Current Events Analysis

CES offers regular analytical pieces on important current problems affecting the country’s business and investment climate. These are in-depth but concise “what you really need to know” analyses that are meant to be as useful to both experts and individuals new to the topic. 

  • Work from Home: Does Working Remotely help or hinder Productivity?”_Syeda Nusaiba Hossain and Sajid Amit_July 2021:
    How sustainable is work-from-home (WFH)? Does the productivity level of employees and companies drop during times of WFH, remain the same, or increase? Does this vary by sector? Research on the topic, and multiple accounts and articles on WFH, address the issue of productivity during WFH, and how it relates to the nature of the work that is being done, the environment of the home office set up, and the work management style of both the employer and employee. This white paper considers studies that have been conducted internationally to shed a light on how WFH affects productivity. This paper also considers WFH in the context of Bangladesh.

  • E-Commerce in Bangladesh: A Sleeping Giant’s Wake”_Prottay Hasan_April 2021:
    The Bangladeshi e-commerce market is expected to make a leap from its current $2 billion value to $3 billion in less than 2 years. The population’s access to the internet has been increasing rapidly thanks to high mobile phone penetration, robust mobile internet, and focused national policy. Furthermore, the population is one that chooses to spend a significant portion of income, if we consider savings to income statistics, compared to other countries. These are a few of several factors that have fueled the rapid expansion. Moreover, recently, Facebook-based businesses enjoyed a surge in activity during COVID-19 lockdowns, with sales growing rapidly. The growth of the market has brought with itself, particular challenges. This CES current event report assesses the state of the market and offers forward-looking recommendations for policy.

  • Digital Credit in Bangladesh: COVID and Beyond”_Md Oliur Rahman Tarek and Sajid Amit_March 2021: 
    In this timely white paper, CES researchers take a look at the state of digital credit at the time of COVID-19. Fintech has made strides in Bangladesh, over the last year. Digital credit, which is part of larger fintech-related themes, is essential now more than ever, as small enterprises do not have bank accounts and need digital credit channels to receive stimulus support. Digital credit is increasingly relevant for banks, startups, and microfinance institutions (MFIs), and for large conglomerates, for supply-chain financing. This report is based on findings from the Digital Credit Webinar Series organized by ULAB; the Digital Finance Forum Bangladesh (of which ULAB is the University Partner); a2i, and United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). This series brought together 45 industry leaders on various issues related to digital credit.

  • “COVID-19 and Emergence of EdTech”_Lumbini Barua_November 2020: 
    Globally, the present crisis has brought forth significant traction in online learning. As schools, colleges and universities were closing campuses to minimize physical interaction, EdTech companies and startups have tried to seize the moment to scale their businesses. While some have offered free courses and other online resources; others have sought collaboration with universities and schools. Skill development is an area that has come under increasing attention as people stayed home during COVID-19. In this white paper, we take a closer look at the rise of EdTech startups globally and in Bangladesh, in the context of COVID-19 and beyond. We also offer lessons for Bangladeshi EdTech startups.

  • “Fixing Bangladesh Capital Markets: Now or Never”_Sajid Amit and Tazrian Shahid_May 2020:
    If you have followed the markets in some fashion or the other in the recent past, you will have heard mostly negative news, especially if you missed the bull runs of the past. COVID-19 was also not kind to markets, the equal opportunity offender that it is. However, despite COVID’s impact on the markets, despite the negative news, despite all despites, we wanted to take this opportunity, as the economy re-opens, and a new Chairperson joins BSEC, to revisit issues at hand that could fix systemic problems with the markets. The time is nigh.

  • Coronavirus and the Bangladesh Economy: Navigating the Black Swan Event of 2020”_Sajid Amit_March 2020:
    While COVID-19 has caused a human tragedy of unprecedented scale, there have been knock-on economic and business effects, which will exacerbate the human problems we face, globally, and in Bangladesh. In light of such impacts, this white paper attempts to assess current and potential damages to the Bangladesh economy and various business sectors, from ready-made garments to tech startups.

  • Social Media and Radicalization of University Students in Bangladesh”_Sajid Amit and Lumbini Barua_July 2019:
    As the most recent high-profile instances of terrorist attacks in Colombo and Christchurch yield, the internet and social media have become effective tools for exploitation by extremist groups for disseminating radical content, poisoning young minds, and recruiting people for their cause. With one of the fastest growth rates of internet users globally, Bangladesh faces an imminent threat of youth radicalization and recruitment through online channels. In fact, four of the perpetrators of the tragic Holey Artisan Bakery attack were reported to have been radicalized online. Given this context, this CES Current Event Analysis report presents salient findings from a larger ongoing research project on the social media and radicalization of university students in Bangladesh.

  • Whither Financial Inclusion? Performance of Bangladesh in the 2017 Global Findex”_Sajid Amit_May 2018:
    On April 19, 2018, the third Global Findex Database was released by the World Bank at the Bank’s Spring Meetings. According to CGAP, this dataset is “the financial inclusion community’s best demand-side measure of financial inclusion globally.” Launched with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Findex database now has three years of time series data available, for 2011, 2014, and 2017, which can tell a compelling tale on access to financial services over the past 6 years. Conducted in collaboration with Gallup Inc., the research consists of nationally representative surveys of more than 150,000 adults, age 15 and above, in over 140 countries. This article is based on the final dataset that is publicly available on the World Bank Group website. Overall, the dataset points to an increasingly inclusive financial world that is also transitioning to a digital economy. Bangladesh, too, made impressive gains in certain yardsticks for financial inclusion based on this dataset. For instance, the share of people with financial accounts increased from 29 percent to 41 percent, in three years. However, following a critical analysis, the author suggested all stakeholders involved in financial inclusion to prioritize the focus on the usage of accounts. It is only when people are actively using their accounts will we have meaningful financial inclusion, and the impact of ongoing efforts will be fully realized.

  • Economic and Social Impact of the Rohingya Crisis”_Aynul Islam_January 2018:
    The year 2017 has been a challenging year for Bangladesh, considering numerous natural and man-made crises getting in the way of its growth and development journey. Just as the country was coming to grips with the colossal loss from sudden flash floods in north-eastern haor areas, followed by sharp inflation in the rice market; it witnessed an unprecedented humanitarian crisis related to Rohingya population coming from neighboring Myanmar from August 25 onwards. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) referred to this crisis as the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. Bangladesh hosted an enormous number of Rohingya refugees that crossed one million within a few months of the original conflict in Myanmar. The altruistic role of Bangladesh in managing this unprecedented influx of Rohingya people has been internationally acknowledged and applauded. However, for a country like Bangladesh the trade-off between being “humanitarian” and being “pragmatic” remains a crucial factor to consider at this stage. Hence, this Current Events Analysis piece attempts to provide a snapshot of the economic and social consequences of the Rohingya influx based on recent developments.

  • Quality of Education in Primary Schools of Dhaka”_Ahmed S. Ishtiaque_October 2016:
    The educational sector constitutes the backbone of any nation with growth aspirations. Although Bangladesh has one of the largest primary education systems in the world with over 37 thousand government primary schools, there are significant impediments to delivering educational quality in our country, despite improvements in literacy, dropout, and enrollment rate. This Current Event discusses some crucial issues regarding primary schooling. These are curriculum of different schooling mediums; cohesiveness with the national curriculum; teaching methods, including delivery style and teacher training; tuition fees structure; and health, security, and environmental factors. A survey finding section reveals the feedback of parents regarding the status of overall education in some primary schools in Dhaka.

  • Recent ATM Scams in Bangladesh”_Adib Sarwar_August 2016:
    With Bangladesh’s economic emergence, various business and financial sectors are enjoying steady growth and implementing novel technologies in their business and operational processes. The adoption of new technologies paves the way for opportunities for new businesses. However, with new business have come new opportunities for malpractice. From February 2016 onwards, a few significant ATM forgeries have made the headlines. This Current Event Analysis (CEA) piece aggregates a list of recent forgeries, delves into the domestic and foreign involvement in those incidents, provides an overview of “how it occurs”, and reviews measures in place and potential ones, with the view toward encouraging more stringent financial stewardship in the banking sector.

  • A Budget for Middle-Income Aspirations”_Sajid Amit_June 2016:
    On June 2, the Honorable Finance Minister, Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith will present the National Budget for the eighth consecutive time (and 10th, overall). We already know that the budget size will exceed BDT 3.40 trillion. The size is put into context by the fact that Bangladesh’s GDP has almost doubled in the last five years, from ~US$ 100 billion to ~US$ 200 billion. Noteworthy is the widespread media attention the budget has generated via pre-budget debates and commentaries. This is heartening, given the importance of the National Budget and regulatory policies to the aspirations of a market economy in which 90% of activities stem from the private sector.

  • Recent Trends in Food Prices”_Adib Sarwar_October 2015:  
    Food price increases constitute a major source of economic difficulty, both in the short and long term. An inflationary bias in society is not consistently a worrisome indicator; however, a rising rate of inflation is a different matter. Price increases, especially on food items, reduce the disposable income of the poor households and pose a great burden for them. Since spending on food constitutes a large share of the consumption basket, food price fluctuations can dictate general price levels in society and creates inconveniences for all citizens. Recent movements in food prices have periodically created headlines holding various proponents responsible for the changes in price. Specific domestic and international factors are the identified players in the shifts in food price, thus being a leading current issue in the economy. This current event analysis piece will comparatively analyze the factors at work that affect food prices and try to identify the major drivers that impact thereof on average food price levels.

  • Financial inclusion through Mobile Banking in Bangladesh”_Auyon Rahman_May 2015:
    Bangladesh has seen a recent trend in the increase of Mobile Financial Services which is quickly becoming a cheap and convenient way of providing banking services to the unbanked. The service has been gaining popularity in the South East Asian region due to its various benefits which include greater accessibility in rural areas of the nation where most private banks are not providing any services, low transaction fees making it affordable for the poor, greater security and transparency for all, etc. According to the Power & Participation Research Center (PPRC) 76% of the nation's rickshaw pullers send money back to their families living in their remote villages and with the introduction of the MFS services this can now be done in a matter of minutes and it is safer and cheaper than using a third party to send the money. BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy also mentions that mobile payments make it easier for salary disbursement. The salary of the garments workers are directly transferred to their accounts which is not only faster, cheaper, and safer, but also encourages savings among the workers. Although MFS is going strong in Bangladesh most of the transaction is still being done by going to agents rather than using mobile wallets which is self administrative, cheaper, and provides a lot more value added services. The fact of the matter is that this technology is still new for Bangladesh consumers and educating the consumers and increasing the customer pull still requires much work to be done for the service providers.

  • State of Women’s Employment in Bangladesh”_Auyon Rahman_April 2015:
    Gender equality in general and women's employment, in particular, are pressing issues globally and in Bangladesh that merit attention from ethical, sociological, and economic perspectives. As governments, private institutions, civil society forums, and individuals strive to affect changes to policies and thought processes to reduce the gender gap, we have started to observe changes in the general mindset of how women are perceived in the workplace. The extent to which change has been affected however is not as clear or desirable as the intent behind such initiatives. This being the case, we turn our attention to the state of female employment in Bangladesh, the challenges that remain, as well as examine employment trends for women in a global context.

  • “Recent Trends in Monetary Policy in Bangladesh”_March 2015:
    Like other central banks, Bangladesh Bank (BB) uses monetary policy tools, such as the money supply and interest rate, to achieve macroeconomic objectives such as inflation control, consumption growth, and liquidity management. This report takes a look at the policies that have been operational up until 2015 and the subsequent impact on the economy. We also explore the present challenges to monetary policy in Bangladesh in light of the nationwide strikes and blockages. 

  • Breathing Poison Everyday”_Afsana Tazreen and Shahnoor Hasan_January 2015:
    We take the air we breathe for granted. The average adult breathes over 15 cubic meters of air every day. But little do we realize that we are inhaling millions of harmful substances each time we breathe in. The International Agency for Research on Cancers (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have found that when it comes to cancer, air pollution is more dangerous than smoking. In a city like Dhaka, where the majority of its population resides in areas with extensive commercial use, the air quality is very poor. The Ministry of Environment and Forests says that vehicles in Dhaka move at 14 kmph on an average; this slow pace leads to the burning of more fuel and hence more pollution. If air pollution is reduced by 20 percent, Bangladesh would save around US $500 million in health care costs, according to an environmental assessment jointly conducted by the World Bank and the Government of Bangladesh. This report explores the causes of air pollution, the susceptibility of the urban population of Bangladesh, and possible ways out of this looming epidemic.

  • Transfer Pricing: The Sleeping Giant of Bangladesh’s Economy”_August 2014:  
    The decline in the global economy has led to a decline in the tax bases of economies around the world. As a result, the tax authorities are focusing their attention on Transfer Pricing (TP) as one possible way to address the decline in tax collections. Transfer pricing is concerned with the price that associated enterprises charge each other for the services and/or goods that they receive and/or provide each other. This paper provides an overview of the new transfer pricing legislation that has been introduced in Bangladesh under Chapter XIA of The Income-Tax Ordinance, 1984 (Chapter XIA). It also touches upon what multinationals in Bangladesh should consider while defending their transfer pricing arrangements.

  • Death on the Road: The New-age Epidemic”_Afsana Tazreen and Daniel M. Sabet_January 2014:  
    In July 2011, a truck carrying sixty schoolchildren fell into a roadside ditch at Mirsarai in Chittagong, killing forty-four children. What is striking about this accident — and so many other traffic-related tragedies in Bangladesh- is that they seem to be preventable. In this report, we explore the causes of road traffic accidents, assess their impact, and suggest possible ways out of this growing epidemic.

  • Human Capital: The Missing Link For Future Economic Growth”_Daniel M. Sabet and Afsana Tazreen_October 2013:
    Bangladesh’s economy has continued to grow at a remarkable rate, and there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. With the relative share of the working-age population on the rise, Bangladesh should be able to reap the benefits of a “demographic dividend”. Whether Bangladesh can benefit from this dividend, however, will depend on the quality of its human capital. Without a skilled labor force, Bangladesh’s demographics could turn into a liability rather than an asset. This analysis examines whether our educational system is preparing Bangladesh’s youth to contribute to the country’s continued economic growth.

  • Building construction laws and their enforcement: Looking beyond Rana Plaza”_Daniel M. Sabet and Afsana Tazreen_July 2013:
    On April 24, 2013, Rana Plaza, a 9-storied building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people. Had the building been constructed according to the country’s building code, the tragedy would never have occurred. But the code is often ignored by developers. In the aftermath of the disaster, government officials, garment sector leaders, and civil society activists have all recognized the need to close the loopholes in building code enforcement, but doing so will prove to be an enormous challenge. This report explores the causes of the Rana Plaza collapse, the legislation governing building construction in Bangladesh, and the reasons why this legislation has not been properly implemented.

  • The Cost of Political Instability”_May 2013:
    Hartals have a long history in Bangladesh, and they continue to be seen as a legitimate, democratic tool of protest. Nonetheless, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the growing violence, destruction of property, and damage caused to the economy. In this report, we assess the impact of political instability on the economy and on Bangladesh’s business community. (Click here for the database from which Table 1 was developed.)

  • Worker Safety in Bangladesh: Looking Beyond Garments”_April 2013:
    The recent fire at Tazreen Fashions has brought the perennial challenge of worker safety into the spotlight once again. Given the constant pressure to lower costs and the dearth of meaningful government oversight, businesses are continually tempted to reduce costs at the price of safety. This report explores the issue of worker safety in the garment industry in the wake of the Tazreen fire, but it also seeks to expand the discussion, highlighting worker safety concerns in the ship breaking, leather, and construction industries. 

  • Understanding the Hallmark-Sonali Bank Loan Scandal”_January 2013:
    This analysis explores Bangladesh’s largest banking fraud case: the Hallmark-Sonali Bank loan scandal. The study attempts to explain clearly and simply what happened, how it happened, and why the malpractice was not prevented in the first place. The analysis also considers the fallout from the scandal and asks: what’s next

  • Formalin: How to address a market failure?”_Daniel Sabet_October 2012:
    Recent media reports have brought increased attention to the problem of wholesalers and vendors treating fish and vegetables with formalin to preserve shelf life. The widespread use of formalin and other hazardous chemicals is a classic example of what economists call an “information asymmetry based market failure.” In other words, wholesalers and vendors have information that consumers lack, and they can use this “asymmetry” to reduce their costs and increase revenues at the price of public health. Like past news analysis, this report seeks to bring together the available information on formalin adulteration and asks how Bangladesh should respond to such a market failure?

  • Understanding the Padma Bridge Controversy_September 2012:
    An enormous amount of ink has been spilled over the Padma Bridge controversy. Nonetheless, in our view, there have been insufficient attempts to step back and succinctly look at all the issues in a detailed but concise analytical piece. This report seeks to fill this gap. The analysis lays out the basic details of the project, the corruption allegations that have been made, and the response of the government of Bangladesh.

  • Will Bangladesh’s new competition law prove effective?”_Rafia Afrin and Daniel Sabet_July 2012:
    In June 2012 the Bangladesh parliament passed the Competition Act to ensure healthy competition in the economy. This month’s analysis outlines the most salient aspects of the new law and considers the many challenges to implementation.

  • Destiny and illegal MLM in Bangladesh”_Rafia Afrin and Daniel Sabet_June 2012:
    The case of Destiny 2000 Ltd. has brought the poorly understood practice of multilevel marketing to the public’s attention. This analysis seeks to explain multilevel marketing and pyramid schemes as well as the accusations against Destiny and its leadership.

  • The potential impacts of the Eurozone crisis on the Bangladeshi economy”_Rafia Afrin and Daniel Sabet_May 2012:
    With many European Union countries in a debt crisis provoked economic recession, this analysis asks how the Bangladeshi economy and particularly the export sector might be negatively impacted. The analysis concludes that while there is already evidence of a negative impact, there are compelling reasons to believe that the damage will be fairly contained and that the export sector will continue to grow and develop.

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