A bill over bringing the surplus money of state agencies to the national exchequer was passed amid unprecedented opposition from Jatiya Party (JP) and BNP MPs in the parliament yesterday.
The bill was placed on January 14 with a view to bringing the surplus money held by 61 state agencies to the national exchequer and utilising the funds for implementing development projects.
The surplus funds will be deposited to the national exchequer after keeping aside the operational cost, additional 25 per cent of the operational cost as emergency funds, money for general provident fund and pension, according to the bill. The respective organisation can estimate its operational cost.
The agencies have been included in the bill and they will have to deposit the funds to the national exchequer within three months of completion of a fiscal year.
If an organisation does not provide correct information about the funds, legal actions will be taken against it, the bill said.
Agencies have parked huge amounts of money in banks as deposits and the government needs the money to finance ongoing development projects.
The money belongs to the people and should be spent for their welfare, the bill said.
Both JP and BNP MPs termed the bill as ‘black’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘anti-people’ law and all of them refrained from placing their amendment proposals on the ‘Deposition of Surplus Money of Self-Governed Agencies including Autonomous, Semi-Autonomous and Statutory Government Authorities and Public Non-Financial Corporations to the National Exchequer Bill 2020’.
The main opposition JP MPs voted ‘No’ when the Speaker placed the bill for voice vote in the House. But another opposition, BNP MPs, staged walkout protesting the passage of the proposed law.
This is for the first time in the recent history of the country’s parliament that no MP raised amendment proposals on a bill protesting it.
The opposition MPs demanded withdrawal of the bill from the House to send it for eliciting public opinion.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal faced blistering attacks from the MPs following the placing of the bill in the House with Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.
The MPs who harshly criticised the bill are JP MPs Kazi Firoz Rashid, Mujibul Haque, Fakhrul Imam and Shameem Haider Patwary, and BNP MPs Harunur Rashid and Rumeen Farhana.
They said if the ruling party unilaterally passes the bill with their brut majority, it would invite dire consequence for the country’s economy.
The government paid attention to the fund of the self-governed agencies after looting the money of the government organisations, Farhana said.
“Since the government is heavily indebted, the bill was brought to loot the money of the self-governed organisations,” she said, adding that if the bill is passed it will have huge adverse impact on the stock market.
“As the bill is black and anti-people law. I withdraw my amendment motions on the bill,” the BNP MP said.
The government has initiated move to collect the money from the fund of the self-governed agencies as there was massive corruption in the mega projects, Rashid said.
“If the bill is passed, the 61 self-governed organisations will be destroyed and their efficiency will decline,” he said.
Kazi Firoz Rashid said if the government passes the bill by dint of their brut majority, the consequences will be dire and the financial discipline will collapse.
“The government puts its hands into the pockets of the people after looting the money from the banks. Bring back the laundered money as tens of thousands of crore taka was siphoned off the country,” he said pointing at the Finance Minister.
Taking a swipe at Kamal, Mujibul Haque said it is normal that this situation turned worse when the country’s finance minister is a businessman.
Noting that the present finance minister was a talented student and successful businessman, Haque said: “We expected that he would make the economy stronger, but it didn’t happen so.”
Shameem Haider Patwary termed the bill disgusting, dangerous and anti-state law.
“No nasty incident like passing such bill took place in the parliamentary history. It will be a historical mistake and the finance minister would be held responsible for that.”
“If the government passes the bill due to having the brut majority, it would be first step of the fall of the nation… the total financial system will collapse and it will bring disruption in economy,” he said, adding that such law was used to be enacted in the colonial period to loot the money.
In reply to the MPs’ remarks, Kamal said the bill was being enacted to bring financial discipline. The people of the country would largely be benefited and the country would march forward further due to the law, he said.
The government has undertaken many development projects and only regular revenue income is not enough to bankroll them. So, the government is utilising the fund for the development projects.
The draft law was approved by the cabinet in early September, when the cabinet secretary said state-owned autonomous organisations held Tk 212,100 crore in deposit in banks as of May last year.
They held Tk 218,839 crore at banks until June 30 last year, according to finance ministry statistics. The cabinet decision, however, evoked reaction from bankers, who fear the law would hit the cash-starved banking sector hard.
The ongoing liquidity crisis would worsen if the government transfers the money from banks to the national exchequer, they said, adding that the move to bring down the interest rate to single digit is likely to face hurdle due to the initiative.