The US dollar exchange rate for interbank transactions was revised to Tk 87.5, up by Tk 0.80. On the open market, a dollar now costs a record Tk 97.
The difference between interbank and open market rates stands over Tk 9, the highest in Bangladesh’s history.
Banks sold dollars at Tk 86.45 until May 9. It rose to Tk 86.7 after the central bank devalued the taka by Tk 0.25 the following day.
Md Serajul Islam, the spokesperson for the Bangladesh Bank, said, “The open market economy now relies on the market for many things. Import is under more pressure compared to export. So, the banks are unable to meet the demand for the dollar, which is why dollar price has increased a bit.”
The decline of COVID-19 cases was met with a global hike in prices of commodities as the Russia-Ukraine war caused the supply and delivery costs to go up. As a result, the demand for dollars rose and the Bangladeshi taka, like many other currencies in the world, began losing value.
In interbank transactions, the value of the taka slipped by 3.18 percent against the dollar since April 2020.
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, the managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, said the price of the dollar is unlikely to become stable soon. “We’re sweating over this. It is time we utilised all tools to increase remittance. The impact will be greater if this is not done soon.”
WHY DOLLAR IS RISING
Mohammed Shams-Ul Islam, managing director of state-owned Agrani Bank, saidimports rose threefold, oil in particular, but exports and remittances did not increase at that rate. “We are often buying dollars at higher prices to meet the government’s demands and counting losses.”
Bangladesh imported goods worth $61.52 billion in the first nine months of this fiscal. The import expenditure rose by 43.86 percent from the same period in2020-21 financial year, when the country brought in products of $42.76 billion from abroad.
In comparison to this, exports rose by 32.92 percent while remittances dropped by 17.74 percent.
As a result, the demand for dollars increased so high that several banks hiked dollar prices to around Tk 92-94 although the central bank fixed the rate at Tk 87.5.
According to information published by the central bank, state owner Sonali Bank and Janata Bank bought each dollar at Tk 90 and is selling it at Tk 92.
Among the private banks, Trust Bank is selling dollars at the highest rate, Tk 93.5, after purchasing at Tk 92.8. Mutual Trust Bank is selling dollars at Tk 92.75. And the price has been set at Tk 92.7 at Midland Bank who bought at Tk 91.7.
The Dhaka branch of State Bank of India bought each dollar at Tk 92 and sold them at TK 93.
“RISING AT UNPRECEDENTED RATES”
Expatriate workers and tourists are the chief sources of carb market dollars. They sell off the dollar they have on them to money exchanges, which in turn sell off the cash to overseas travellers who need it.
Md Golam Faruk Apu, who has been working in Margina Money Changer at Gulshan-1 for around 21 years, said he had never seen such a spike in the price of dollars in his career.
“In the past, the price of the dollar rose by a maximum of Tk 0.15 to Tk 0.2 at one time. Now it is rising by Tk 0.5, multiple times in one day.”
“Despite the rise in prices, people are not cutting down on the purchase of dollars. Rates on May 10 were Tk 92.2. It is being sold at Tk 97 today after we bought them at Tk 0.1 or Tk 0.2 less.
Meanwhile, the dollar is being exchanged at different rates in the carb market.
A salesman at Western Union Money Exchange, Md Amin Bhuiyan, said, “We sold [dollar] at Tk 93.6 on [May 12] after buying at Tk 93.3. Today we’re selling at Tk 96.5. The supply of dollars in the market is on, but the price is a bit high.”
CRISIS AT BOTH ENDS
The higher dollar expenditure for imports and other necessities is putting pressure on the foreign exchange reserves. Bangladesh had a record $48.02 billion in August last year, but a steady decline has brought it down to $41 billion.
Former Lead Economist of the World Bank’s Dhaka office, Zahid Hussain, calledit a “crisis at both ends”.
“Dollar prices soaring in the country will cause Inflation to further go up. The lower-income people are already in disarray. Further inflation will cause them much distress.”
“To keep the value steady, the Bangladesh Bank will have to sell dollars. Andas the exports and remittances are not offsetting import expenditures, selling dollars will put pressure on the foreign reserves. And the reserves will decline precariously if the dollar is sold from them.”
Earlier, Bangladesh’s reserves were sufficient to pay import bills for up to one year, but now the reserves can be used to pay import costs for six months.
Zahid suggested shunning the practice of Bangladesh Bank selling dollars to control the market. The central bank sold $5.1 billion to the banks until May 11 this fiscal year, while in the last fiscal year, the Bangladesh Bank collected $7.7 billion from the market.
Referring to the condition of Sri Lanka, Zahid said, “Selling the dollar means shrinking reserves. In the current global context, decreasing reserves is very risky.”
He does not believe Bangladesh’s condition warrants selling dollars while in India the rupee lost 5 percent of its value to the dollar in a year.
Moreover, the devaluation of the taka means prices of imported goods will rise, which will eventually cause inflation to increase.
The government aims to keep inflation within 5.3 percent in this fiscal year, but it rose to 6.22 percent at the end of March, according to official data. Some economists believe the rate has been much higher than counted.
Zaid Bakht, chairman of Agrani Bank, suggested cutting duties on imports to ease inflation as he believes steps to prevent the devaluation of the taka will not work in the current global context. “We must accept the reality. The pressure will ease if the government cut taxes on imports at a proportionate rate.”
Bangladesh Bank had ordered the banks in April to keep the cash margin at 25 percent for LCs to import the non-essential products after the country’s trade deficit kept widening, posting a 64 percent rise to around $25 billion year on year in the first nine months of the current fiscal year.
As import costs continued to rise, the Bangladesh Bank last week ordered the banks to raise the cash margin for the imports of cars and electronic home appliances. For imports of other non-essential products, the margin was set at 50 percent.
Besides these, the government has offered expatriate Bangladeshis to invest unlimited amounts of money in the dollar bond. But the government needs to pay the interest in dollars, so it has lowered the interest rate to reduce the dollars going out of the country.