Space For Rent
Tuesday, March 22, 2016, Chaitra 8, 1422 BS, Jamadius Sani 12, 1437 Hijri


Will Finance Minister resign- or be asked to go?
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published :Tuesday, 22 March, 2016,  Time : 1:26 AM  View Count : 51
Finance Minister Abul Maal Ahdul Muhith opened a Pandora's box with scathing comments that stirred up a lot of criticisms when he gave a long interview with the leading Bangla daily Prothom Alo in the wake of the Bangladesh Bank's heist of $100m from the Federal Reserve Bank in the US. His impolite remarks on the Prime Minister, his vitriolic attack on former Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Atiur Rahman, National Board of Revenue Chairman Nazibur Rahman and some BB officials were not only unwarranted but it also exposed his unsavoury character. He even did not spare late Humayun Rashid Chowdhury. To glorify his position as the World's No. 1 in budget management he belittled others performance including the achievements of the present government under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The Finance Minister's retrieval from his interview next day has not only made him funny but exposed his vulnerability to old age aberration.
Mr. Muhith in his rejoinder considers unacceptable some of his comments published as part of an interview with the Bangla daily Prothom Alo. He has let it be known that before publication, the text of the interview should have been sent to him for editing and vetting. In response, Prothom Alo has carried a clarification on the issue.
Two significant points arise here. In the first place, the newspaper in question has made it clear that nothing that was off the record in the Finance Minister's conversation with its journalists has been included in the text of the interview. In the second, the editor of the newspaper has informed readers as well as the Minister that in no earlier instances of the Minister being interviewed by the newspaper did the Minister have a preview of the text before it was published.
We would like to make it clear that it is ethically and professionally wrong on the part of the media for interviews or articles relating to individuals, be they in any position in politics or government or society, to be sent to the individuals in question for editing, vetting and approval before they are published.
In a patently unprecedented demonstration of his ire at the BB, the Finance Minister has chosen to make serious personal attacks on Dr. Atiur Rahman, the just-departed Governor of Bangladesh Bank. A convention has been violated here. Differences, especially those that draw out personal criticism by individuals about one another, are generally and from politeness kept under wraps. In the public domain, it is the rule, unspoken and universal, that civility is maintained.
Unfortunately, Mr. Muhith has not followed this tradition. He has been dismissive, in angry tones, of the contributions made by Atiur Rahman to banking in the last seven years. Muhith has noted that Atiur Rahman was appointed chief of the central bank not by the Prime Minister but by him. The fact of the matter is that it was on the Prime Minister's recommendation that the appointment was made.
Atiur Rahman's contribution to Bangladesh Bank, indeed to the economy, is zero, if the Finance Minister is to be believed. Now, that was pettiness on Muhith's part. It is revealing of something darker: the Finance Minister and the central bank Governor were clearly not on the best of terms in these past seven years. But that can have been no reason for the Finance Minister to make derogatory, sarcastic comments on Atiur Rahman's travels abroad and on his interaction with the media following his resignation. It is interesting that Atiur Rahman has scrupulously maintained the necessary decorum in all his comments on the Finance Minister. Unfortunately, the Minister has not responded in kind, which is a pity. It is doubly disturbing that while an inquiry committee led by former Bangladesh Bank Governor Farashuddin is yet to come forth with its findings on the BB cyber heist, the Finance Minister has already adjudged those dismissed or removed from the central bank and from the Finance Ministry as guilty.
In all this crisis over the cyber heist, in all earlier crises relating to bank loan scams and share market scandals, issues that have left citizens worried and angry because of the cavalier manner in which the authorities have functioned and their failure to ensure speedy justice over the crimes committed, the Finance Minister has opted not to take moral responsibility. Democracy digs its roots deeper when those at the top of the political decision-making structure first hold themselves responsible for any crisis that may arise before rounding on others. Minister Muhith appears to be of the opinion, though, that he is infallible and everyone else is wrong. He has, in the course of the Prothom Alo interview, not spared the Chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) either. The NBR chief, in the Finance Minister's view, does not do any work but only goes around delivering speeches. That is a blatantly below-the-belt remark, one which does not dignify the high office the Minister holds. It gets worse when the Minister suggests that the NBR Chairman should be Secretary of the Ministry of Information, that indeed his desire for publicity (in the words of the Minister) have to do with the fact that the NBR chief was once PS to late Humayun Rashid Chowdhury, an illustrious person who hails from the same place of Mr. Muhith.
We as citizens are left appalled. Dismissing people as being of no consequence and portraying everything as "rubbish" are certainly not the hallmarks of ministerial conduct. When people in public life feel no qualms about humiliating others, in public especially, as the Finance Minister has been doing, it is time to call for a change. As many observe AMA Muhith cannot shrug off his responsibility over the cyber heist.
These are the reasons why we believe that the Finance Minister should now take moral responsibility over the issue and, in the manner of Dr. Atiur Rahman, tender his resignation to the Prime Minister. If that does not happen, let it be for the Prime Minister to act under the Constitution and show her Finance Minister the door. She needs to begin with a fresh, clean slate --- in this instance as well as in others --- in order for her government to gain new energy and a newer sense of purpose to uphold her government's image and continue to consolidate the achievements of her government.









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