Import facilities increased for essentials

In response to price spiral of essentials the government has started taking a number of steps to cut the prices such as edible oil, rice and sugar.

The premier called upon all to follow the decisions taken on Sunday at a meeting with the business leaders, who had pointed out several problems and sought her intervention to resolve those.

The steps include reducing import VAT (value added tax) on edible oil from 15 percent to 10 percent, increasing rice and wheat stocks through import and loan facility for importing essentials.

A high profile emergency meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the measures at her secretariat office yesterday.

The meeting agreed to cut the cost of refining sugar and relax terms and conditions of Public Procurement Regulations (PPR) for quick import of daily essentials.

The two-hour meeting also decided to toughen the Anti-Hoarding Act and monitoring on hoarding.

Asked about the meeting output, the finance minister told reporters that the prime minister would soon brief the media about the resolutions.

Another secretary quoted Hasina saying the government was planning more subsidies and sales of rice and wheat at subsidised prices to the poor at unions.

Immediately after the meeting that ended at about 3:30pm, Bangladesh Bank implemented some of the decisions and issued two circulars to all commercial banks.

The prime minister also told the meeting that the prices of several essentials including potato, onion, ginger, turmeric and fish went down. Bangladesh Bank officials said they managed only two percent interest loans against production of those items.

Meanwhile, the central bank has extended loan repayment time for the rice millers to 45 days. Upon the food ministry suggestion, on December 29 last year the BB fixed the 30-day timeframe to discourage the millers to hoard rice.

The central bank officials, however, said they had reviewed that there is no chance to hoard rice while different intelligence agencies are looking into the matter and under this circumstances they extended the time.

The business leaders also alleged the commercial banks are charging an interest rate more than 12 percent fixed by the central bank last year for importing products including edible oil, sugar, dal, onion and fruits.

Besides, they are also facing problems in opening Letter of Credit (LC) for importing essentials due to foreign currency crisis in the country.

Issuing another circular, the BB asked all the banks to maintain the 12 percent interest rate on loans for the said purpose.

A top central bank official told that they would issue another circular stating that no bank should show excuse of foreign currency crisis for not opening LCs. “If any bank has foreign currency shortage, the central bank will provide them with the currencies,” said the official.

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