Trade deficit narrowed by 36 percent in the first five months of the fiscal year on the back of high export and low import growth.
Between July and November, trade deficit stood at $2.24 billion, in contrast to $3.49 billion recorded for the same period a year ago, according to data from the central bank. During the period, exports increased by 19 percent and imports only 4 percent.
Observers however tipped the deficit to widen again should the losses incurred by the export sector during the political unrest are not pared down in the coming months.
Zahid Hussain, the World Bank's lead economist in Dhaka office, said the shutdowns and blockades in the lead-up to the January 5 election have seriously affected export earnings.
“All sides need to remain alert now so that exports can be expedited and that the exporters do not face any hassles at the port and the garment factories do not see any labour unrest.”
The WB economist singled out the garment sector, urging the government to promptly take steps so that the top export grosser does not suffer further losses.
A high official of the finance ministry said the government has already prepared a package for the garment sector, with the proposal now sitting with the prime minister.
Remittance, meanwhile, dropped 8.94 percent year-on-year to $5.52 billion. In spite of the slide, current account surplus at the end of the fifth month of fiscal 2013-14 stood at $1.38 billion against $433 million in the same period of the previous fiscal year.
Thanks to the huge surplus in the current account and low investment demand, foreign currency reserves reached a new high, even in the middle of the political unrest. In December, foreign reserves crossed the $18 billion mark for the first time.
Even though investment demand remained very low in the backdrop of political unrest, there was a spike in capital machinery imports, which raised suspicions of foul play in the minds of the economists.
This prompted the central bank last month to conduct a special review on the data of letters of credit opening and settlement in the July-October period.
Following the review, however, no conclusion could be drawn as to whether funds were transferred in the guise of capital machinery import, a Bangladesh Bank official said.