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Biz World - January 23, 2023

Dollar being wasted in import of non-essential products

Industry Desk: A huge amount of foreign currency is being wasted by importing non-essential products which are being produced in the country.
According to a data of Bangladesh Bank, 45 percent of the total import expenditure was spent in such products in the fiscal year 2021-22. About 4,900 crore dollar worth of goods were imported in that financial year. Of this, at least four thousand billion dollars have been spent for the import of all goods which are unnecessary and produced in the country.
Experts say that there is currently dollar crisis in the country due to various global reasons.
Banks are very conservative in opening LCs. Due to the disruption in the import of industrial raw materials, parts and essential food products, there is a fear that the economic growth of the country will decrease. In this situation, imposition of anti-dumping duty on such products will save foreign currencies. At the same time, the protection of domestic industries will also be ensured.
Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRIB) Executive Director and BRAC Bank Chairman Ahsan H Mansoor said that the National Board of Revenue (NBR) should have a cell to assess whether products are being dumped in the country or not. Anti-dumping laws should be enacted to stop dumping.
Shams Mahmud, the former president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), said that Bangladesh Bank has created various obstacles to the import of unnecessary or luxury goods to overcome the dollar crisis. Despite this, there is no dearth of luxury products in the local market. In other words, the import of luxury goods did not stop even after the stringent measures of Bangladesh Bank. He underscored combined steps of Bangladesh Bank and NBR.
It is known that Bangladesh, the importer of 100 percent mobile phone sets, is now almost self-sufficient in the production of world-class mobile phone sets. About 90 percent of the phone sets of the customers can be supplied by a dozen domestic companies.
The current market of factory-made phone sets of leading brands with an investment of around Tk 5 thousand crore is also around Tk 12 thousand crore. While the country is on the way to becoming self-sufficient in mobile handset manufacturing, cheap handsets are still coming from various countries including China. The government is losing valuable foreign exchange, and entrepreneurs are risking huge investments.
General Secretary of Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA) ZakariaShahid told, “The growth of the mobile phone market has decreased. Earlier, mobile phones were sold at Tk 12,000 crore annually, and now it has come down to Tk 7,500 crore. We still have to import some materials.
In this way, Bangladesh has achieved great progress in daily use electronic items, tiles, and ceramic industry. However, various ceramic and electronic products including tiles are being imported at low prices.
Former president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) Syed Almas Kabir told that the country’s software sector is currently one of the top 15 export sectors. Domestic software companies are providing versatile services to various commercial organisations, both public and private. But due to various conditions, the domestic software sector is being ignored and imported at a huge cost.
There are hundreds of products and services in the agricultural, industrial and service sectors, for which thousands of crores of foreign currencies are still being spent. However, the local industry is now facing disaster due to the dollar crisis. Industry, investment, employment are suffering due to lack of appropriate action and effective customs policy. And the loss is the valuable foreign currency.
By reviewing various data, it is known that a huge amount of dollars is spent in importing cattle, fish fry, honey, trees, wood, timber, dried fish (except packet), turmeric, frozen fish, betel nut, fenugreek, tobacco stalk, dry tamarind, alum, aluminum, tableware, kitchenware, agarbatis, shoe soles, dry cool, dry chillies, chips, soda powder, sesame seeds, mustard, ready-made garments, imitation jewellery, betel nuts, children’s toys, sauces, cement, noodles, etc in Bangladesh.
Huge amount is spent in importing of foreign products. According to the annual report of Import Payments of Goods and Services for the fiscal year 2021-22, Bangladesh imported vegetable products (roots and tubers) worth 8 thousand 491 crores in the fiscal year 2021-22. In the previous year, the same product was imported worth Tk 7,797 crore.
According to the report, in the fiscal year 2021-22, dairy products, bird eggs and natural honey worth Tk 3,475.5 crore were imported. In the previous year, the same products were imported worth Tk 2801 crore.
In the fiscal year 2021-22, coffee, tea and spices worth Tk 2,936.64 crore have been imported. In the previous financial year, the same products wete imported worth Tk 3,413 crore.
In the fiscal year 2021-22, fish, crustaceans, molluscas and other aquatic animals were imported worth Tk 557.94 million. In the previous year, fish, crustaceans, molluscas and other aquatic animals worth Tk. 501.89 crore were imported. Dollars are spent on importing numerous products which can easily be produced in the country.
Gains in anti-dumping duties: Reserves have come down to $32 billion from $48 billion a year ago. According to the IMF, it is less than or close to 24 billion dollars. It is, however, enough to cover at least six months of the country’s import liabilities. Despite this, the government is extremely cautious about spending these dollars.
According to concerned persons, changes in tariff policy may lead to imposition of additional duties or imposition of anti-dumping duties in order to stop and limit the products in which Bangladesh has progressed and become self-sufficient. If you can do this, the crisis of dollar will be reduced to a large extent. By spending the saved dollars, the essential products which need to be imported including fuel oil, LNG, food products, industrial goods can be imported.
NBR officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said additional regulatory duties have already been imposed on luxury or less useful goods to curb imports. It has been reducing imports for several months. Government revenue is also decreasing. The government has agreed to the move to reduce pressure on the dollar by giving tax concessions. But still many unnecessary products are being imported.
It is known that neighboring country India has imposed anti-dumping duty on jute products of Bangladesh. Five years ago, the country imposed a 352 percent anti-dumping duty on Bangladeshi jute products instead of 6 percent duty. Then the producers of their country claim that if Bangladeshi jute products are allowed to enter their country at low duty, their industry in India will be destroyed. To comply with this demand, the government then imposed anti-dumping duty on jute products of Bangladesh. Due to this, the export of jute products of Bangladesh to the country has come to a standstill. The country did not even agree to Bangladesh’s request. On the other hand, it has extended its term for another five years.
What the Tariff Commission says to increase the duty: Due to the dollar crisis in this country, the Tariff Commission has recommended to increase the duty on 330 products. According to the commission’s report, vehicles, electronic goods, household appliances, precious metals, cosmetics, apparel, leather goods, furniture, ceramic goods, decorative goods, fruits and flowers, processed food and beverages, canned food, chocolate, biscuits, fruit juice should be subjected to Increase in import duty (CD), supplementary duty (SD), regulatory duty (RD) and increase in tariff or dutiable value on soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tobacco products or its substitute products etc. If this is done, the officials of the Tariff Commission believe that at least one billion US dollars can be saved annually in these products.

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