M. Shawkat Ali (Headmaster Rtd)
Hon’ble Finance Minister said a year ago that economic researchers and media reports created a confusion in the minds of the policy makers and the people. (Daily Star, BUSINESS section, dated December 20, 2011). But he did not say, as the controller and chief policy maker of the country’s economy, how much confidence he’s been able to create in public minds since he took the rein of the economy of the country. Before now he said he did not understand share market side by side calling the small share market investors ‘fatkabaz’, greedy etc. and it aggrieved and angered not only the people but his colleagues also. But he could not touch those whom the head of the team investigating into the share market scam pinpointed as manipulators and recommended punishment as they were, in his word, big fishes. The reason behind his failure to take appropriate measures against those ‘big fishes’ remained mysterious till now though he virtually did almost nothing for the unfortunate investors in the share market. He also remained silent while, according to many opinions, more than 28,000 crore taka was siphoned out of the country in foreign currency and that’s obvious in the increasingly high rate of US dollar against taka and the shrinking foreign currency reserve of the country.
When the country came to know about the biggest ever fraud of over 45000 million by one Hallmark Group, he placidly told the people that ‘it was not a very big amount compared to our annual budget’. He could not resist the damn wastage of public money through ‘rental power plant’ because, it was reported, much more powerful hands were behind it. To bar any future scrutiny and accountability, his government passed an indemnity bill about that in the parliament.
He has failed to show any tangible progress to bring back more than 40000 millions of the ‘stakeholders’ money’ siphoned out of the country by Destiny Group just because it’s gone ‘out of his reach’. But look, what’s he has been doing with the Grameen Bank.
The FM did not say anything about how such a critical situation in the country’s economy came into being. He did not mention why his government has been the largest borrower from the NCBs about which even the pro-government FBCCI president rang alarms. He did not explain how and why rampant plundering, tender-snatching etc going on in the name of development (?) since his party came to power. While the inflow of foreign exchange has noticeably shrunk recently, plundering the public exchequer in the name of infra-structure development is going on unabated as a result of which a 100 taka worth development project costs 1000 taka after a year, Tk:12,000 crore Padma bridge is demanding Tk:22,000 crore. But now the estimated project cost has risen up to over 27000 crore, the project has been effectively paralyzed by the gigantic corruption scam uncovered by the World Bank. Corruption and wastage of people’s hard earned money has reached such a stage that a Tk:500 crore worth repair work of roads requires Tk:1500 crore now. The govt while making unprecedented overdrawing on NCBs, each MP has been allotted Tk:15 crore as lump grant for what purpose only he and his government know. While the public exchequer is shrinking to low, increased pay and perks besides granting the privilege of importing tax-free cars has been generously granted to the so-called public representatives almost every other year. While the common people are groaning under the yoke of the galloping price hike of essentials, power party men are making hay with all the pleasure and happiness including, as the PM says, enjoying ‘four square meals a day’. The true picture of the disheveled economic scenario has been correctly reflected in the speech of the hon’ble Minister for Food when he said 90% of the development funds are just being plundered on the way as a result of rampant corruption and mismanagement.
But he should not forget that such a dismal situation of the country’s economy come down overnight, rather it is the inevitability of his and his government’s imprudent and bipartisan policy ever since they came to power. The economic policy, especially in the context of an economy that is heavily dependent on foreign aid/loan, should have been of austerity, and not of extravaganza. Even a layman thinks out his priority when his purse is thin and requirements are many. The FM should have thought why and how a road, a bridge, a building constructed with crores of taka, do not last a year or two and requires more money every year drawing heavily on the already bent backbone of our toiling mass who, with their bone-breaking toil and moil, have kept the country’s wheel of economy running. Neither did he mention what measures his government has taken so far against those who plunder the allocation of food and money for the weak, vulnerable, ultra-poor and needy of the country. As FM he should’ve thought pumping crores of money into the market without creating opportunities of employment is sure to gear up galloping inflation and actually that has happened. His speeches, therefore, have in fact been a hollow voice of a Finance Minister who has nothing much to deliver for the well-being of the common people that voted them to power.