A bill to bring the surplus money of 61 state and autonomous agencies to the national exchequer was passed amid unprecedented opposition from Jatiya Party (JP) and BNP MPs in parliament yesterday.
The bill was placed on January 14 to use the surplus money for implementing development projects.
The surplus funds will be deposited to the state coffers after keeping aside the operational cost, additional 25 percent 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, mentioned in the bill, will have to deposit the funds to the state coffers within three months after a fiscal year ends.
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 “dangerous” and “anti-people” 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. BNP MPs walked out protesting the passage of the bill.
This is for the first time in the recent history of the country’s parliament that no MP made amendment proposals on a bill.
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 the bill would invite dire consequence for the country’s economy.
The government is now eyeing the fund of the self-governed agencies after looting the money of the government organisations, Rumeen said.
“Since the government is heavily in debt, the bill was brought to loot the money of the self-governed organisations,” she said, adding that if the bill was passed it would have huge adverse impact on the stock market.
The government initiated the move as there was massive corruption in mega projects, Rashid said.
“If the bill is passed, the 61 self-governed organisations will be destroyed and their efficiency will decline,” he said.
Rashid said if the government passed the bill, the consequences would be dire and the financial discipline would collapse.
“The government puts its hands into the pockets of the people after looting the money from banks. Bring back the laundered money as tens of thousands of crore taka was siphoned off the country,” he said.
Taking a swipe at Kamal, Mujibul Haque said since the finance minister was a businessman, such a situation was not unexpected.
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.”
Shameem Haider Patwary termed the bill disgusting, dangerous and anti-state.
“It will be a historical mistake and the finance minister would be held responsible for that.”
In reply to the MPs’ remarks, Finance Minister Kamal said the bill was for financial discipline. The people of the country would benefit, 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.