Two former finance ministers -- Abul Maal Abdul Muhith and M Syeduzzaman -- were yesterday felicitated for their outstanding contribution to nation-building by Bangla daily Bonik Barta and think-tank Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
Both were pro-people and entrepreneur-friendly, said politicians, economists and civil society members, who convened at the capital’s Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel to toast them at a gala event.
“They were very sharp and clear in their minds,” said Mashiur Rahman, economic affairs adviser to the prime minister.
Both persons were open to entrepreneurs, said Salman F Rahman, adviser on private industry and investment to the prime minister.
“They had listened to us (businesses) and solved the problems,” said Rahman, also the vice-chairman of Beximco Group.
Syeduzzaman is a hard-working and proactive person, said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, who happens to be Muhith’s younger brother.
Anisuzzaman, a retired professor of the Dhaka University, said they are well recognised for their honesty and wisdom.
Rashed Khan Menon, chairman of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, said both of them had important roles in building Bangladesh as bureaucrats and ministers.
Muslim Chowdhury, comptroller and auditor general, recalled his memory working with Muhith. “He was very meticulous and sharp,” Chowdhury said.
Syeduzzaman, 86, is a member of the board of trustees of the Centre for Policy Dialogue. He studied physics at the University of Dhaka and development economics at Williams College in the US.
In 1956, at the age of 23, he joined Pakistan Civil Service. Later, he became the finance secretary, planning secretary and secretary for External Resources Division.
Between January 1984 and December 1987, he was the principal finance secretary and adviser to the president in charge of the ministry of finance, with the status of a state minister. He then became a regular cabinet minister in charge of the ministry of finance and the ministry of planning.
He played a major role in improving macroeconomic management in Bangladesh, strengthening the balance of payments and in opening up opportunities to the private sector. He undertook a number of measures to improve the effectiveness of external assistance.
Muhith, 85, was an achiever throughout his student life. He secured first place in Intermediate examination in the province in 1951 from Sylhet MC College.
He stood first class first in BA (Honours) in English Literature in 1954 from the Dhaka University and passed his MA with credit from the same university in 1955.
He joined Pakistan Civil Service in 1956 and in 1957-58 he studied at Oxford University and received MPA degree from Harvard University in 1964.
During his service in the Pakistan Planning Commission, Muhith made a report on the disparity between East and West Pakistan in 1966.
That was the first report submitted on that issue in the Pakistan National Assembly then.
He was the first diplomat of the Pakistan High Commission to transfer his allegiance to Bangladesh in June 1971 in the middle of Independence War.
He was appointed the secretary of planning in 1972 and secretary of the External Resources Division in 1977.
He went for early retirement in 1981 from civil service and started his second innings as a consultant on economic and development matters at the Ford Foundation, the IFAD, the UN, the UNDP, the ADB and the World Bank.
He was the finance and planning minister from March 1982 to December 1983. He served as the finance minister from 2009 to 2019.
MA Mannan, planning minister; Tipu Munshi, commerce minister; Matia Chowdhury, former agriculture minister; Matiul Islam, Bangladesh’s first finance secretary; KAS Murshid, director general of the BIDS; Aziz Khan, chairman of Summit Group; Shamsul Alam, member of the Planning Commission; and Dewan Hanif Mahmud, editor of the Bonik Barta, spoke, among others.