As per a report published in this paper on December 7, State-owned Commercial Bank (SCB) Sonali is in deep trouble, as it is finding it near impossible to sell off Hallmark group's mortgaged assets. We understand that the bank has floated tenders 60 times between 2013 and 2017 but no bidder has displayed any interest in procuring these highly disputed properties worth Tk 3,000 crore! Most SCBs are now stuck with thousands of crores of taka bad loans and recovery isn't going well. Sonali Bank is considering turning the Hallmark factory complex into an economic zone in the hope of recouping the loss. The whole situation is a mess.
Despite so many financial scams, we find policymakers pumping in thousands of crores of taxpayers' money into these loss-making SCBs in order to keep them afloat. What we don't hear of course is whether any reforms will be initiated to banking practices in SCBs so that they may not suffer these scams again and again. Now that we are finding out the hard way that it is near impossible to recover monies lent out to dubious companies like Hallmark through legal measures, is it not time that an empowered and independent Commission was set up to find out how these scams have shattered the SCBs?
The Commission must be mandated to reform the sector which will allow for accountability and transparency to become cornerstones in lending practices. That is the only way to improve governance in SCBs. Setting up an economic zone on confiscated property is not the answer to bringing about order in the chaotic banking sector. Heads must roll for criminal conduct in these banks and reforms must be initiated to stop the drain on public money.