He has undoubtedly passed the test of integrity

Abul Maal Abdul MuhithFile photo

The recently deceased former Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith had a special personality. He was a pro-people liberal person with a complete non-communal mindset. At the same time, he was cultural, an experienced administrator, veteran politician and a freedom fighter.

He will be remembered for long for several of Bangladesh's financial achievements. For example, graduation from the LDC (Least Developed Country) status, graduation from lower income to lower middle income country, and primary success in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He was sure about the role of economy for a country like Bangladesh. He always tried to think about the people who are lagging behind.

The finance ministry is a place where honesty in leadership is vital. Undoubtedly Abdul Muhith passed the test of integrity. We saw him perturbed whenever he observed injustice.

I can recall an incident. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith was the finance minister of Ershad-led government in 1982-84. At that time anti-Ershad movement was going on. We also took part in the demonstrations. At that time, I met him about a work on Arthaniti Samity (Economic Association). The Samity organised a discussion on a budget he presented that time. The discussion took place on the first floor of the TSC (Teacher-Student Centre) of Dhaka University. In that discussion he slammed the Ershad government on several issues. We were astounded by the criticisms of the government. A few days later he resigned from the Cabinet and went abroad.

Once he would attend different programmes of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) regularly. He took part in debates in the CPD programmes rather animatedly between 2000 and 2007. Once he talked emotionally about the local government. Later, he was critical of many things of the CPD and us. But our face to face meeting was never bitter.

Debapriya Bhattacharya
File photo

He was in such a position where maybe he had the opportunity to work in various important issues like realising more tax, ensuring quality of government expenditure, bring transparency in capital market, reforming the banking sector and strengthening the local government braving political pressure.

People had high hopes about these reforms from a person like him. Besides, he himself would have been benefitted more if he had given the space of independent professionals in policymaking. That’s why I think the policymakers of Bangladesh and those involved with its implementation have a lot to learn from the long life of Muhith.

My humble respects to the works of memories of Muhith Saheb.

* Debapriya Bhattacharya is a Distinguished Fellow, CPD