The import of luxury items will be controlled until the global inflation rate drops down to a tolerable level, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said on Wednesday.
Describing the move as a necessary measure, the minister said, "Inflation rates are up worldwide. We also have to import goods at high prices."
The initiative to limit imports has been taken by the Bangladesh Bank, he told reporters after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Government Purchase. The central bank has also increased the margins of import LCs (letters of credit).
"This will stay in force until commodity prices come down on the international market," said the finance minister.
He, however, said, "No restrictions have been imposed on the import of consumer goods, capital machinery and industrial raw materials related to various development projects, as there is no problem in buying these products."
Referring to the country's widening trade deficit, the finance minister said, "Our exports are growing and so are our imports.
"Bangladesh's imports are always higher than exports. No matter how much growth there is in exports, it will never exceed imports."
Meanwhile, considering the current high inflation, various business organisations urged the finance ministry to up the tax-free income limit from Tk3 lakh in the upcoming budget.
But the finance minister said the National Board of Revenue (NBR) will take a decision in this regard after consulting with the institutions concerned.
Purchase proposals approved
In yesterday's meeting, the purchase committee approved a proposal to import 50,000 tonnes of wheat from Bagadiya Brothers Pvt Ltd of India at a rate of $391.19.
It had earlier approved importing the same amount of wheat from Russia at a price of $406 per tonne soon after the Russia-Ukraine war began.
Wednesday's meeting also approved a proposal to buy over Tk3,974 crore worth of essential goods, physical infrastructure and services directly from China Railway International Group Co Ltd on a government to government (G2G) plan.
The purchase will take place under the Establishing Digital Connectivity project and China will provide 80% of the financing as a loan.
"Under this project, laptops and LED TVs will be bought, and computer labs and robotic labs will be set up. Also, 10 digital villages will be built, which will include a 21-storey tower, and live virtual classrooms," said Zillur Rahman Chowdhury, additional secretary of the Cabinet Division.
The purchase committee approved another proposal to import 1 lakh tonnes of high sulphur furnace oil from Indonesia's PT Bumi Siak Pusaku Zapin at a cost of Tk588 crore. The purchase will be made by the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation.
The committee declined a procurement proposal for the first terminal and ancillary facilities construction project at Payra Port, sending it back for re-processing.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the purchase of Firstline TB Drugs on a direct purchase procedure from the Global Drugs Facility under the "Health and Gender Support in Cox's Bazar District" operational plan.
The approval was given so as to provide health, family planning and nutrition, and post-gender violence services to displaced Myanmar citizens, and local people in Cox's Bazar. It will be implemented by the Directorate General of Health Services.