DHAKA (REUTERS) – Bangladesh will close schools for one extra day a week and cut office timings by an hour to save power, a government official said on Monday (Aug 22), as the country battles a shortage after shutting down all of its diesel-run power plants.

The South Asian country last month shut down all 10 of its diesel power plants after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up the cost of imported fuel.

Bangladesh began daily two-hour power cuts last month, but many parts of the country go without electricity for much longer.

The shut plants account for about 6 per cent of Bangladesh’s total power generation capacity of 23,000 megawatts. Natural gas, locally produced and imported, generates nearly three-quarters of the total.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has decided that schools will remain closed for two days, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told reporters.

Schools usually open six days a week and are closed on Fridays but the education ministry announced that they will now be shut on Saturdays as well.

Government agencies will open from 8am to 3pm instead of the usual 9am to 5pm while banks will open from 9am to 4pm rather than 10am to 6pm, starting on Wednesday.

Private offices can set their opening hours as per their requirements, Mr Islam said.

The government will provide uninterrupted power to villages for irrigation from midnight to morning, he said.

Earlier this month, the government raised oil prices by as much as 51.7 per cent, sparking protests by students and opposition parties in the country of 165 million people.

The government has also announced staggered weekly holidays for factories to save power.

Bangladesh’s US$416 billion (S$581 billion) economy has been one of the fastest-growing in the world for years but dwindling foreign exchange reserves due to inflated import bills have prompted the government to seek loans from global agencies, including the International Monetary Fund.

The government has also placed curbs on imports of luxury goods and liquefied natural gas.