BB aims to lift economy but tame inflation
The new monetary policy for the second half of the current fiscal year will boost investments and business activities that were severely hurt by political unrest in the past few months, Bangladesh Bank said yesterday.
The central bank also said it would go on with a cautious stance to ensure macroeconomic stability and contain government borrowing and inflationary pressure.
BB Governor Atiur Rahman announced the half-yearly Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) at his office in the city.
“We have kept the structure of this policy the same with the previous one, but many new initiatives have been included this time to help the economy recover,” the governor said.
BB Chief Economist Hassan Zaman said the monetary policy framework seeks to reduce inflation while at the same time leaves sufficient space for a recovery in credit demand in the second half.
“In addition, we are using macro-prudential and other policies to provide various temporary breaks to the businesses affected by the disruptions of the last few months so that the growth momentum can resume.”
The MPS said the central bank would continue to focus on achieving its inflation targets while providing sufficient space in its monetary programme for lending to activities which support broad-based investment and inclusive growth objectives.
"The BB will use both monetary and financial sector policy instruments to achieve its goal on inflation as well as ensure credit growth which is sufficient to stimulate inclusive economic growth."
The central bank would target bringing down the average inflation rate to 7 percent.
But the persisting inflationary pressures over the past few months with the risks ahead related to the inflation outlook imply that achieving the inflation target will be challenging. As such the BB has decided to keep policy rates unchanged.
The statement said, as there is ample liquidity in the banking system, an easing of reserve requirement ratios is also unnecessary.
Limiting government borrowing from the banking sector is important for achieving inflation targets and providing the space for banks to lend to the private sector.
Unanticipated spending pressures arising from the provision of 'incentive packages' to various industries affected by recent disruptions will be accommodated within the sizeable of Tk 26,000 crore borrowing limit, the MPS said.
“This is likely to be possible given the low borrowing levels in the first half.”
The central bank slightly revised up its forecast for the growth in gross domestic product (GDP) to 5.8 percent-6.1 percent for the current fiscal year, from 5.7 percent-6 percent earlier.
It said, due to sluggish services and construction sectors and negative growth in remittances resulting in lower aggregate demand, the economy will grow by closer to 6 percent in the current fiscal year if there is no major disruption in the remaining months.
Though the government had targeted a 7.2 percent GDP growth at the beginning of the current fiscal year, Finance Minister AMA Muhith has recently hinted to bring down the target to 6.3 percent.
To achieve the desired GDP growth, the BB has set a target for private sector credit growth at 16.5 percent, though the growth was 11.1 percent in November.
"This level is sufficient to accommodate any substantial rise in investment and trade-finance over the next six months."
"BB views these figures as indicative ceilings -- banks continue to be advised to lend only to creditworthy clients for productive purposes and whether this ceiling is reached or not depends ultimately on investor appetite and the bank's assessment of project viability."
The monetary policy also aims to further consolidate the country's external sector stability.
The central bank anticipates further build-up in foreign reserves in the second half of the current fiscal year though at a more moderate pace than the first half due to the balance of payments assumptions.
While the decline in remittances will not adversely affect external stability, it is imperative that manpower exports resume its growth, so that remittances can be an important part of medium-term external balance.
The BB will continue to support a market-based exchange rate while seeking to avoid excessive foreign exchange rate volatility.
Average inflation rose from 6.99 percent to 7.53 percent in the second half of the fiscal year driven by higher food prices.
Domestic retail interest rates declined during the first half due to lower cost of funds for banks, lower demand for credit as well as due to increasing competition from overseas lenders whose lending rates are in single digits.
The central bank also said it would continue to collaborate with Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission to stabilise the stockmarket.
The BB is launching a new Tk 200 crore refinancing facility to stimulate entrepreneurship among low income rural households who have opened Tk 10 accounts. The initiative will be implemented by micro-finance institutions.
The central bank will increase the size of the Export Development Fund if the current $1 billion fund is fully utilised, according to the MPS.
News:The Daily Star/28-Jan-2014