“Some traders sell products at high prices for extra profit"

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com, Dhaka
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Apart from enforcing laws to ensure consumer rights, Commerce Minister Beer Muktijoddha Tipu Munshi has called on consumers to be more aware.

He said this while addressing as the chief guest at the opening ceremony of the Shadow Parliament on Consumer Rights Protection organized jointly by the National Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection and Debate for Democracy at the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (FDC) in the capital on Friday.

The Minister of Commerce said that it is not possible to ensure consumer rights only through legislation. As consumers should be aware of their rights, traders should respect the law and introduce human values. Values need awakening, not degradation. If the price is not reduced, the price will be reduced if the warning is given that the import will be done. The prices of goods really increase during the month of Ramadan. These should be avoided. Some also mentioned that many have been prosecuted for violating consumer rights.

The minister said that almost the entire requirement of edible oil and sugar has to be imported. In addition to these, if any product is imported, the government sets the price through the Trade and Tariff Commission, keeping the profit of the traders. Still, it is seen that some traders sell products at higher prices for making extra profits. Actions are being taken by the National Directorate of Consumer Protection to bring unscrupulous traders under the law. However, he said that it is not possible to suppress only by applying the law.

Tipu Munshi said, it is not right to overstock thinking that there will be a food shortage. But people of our country keep doing this. Although the government says that there is enough in all products in the country. As a result of the agricultural revolution, Bangladesh has achieved self-sufficiency in many products. When there is a shortage of a product, the government imports it. The government always tries to ensure that the farmers are not harmed. Consumers should also be able to enjoy the products easily.

The minister also said that the import of food products has been hampered due to the Ukraine-Russia war. As a result, it has affected not only Bangladesh but the whole world. There is no denying that the prices of daily necessities have gone up. But it has increased not only in our country but in all countries of the world.

In this context, he said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is selling food products at low prices through TCB, thinking about the suffering of the poor people. Oil, pulses and rice and other commodities are being provided to one crore family card holders across the country. Despite the economic crisis in the country, the government has stood by the poor and helpless people by giving huge subsidies.

Later, in response to the question of the journalists, the Commerce Minister said that the price of eggs or chicken or onion or green chilies is not related to the Ministry of Commerce. The production and demand of these are with the other two ministries. Consumer rights monitors whether these products are being sold as per the price set by the government. But if the price of any product increases, the Ministry of Commerce has to stand in the dock.

In response to another question about giving magisterial powers to the Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection, he said that they do not have the required manpower to conduct operations to protect consumer rights. We have taken increased initiatives. This office should have magisterial powers. He also opined that his own officers or those who can exercise this power can be posted in the Consumer Directorate.

Mock Parliament Speaker and Chairman of Debate for Democracy Hasan Ahmed Chowdhury Kiran presided over the event while National Consumers Rights Protection DG(Addl Secretary) AHM Safiquzzaman was the special guest.

On the first day, the subject of debate was “Consumer rights cannot be ensured by law alone”. Debaters from Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University spoke against the motion while Eden Mahilla College spoke in favor of the motion. Eden Mahilla college won in the debate.

It may be mentioned here that 8 university level educational institutions are participating in the competition organized by the National Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection and Debate for Democracy.


New gas level in Sylhet-10 wells, 1.5 crore cubic feet will be available daily

Special Correspondent, Barta24.com
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A new layer of gas has been found in well number- 10 of Sylhet gas field. Engineer Mizanur Rahman, Managing Director of Sylhet Gas Field Limited confirmed to Barta24.com that 1.5 crore cubic feet of gas will be available from this layer.

He told Barta24.com that there was success during DST from the well expected to get 1.5 crore cubic feet of gas per day from the new layer. Drilling of the well started last June.

Excavation of well number- 10 of Sylhet is going to be implemented with the own financing of Gas Development Fund and Sylhet Gas Fields Limited. For this reason, an agreement was signed with Sinopec International Petroleum Service Corporation, China on September 11 last year with the gas field company.


All indicators of the country's economy are comforting: Bangladesh Bank

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com
All indicators of the country

All indicators of the country

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Bangladesh Bank said that almost all the indicators of the real sector of the economy of Bangladesh are in a comfortable position.

These things were said in a press release sent by the central bank on Tuesday (November 21).

According to the notification, the foreign sector of the economy of Bangladesh has recently come under a lot of pressure due to the impact of various adversities including the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and the continuous increase in policy interest rates in the developed world. However, almost all indicators of the real sector of the Bangladesh economy are in a comfortable state.

The circular also said that as a result of Bangladesh Bank and government policy support, the situation of rural economy especially agricultural production and small and medium industries is in a good condition. Also, industrial production, as revealed by the Industrial Production Index, is witnessing good growth.

Bangladesh Bank said that the government's increase in production-oriented and development-oriented expenditure has played a helpful role in keeping the economy moving. On the other hand, the government's revenue has also increased considerably due to various revenue collection measures. As a result of various measures taken by Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Government, the growth of national income of Bangladesh is expected to remain satisfactory in the fiscal year 2023-24.

It appears that the GDP growth rate will be more than 6.5 percent in the current financial year as a result of the ongoing extensive economic activities in the industry and service sector along with the implementation of various infrastructural mega projects of the government and the increase in agricultural production to the desired level.

In the circular, the central bank said, despite the good growth of exports and remittances in the prevailing economic situation, due to the very rapid increase in import costs, strong pressure has been observed recently on the foreign sector of Bangladesh, especially the foreign exchange reserves and exchange rates. In addition, the country experienced high inflation due to rising global commodity prices, devaluation of the Bangladeshi Taka and domestically adverse effects of seasonal weather and supply chain disruptions leading to increased production costs.

Bangladesh Bank has taken multi-pronged measures to mitigate pressure on exchange rate and foreign exchange reserves, including controlling inflation. Among them, increasing the policy interest rate, raising the limit on the interest rate of deposits and bank loans and making them market-oriented, not giving loans to the government by overprinting money, taking measures to control import costs and increase export income and remittances, market-oriented foreign currency exchange rates, foreign exchange market supervision including checking import prices. It is noteworthy to increase and take measures to meet the cost of import of necessary goods from the reserves of Bangladesh Bank.

According to Bangladesh Bank, a surplus of about 1 billion US dollars has been observed by September after overcoming the deficit of about 3.3 billion dollars last year. However, there is still a slight deficit in the overall foreign exchange balance due to the emergence of a deficit situation from an earlier comfortable surplus in the financial account. It is expected that the foreign exchange balance will soon return to a comfortable state, which will be more helpful in bringing stability to the currency exchange rate along with preservation of Bangladesh's foreign exchange reserves.

According to the regulatory body of the financial institutions of the country, due to the adoption of timely and effective policy of Bangladesh Bank, the current exchange rate is very consistent with the actual effective exchange rate index. In this case, if the central bank of the United States does not raise or lower its policy interest rates in the future, it will play an important role in bringing stability to our exchange rate.

Regarding the foreign exchange status, the central bank said that the current reserves are about 20 billion US dollars according to IMF BPM-6, which can cover about 4 months of import expenses. It is comfortable for any economy by international standards.

On the other hand, Bangladesh Bank is giving utmost importance to controlling inflation and maintaining its expectations. At the same time the government has reduced its spending in unproductive sectors. Increased scope and coverage of social safety nets (eg 1 crore family cards, truck sales etc.) to mitigate the impact of inflation on the poor.

The inflationary situation is expected to improve rapidly as a result of the contractionary policy measures of the Bangladesh Bank and the Bangladesh Government and supportive policies for production and investment. It should be noted that Bangladesh Bank will continue its efforts to reduce the country's inflation to 8 percent on a point-to-point basis by the end of January and to 6 percent by the end of June.

Bangladesh Bank believes that after the formation of the government through the next general elections, the economic situation will improve rapidly and the country's economy will turn around by the end of the financial year.

The central bank's circular also said that both the Bangladesh Bank and the government are taking various measures in the financial and revenue sectors to boost the country's economy by addressing the recent macroeconomic challenges.

With the improvement in the global economic situation, it is expected that stability in the foreign sector of the country's economy and a comfortable situation in the inflationary situation will soon return through the increase in the country's exports and remittance flows. In the rapidly changing global geo-economic context, Bangladesh will become a stronger economy by increasing its capacity to take advantage of global opportunities. 


Seven people including chairman of Asiatic Laboratories fined

Walid Shakib, Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com
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Capital market regulator Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) has fined 7 people including the chairman of Asiatic Laboratories Limited, whose Initial Public Offering (IPO) application has been suspended. The fine has been imposed for undermining the interests of investors by providing false information.

Recently the penalty was imposed through 7 separate orders signed by BSEC Commissioner Dr. Rumana Islam. Mohammad Rezaul Karim, executive director and spokesperson of the organization, confirmed the fine to Barta 24 on Sunday (November 12).

According to sources, Asiatic Laboratories' chairman Tahmina Begum has been fined Tk. 50 lakh by the capital market regulatory body. At the same time, the managing director of the company, Monir Ahmed, was fined Tk. 75 lakh. Three directors Maqsood Ahmed, Selina Ahmed and Sadia Ahmed were also fined Tk. 50 lakh each. Besides, company secretary Ishtiaq Hossain and chief financial officer (CFO) of Asiatic Laboratories Jayant Kumar Biswas were also fined Tk. 25 lakh by BSEC.

It is known that the Capital Market Regulatory Authority approved the IPO of Asiatic Laboratories on August 31 last year to be listed in the stock market in the book-building method. The company was supposed to withdraw a total of Tk. 95 lakh from the stock market. The auction was held from October 10 to October 13, 2022 to determine the company's cut-off price. The IPO was to issue shares to general investors at a discount of 30 per cent from Asiatic Laboratories' cut-off price or Tk. 20, whichever is lower.

According to sources, after the approval of the IPO, there were allegations of irregularities against Asiatic Laboratories. The company quoted 14 times the value of its assets in the pre-IPO prospectus to raise around Tk. 100 crore. In addition, many inconsistencies were found in the company's financial reports. In view of this, BSEC suspended the IPO of Asiatic Laboratories on January 15 this year.

According to the BSEC order, Asiatic Laboratories has undermined the interests of investors by providing false information regarding land deeds to the commission as per the terms of the initial public offer (IPO) approval letter. Such activities of the company have violated Sections 2F and 18 of the Securities and Exchange Ordinance, 1969. All directors representing Asiatic Laboratories are liable for failure to comply with the Securities Act and the rules issued thereunder and are an offense punishable under Section 22 of the Securities and Exchange Ordinance, 1969.

Separate orders mentioned that Asiatic's directors, chief financial officer (CFO) and company secretary were fined under the powers conferred by Section 22 of the Securities and Exchange Ordinance, 1969, as deemed necessary. BSEC has directed to pay the penalty within 30 working days of the order.

When asked about this, BSEC spokesperson Mohammad Rezaul Karim told Barta 24 that various reports were published in the media after the IPO approval of Asiatic Laboratories. Based on these reports BSEC investigated. The Commission took the action only after complaints and hearings from representatives of Asiatic Laboratories. Till now the IPO of the company is on hold, a decision will be taken about their IPO later.


The barrier is removed, Rashidpur-9 will go into gas production in February

Serajur Islam Siraj, Special Correspondent, Barta24.com
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The forest department has obtained permission to cut down trees for laying the pipeline. Tender process for felling of trees is going on. The Managing Director of Sylhet Gas Field Company Limited (SGFCL) Md. Mizanur Rahman informed about the plan to extract gas from Rashidpur-9 well in February.

That well in Rashidpur has been sitting for 5 years saying that 'gas cannot be extracted due to lack of pipeline'. SGFCL took up the 17 km pipeline project as the existing line up to Rashidpur-7 well was unusable. After the publication of several reports on Barta24.com, the existing pipe was found to be fit for use in July 2022 hydro test. After that, it was decided to install a 10 km pipe line (Rashidpur-9) to hook the existing line in well number 6. The pipeline will go through the forest, for this the forest trees will have to be cut.

A letter was given to the forest department on February 12 this year to cut that tree. In view of that letter, the forest department formed the committee. SGFCL finally got the permission last week. Managing Director Md. Mizanur Rahman told Barta24.com that 5 km of the 10 km pipeline has already been completed. Only the forest area remains. We want to complete the installation of the entire pipeline by January and supply gas in February. We expect to be able to extract at least 10 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Although it was neglected earlier, the work gained momentum after the new Secretary Md. Nurul Alam joined the Energy and Mineral Resources Division. It is said that he talked to the secretary of the forest department on the phone and got results.

The Sylhet Gas Field Company and the Energy and Mineral Resources Division were skeptical about the potential well. It did not get any importance even in extreme crisis in the country. Even when the import of LNG was stopped due to high prices in the international market, the well was not noticed.

Currently, imported LNG prices from the spot market are around 12 dollar(mmbtu). Even if the dollar is calculated as 110 taka, the price of gas per cubic meter is about Tk. 47. Adding VAT and tax of Tk. 10 and regasification charge of around Tk 2, the price of gas per unit comes down to Tk 59. But it is possible to get gas from Rashidpur for less than Tk. 1.

It is possible to get 2 lakh 83 thousand 168 cubic meters of gas daily (10 million) at least. The import price of which stands at over Tk. 1 crore 67 lakh. Due to shortage of gas, LNG has to be imported at high prices despite the dollar crisis. But there was an opportunity to do this work long ago. Rather, it is visible that the focus is shifted to the other side. A huge effort is underway to bring 5 million (in the first phase) of gas from Bhola in the form of CNG to alleviate the gas crisis. Recently, Petrobangla has entered into an agreement with Intraco Refueling Limited. The company will transport the gas from Bhola and supply it to the western areas of Dhaka. Intraco will have to pay Tk 30.60 per cubic meter of gas. While industrial plants get Tk 18.02 (large industries) for pipeline gas, the price of this gas is Tk 47.60. A bit more like a joke than a khazna.

Former member of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, energy expert Maqbul E-Elahi Chowdhury told Barta24.com that gas could have been brought from Rashidpur before bringing gas from Bhola. The work could be done within a month or two. There is no risk here like bringing gas from Bhola, and uninterrupted supply is possible. Again that price would have been affordable. It is a big surprise why that work has not been done so far. Only 5 million will come from Bhola in the first phase, with plans to bring in another 20 million later. However, if its efforts were taken, several times more gas could have come from Rashidpur at a price of less than 1 rupee. Neither Petrobangla nor the Energy Division is showing any interest in that regard.

Energy expert Dr. Badrul Imam said, the benefit of not raising the domestic gas is more than the gain. Import may be subject to commission. It's not just from today, but historically there has been a stagnation in research. A change was expected when the government changed, but it didn't change like that. Rather, new clauses have been added to the earlier clauses. If this is the case, the gas sector will be completely dependent on imports in 30 years.

According to Petrobangla sources, Rashidpur gas field was discovered in 1960. Proved reserves are 1060 billion cubic feet, probable is 1373 BCF, more probable is considered 680 BCF. The recoverable amount (1P) and probable reserves are estimated at 2433 BCF. As of January 1, 2022, 675 BCF of gas has been extracted from the gas field. The remaining reserves are 1757 BSF. On November 7, 46.3 million cubic feet of gas was extracted from 5 wells. A total of 11 wells have been drilled in Rashidpur out of which gas has been found in 9. 3 are closed and one is ready for gas extraction but has been sitting since 2017 due to lack of pipeline.