Bangladesh cuts school and office hours to save power


Bangladesh will close schools for one more day each week and reduce office hours to ease an electricity shortage, a government official says.

Last month, the South Asian nation started daily two-hour power cuts.

Protesters have taken to the streets in recent weeks after the government raised petrol prices by more than 50%.

The war in Ukraine has driven up the cost of importing fuel and taken a toll on Bangladesh's economy and foreign currency reserves.

On Monday, Bangladesh Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said that schools - which were previously only closed on Fridays - would now also be shut on Saturdays.

Under normal circumstances, schools in Bangladesh are open for six days a week - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, government offices and banks will have their opening hours cut to seven hours a day, instead of eight hours. However, private offices will be allowed to set their own operating hours, Mr Islam said.

He added that the government would continue to provide power to villages, including in the early hours of the morning when crops are irrigated.

Many parts of Bangladesh are known to go without electricity for more than two hours a day.

The country generates most of its electricity from natural gas, some of which it imports.

Officials have shut down all of the country's diesel-driven power plants, which account for around 6% of Bangladesh's electricity generation, because of the rising cost of fuel imports.

Earlier this month, petrol prices were raised by more than 50%, with the cost of the fuel rising from 86 taka a litre (90 US cents, 76p) to 130 taka.

At the same time the price of diesel and kerosene went up by more than 40%.

In July, Bangladesh became the third South Asian nation to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

While the size of the potential loan has not yet been decided, talks are expected to begin after the World Bank and IMF Spring meetings in October.

Bangladesh's foreign currency reserves have dwindled to around $40bn (£34bn) or four and a half months of typical government spending.

In recent years, the $416bn economy has been lauded as one of the fastest-growing in the world.