Bangladesh Bank has rules for how much foreign currency an individual can carry while travelling abroad, but there are no separate policies for casual travel and business trips.
This makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to make business trips which may entail more costs than regular travel. Sometimes, businesspeople may even resort to illegal means to carry dollars going abroad.
Under the Foreign Exchange Regulations for Individuals, a Bangladeshi national is allowed to carry up to $12,000 or other equivalent currency in cash or credit for all their travels abroad in a year.
For each travel, up to $5,000 or equivalent can be taken to Saarc member countries and Myanmar. For the other countries it is up to $7,000.
“To explore a new destination for products and build relationships with the global buyers, manufacturers have to travel to meet people in their country or a third country,” Md Rashedul Karim Munna, managing director of Creation Private Limited, a jute goods manufacturer, told the Dhaka Tribune.
But they face challenges in bearing the costs of travel, accommodation and meetings because of the central bank's conservative policy, said Munna.
During a visit, a businessman has to bear food costs, pay for local transportation and also has to entertain guests while trying to make a business deal, said several businessmen from export-oriented industries.
Travel to any European country costs at least three to four thousand dollars, and therefore a limit of $7,000 for a single trip is impractical even for regular tourists, they said.
Since the permissible amount is not enough, the business people have to resort to illegal means to meet the costs, a businessman seeking anonymity told the Dhaka Tribune.
To curb illegal transactions the government should develop a pragmatic solution by setting a reasonable amount, he said.
Separate ceiling policies could also be created for businesspeople instead of treating them as general travellers, he added.
“Since businesspeople have to travel to various countries several times a year for many reasons like consultancy, research and development to diversify their businesses, I think the government and the central bank should consider the issue separately,” said Munna.
Sources said, the businesses are suffering due to the central bank’s conservative attitude and they are also forced to buy dollar using illegal means.
Bangladesh Bank Foreign Exchange Policy Department's Deputy General Manager Jagannath Chandra Ghosh acknowledged that the central bank was conservative in its approach to the foreign currency exchange limit.
He told the Dhaka Tribune: “We do not import dollar, we have to collect foreign currency from non-resident Bangladeshis through remittance and nationals who come back to Bangladesh after travelling.
“For this we have a conservative stance about extending the foreign currency transactions limit for individuals. If we liberalise the transaction limit, it will create pressure on our dollar reserve.”
Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, told the Dhaka Tribune: “It will not be a good idea to liberalise the foreign currency transaction limit for everybody. I think the number of businesspeople who frequently travel abroad is not too many. It will be better if they take additional foreign currency that they need from Bangladesh Bank by showing proper documents.”
Although there is a provision allowing people who travel for treatment to carry up to $10,000 for treatment, the process for obtaining permission is time-consuming and cumbersome.
A patient has to take permission from the central bank by presenting documentation and reporting estimated costs.
“Treatment is an emergency issue. The government should increase the limit as well as ease the process,” Shahidullah Azim, who takes regular treatment in Singapore, told the Dhaka Tribune.