Lamenting the 'grave danger' in the country's banking sector following a number of scams, a civic dialogue on Saturday called on the political parties to pledge unequivocally that they would no longer give licence for or operate banks on political considerations.
A study report presented there by Center For Policy Dialogue said the country has lost at least Tk 225 billion (equivalent to around USD 2.8 billion) due to major scams, heists and other irregularities in banking sector over the past 10 years.
The private think-tank, CPD, insisted on stopping spending public money for channelling fresh capital into the public sector banks and recommended that the central bank should appoint an administrator to oversee the troubled banks.
The scams involved 14 banks -- both from public and private sectors -- in the past decade, the CPD study said referring to media reports.
Senior economists, academics, former bureaucrats, and present and former banking sector leaders attended the CPD dialogue titled ‘What Do We Do with the Banking Sector of Bangladesh’ at a city hotel.
The CPD cited embezzlement of Tk 45 billion from BASIC Bank, Tk 100 billion from Janata Bank, and cyber heist of Tk 6.8 billion from Bangladesh Bank as glaring examples of corruption and mismanagement in the banking sector.
"The amount embezzled would have been enough to implement mega projects like Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project or thermal power project at Rampal," CPD executive director Fahmida Khatun said reading out the study report.
She recommended that the political parties stop appointing board members of the banks and stop giving license to any new banks on political considerations.
In the context of the situation in the banking sector, CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said the think-tank would form a ‘citizen’s commission’ after the upcoming general elections to give the next government necessary suggestions to improve the banking sector.
Economist Wahiduddin Mahmud termed the banking sector 'the heart of national economy' and said the sector that witnessed decline instead of making any progress is banking sector.
“I want to request the political parties to do politics in any other sector they want, but please do not do it with the banking sector,” he said addressing the political parties ahead of the parliamentary polls.
Former governor of Bangladesh Bank Salehuddin Ahmed emphasised political will to improve the state of the banking sector.
He added that ensuring good governance in and outside the bank management, as well as compliance with regulatory rules of the central bank is important.
Former deputy governor of BB Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled regretted that while the depositors are the real owners of the banks, they do not have any representatives in the board of directors.
He criticised the Bangladesh Bank authorities for not having their own voice and kowtowing to the government for every political move.
World Bank lead economist Zahid Hussain, former finance secretary Siddiqur Rahman Chowdhury, economist Abu Ahmed, and Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) director Shah Md Ahsan Habib, among others, addressed there.