File photo: ADB

Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– Bangladesh’s import orders grew by 1.27 per cent in the first five months of this fiscal year after deducting the opening of letter of credit (LC) for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) project.

Opening of LCs, generally known as import orders, rose to US$24.68 billion during the July-November period of FY 2018-19 from $24.37 billion excluding $11.38 billion for NPP project in the same period of previous fiscal.

Actually, the LCs was opened amounting to $35.75 billion along with the NPP project in the July-November period of the FY 18, according to the central bank statistics.

Bangladesh’s overall import orders recorded an all-time high of $16.10 billion in November 2017 while LC of a large amount was opened for setting up Rooppur NPP.

Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) opened the LC worth $ 11.38 billion through the state-owned Sonali Bank Limited to import different items, including capital machinery, to build the plant.

Off which, nearly $186 million LC was settled during the July-November period of FY 19, the Bangladesh Bank (BB) data showed.

“The LC for Rooppur NPP will have to be separated to know actual import situation of Bangladesh,” a senior executive of a leading private commercial bank (PCB) told the BBN in Dhaka.

Talking to the BBN, a senior central banker said the overall import orders dropped nearly 31 per cent in the five months of this fiscal mainly due to the national polls.

“Most of the businessmen had maintained a ‘go-slow’ policy for setting up fresh LCs ahead of the polls to avoid possible risks,” the central banker explained.

He also said opening of fresh LCs may increase slightly in the coming months because political uncertainty is over after the elections.

Regarding Rooppur NPP, the BB official said the central bank had already provided import information on the mega project separately in its monthly statement.

“The LC is being settled under buyers’ credit. So it will not put any extra pressure on the local market as well as on the country’s foreign exchange reserve,” another central banker told the BBN earlier.

The commissioning of unit-1 of Rooppur NPP is scheduled for 2023, while its second unit is scheduled for 2024. The plant is expected to supply 2,400 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by 2024.

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the main construction work of the project on November 30, 2017 with which the country has entered into the era of nuclear power generation.