Published:  12:50 AM, 15 November 2017

A minister, CBAs and Bangladesh Bank

The news is doubly disappointing and, worse, extremely disturbing. For two reasons. The first is that a minister has once again gone beyond his remit and sought to act in a manner that does no justice to the position he holds in government. The second is that the move he has made about holding a meeting at the central bank with trade union leaders this time threatens to worsen the already tenuous reputation of the country's banking sector.

Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan has convened a meeting of CBA leaders of Bangladesh Bank and its various units at the Dhaka headquarters of the bank, the purpose being to discuss the many issues that assail the central bank. That is quite beyond reason, for one is not aware if the Shipping Minister has any authority to undertake such activities given that Bangladesh Bank does not come within the purview of his authority.

And yet the minister, who has in the past been involved in issues related to the garments sector, despite the fact that his ministry has nothing to do with the sector, has now had the authorities of Bangladesh Bank agree to have the CBAs from all over the country meet at the central bank for a period of four days from 14 to 17 November.

The CBAs have been provided with the privileges of allowances to travel to Dhaka and stay here for the duration of the meetings before going back. And that is not all. They will be treated as being on duty despite the fact that they will be absent at their workplaces and will therefore be doing nothing by way of carrying out their responsibilities.

Nothing like this has ever happened in the country before. That the Governor of Bangladesh Bank has already agreed that the CBAs' meeting, with Minister Shahjahan Khan being present, take place at the central bank is a sordid instance of how far the authority and dignity of Bangladesh Bank have declined.

One wonders if such a bad situation would have occurred with such personalities as Dr. Mohammad Farashuddin or Fakhruddin Ahmed or Atiur Rahman holding the position of Governor of Bangladesh Bank. In the circumstances shaping up at present, citizens would certainly want to know what opinion Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith holds on it. His pronouncements on matters of a financial and economic nature have always been vocal and well articulated. To what extent does he know of the Shipping Minister's plans vis-à-vis the CBAs' meeting at the central bank?

It is unfortunate that the authority of the central bank and by extension of the government is being undermined by such rash moves as the one we speak of. These moves do not serve the government and the country at all, which is why it is important that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step in to make sure that established conventions and rules about ministerial behaviour are strictly adhered to.

At the same time, the Finance Minister needs to assert his authority through making it clear that his cabinet colleague has no right to call a conference of employees who are properly under the central bank's jurisdiction. The banking sector is in a state of enervation. Should it then be rendered weaker than it already is?

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