A strong case for govt’s SCB policy overhaul
AT LAST, the finance minister admitted that the state-owned commercial banks are not running well. As New Age reported on Monday, emerging from a meeting held at his secretariat office on Sunday over their performance, he told reporters that the SCBs are ‘not in a good situation’ although he refused to explain what had actually led the entities to such a situation. Notably, the finance minister appeared insistent until recently on brushing aside any media report about the adverse impact of the financial scams, including that involving the little known Hallmark Group, on the state-owned commercial banks. He even went to the extent of saying that the swindling of Tk 3,600 crore by Hallmark is insignificant as far as the size of the economy is concerned. It is also worth noting that when the minister made such unfortunate comments, there were revelations that one Bismillah Group had embezzled Tk 1,200 crore from a number of banks including the state-owned Janata Bank and more than Tk 3,500 crore had been siphoned off from another SCB, the Basic Bank. Besides, according to investigations conducted by the Bangladesh Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission, a section of the bank officials, many of whom were handpicked by the incumbent government, were complicit in these scams. Moreover, some people having high political clout were also allegedly involved in them.
Encouragingly, the government, according to the finance minister, is intent on helping the SCBs, which face a huge capital shortfall, out of the woods. After all, the banks are there to play crucial role when it comes to export and import trade between Bangladesh and different countries and boosting economic activities in rural areas. It is, however, not to suggest that the government would be right if it agrees to the crises-driven SCBs’ demand for recapitalisation without adequately addressing the flaws that had virtually turned them into swindlers’ paradise. In other words, before spending any more money from public coffer on the SCBs, the incumbents need to ensure accountability and transparency, unfortunately missing there for decades due to various reasons including rampant politicisation of the management of the institutions under successive governments along their respective partisan lines, in their activities, particularly the ones meant for issuing loans. It is all the more important as the government has reportedly set aside Tk 5,000 crore in the current budget to this end. Meanwhile, the conscious citizens need to push for an overhaul of the management policies pursued by the incumbents about the SCBs so far, not to mention exemplary punishment for those involved in the above-mentioned scams.
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