The Bangladesh Bank has taken an initiative to scrap the 9 per cent interest rate ceiling and introduce a market-based interest rate on loans.
“We are working on the development of a market-based reference rate. On top of that, we will be giving a corridor for the lending rates,” said Bangladesh Bank Governor Abdur Rouf Talukder yesterday.
He came up with the remarks on the second day of the Bangladesh Business Summit at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center in the capital.
The Federation of the Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry organised the three-day event in cooperation with the foreign and commerce ministries and the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority.
Contacted, a BB official explained the governor’s comment, saying that the central bank might initially set a reference rate on loans based on the demand for credit from borrowers.
“Non-performing loans (NPLs) are like cancer. If you can’t cure it within the shortest possible time, you will die. And there is no other conclusion,” said Ali Reza Iftekhar, a former chairman of the Association of Bankers
“We will then set a range of a particular corridor of interest rates on the reference rate that will be applicable to borrowers,” he said.
For instance, if the reference rate is set at 9 per cent, the corridor might be in the range of 2 to 3 per cent. This means banks may charge a maximum interest rate of 12 per cent, the BB official said, on condition of anonymity.
“Probably, shortly we will be able to introduce this new initiative,” said the BB governor at a session on long-term finance.
The BB has maintained the ceiling since April 2020. In January, it relaxed the lending rate cap for consumer loans, allowing banks to hike it up to 3 percentage points.
Citing the BB’s efforts aimed at restoring discipline in the foreign exchange market, Talukder said that the central bank was trying to keep the exchange rate stable.
Bangladesh’s foreign exchange market has been under pressure for nearly a year owing to the fast-depletion of the foreign currency reserves amid escalated import bills.
The reserves have slipped to a six-year low of $31.15 billion last week, down 30 per cent from $44.14 billion recorded in March last year. Amid the shortage of the American greenback, the taka has lost its value by about 25 per cent in the past one year.
“We will also eliminate multiple rates of the US dollar. We are close to that. You will see shortly a market-based exchange rate regime.”
Currently, the US dollar trades at different rates for exporters, importers and remitters.
The governor said that the central bank has taken several measures to contain higher inflation, which has stayed at an elevated level for the higher global commodity prices.
Consumer prices climbed to 8.78 per cent in February, breaking a five-month declining trend, official figures showed yesterday.
“Our policy is to reduce the growth of aggregate demand while making supply-side interventions. This means the central bank will finance the supply-side initiatives,” Talukder said.
Speaking at the discussion, Ali Reza Iftekhar, chairman of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh, a platform for managing directors of banks in Bangladesh, described non-performing loans (NPLs) as cancer.
“If you can’t cure it within the shortest possible time, you will die. And there is no other conclusion. A bank should be very careful about NPLs,” said the managing director of Eastern Bank.
“If you look at the balance sheet of any bank, you will see that it earns a lot of money. But it also loses money because of the defaulted loans.”
Default loans in the banking sector jumped 17 per cent year-on-year to Tk 120,656 crore last year owing to a lack of corporate governance and the ongoing business slowdown.
“If we don’t have good governance at banks, you will face a high level of NPLs. You can’t stop it. The role of the board and the management should be clearly and distinctly divided. The roles are different but the goal should be the same,” Iftekhar said.
The noted banker suggested banks not hide NPLs. “If they hide defaulted loans under the carpet, bad loans can’t be managed.”
According to Iftekhar, good governance, reducing NPLs, and appointment of independent directors are highly important to ensure discipline in the banking sector.
Arif Khan, vice-chairman of Shanta Asset Management Ltd, presented a keynote paper styled “Developing Long-term Finance Markets to Support New Growth Opportunities” at the event.
“Bank deposits are mainly short-term. So, a severe asset-liability mismatch takes place when long-term loans are provided based on those deposits.”
He said higher NPLs have emerged as a concern for the banking sector.
Atiur Rahman, a former BB governor, moderated the session, which was chaired by Shaikh Shamsuddin Ahmed, a commissioner of the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission.
Khalid Qadir, CEO of Brummer Partners, Alamgir Morshed, CEO of Infrastructure Development Company Ltd, Md Mahbub-Ur Rahman, CEO of HSBC Bangladesh, Asif Ibrahim, chairman of the Chittagong Stock Exchange, Yahya Al Harthi, director of Saudi Exim Bank, and D J Pandian, director-general of New Development Bank, also spoke.
Source: The Daily Star