Probashi Kallyan Bank (PKB) is set to go into operation as a scheduled bank by January as the Wage Earners' Welfare Fund (WEWF) has resolved fund-related complexities, sources said.
The specialised bank has now a shortfall of Tk 2.50 billion paid-up capital for its conversion into commercial one. Of the amount, Wage Earners' Welfare Board (WEWB) will provide Tk 2.35 billion while Tk 150 million will come from the Finance Division, a meeting has decided recently. The finance secretary chaired the meeting.
"We are now waiting for resolution of the meeting which will be sent to the central bank to start the process of transforming the bank to commercial one," said PKB deputy managing director (DMD) Badre Munir Firdaus.
"By January, the bank will be converted into a commercial bank as fund related complexities have been resolved by the welfare fund," he hoped.
The area of services will expand after it runs as a scheduled bank, he added.
But migrant rights campaigners criticised the government's decision over receiving money from the WEWB as the welfare activities for the migrant workers may be hampered if such a big amount of money is given to the bank.
The paid-up capital of the specialised bank should be mobilised from the government's fund considering workers' interests.
They also said the performance of the bank is not good. Potential overseas jobseekers are facing difficulties in getting loans. So, why the WEWB will give the workers' money to this bank, they asked.
To meet paid-up capital, the board also provided Tk 500 million earlier. So, financial support for the proposed scheduled bank by the welfare board will stand at Tk 3.80 billion.
The government also took Tk 950 million as initial fund from the board to launch the bank.
Earlier, the government decided to give Tk 2.50 billion to PKB for turning it into a scheduled bank to raise its paid-up capital to Tk 4.0 billion. But it backtracked on its decision later.
Talking to the FE, WEWB director general Gazi Mohammad Julhas said although they would get hefty profit to invest this fund in other sectors, they have decided to give it to the bank as it will support migrant workers.
He also said it will not bring any negative impact on regular welfare activities of the board.
When asked, PKB DMD Mr Firdaus said many times workers are unaware about the process of getting loans. So, it takes time to sanction fund to them. This is why the complaints made by the workers are not always true, he said.
By January they will open nine new branches -- eight at district level and another at upazila level. Manpower crisis also will be solved shortly. They will introduce help desks at each branch to ensure services for the workers.
CR Abrar, executive director of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), said the government should not use the migrant workers' money for PKB. "The fund is for welfare activities of the workers."
The bank has also failed to extend support for the migrant workers. "So, why the WEWB will provide funds to the bank?" he asked.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP) chairman Shakirul Islam said, "The government is ignoring its duty to the migrant workers. That is why they are taking money from the welfare fund instead of its own resources."
Official data showed that only 23,731 outbound Bangladeshi workers were given loans worth Tk 2.29 billion by the bank between the fiscal years 2011-12 and 2016-17.
Among the beneficiaries, some 156 returnees received loans for income-generating projects at home. During the period, the bank recovered Tk 1.55 billion.
In the last five months of FY 2017-18, the bank disbursed about Tk 290 million loans among the migrant workers.
PKB started its operation in April 2011 with a capital of Tk 1.0 billion aiming to provide collateral-free loans to overseas jobseekers and give loans for rehabilitation of returning workers through income-generating activities. It is now operating 45 branches across the country.