Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation's (PKSF) Chairman Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad has demanded the regulatory authority to make it mandatory for agent banks to disburse 70 percent of their loans in rural areas.
Addressing a seminar organised by the Dhaka School of Economics on Saturday, Dr Kholiquzzaman made the demand after complaining that agent banks are not playing a proper role in creating new entrepreneurs in rural regions of the country.
He further said, "Micro-credit programmes have played a significant role in the development of the rural economy. They have also created a lot of entrepreneurs. However, agent banking is not playing a proper role in creating new entrepreneurs, despite reaching the rural areas.
"Instead, institutional entrepreneurs are taking out loans from those agent banks."
According to the Bangladesh Bank data, a total of 22 banks have received authorization to provide agent banking facilities so far. The number of agent banks and outlets across the country reached 6,531 and 9,391 respectively in September last year.
Around 85 percent of those agent banks and outlets are located in rural areas.
However, in terms of taking out loans, institutional customers are ahead of the new entrepreneurs. Institutional customers took out 51 percent of the loans disbursed by the banks under the agent banking facility.
Criticising the issue, Dr Kholiquzzaman said, "There is no alternative to creating new entrepreneurs for a continued economic development. So, the agent banking system must be reformed. They must ensure that entrepreneurs from remote areas are able to get loans."
He also recommended that the importance of postgraduate diploma on entrepreneurship be increased and the education system be reformed to help create more entrepreneurs.
Present at the seminar, Professor Dr Munaz Ahmed Noor said, "The world is going through the fourth industrial revolution and it could impact the environment negatively. We must emphasise on the proper use of manpower and preserving the balance of nature while making and implementing development plans.
Dr Muhammad Mahboob Ali said, "Bangladesh is presently in a position to utilise its demographic dividend. A significant population of the country is young. This manpower must be properly utilised, so that they can grow up to be entrepreneurs."
Vice Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Digital University Professor Dr Munaz Ahmed Noor, Entrepreneur Economics Course coordinators of Dhaka School of Economics Professor Dr Muhammad Mahboob Ali and Prof Sheikh Ekramul Kabir, head of Admin, Academic Affairs and Development, and assistant professors Rehana Pavin and Sara Tasneem were present at the seminar among many others.