Banks yesterday pledged to lower the interest rate on lending to single digit from August 9 -- a proclamation that must be taken with prudence given their earlier assurance to do so from July 1 never came through.
“If anybody does not do this after August 9 you can report it,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters after a meeting with the chairmen and managing directors of banks.
At the meeting, banks, both public and private, agreed to lower the interest rates on lending and deposits to 9 percent and 6 percent respectively from next Thursday.
Banks earlier said the interest rate on lending did not come down to single digits as promised on June 20 as the deposit rate remained sticky upwards.
Back in June, private banks had announced they would lower the interest rate on deposits to 6 percent; the state banks did not make any such announcement then but their interest rate was expected to shadow the private banks'.
But, no bank lowered their deposit rates.
Now, the banks said the lending rate would definitely come down provided the state-owned enterprises keep their funds with private banks and the interest rate on national savings instruments are lowered in line with the bank deposit rates, according to meeting sources. The interest rate on national savings certificates will be reviewed on August 8, the finance minister said.
The lowering of lending rate is long overdue as the government and the Bangladesh Bank have extended private banks, which account for 40 of the 57 banks in the country, a host of benefits in the last four months.
The benefits include lowering of corporate tax, slashing of repo rate and reduction in cash reserve ratio as the government moved to decrease the lending rate and ease their liquidity crisis.
Private banks were also allowed to hold 50 percent of the funds of state agencies, up from the previous ceiling of 25 percent -- a move that has led to its desired outcome, according to Muhith.
“There is no liquidity crisis in banks -- they have plenty of funds now,” he added.
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, chairman of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh, the platform of private banks' chief executives, told reporters after the meeting that they have promised to lower the interest rates.
The lending rate, except for consumer loans and credit card, will be 9 percent, he said. But for that, it is important that the state agencies keep their funds with private banks, he added.
At present, if they get better rates elsewhere the state agencies withdraw their deposits with further ado.
Currently, the private banks' lending rates hover between 10 percent and 16 percent while the deposit rates are below 6 percent. But the rates on fixed deposit schemes for three months to three years range between 5 percent and 10 percent; the rates are above 10 percent in a few banks.
However, the interest rates on all types of deposit schemes at state banks are between 3 percent and 6 percent. Their lending rates vary from 11 percent to 13 percent.
BB Governor Fazle Kabir; Eunusur Rahman, senior secretary of the banking division; Abdur Rouf Talukder, finance secretary, were present. Salman F Rahman, chairman of IFIC Bank, and Nazrul Islam Mazumber, chairman of the Bangladesh Association of Banks, the platform of private bank directors, were also present.