The country has suffered badly with its finances in recent months forex exchange reserves reportedly fell to a seven-year low of $29.85 billion in May.
This followed a decline to $32.29 billion in January 2023, before falling to just over $30 billion in April.
That figure has since risen again to more than $31 billion in June, according to the central bank, but it has also started reporting its gross international reserve, according to the IMF. balance of payments manualin addition to the usual figure – that’s just $24.7 billion.
Shamim Ghani, director of sales and marketing at SAMS Global, said the problem is compounded by the number of students leaving the country.
“The amount of students coming from Bangladesh has always been a bit muted when you compare it to India or Pakistan – it’s not a huge market in South Asia,” explained Shamim Ghani, sales and marketing director at SAMS Global. PIE News.
“In the last few years, the number of Bangladeshi students coming out has certainly been growing, as have most markets.”
UNESCO data reported that in 2016, the number of students leaving Bangladesh to study abroad was 33,139. In contrast, in 2021 the number climbed to 49,151 – triple the 2007 figure of 15,700..
“I mean this [rise] is what caused a bit of panic from the central bank – there are private banks in Bangladesh that most international students will want to use, banks like Standard Chartered, HSBC etc rather than local banks.
“Now these banks, the private ones, are basically saying that students cannot transfer their money, or there are delays in transferring money because these international banks also have ties to one or two local banks,” Ghani explained.
TCL Global’s Noor Hasan Mahmud, the agency’s director for Bangladesh, confirmed there were issues around the fees.
“In Bangladesh, there are these three types of fees that they have to pay to go to the UK, school fees, IHS fees and visa fee.
“Right now tuition is proving to be very difficult [up]because there are not enough reserves in Bangladesh’s private banks.”
Ghani compared the situation to that in Nigeria, where the devaluation of the Naira left students unable to meet fee deadlines when their funds lost more than 40% of their value.
“[Forex reserve falls] caused a bit of central bank panic”
“It’s a simplistic problem in Bangladesh. You have a student who is ready to make a down payment, they go to the bank to make the down payment and they can’t,” Ghani added.
“But we have found that there are one or two local banks that are actually willing to do transfers. SAMS in Bangladesh is currently trying to build relationships with these banks as we have the students we need to get out of the country [for study]and they need to get money out of the country.
“It was just an extremely chaotic scenario,” Ghani said.
Mahmud also said that there is a bank that has been confirmed to be making the payments – Premier Bank Limited – and the students will need to open an account with the bank to eventually make the payment through them.
“Some students are also leaving Bangladesh and some are also using credit cards to pay the fees,” he added.
“It’s doubly problematic because the delays could really affect the rush to enroll students,” Ghani noted, again citing a similar problem in Nigeria that caused the same panic among students.
“It was just an extremely messy scenario”
In June, Bangladesh tried to choke its reserves floating local currency, Taka, after a loan from the IMF was provided in February failed to fix persistent problems.
In early July, Reuters reported that the country’s two banks, Eastern and Sonali, would even be offers some business transactions in Indian rupees where the national reserve is extremely strong compared to its neighbour.
Mahmud also said that despite UK IHS fees for students almost doubling in the coming months and visa fees rising, there remains a strong appetite for global study – which stakeholders said in October 2022. “tremendous growth opportunity”.
“Students will need authorization from the banks to pay more than £300 towards the IHS fee – the visa fee is not an issue at the moment, students can easily make this payment without authorisation.
“But even if IHS goes up, students will still pay the fee and want to go,” he concluded.