Three new banks to get licenses: Muhith
Removing all confusions about the permission of new banks, finance minister AMA Muhith on Monday said the government was going to issue licenses to three new banks.

“Not two, we’re giving (permission for) three new banks,” said Muhith while talking to reporters at Dhaka Club following a seminar on insurance sector in Bangladesh.

Turning down the notion of a messy situation in the banking sector, riddled with irregularities and lacking good governance, the octogenarian minister said banks failing to operate properly will go for merger.

“There is a provision in the banking law for merger. So, if any bank fails, it will go to merger”, he said.

Defending the government’s move for allowing more banks in business, Muhith said still there is huge market for banks as a good portion of people still remained unbanked.

There are reports that the central bank recently rejected proposals for setting up three new commercial banks on the grounds that the deteriorating financial health of many banks, especially the nine that were set up last, does not allow inclusion of new banks in business.

Two of the three proposed banks are Bengal Bank and People’s Islami Bank. The name of the third one and its owner remained unpublished.

The finance minister also could not remember the name of the proposed third bank.

Bangladesh Bank (BB) conveyed its opinion to the banking division when the central bank was asked to scrutinise the proposals of three new banks.

Ruling Awami League MP for Noakhali-2 constituency Morshed Alam, also the chairman of Bengal Group of Industries and RTV, has moved for the Bengal Bank while a Chittagong-based businessman MA Kashem pursued for People’s Islami Bank.

Currently, there are 57 banks in Bangladesh. Of them, 40 are local private banks, nine foreign and eight state-owned.

Officials at the central bank believe the financial health of many banks is not good and it would have deteriorated further if there were no policy support from the regulatory body.

As per a Bangladesh Bank letter to the finance ministry, as of December last year, the total default loans in the banking sector stood at 9.2 per cent and the capital adequacy ratio 10.8 per cent of risk-weighted assets. Total stressed advances (defaulted and rescheduled loans) rose to 17.2 per cent, up from 16.1 per cent a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the finance minister while addressing the seminar titled: “Protecting the Poor: Emerging Micro Insurance Market in South Asia”, said that the government will pay more attention to the country’s insurance sector as it lags behind than other sectors of the economy.

He said contribution of insurance sector and its coverage does not match the country’s growing economy as it contributes less than one per cent to the GDP.

Muhith admitted that insurance sector did not get proper attention of the government.

He, however, extended his support to the demand of insurance sector to make it mandatory for NGOs to make a ‘bank assurance’ before micro finance lending in any project.

The seminar, organised by Bangladesh Insurance Association (BIA), was also addressed by senior secretary of banking and financial institution division of finance ministry Eunusur Rahman, chairman of insurance development and regulatory authority Shafiqure Rahman Patwari and BIA president Sheikh Kabir Hossain.

Eunusur Rahman said the insurance sector has to build up confidence of the common people as there is a perception that people never get insurance claim from companies.