture only direct impacts on output, but the lost wages and output also have indirect effects on the wider economy, as overall spending declines and affects the economic activities that are not exposed to heat, as per the Arsht-Rock report.
Low-income workers are especially exposed to heat – in sectors such as garment manufacturing, transport, and retail trade, and the losses already amount to around 10pc of income.
The report also stated that the losses are expected to be concentrated in sectors – such as manufacturing and logistics, which already lost $1.5 billion (BDT 132 billion, or 9.0pc of sectoral output) and $1.8 billion (BDT 158 billion or 10pc of sectoral output), respectively.
Losses in manufacturing are likely to be particularly high in sectors such as garment manufacturing or brick making, where proximity to machinery or ovens increases the temperature to which workers are exposed, the report added.
Despite Banking turmoil in US, Interest rates Hikes
The US central bank has raised interest rates again, despite fears that the move could add to financial turmoil after a string of bank failures.
The Federal Reserve increased its key rate by 0.25 percentage points, calling the banking system “sound and resilient”.
But it also warned that fallout from the bank failures may hurt economic growth in the months ahead.
The Fed has been raising borrowing costs in a bid to stabilize prices.
But the sharp increase in interest rates since last year has led to strains in the banking system.
Two US banks – Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank – collapsed this month, buckling in part due to problems caused by higher interest rates.
There are concerns about the value of bonds held by banks as rising interest rates may make those bonds less valuable.
Banks tend to hold large portfolios of bonds and as a result, are sitting on significant potential losses. Falls in the value of bonds held by banks are not necessarily a problem unless they are forced to sell them.
Authorities around the world have said they do not think the failures threaten widespread financial stability and need to distract from efforts to bring inflation under control.
Last week, the European Central Bank raised its key interest rate by 0.5 percentage points.
The Bank of England is due to make its own interest rate decision on Thursday, a day after official figures showed that inflation unexpectedly shot up in February to 10.4 percent.
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed remained focused on its inflation fight. He described Silicon Valley bank as an “outlier” in an otherwise strong financial system.
But he acknowledged that the recent turmoil was likely to drag on growth, with the full impact still unclear.
Forecasts released by the bank show officials expect the economy to grow just 0.4 percent this year and 1.2 percent in 2024, a sharp slowdown from the norm – and less than officials projected in December.
The announcement from the Fed also toned down earlier statements which had said “ongoing” increases in interest rates would be needed in the months ahead.
Instead, the Fed said: “Some additional policy firming may be appropriate”.
The moves “signal clearly that the Fed is nervous”, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Wednesday’s rate rise is the ninth in a row by the Fed. It lifts its key interest rate to 4.75%-5%, up from near zero a year ago – the highest level since 2007.
Higher interest rates mean the cost to buy a home, borrow to expand a business or take on other debt goes up.
By making such activity more expensive, the Fed expects demand to fall, cooling prices.
That has started to happen in the US housing market, where purchases have slowed sharply over the last year and the median sales price in February was lower than it was a year ago – the first such decline in more than a decade.
But overall the economy has held up better than expected and prices continue to climb faster than the 2% rate considered healthy.
Inflation, the rate at which prices climb, jumped 6% in the 12 months to February. The cost of some items, including food and airfare, is surging even faster.
Before the bank failures, Mr. Powell had warned that officials might need to push interest rates higher than expected to bring the situation under control.
The bank projections show policymakers expect inflation to fall this year – but less than expected a few months ago.
Still, they forecast interest rates of roughly 5.1% at the end of 2023 – unchanged since December – implying the Fed is poised to stop raising rates soon.
Mr Powell described the effect of the recent turmoil as the “equivalent of a rate hike”.
He said the Fed may be able to raise its key rate less aggressively, if the turmoil in the financial system prompts banks to limit lending, and the economy to slow more quickly.
But he repeated that the Fed would not shy away from its inflation fight.
“We have to bring down inflation down to 2%,” he said. “There are real costs to bringing it down to 2% but the costs of failing are much higher.”
’17 Banks Facing Liquidity Crisis over Violating Loan disbursement limit’
Despite Bangladesh Bank’s initiatives to promote good governance in the banking sector, 17 banks have recently violated their loan disbursement limits, and are now embroiled in a severe liquidity crisis.
Having been over-aggressive in providing loans, they are now unable to recover the loans and attract new deposits as desired, according to the latest internal report of the central bank.
The banks should not sanction any new loans until they restore the ratio of their loans to deposits in accordance with limits set by Bangladesh Bank, which regulates the financial sector.
Conventional banks can provide loans of up to Tk 87 for every Tk 100 in deposits, while Shariah-based banks can give loans of up to Tk 92 for every Tk 100 in deposits, according to the rules of Bangladesh Bank.
This is called Advance Deposit Ratio (ADR) or loan-deposit ratio limit in banking terms.
According to the central bank report covering January 1-26 of this year, 17 banks violated the limits set for them on lending orders due to a lack of discipline.
As a result, the concerned banks have been plunged into an extreme liquidity crisis, making it difficult for them to sanction new loans. Some of them are even unable to pay depositors in some cases.
Experts fear that the existing situation has created additional risks for depositors. According to them, irregularities, corruption and ‘ghost loans’ – loans to firms that turn out to be non-existent -are behind the collapse of the banking system’s loan disbursement process.
“In the banking sector, there have been allegations of giving large amounts of ghost loans in recent times. If this continues, the sector will be at risk,” said ABM Mirza Azizul Islam, economist and adviser on finance to the last caretaker government.
Mirza Azizul told, “Lending beyond the limit against deposits disrupts the credit system.”
Besides, the debt collection situation of the banks is not satisfactory now. In such a situation, if the non-performing loans increase further with additional loans, then there is a danger for the bank and its depositors will suffer, he added.
He suggested the intervention of the central bank in these banks immediately.
According to the Bangladesh Bank report, the ADR of National Bank Ltd stood at 98.23 while that of AB Bank was 96.64 in its conventional stream and 103.45 in its Shariah stream.
State-owned Basic Bank’s ADR stood at 91.17, One Bank’s was 89, and multinational National Bank of Pakistan’s was 87.52. Widespread irregularities and corruption have already been reported in these banks.
Apart from this, Community Bank’s ADR was 88.28, NRB Bank at 88.05 and IFIC Bank’s ADR was 87.48, the report states.
Shariah-based Exim Bank’s ADR stood at 100.28, Standard Bank’s at 96.28, Premier Bank’s Islamic Window 155.09 and Bangladesh Commerce Bank’s Islamic Window’s ADR was at 133.26.
Apart from this, the ADRs of five other Shariah-based banks ranged between 93.01 and 104.54.
A managing director (MD) of a private bank told that the lending limit has undoubtedly been set by Bangladesh Bank based on adequate research and global best practices. No bank should have to cross the limit.
“These violations are creating risk in the banking sector. Depositors in particular will be at greater risk. Already some banks and non-bank financial institutions are not able to return money to depositors,” he said, maintaining anonymity.
The central bank has also extended the period of ADR adjustment five times to allow the banks to bring their lending practices in line with the limits.
However, many banks could not coordinate this. In such a situation, Bangladesh Bank even increased the required ADR to improve the overall liquidity situation of the banking sector to maintain the pace in credit flow to the private sector.
The executive director and spokesperson of Bangladesh Bank, Md Mezbaul Haque, told that although some banks may at times find themselves in violation of the ADR set for them, the central bank would under normal circumstances give them time to get themselves back within the limit.
“But if they stay outside the limit for long, then they must be warned and action would be taken accordingly,” Mezbaul said.
Banking transactions to operate 5hrs during Ramadan
Bangladesh Bank (BB) has set the banking transaction time from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm and the banking office time from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm during the holy month of Ramadan.
The central bank issued a circular in this regard on Wednesday (15 March).
The circular stated that all scheduled banks operating in the country will be open from 9:30 am to 4 pm during the holy month of Ramadan.
Banking transactions are normally conducted from 10 am to 4 pm. Bank office hours are from 10 am to 6 pm.
The circular said that the schedule will revert to its original status after the holy month of Ramadan.
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