How many more unfair advantages will defaulters receive?

A IMF delegation came to Dhaka recently and expressed their concern over the banking sector of the country while discussing with the government's policymakers. They also stressed on the banking sector reform and empowering the central bank in obtaining a loan of four and a half billion dollars. It is not only foreigners who have talked about reforming the banking sector. Economists and banking experts in the country have also expressed their concern.

What is the reason behind the crisis in the banking sector? Some answer to this question was found in Shawkat Hossain's report published in Prothom Alo on Tuesday (15 November). Banks naturally charge customers a higher rate of interest on loans than the rate they give on savings. The banking business survives on this discrepancies in the interest rates of the two types of transactions.

But if the borrowers do not repay the loans and continue to default year after year, the banking sector is bound to collapse. In recent times, the 'unscrupulous borrowers' have used the Covid pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war as an excuse for defaulting loans, whereas there is no explanation for the pre pandemic and pre-war loan defaulting of billions of taka.

According to Prothom Alo , defaulted loans are increasing at a geometric rate. Whereas in 1990 the amount of defaulted loans was Tk 46.46 billion, in 2022 the amount has reached Tk 1.3 trillion. The most loans have been defaulted in the past 14 years, during the current Awami League period.

We observed that the government's policy and planning are largely faulty. Instead of trying to recover defaulted loans, they have repeatedly protected the defaulters by sometimes changing the definition of defaulted loans, sometimes by extending the term for repaying loans. These borrowers took loans using political influence, and also changed the definition of defaulted loans by pressuring the government.

Due to this pressure, there has been a terrible disorder in the banking sector. Honest borrowers, who regularly repay their installments, are also discouraged by defaulters. If a borrower of the bank gets away without repaying the loan, why not others?

The country's economy or banking system runs on the basis of laws. Those who follow the law should be rewarded and those who break the law should be punished.

But in Bangladesh, always occurs the opposite in the case of defaulters. Big defaulters keep control over the government. The amount of defaulted loans in state-owned banks has increased to an excruciating level. The situation is such that the government is sustaining the banks with 'subsidy'.

Then the defaulters will move to private banks. There are also allegations against some private bank owners of misappropriating customers' money.

Where the government is supposed to take strict action against the defaulters in order to keep the country's economy and business running, it rather is bowing to their unfair demands. They are being granted unfair advantages one after another.

Have policymakers considered the consequences? Even if the country's economists and experts are not heeded, the government should take the IMF's warning into account. A defaulted loan cannot be recovered by sweet talk and repeated concessions. Stern steps must be taken against defaulters to improve the banking sector and to save the overall economy.