IMF inquires about pending USD 3b from export

AFP file photo

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has inquired about the pending US$300 billion from export sector.

A visiting delegation raised the issue during a meeting with the commerce ministry at the secretariat on Tuesday.

The delegation inquired about this at such a time when the banks in the country are facing a dollar crisis and the traders are being refused by the banks to open letter of credit (LC) due to the crisis.

In the meeting with the IMF delegation (staff consultation mission), commerce secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh led the Bangladesh side while Rahul Anand, the mission chief, led the IMF delegation (staff consultation mission).

বৈঠকটি আয়োজনের বিষয়ে আইএমএফের আবাসিক প্রতিনিধি জয়েন্দু দে বাণিজ্যসচিবকে যে চিঠি পাঠিয়েছিলেন, সে অনুযায়ী বৈঠকের আলোচ্যসূচি ছিল শুল্কনীতি প্রণয়নের হালনাগাদ অবস্থা, বাণিজ্য চুক্তি ও শুল্কহারের ওপর চুক্তির প্রভাব, শুল্ক প্রশাসনের ডিজিটালাইজেশন এবং এসব কর্মসূচি বাস্তবায়নে কারিগরি সহায়তা ইত্যাদি।

According to the letter sent by IMF resident representative Joyendu De to the commerce secretary regarding organising the meeting, the agendas of the meeting were the latest situation of formulating tariff policy, the impact of the deal on trade agreements and tariff rate, digitalisation of customs administration and the technical support needed for implementing these.

Speaking to the newspersons after the meeting, commerce secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said, “These issues were not raised in the meeting. The entire discussion was on export-related issues, including the complications in the export process, the pending export earnings of US$300 billion, fixing a specific rate for money-exchange in export and import and ways to expand the export."

Asked about their response to the IMF's inquiry about the pending US$ 3 billion from export, the commerce secretary said, “We said it was a matter of a long time. The fact that this money got pending in recent times is not the case at all. It accumulated over the years.”

According to sources in the meeting, the IMF delegation mainly discussed money laundering in the name of export. Money laundering is becoming a big problem for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) chief Bangladesh bank, Md Masud, said during the publication of the BFIU Annual Report 2021-22 last November that, “Recovery of laundered money is a tough task and it is not easy to recover dollars once they are laundered.”

According to a report of Washington-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a total of US$49.65 billion has been laundered from Bangladesh from 2009 to 2018 in the name of foreign trade, which is 4.25 trillion in BDT.

However, the BFIU thinks that the GFI report is not entirely credible. Bangladesh Bank governor Abdur Rauf Talukder also said at a programme of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) that money was being laundered with false announcements in the name of export and import.

The IMF delegation further asked whether the rate of dollar should be the same in both import and export.

Speaking regarding this, secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said that the gap in the dollar rates in export and import has lessened. The IMF has been told that the central bank is working on the uniform rate of foreign currency. The central bank is expecting something new by next July.

He said, “We told the IMF delegation about entering new markets, including Australia and Japan, in our effort to maintain the export growth. We also mentioned the growth of export may slow down due to high price hikes in the USA and the European countries."

When quarterly GDP assessment will begin

Meanwhile, another IMF delegation met with the top officials of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), including BBS director general Matiar Rahman at the BBS office in the capital’s Agargaon on Tuesday morning.

There were three issues in the agenda of the meeting – assessing the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) every three months, updating the procedures of calculating price hike and providing the GDP-related data of the last 50 years.

BBS director general Matiar Rahman told Prothom Alo, “The IMF wants to know when we will start keeping quarterly accounts of the country’s GDP. We have provided them with updates in this regard. We also informed them about the changes made in the process of assessing price hike.”

The BBS officials told the IMF delegation that from now on price hike would be assessed on the basis of 720 products and services instead of 422 products and services.

The IMF delegation has also been told that the account of the price hike in the month of April, which has been calculated following the new procedures, will be published within a few days. Besides, the IMF delegation has been provided with the GDP accounts of the last 50 years.

Senior IMF economist Estelle Xue Liu led the IMF delegation in the meeting with the BBS officials.