Economic challenges: End corruption, recover bad loans  

During the roundtable titled 'Economy: Challenges of the New Government,' organised by Prothom Alo, speakers highlighted the main challenges facing the economy.

The participants emphasised the need to stabilise the macroeconomy, tackle corruption, reduce the prices of daily commodities, halt the looting in the banking sector under the guise of loans, and create a conducive environment for investment.

Economists, researchers, and business representatives present at the roundtable identified problems from their respective positions and perspectives, offering practical recommendations for the transition.

In the discussion, former State Minister for Planning, Shamsul Alam, suggested putting a halt to mega projects for two years which underscores the fragility of the current economic situation.

There is a tendency for the government to become complacent over implementing large development projects. Questions have been raised about the additional costs and the effectiveness of some of these projects

The primary economic challenge facing the new government is to maintain the affordability of daily commodities for the common people. Currently, inflation stands at around 9.5 per cent, particularly impacting food products.

Since the formation of the new government, the prices of several food items, including rice, have increased in the past few days, causing public concern. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for an investigation to determine if there is any manipulation behind the rise in rice prices and has urged legal action against those responsible.

Concerns raised by economists and businessmen about corruption, money laundering, investment stagnation, and banking sector chaos are not new. These issues have persisted for many years.

However, it cannot be asserted that the government's policymakers have adequately addressed these concerns and taken effective measures.  

There is a tendency for the government to become complacent over implementing large development projects. Questions have been raised about the additional costs and the effectiveness of some of these projects. As these matters demand accountability, they should be considered when planning future projects.  

Most of these development projects have been financed with foreign loans. Moreover, due to the global crisis, the dollar price has increased, necessitating control over imports. It is crucial for the government to assure that major development projects will not lead to significant disasters, a sentiment shared by both experts and citizens. 

The new Finance Minister, AH Mahmud Ali, conducted a meeting with his colleagues to discuss the overall economic situation. He has also engaged in discussions with foreign diplomats.

Mahmud Ali mentioned that resolving the economic problems will take some time, and people are generally understanding of the drastic yet necessary steps required in economic policy planning. 

However, there is a collective desire to witness alignment between the government's words and actions. The issues of corruption and loan scams in the banking sector have been topics of discussion for years, yet there has been a lack of sustained and effective action. In some instances, the Bangladesh Bank remains silent, while in others, it is kept silent.

Additionally, there is a need to understand why Islamic banks, which were performing well for many years, now require operational support. 

Businesspersons themselves acknowledge that setting the 9-6 interest rate was a grave mistake. Now, the situation cannot be rectified solely by increasing the interest rate. Above all, the business and investment environment should be equal for everyone. 

If the government takes effective and sustainable steps, considering the recommendations from the Prothom Alo roundtable, it is not difficult to accelerate the economy. But first and foremost, corruption must be eliminated, bad loans recovered, and strict action taken against those responsible.