Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserve has crossed US$7.0 billion mark for the first time, thanks to a robust growth of inward remittances as well as deceasing import payments.

The foreign exchange reserve reached $7.011 billion Monday from $6.944 billion of the previous day, setting a new record in the history of Bangladesh, officials said.

“Steady growth of inward remittances and deceasing import payments have contributed to the crossing of forex reserves $7.0 billion-mark,” Bangladesh Bank (BB) Executive Director Chowdhury Mahidul Haque told the BBN in Dhaka.

“There is less outflow of foreign exchange because of falling trend in opening of letters of credit (LCs) against imports recently that has also helped to increase the forex reserve,” another BB official said.

He also said the foreign exchange reserve may decline slightly in the first week of July after a routine payment to the Asian Clearing Union (ACU).

Under the existing ACU provision, settlement of any balance and the accrued interests is made among its member countries at the end of every two months.

The ACU is an arrangement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to settle payments for intra-regional transactions through the participating central banks on a multilateral basis.

The country’s overall import fell by nearly three per cent in May over that of the previous month, as importers slowed down opening LCs, the BB officials said.

The overall import came down to $1.529 billon in May from $1.569 billion in April, according to the central bank provisional statistics.

Import LCs worth $1.902 billion and $1.696 billion were opened in March and April respectively. But import LCs worth $1.525 billion were executed in May, the BB’s data showed.

On the other hand, Bangladeshi expatriates sent home a record $8.764 billion in the first 11 months of the current fiscal, marking a 22.39 per cent growth over the same period of the last fiscal.

The country received $8.764 billion during the July-May period of the fiscal 2008-09 against $7.161 billion of the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, the BB officials confirmed.

Besides, the central bank continues its intervention in the inter-bank foreign exchange market through buying the US currency directly from commercial banks.

As part of the move, the Bangladesh Bank purchased $1.163 billion from commercial banks until June 15 this fiscal, which has also pushed the foreign exchange reserve up.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-15June09-9:47 pm (BST)