A bill over depositing surplus money of state agencies to the national exchequer was passed amid unprecedented opposition from the Jatiya Party lawmakers today in Parliament, while the BNP MPs staged a walkout.
This was the first time in the recent history of the country’s parliament when members of parliaments refused to place amendment proposal on the bill.
Both JP and BNP members of parliament termed the bill black, dangerous and anti-people.
Each also refrained from placing their amendment proposals on the bill “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” for the bill, while the BNP MPs staged a walkout in protest of the proposed law.
The opposition MPs demanded the bill be withdrawn from the house and sent for eliciting public opinion.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal faced blistering attacks from the MPs after the bill was placed in the House, with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.
The MPs who harshly criticised the bill are JP MP 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, it would invite dire consequence for the country’s economy.
Rumeen Farhana said the government paid attention to the self-governed agencies’ funds after looting the money of the government organisations.
“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 an adverse impact on the share market.
Fakhrul Imam said, “Many countries and many parties were destroyed due to misuse of the brute majority,” he said, pointing to the ruling Awami League’s “brute majority” in Parliament.
Harunur Rashid said the move was being taken as there was massive corruption in mega projects and the government needed more money.
“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 passed the bill by dint of their brute majority, the consequences would be dire and financial discipline would collapse.
“The government put its hands into the pockets of the people after looting the money from the banks. Bring back the laundered money…,” he said.
Taking a swipe at the finance minister, Mujibul Haque said it was normal that this situation turned worse “given the country’s finance minister was a businessman.”
Shameem Haider Patwary termed the bill disgusting, dangerous and anti-state law. “No nasty incident like passing such bill took place in parliamentary history. It’ll be a historical mistake and the finance minister would be held responsible for it.”
In reply to the MPs’ remarks, the Finance Minister said the bill was being enacted to bring financial discipline. The people of the country would largely benefit from it and the country would march forward further due to the law, he said.
The finance minister earlier on January 14 placed the bill with a view to bringing the surplus money held by 61 state agencies to the national exchequer and utilising the funds to implement development projects.
The surplus funds will be deposited to the national exchequer after keeping aside the operational cost, additional 25 percent of the operational cost as emergency funds and 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 action 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 bill said.
The money belongs to the people and should be spent for their welfare, it said.
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.
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.