Barishal launch owners demand cash incentive
Business leaders and trade bodies in Barishal have urged the government to ensure adequate support for them in the upcoming national budget such that they can survive the Covid-19 fallouts.
For example, launch facilities are a vital service in the country's southern regions, where at least 500 vessels of all sizes sail back and forth from Dhaka, according to Saidur Rahman Rintu, vice-president of the Bangladesh Launch Owners Association.
"We are in trouble because launch services have been halted due to Covid-19," he said.
The industry employs about 30,000 people, many of whom did not receive their salaries amid the current crisis.
"So, we are demanding that a Tk 20 crore provision for cash incentives for this sector be kept in the upcoming budget," he added.
Rintu went on to say that there are shipbuilding yards in seven or eight points across the southern region that produce 20 to 25 vessels each year.
Similarly, other businesses have demanded low interest loans or cash incentives in the next budget.
Motaleb Sharif, secretary of the Kuakata Hotel Motel Owners Association, said that the tourism sector has virtually collapsed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
There are hotels of varying size all over the seaside town, where around Tk 1,000 crore has been invested in the industry that employs about 2,000-3,000 locals.
Other than those directly employed by hotels, there are a few thousand others who indirectly benefit from the industry, which has been left devastated by two prolonged nationwide lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
Many hotels have halved the number of employees on their payroll while others are unable to even manage that much.
"But no intensive care has been given to the industry as of now and so, we want loans with four to five per cent interest so that we can pay the arrears," Sharif said.
Mizanur Rahman, president of the BSCIC Industry Owners' Association in Barishal, said that Tk 1.2 crore has been allotted for its members.
"But we are demanding double that so everyone can take advantage of this opportunity," he added.
Rahman, also managing director of Fortune Shoes, went on to say that he was unable to export leather goods worth around Tk 200 crore despite receiving orders.
Shipments bound for the EU will have to wait at least until November, forcing Rahman to hold on to his stocks.
So, he demanded that collecting interest on loans be suspended or rescheduling facilities be provided.
A large amount of hilsa fish is shipped from Barishal to neighbouring India each year with exporters getting just 2 per cent as a cash incentive for the job.
"This is basically nothing," said Nirab Hossain Tutul, a hilsa exporter and proprietor of Mahima Enterprise.
Masud Ara Momi, deputy chief of the Department of Fisheries, told The Daily Star that 1,875 tonnes of hilsa was exported in fiscal 2020-21 while it was 476.56 tonnes the previous year.
Vanu Lal Dey, managing director of Amrita Consumer Food Products in Barishal, said the government should take measures to bring natural gas from Bhola through a pipeline.
"So, it should prepare a project in this regard and keep an allocation for it in the next budget," added Dey, also a director of the Barishal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He also demanded an appropriate allocation in the budget for speedy implementation of the Bhanga-Barishal-Kuakata four-lane road project.