It’s hellish for economy, says Muhith on strikes

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Thursday termed hartal and strikes that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its alliance partners are now enforcing as ‘hellish’ for the country’s economy.

“The present troubled situation is hellish. It’s a big obstacle. The economy needs to continue with its trend. But the impact of an obstacle on the economy is very long,” he told newsmen after a meeting with Pierre Mayaudon, the head of delegation of the European Union (EU) in Bangladesh, at his Secretariat office.

Mr Muhith also termed hartal and strikes as stupidity but said it’s a hundred per cent political matter.

Being approached by reporters, he, however, did not want to propose any solution to resolve the political impasse. “May be, there is something for the government to do to resolve the crisis. I don’t want to give any opinion on this issue because I don’t talk about this field.”

Regarding impacts of hartal on the economy, as mentioned by the World Bank, the minister said he was also seeing the same risks.

Replying to a comment on businessmen’s move to go for legal battle to stop strikes, Mr Muhith said, “Yes, they can go to court seeking ban on strikes.”

He hoped that the impasse would go within a week for the betterment of the economy. “My expectation is the strikes will be over in a week. I didn’t expect that this year the impasse would continue for such a long period. It was okay for last year,” he said replying to another question.

Mr Muhith informed newsmen that during the meeting, the EU delegation expressed its concern over the present political situation. “I have also told them that we are equally worried about the present condition.”

He said: “We are taking economic activities to a level that no political party can call hartal. I expect that it will happen in two or three years. The economic forces will provide the impetus to this reform.”

The minister said the EU delegation gave him a piece of bad news during the meeting. He said the EU decided not to fund any more the ‘Strengthening Public Expenditure Management Programme’ (SPEMP), under which reform of the financial system of Bangladesh is taking place.

“The EU wanted an assurance that by 2015-16, there would be a provision in the budget keeping a fund for the SPEMP,” he said, “We have already talked with the World Bank. They have agreed to be engaged in the programme for next one year, he added.”

He said the entire financial sector reform is being carried out under this programme. “This is a programme we should continue all the time.”

Mr Muhith said during ’90s, the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom became engaged with it as an experimental programme between 1994 and 1997. Later, the World Bank and the EU came forward to fund this reform programme.