Graft directly affects 74pc SMEs: study
Seventy four per cent of entrepreneurs of small and medium enterprises (SME) across eight divisions of Bangladesh were directly affected by corruption while doing business.
This was revealed at a discussion hosted by the Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) in partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise at a city hotel yesterday.
The programme unveiled the findings of a two-year study conducted by the CGS on the nature of corruption in the SME sector of Bangladesh.
According to the study's respondents, the use of bribes and political influence to gain favours were the two most common forms of corruption in Bangladesh.
Economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, thinks that the role of business leaders was questionable in many cases, besides the irregularities of government officials.
Instead of being accountable to businesspeople, they came into office and remained loyal to the rulers. It started with the nomination, not election, of the merchant organisation leaders, he said as chief guest.
According to the study's respondents, the use of bribes and political influence to gain favours were the two most common forms of corruption in Bangladesh
He believes that if the situation does not improve, corruption would not decrease in the overall environment of business and commerce in the country.
Bhattacharya said all the research of the world shows that corruption obviously makes poverty permanent, creates discrimination, curtails rights, foils skills and investments and destroy relationships of trust.
The prime minister increased salaries and allowances of government employees with a view to reduce corruption but it has not gone down, he said.
So, it is not correct that corruption goes down when incomes increase, he added.
He said in some cases corruption has reduced due to digitalisation but corruption in purchase systems of the government has not reduced even after the introduction of e-procurement.
Stressing on accountability, Ali Imam Majumder, former cabinet secretary, said it was not possible to drive out corruption from a country or society where a person has the scope to enjoy money earned illegally.
"Unfortunately, it is true that we have already almost reached near that position," he said.
Awami League lawmaker Hafiz Ahmed Mazumder acknowledged the fact that corruption has harassed people of Bangladesh for a very long time and any strategy to solve the situation would be welcome.
Dr Md Mofizur Rahman, managing director of SME Foundation, said the foundation was facing difficulties in providing services to SMEs due to a lack of manpower and resources.
Stressing on the need for proper support for SMEs, Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Chamber of Industries, said currently none was providing policy support to SMEs in Bangladesh.
That is why the SME sector in Bangladesh is underperforming compared to many other prosperous nations, he said.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Majid, a former chairman of the National Board of Revenue, talked about the endemic nature of corruption in Bangladesh at every level.
As corruption has spread all the way to the top, the only way to stop it is a top-down approach, he said.
He talked about the need for a new SME ministry and a new SME bank to give specialised and accountable services to SMEs.
Advocate Nitai Roy Chowdhury, a former minister and vice chairman of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, said the legal framework of the country has been destroyed for which corruption was increasing even more.
Stressing on the need for action, Ruhin Hossain Prince, general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, said just discussing on corruption was not enough and there needs to be collective action.
Nayeemul Islam Khan, editor of Daily Amader Notun Shomoy, talked about corruption in media as well as the extreme prevalence of fake news enabling corruption.
The discussion was presided over by CGS Chairman Dr Manjur A Chowdhury and moderated by CGS Executive Director Zillur Rahman.
Among others, Misbahur Rahman Chowdhury, chairman of Bangladesh Islami Okkyo Jote, Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury, a former mayor of Chittagong City Corporation, Taslima Miji, managing director of Leatheriana, and Musa Mia, associate editor of Banik Barta, also spoke.