Twenty-one firms applied to Bangladesh Bank to import gold up to Monday, the last date for submitting applications.
The applications from the firms were sent to the central bank through dealer banks. So, Bangladesh Bank thinks the number of applications may increase.
Sources at the central bank say that all the applications submitted to Bangladesh Bank up to noon on Monday were from jewelry firms, except one. Modhumoti Bank Limited also applied for a dealership to import gold.
Sources at Bangladesh Bank and the Bangladesh Jewellers Samity (BJS) said, Venus Jewellers, owned by the BJS President Ganga Charan Malakar, Diamond World, owned by its general secretary Dilip Kumara Agarwala, Sharmin Jewellers, owned by its Vice President Enamul Haque Khan, Amin Jewellers, owned by former BJS president Kazi Sirajul Islam, Grameen Jewellers belonging to former BJS president Dr Dilip Kumar Roy, applied for a dealership to import gold.
A jewelry firm has to be a member of an association approved by the commerce ministry in order to be eligible for getting a dealership to import gold. All the jewelry firms that applied are members of the Bangladesh Jewelers Samity.
High officials of Bangladesh Bank said that more firms will be given a dealership to make the market competitive. However, the number of firms to be given a dealership has not been confirmed yet. The central bank has started visiting the applicant firms to evaluate them.
The distribution of application papers for dealership to import gold started on March 19. Each firm had to submit necessary papers and a pay order for a nonrefundable amount of Tk5 lakh.
Interested firms sent their applications to the foreign exchange policy division of the central bank through the headquarters of the approved dealer banks.
Kazi Sirajul Islam, managing director of Amin Jewellers Ltd and former president of Bangladesh Jewellers Samity said, so far, the government has been deprived of revenue earnings from the import of gold, because there was no policy in this regard. Also, there was no precise information on the gold market here.
Kazi Sirajul Islam, who has been involved in the gold business for 53 years, said, "Now it will be possible to keep an accurate account as gold will be imported through dealers. The government will also earn more revenue from this sector. Businessmen will also be able to run their businesses following government rules."
Commenting on the possible number of firms to get licenses, he said, in India there are not many dealers who import gold. He added that in Bangladesh there should be between 5 to 7 dealers. However, businessmen will have no objection to the government's decision on this matter.
In India, 10 firms and four individuals have approval for importing gold. In that country gold is imported through these firms and individuals, and is then distributed to different firms.
There is no statistics on how much gold stock the businessmen in Bangladesh have. According to some private researches, the demand for gold in the country is 15 lakh to 35 lakh bhoris per year. Ninety percent of it is smuggled in.
The government had been deprived of revenue because no gold was being imported through legal channels. Businessmen had been demanding permission to import the precious metal for a long time. In this context, in November last year the Bangladesh government announced "Gold Policy 2018".
The government allowed businessmen throughout the country to legalise their illegal gold until June 30 this year. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) organised a three-day Gold Fair in divisional towns including the capital Dhaka in June.
Though this initiative was the first of its kind by the government, businessmen showed a lukewarm response to it. However, officials of the National Board of Revenue said, the amount of gold that was legalised was satisfactory.
Sources at the NBR say that 18 lakh bhoris of illegal gold which was in the possession of gold traders across the country was legalised. Tk1,000 income tax had to be paid to legitimise one bhori of gold. So, the government received Tk 180 crore income tax from the amount of gold legalised.
According to Bangladesh Bank, the license to import gold will be valid for two years from the date of issue. The dealer can renew the license by paying Tk2 lakh (non-refundable) fees to the dealer bank three months before the license expires.