BB sets 9% lending rate for industrial loans

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‘If the central bank caps the interest rates on industrial loans, it may affect the whole banking sector’

The Bangladesh Bank board on Tuesday decided to fix at 9% the lending rate for the export-oriented industrial manufacturing sector, which will take effect on January 1 next year.

The BB board made the decision based on the recommendation of a seven-member committee on single-digit lending and deposit rates, BB Executive Director and spokesperson Md Serajul Islam confirmed while talking to Dhaka Tribune after the meeting. 

BB Governor Fazle Kabir presided over the meeting where National Board of Revenue Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Financial Institutions Division Senior Secretary Md Ashadul Islam and BB Deputy Governor SM Moniruzzaman, among others, attended the meeting.

Serajul said that medium-scale industries would be provided with the loan to make them more competitive in international market.

Issuing loans at the rate of 9% to the sector would not be a problem for the banks, rather it would help them earn higher amount of foreign currency, the BB spokesperson said.

He also said that the BB would issue a circular in this regard soon so that the banks could start implementing the decision from January 1.

On December 12, the seven-member committee, headed by BB Deputy Governor SM Moniruzzaman, on ‘Single-digit Lending and Deposit Rates Implementation’ submitted its report to Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir, strongly recommending a single digit interest rate for   industrial lending.

Besides industrial lending, the committee also recommended lowering the interest rates to single digits for cottage, micro, small and medium industrial (manufacturing) sectors.

Ready-made garment, textile, ship-building, ship-breaking and agro-based industries should also be included in the industrial sector, the recommendation said.

Defaulters should not be entitled to avail loans at 9% interest while borrowers with a record of   regular payment should be able to obtain such loans, the recommendation added.

“If the central bank caps the interest rates on industrial loans, it may affect the whole banking sector,” said Dr  Zahid Hussain, former lead economist at the World Bank, Bangladesh. 

He said the credit growth to the industrial sector would decrease amid low interest of commercial banks in lending to the specified sectors at dictated rates. Corruption and credit abuse would increase and the credit would go to other sectors in the name of industrial loans, he apprehended. 

Zahid Hussain suggested that the government and the central bank rather focus more on reducing the high amount of defaulted loans. Interest rates on lending would be reduced if the high amount of defaulted loans was lessened, he added. 

The bad debts of banks rose by a staggering Tk3,863.14 crore in three months till September this year, taking the amount of stress loan in the banking sector to Tk1,16,288.31crore despite huge facilities in place to regularize  default loans.

The amount of industrial term loans stood at Tk 2,43,825.17crore as of June 30, 2019, according to BB data. 

December 1 this year, the central bank formed a seven-member committee headed by SM Moniruzzaman, a deputy governor of the Bangladesh Bank, to bring down the interest rate to single digits following an instruction from the finance ministry. 

In June last year, the Bangladesh Association of Banks (BAB) first announced that they would bring down the lending and deposit rates to 9% and 6% respectively by July of the year. But, none of the rates came down, and banks blamed it on the deposit rates being sticky upwards.