There are now 61 banks in the country. After the Awami League government came to power in 2009, Bangladesh Bank objected to the initiative to launch new banks. The central bank's assessment was that there are more banks than needed in proportion to the size of our country. Therefore, now new banks were needed. Yet, ruling AL government approved the new banks, which the then finance minister AMA Muhith defined as a political decision.
Entrepreneurs of private banks also did not want new banks at that time. The business federation should have assessed whether the country needs any new banks at all. Yet now, this apex body of businessmen in the country, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI), want their own bank now. They want to have insurance companies, universities, medical colleges — everything. In other words, instead of solving the problems of running businesses, they want to start their own business.
The apex business body is one of the most important institutions in any country. A visit to the website of the US Chamber of Commerce or the British Chamber of Commerce gives a clear idea of the range, role and status of their work. The activities of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries are vital too. The role of the FBCCI in Bangladesh is very poor compared to the top business federations of any other country. It has become a platform for sycophantic opportunists and has lost its importance and prestige due to politicisation.
The FBCCI elections were scheduled for 5 May. But the election is not taking place as it has already been finalised who will be the candidates. A committee imposed on general businessmen will lead the organisation the next two years. The new committee will have to implement the decision to establish banks, insurance companies and universities.
But the country's economy is in deep crisis. Corona's second blow has put both life and livelihood in jeopardy. It is also clear that there was not much preparation to handle the second wave. Sustaining production and employment is now a big challenge. In such times, business federations from other countries of the world are playing an important role. Besides, evaluating the various economic policies taken by the governments of the countries, they are coming up with various suggestions. They have come forward to help the small and big industries that are in trouble through various programmes. But in Bangladesh, FBCCI is like an entity living on an isolated island. Their activities are limited to one or two speeches and statements.
The driving force of the country's economy is the private sector. How much the economy can turn around in the Covid situation depends entirely on the private sector. This requires financial and policy support. If the FBCCI, as the apex body of traders, cannot determine how effective the government policy is and what other types of assistance will be needed or can negotiate with the government, bargain with the government, and stand by the side of ordinary traders, there will no use of such an organisation. This is high time that FBCCI do some introspection about its own position.