Illustration: Biplob Chakroborty


New Bangladesh Bank governor’s message to our banking industry

Illustration: Biplob Chakroborty

The brand new governor of Bangladesh Financial institution (BB) has heralded sturdy messages to the nation’s banking and monetary trade. Abdur Rouf Talukder, a former finance secretary, is a seasoned man who shepherded the ministry’s budgets for FY2021 and FY2022 in the best course throughout a most crucial time when the Covid pandemic swept the planet. Bangladesh, essentially the most densely populated nation with a poor price range for healthcare, was purported to embrace uncountable deaths and a grave financial catastrophe. However that did not occur. Bangladesh was among the many few which managed to stop the recession whereas main economies plunged into unfavorable progress. Talukder’s expertise at the moment because the finance secretary is predicted to be an enormous plus in main the central financial institution.

Nonetheless, the banking trade is totally different and sophisticated. It’s suffering from the ever-increasing quantity of non-performing loans (NPLs), the roots of that are primarily psycho-political in nature – not essentially financial. Default loans are greater than Tk 113,000 crore, which is 166 occasions greater than the quantity of the unrecovered fund stolen within the heist of 2016 that led the then governor, Dr Atiur Rahman, to resign. The default quantity that the press is aware of now’s a lot decrease than the precise, as a result of the definition of default has been modified and sugar-coated on a number of events to please the super-rich.

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Redefinition or restructuring has all the time posed hazardous messages, which additional inspired the ordinary looters to proceed their plundering of individuals’s cash from the banks. The brand new governor should not resort to accepting any sweeter definitions or restructuring proposals from the tycoons and family-based oligarchs. He promised to scale up inspections and implement worldwide requirements in capital adequacy. His promise to convey default loans to an affordable ratio is commendable. That ought to be his primary dedication, and he should stay credible by way of motion.

The present inflation is especially supply-shock-driven. And Governor Talukder has no weapon in his financial arsenal to persuade President Vladimir Putin to cease the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Putin appears to proceed his aggression in Ukraine as long as he earns further income by promoting gasoline and oil. Bangladesh cannot escape the worldwide warmth wave of worth hikes in power and commodities. One more reason why inflation will stay stubbornly excessive is the strengthening of the greenback – not solely in opposition to the taka, but in addition in opposition to all sturdy currencies across the globe.

Then, will the Bangladesh Financial institution sit idle and watch inflation flare up? Not likely. It should pay little consideration to the formidable progress charge of seven.5 % assigned by the finance ministry, and management credit score progress significantly for giant debtors. Herein lies the query of independence of a regulator. Governor Talukder, on his very first day, vowed to make the central financial institution an intellectually and professionally stimulated regulator company. His mission assertion complies with the Bangladesh Financial institution Order, 1972 and its important modification in 2003. He made it clear that he left his job on the secretariat and now led the central financial institution, the place the board would solely body main choices. That is the best mindset, which should stay because the lighthouse throughout his total navigation of the ship.

Only a few governors in current many years have inherited such a horrible mess that Governor Talukder has simply taken up. On high of the ballooned-up default loans, excessive inflation and depleting foreign exchange reserves are the 2 ominous indicators the entire trade is apprehensive to witness. The taka retains falling on daily basis due to faulty non-market change charge coverage prior to now. Import progress has exceeded export, making the commerce deficit the best ever. Remittance progress has fallen, paving the best way for larger present account deficits. Consequently, the overseas change reserves are sliding to a precarious stage. Cash traffickers and hundi lords have geared as much as siphon off funds abroad, regardless of good funding prospects within the native markets. The governor is predicted to work tirelessly to first deal with the mess that surfaced prior to now one yr or so, after which to streamline the foundations of financial economics. He’ll win the battle as long as he is ready to persuade the prime minister that his actions are theoretically appropriate – could also be quickly bitter, however candy for the long-term curiosity of the financial system.

The brand new governor should strengthen the analysis division and interact them on totally different research required for policymaking. Their findings can be important for choices to maneuver ahead. Sitting with the financial coverage committee not less than as soon as a month or extra is crucial. India makes financial coverage not less than 4 occasions a yr, the US eight occasions, whereas Bangladesh solely as soon as. That could be okay if revision or analysis conferences are finished not less than quarterly.

The results of avoiding the researchers or specialists, and being cloistered throughout the circle of conservative deputies did not show to be good prior to now – nor was the tactic of hiding from monetary reporters. Nor was it genuine to let another person communicate on the governor’s behalf. The US Fed chair Jerome Powell all the time faces the journalists after every of his coverage steps. The sign is 100 occasions more practical when the trade hears something from the governor, fairly than from a spokesperson. That’s how a governor is totally different from a finance secretary, and plenty of prior to now forgot that.

Elevating the repo charge from 5 to five.5 % is ok as a gesture, however nugatory as a coverage stance to fight inflation till the 9 % ceiling on the lending charge is not eliminated totally. Wholesome deposit mobilisation is not doable till the exorbitantly excessive non-market rates of interest prevail on Nationwide Saving Certificates (NSCs) or Sanchayapatra. In a concluding observe, the previous governor regarded Sanchayapatra as the costliest borrowing instrument of the federal government, and seen it as an obstacle to the monetary market.

The central financial institution governor should persuade the federal government to scale back NSC charges. NSC possession ought to be delivered to the banking sector after dismantling the Nationwide Financial savings Directorate. The Bangladesh Financial institution is a regulator to assist maximise employment, and therefore it should require all banks to submit the stories of their annual employment era – not simply merely the stories of bumper income. If Poet Milton is true in saying “Morning exhibits the day,” Governor Talukder will regain the paradise by strengthening Bangladesh Financial institution’s spine and remodeling the establishment right into a knowledge-based regulator of the nation’s banking trade.


Dr Birupaksha Paul is a professor of economics on the State College of New York at Cortland within the US and former chief economist of Bangladesh Financial institution.


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