Published:  12:04 AM, 10 May 2022

A Successful Finance Minister AMA Muhith

A Successful Finance Minister AMA Muhith
 
Economist, diplomat, freedom fighter, former finance minister, ruling Awami League's advisory council member Abul Maal Abdul Muhith has passed away. He was the former finance minister who ushered Bangladesh into the era of the trillion-taka budget and whose policies helped shape its economy to its current status, has died under hospital care in Dhaka. He was 88.due to old age complications.In him Bangladesh not only lost a seasoned politician, but also an intellectual and a colourful personality, whose contribution all the way from Language Movement to Liberation War to present-day economic success story is well-known.Considered as the country's most successful finance minister, he quietly managed funds for over a dozen mega projects that the ruling Awami League has been implementing. During his stint as a finance minister from 2009 to 2018, he announced a record 12 budgets and ushered Bangladesh into the era of trillion-taka budget. Before his take over as a finance minister, the size of Bangladesh's annual budget used to be less than taka one lakh crore, whereas in his ten-year tenure, he elevated the budget size to around taka 4.5 lakh crore.In a word, Muhit was the man behind Bangladesh's impressive economic success story which has drawn worldwide applause. The country has earned middle income status and prepared groundwork for LDC graduation during his tenure. Thus he kick-started the golden era of Bangladesh's economy by firmly placing it on the highway of development.

The ever-smiling Muhit excelled not only as a finance minister, but also as a bureaucrat, a diplomat, an economist, a freedom fighter and a language movement veteran. He authored many books, some of which are on fundamentals of economics in spite of being a student of English literature. He had a special penchant for literature, music and art and would often attend such functions while navigating ministerial duties. After serving Sheikh Hasina's cabinet from 2009 to 2018  financing the Padma Bridge project from domestic sources after Hasina went toe-to-toe with the World Bank which cancelled $1.2 billion credit being another highlight of his and delivering the maximum number of 10 national budgets in a row, Muhith signed off from politics in 2019.Hasina mourned Muhith and sympathised with the bereaving family, an official in her press wing said. Muhith, who had been a member of the Pakistan Civil Service, left his job at the Pakistan embassy in the US in 1971 and joined the first government of Bangladesh, Hasina noted.The Independence Award-winning economist will be remembered through his works, she said.Muhith was born to Advocate Abu Ahmad Abdul Hafiz and Syed Shahar Banu Chowdhury in Sylhet on Jan 25, 1934. Hafiz was the founder of the then Sylhet District Muslim League, Shahar Banu was also active in politics. Muhith secured the first place in intermediate examinations in the province in 1951 from Sylhet MC College.He stood first class first in BA (Honours) in English Literature in 1954 from Dhaka University and passed his MA with credit from the same university in 1955.

During his service period, he studied in Oxford University in 1957-58 and received MPA degree from Harvard University in 1964.After joining Pakistan Civil Service in 1956, he served in different capacities in the government of East Pakistan, the Central government of Pakistan, and then Bangladesh after independence. During his service as the chief and deputy secretary of the Pakistan Planning Commission, he made a report on the disparity between East and West Pakistan in 1966 and that was the first report submitted on that issue in the Pakistan National Assembly in fulfilment of the constitutional obligation. He was the first diplomat of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington to pledge his allegiance to Bangladesh in June during the Liberation War of 1971.He was appointed as the secretary of planning in January 1972 and secretary of the External Resources Division of Finance and Planning Ministry in May 1977. Muhith went for early retirement in 1981 from his service and started the second innings of his career as a consultant on economic and development matters at Ford Foundation, IFAD, UN, UNDP, ADB and World Bank. He was also finance and planning minister from March 1982 to December 1983 during HM Ershad's government. He joined the Awami League in 2001 and was appointed a member of its Advisory Council in 2002. He was elected a Member of Parliament in 2009 from his home constituency in Sylhet. Muhith was born on 25 January 1934 at his home in Sylhet's Dhopadighirpar to Abu Ahmad Abdul Hafiz and Syeda Sahar Banu Chowdhury. His father was a veteran lawyer and politician of Sylhet.

He was the third child.Muhith earned his bachelor's (Honours) degree in English literature in 1954 from Dhaka University, securing first class. He earned his master's degree in the same subject the next year. In 1955, he became the vice president (VP) of Salimullah Hall students' union.After joining Pakistan Civil Service (CSP) in 1956, he served in different departments of East Pakistan, Central Pakistan and then Bangladesh. He was appointed as the secretary of planning in 1972 and secretary of the external resource department of Finance and Planning Ministry in 1977.He studied at Oxford University in 1957-1958 and completed a master of public administration at Harvard University in 1964.He is one of the major architects behind elevating Bangladesh to the level of a developing country. Muhith was finance and planning minister in 1982-83 during Ershad regime. He was elected ESCAP member at that time. Muhith joined Awami League in 2001. He was elected member of parliament from Sylhet-1 constituency in 2008.As finance minister of the Awami League government, he presented the budget in parliament for 10 years at a stretch. It was during his tenure that the size of the budget expanded. He even set a precedent by voluntarily relinquishing office of finance minister in the eighties. Muhith also played a glorious role in Bangladesh's liberation war. In 1971 he had been serving at the Pakistan embassy in the US when he declared his allegiance to Bangladesh. He mobilised support abroad for the Bangladesh Liberation War. That is why in 2016 he was accorded the highest civil honour of state, Swadinata Padak.On 25 July 2021 Muhith contracted coronavirus.

In the beginning of March this year he took ill again and was hospitalised. After recovering, on 14 March he even went on a visit to Sylhet. On 16 March the Sylhet City Corporation gave him the 'Guni Shrestha Sammanona.He has authored 40 books, in English and Bangla. Therefore, he was a widely admired and respected personality in many ways and Bangladesh has a special reason to mourn his death.To his great credit, he could actively serve the nation until the age of 85 with honesty and integrity. In a time when corruption was rife in politics and the financial sector, he managed to steer clear from all sorts of temptation. The new generation of leaders would do well in upholding his principles and values. May his departed soul rest in peace.


Rayhan Ahmed Topader is a Researcher and Columnist.



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