Muhammad Zahidul Islam
The Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) is demanding a Tk 660-crore grant from the government to tide member companies over through the next six months for the pandemic-induced work orders cancellations and decline in service requests.
Expenses are estimated to run up to around Tk 1,000 crore from April to September for the 1,400 BASIS members and the government grant will be used to supplement staff salaries and office rents.
The country’s apex trade body for digital services is also seeking a Tk 500-crore loan accompanied by concessions at 2 per cent interest as part of a “business continuity plan”.
Another “sustenance plan” is being drafted by the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Division of the government, though the details are currently unavailable.
The BASIS is also urging the government to bear half the bandwidth transmission costs and award contracts for developing the state’s online content for education, entertainment and health services which would be run during shutdowns.
“The government has some plans to run traditional services through the digital platform and we are asking them to start the projects as soon as possible which will create some work opportunities for the local ICT firms,” said Syed Almas Kabir, the association’s president.
The estimations came at a BASIS executive council meeting on March 19 and the plans were forwarded to the ICT Division this week, he said.
During a videoconference afterwards on Wednesday, State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak is said to have backed the plans.
“In the meeting with the ICT state minister we have decided to place the industry requirement before the finance and commerce ministers after the general leave is over,” Kabir added.
“This is a question of survival for the software and services industry of the country.”
The BASIS member companies have lost work orders from both local and international markets and if the government does not come forward to save the industry within the next two to four months, 50 per cent of the members will collapse, he said.
Roughly Tk 20,000 is being sought against each of the around 50,000 staff which the BASIS members have altogether, said Kabir.
“There are employees whose salaries hover around a few lakh taka but the BASIS is seeking only a small part of that from the government.”
Most members do not have the ability to keep afloat for months amidst the ongoing decline in work orders, and some would not even make it past two months, so the government blessings will be needed, said Kabir.
The government announced a stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore for the export-oriented industries and though no sector has been left unaffected, that of ICT deserves priority for the attainment of the Digital Bangladesh vision, said Rashad Kabir, managing director of Dream71 Bangladesh and a BASIS director.
Kabir, the BASIS president, said they were trying to prepare a report quantifying the losses of the software and services industry.
“Personally I know that a huge number of work orders has been cancelled from different countries. Local companies like garments and banks also halted their orders and suspended maintenance, which already took a huge toll on the industry,” the BASIS top brass added.
The BASIS will present the comprehensive report when it sits with the finance and commerce ministers, he said.