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BB set to allow banks to expand OBUs in EZs, hi-tech parks

Siddique Islam | February 02, 2018 00:00:00

The central bank is set to allow banks to expand operations of their offshore banking units (OBUs) to facilitate implementation of the economic zones (EZs) and hi-tech parks with availability of foreign currency support.

Under the proposed policy, the hi-tech parks and EZs will come under the OBU operations along with the existing export processing zones (EPZs).

The government has set a target to establish 100 EZs and 28 hi-tech parks across the country.

"We've included the two new areas in the policy, considering its impact on the overall economic development of the country," a senior official at Bangladesh Bank (BB) told the FE on Thursday.

He said necessary preparations have almost been completed and expected the policy to be announced next week.

Loans under OBU operations will be reported to the CIB (Credit Information Bureau) of the central bank, according to officials.

Under the existing provisions, any outstanding loan worth Tk 50,000 or above is included in the CIB reporting system.

The CIB was set up on August 18, 1992 in the central bank aiming to minimise credit risks and reduce the extent of non-performing loans (NPLs).

The banks will have to comply with CRR (cash reserve requirement), SLR (statutory liquidity ratio) and capital requirements under Basel-III framework for their OBU operations, they added.

"We may set timeframes for the banks concerned to comply with the CRR, SLR and capital requirements so that they do not face any extra pressure to this effect," another BB official said, without elaborating.

Currently, the country's central bank is not empowered fully to monitor and supervise the OBU operations closely due to legal constraint.

As part of persuasion, Bangladesh Bank now asks the banks having OBU operations to keep provision on such loans and collect information on assets and liabilities of each OBU on weekly basis for assessing their financial risks, if any, especially with transactions in terms of foreign currencies.

"The proposed policy will help mitigate the risks of OBU operations in Bangladesh through strengthening monitoring and supervision of the BB," the central banker explained.

Currently, 35 commercial banks out of 57 are running their OBUs across the country as per a directive issued by the Banking Control Department of BB on December 17, 1985.

Under the directive, the OBUs have been exempted from the purview of certain provisions of the Banking Companies Ordinance 1962 as per the government notification. Besides, the OBUs will also be considered for exemption from Article 36(1) of the Bangladesh Bank Order 1972 on such terms and for such period as may be deemed fit by the government.

It means the OBUs are now exempted for maintaining CRR and SLR with the central bank of Bangladesh against their liabilities.

The OBUs are free to accept deposits from outside Bangladesh and borrow from abroad. They are also free to make advances/investments abroad and make permissible transactions with the EPZs.

The OBUs are allowed to provide foreign currency loans to their customers.

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