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Zro tolerance for corruption in financial sector: Finance Minister

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Monday told Parliament that 15 laws will be enacted within the next one year as the government is pursuing a zero-tolerance policy against irregularities in the financial sector.

“I would like to assure you that you (MPs) will see 15 laws in this Parliament within the next 6-12 months to stop these irregularities,” Mustafa Kamal said.

The minister said while replying to a cut-motion placed by opposition MPs over allowing additional grant demand for the Finance Institution Division in the Supplementary Budget of 2020-21 Fiscal Year.

The finance minister said, “The syphoning off people’s hard-earned money hurts me like others. I’m always against any irregularity, disorder and corruption in any place under any circumstances. We all and our government want these to be stopped.”

He said there was a time when sand used to be imported in the name of cement and one product used to be brought in the name of another product. “Now under-invoicing and over-invoicing are hardly done. But I don’t say such things have stopped completely. We hardly see these things in the newspaper,” he added.

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Kamal said he knows how such irregularities are committed but does not know who are doing these. “Once such things had happened due to inefficient systems and ineffective management. These things will have to be stopped completely.”

He said the government will frame new laws aiming to reform the systems in the financial sector. “We’ll enact new laws so that our banks and financial institutions can run their activities smoothly with responsibility. We’ll create the scope. I’m assuring you.”

The finance minister said there is a zero-tolerance policy against corruption as asked by the Prime Minister.

Pointing at the opposition MPs, he said, “If you know who siphon off money, please give us their names. Since you (MPs) are in Parliament, you also have the responsibility like us. If you do so, it’ll be easier for us to take action against them.”

Kamal said many of those who committed such irregularities are still in jail and face trial unlike in the past.

Replying to criticisms from the opposition lawmakers, the finance minister said the loan interest rate in scheduled banks came down to 7.3 percent from 12.3 percent in the last 12 years. There were 6,425 banks and their branches in Bangladesh in the 2005-06 fiscal year. Now the number has doubled.

He said banks have set up their branches in villages amid the growing demand of people and they are now getting services.

About default loans, Mustafa Kamal said the rate of default loans was 13.2 percent in 2006, which has come down to 8 percent now.

He said the amount of total outstanding loans was only Tk 152,000 crore in 2006, which has increased eight times, and now stands at Tk 1,187,000 crore now.

About the stock market, the finance minister said the market capitalisation now stands at over Tk 500,000 crore, up five times from Tk 104,000 crore. The daily average transaction in the capital market was only Tk 28 crore in 2009, which also has gone high 30 times and stands at Tk 910 crore.

Earlier, opposition MPs, including Jatiya Party lawmakers Kazi Firoz Rashid and Rowshan Ara Mannan and BNP MPs Md Harunur Rashid and Rumeen Farahana discussed the cut-motion and criticised the government for “irregularities in the financial sector, particularly the capital flight, plundering bank money and poor condition of the share market.”

Rashid said the financial institutions are in a very sorry state as the government borrows money from banks every year. “The share market fell flat after this government assumed power. If I speak the truth the ruling party MPs will get unhappy and start shouting here.”

He said the economy of Bangladesh is badly affected due to corruption but the undisclosed money and the black money are not the same thing. “Sometimes earnings from legal activities like the sale of lands and houses become the unannounced money due to systemic reasons, for which the government can give opportunity to whiten the money.”

But such opportunity should not be given for the money that comes from illegal activities like corruption, drug dealing, human trafficking and embezzlement of State property. “If you give them the opportunity (to whiten the black money), it will be an injustice,” he said.

The BNP MP also said Bangladesh must give the utmost importance to prevention of Corona, or else, two important sectors –RMG and remittance— will be hampered taking its toll on the national economy.

Another BNP MP, Rumeen Farhana, said the amount of bad loans in the country’s banks was TK 155,000 crore in 2019, which came down to Tk 120,000 crore in 2020 and Tk 88,000 crore in 2021 as per official statistics.

But the IMF said the amount of bad loans was Tk 2,50,000 crore in 2020 and even some economists say this figure is around Tk 350,000 crore and some others say it is over Tk 400,000 crore, she said.

“I want to know from the Finance Minister what exactly the amount of bad loans is,” said Rumeen.

Noting that the names of 300 loan defaulters were disclosed once in Parliament, the BNP MP questioned what action was taken against them.

Rumeen alleged that bank licenses were given on political considerations. “New laws are enacted one after another in the interest of bank owners, while the (deposited) money of people is plundered massively,” she added.

Kazi Firoz Rashid said there is no control of the government over banks. “When there’s no control there’ll be such irregularities.”

He said bank directors take loans from other banks and siphon off the money through hundi (illegal channel).

Source: United News of Bangladesh