Nation this week
The Bangladesh Bank relaxed its already flexible loan repayment policy that was meant to see out the pandemic's effects. Now pointing to the 'prolonged' war in Ukraine, the central bank has ordained that borrowers of banks will avoid being categorised as defaulters as long as they clear 50 percent of their instalments payable till September 2022. Previously the requirement was 75 percent. The policy will be applicable for term loans, i.e. with a repayment period of more than one year, said the notice issued on December 18.
Later in the week it also issued an identical notice applying to clients of non-bank financial institutions, who are said to be facing difficulties in realising instalments on time as the cash flow to SMEs and large enterprises has been affected by 'various external factors', said Shapla Chattor. Businesses, notably under the banner of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the country's apex trade body, have been pressing for a relaxed loan classification policy until June next year.
The ruling party's student wing, Bangladesh Chhatra League, got new leadership in the wake of its first council in four years, held at Suhrawardy Udyan on December 6. Although there was nothing clear-cut decided at the council itself, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader had said the new BCL committee would be unveiled before the mother party's own council scheduled for December 24. Quader announced the names from the prime minister's official residence Ganabhaban.
Former Dhaka University unit general secretary Hussein Saddam has become the central committee president of BCL, while current organising secretary Sheikh Wali Asif Enan has been made the general secretary. Both Saddam and Enan are graduates of DU's Law department. Besides, Mazharul Kabir Shayan has been named president of the influential Dhaka University unit, with Tanbir Hasan Shaikat to serve as general secretary. Riaz Mahmud and Sagor Ahmed have been named to lead the Dhaka North unit, while Rajibul Islam and Sajal Kundu will take the reins of Dhaka South.
Five more people died of dengue during the week (December 16-22), further confirming it is now a year-long menace in Bangladesh, on the back of what has already been its deadliest year on record. A total of 274 people have died of dengue in the country so far this year, with some ten days still to go. Despite the first death being recorded as late as June 21, an incredible surge in August, September and October in particular saw the previous highest of 179 (from 2019) easily eclipsed.
Bangladesh has officially recorded 61,844 cases of dengue so far this year. The number of cases in 2019 was 101,354. The number of deaths has gone up by over 50 percent, even as the cases are almost 40 percent down, which means the case fatality rate has gone up significantly: a higher proportion of patients catching the disease are ending up dead. And yet, the entire year has passed with nothing like the alarm witnessed in 2019. Has COVID-19 given us epidemic fatigue?
The Centre for Policy Dialogue, a think-tank, questioned the necessity of any hike in power tariffs, against the backdrop of the concerned ministry's reported proposal for an allocation of Tk 56,860 crore as subsidy. Research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem made a presentation on the proposed 'Integrated Power and Energy Master Plan'. Tk 32,500 crore of the subsidy proposal was sought on behalf of state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (for power sector development), Tk 19,360 crore for Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (mainly for petroleum import) and Tk 5,000 crore on behalf of Petrobangla (for LNG import).
Moazzem claimed that the BPC is now making a profit of over Tk 30 per litre in selling the diesel. He also observed that the government ultimately wants to promote import of LNG, and that comes through in the proposed master plan.
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