Despite subsidies, the cost of cashing out salaries through mobile banking has been passed on from garment factory owners to the workers under the Tk5,000 crore stimulus package announced for export-oriented industries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thus the workers will be paying Tk20 crore in total to get their salaries paid from the stimulus package.
In a circular, the Bangladesh Bank distributed the mobile banking costs for providing salaries among three parties, Mobile Financial Service (MFS) providers, banks and clients – the wallet holders.
Usually, mobile banking costs are shared by RMG factory owners and the MFS provider as the charges are too high for workers on meagre salaries of Tk8,000 to Tk10,000 per month.
Mobile banking costs are Tk18.50 for cashing out per Tk1,000, of which 60-70 percent is borne by the MFS provider, while the remaining amount is generally shared by RMG owners, meaning workers did not have to pay anything extra.
But now, workers will have to pay the Tk4 for cashing out per Tk1,000.
Under the stimulus package, garment factory owners will get loans for paying salaries to the workers at almost no cost since they will have to provide only 2 percent service charge to banks for processing the loan.
Despite getting such a financial privilege, exporters have been relieved from paying mobile banking costs by the central bank, passing it on to workers.
The Bangladesh Bank has asked all mobile banking operators in the country to charge 0.8 percent or Tk8 for cashing out Tk1,000. Of the charged amount, Tk4 will be paid by the respective banks from their 2 percent commission, and the rest will be borne by beneficiaries.
Banks have already started to disburse the wages under the stimulus package from this week.
The current practice
The largest MFS provider bKash has an agreement with 400 garment factories for providing salaries to the mobile banking accounts of four lakh workers.
"In the current arrangement, bKash bears 60 to 70 percent of the cost and the rest is paid by garment owners on behalf of their workers," said Shamsuddin Haider Dalim, head of corporate communications at bKash.
Under the stimulus package, workers will have to pay a part, he added.
"bKash sees around 70,000 to 80,000 new accounts being opened per day after announcement of the package. Before the coronavirus attack, 25,000 to 30,000 new accounts were opened per day," he said.
Rocket, another MFS provider and subsidiary of the Dutch-Bangla Bank, has an agreement with 1,300 factories for providing salary to 15 lakh workers.
"Under this arrangement, workers of most of the factories are paying half of the mobile costs for cashing out money," said Abedur Rahman Sikder, chief retail business officer of Dutch-Bangla Bank.
However, withdrawing money from MFS accounts using an ATM is free, he said.
Abedur added that 9.5 lakh new Rocket accounts were opened after the Covid-19 breakout.
Most factories now bear mobile banking costs of the workers by sharing them with MFS providers, said Md Mezbaul Haque, a general manager of the Bangladesh Bank.
But workers of some factories having agreement with Rocket are paying Tk9.5 for cashing out per Tk1,000. From this perspective, the central bank distributed cost among parties to reduce charges for workers.
He explained that in the circular, it is mentioned that the "client" will pay Tk4. This client can be workers or owners.
"So, if it is the owners who were paying the MFS costs, it may continue. It is not mandatory that workers will pay the Tk4 charge," he added.