There has been a sharp reaction against the recommendations to cut down the salaries and allowances of bank employees, while all the facilities and benefits of the bank owners remain intact. The bank owners are even considering a halt in all types of advertising in the media. However, bank officials say that implementing such recommendation will cause further harm to the banking sector.
At an emergency meeting of the Bangladesh Association of Banks (BAB) on Sunday, 13 recommendations were made to cut down on expenditure of the banks. A letter has been drawn up in this regard. The recommendations of BAB, the association of bank owners, include: slashing salaries by 15 percent; holding up promotions, salary increments, incentive bonuses, and postponing the opening of new branches, agent banking and sub-branches; stopping all local and overseas training of employees, foreign trips, all corporate social responsibility expenditure and grants, as well as advertising in the newspapers and television.
Over the past few years the government has resorted to various means to block advertisements from the media and use this as a tool of coercion. This recommendation of BAB seems like another ploy to weaken the media.
Speaking to Prothom Alo regarding the issue, four managing directors of different banks said that they don’t advertise or carry out publicity to serve the interest of the media houses. Rather these are done in the interests of the banks. Banks advertise for expansion of business and to publicise their services and products. Business expansion is not possible without such publicity.
Meanwhile, the managing director of Eastern Bank, Ali Reza Iftekhar, also chairman of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh (ABB), the organisation of chief executives of banks, told Prothom Alo, “BAB can give recommendations, not decisions. It has put forward 13 decisions. We know that publicity means expansion. When a bank has a new product, how will people know about it unless we let them know?”
Former chairman of ABB and managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, Syed Mahbubur Rahman, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that every bank has a board of directors. It is up to the board to decide whether they will spend on advertising or not. The banks advertise in their own interests.
Vice chairman of ABB and managing director of NRB Bank Mehmud Hossain, said, “Banks advertise for publicity of their services. We have to go through some medium or the other to reach the people. That is up to the banks to decide. Various quarters within the government are trying to silence the voice of the media. Advertising is the main source of income for the media. Over the past few years the government has resorted to various means to block advertisements from the media and use this as a tool of coercion. This recommendation of BAB seems like another ploy to weaken the media. Certain members of BAB who have been favoured by the government are the ones who are eager to impose this recommendation.”
Stopping advertisements in the media is the same as obstructing the growth and free expression of the media.
BAB chairman Nazrul Islam explained the matter when speaking to Prothom Alo. He said the recommendations had been given about cutting costs. No one is obliged to follow these recommendations. It is just about surviving in the existing circumstances, he said.
The media, in the meantime, has reacted to the recommendation of the bank owners to stop advertisements. President of Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) Kuddus Afrad and general secretary Sajjad Alam issued a statement on Wednesday, saying stopping advertisements in the media is the same as obstructing the growth and free expression of the media. The DUJ leaders went on to say that one of the main revenue sources of the media is advertisements. It would be inconsiderate to stop advertisements at this time of the coronavirus crisis. This step will harm the role played by the media in building the nation. The statement said that such an announcement was unfortunate. The DUJ leaders called upon the BAB to retract this announcement.