The CSR (corporate social responsibility) expenditure of banks in the health sector almost doubled in the first six months of the current year during the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the previous six months.
The banking sector spent Tk96 crore in the health sector from January to June, which was 18.58% of its total CSR spending.
The total CSR expenditure of the banking sector increased by 26.54% to Tk517 crore in the first half of this year, according to the Bangladesh Bank data released on Wednesday.
Of the total expenditure, the highest amount, 26.82%, went to the disaster management sector and the second highest sum was spent on miscellaneous purposes, according to central bank report.
Under the disaster management sector expenditure, banks spent funds for distributing blankets during winter season and providing assistance to the deprived people during the Covid-19 crisis, said the report.
Banks seemed reluctant to spend on environment from the CSR fund as only 2.67% of total expenditure went to this sector.
Of the total CSR expenditure, private banks spent 96.21% or Tk497 crore, while six state-owned banks and foreign banks contributed 0.39% and 3.40% respectively.
Islami Bank, the largest private commercial bank in the county, spent the highest amount of CSR fund of Tk52 crore during the six months. Of the amount, 61.29% went to the disaster management sector.
Dutch-Bangla bank ranked second in CSR expenditure with Tk48.35 crore and First Security Islami Bank spent the third highest amount, Tk43.21 crore, the central bank report shows.
In June, the Bangladesh Bank instructed banks to provide essential medical equipment and protective materials to doctors, nurses, wardboys and cleaners involved in the treatment of Covid-19 patients as part of their CSR activities.
Banks have to extend this support to the district level, the central bank circular said.
The Bangladesh Bank stated that banks can provide equipment such as PCR machines, ventilators and oxygen cylinders for treatment of Covid-19 patients from their CSR fund earmarked for the health sector.
According to a central bank instruction issued on March 22, a bank must spend 60% of its total CSR fund on the health sector. The rest can be spent on education (30%) and climate change (10%) sectors.
In 2014, the Bangladesh Bank issued a guideline for all banks to carry out their CSR activities.