Per capita income of the people of northwest region was very low in comparison to other regions of the country and once the northwest region was considered as food deficit and monga area but now the scenario has changed due to activities of Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank (RAKUB), said Mofazzal Husain, then Managing Director of RAKUB and currently on PRL, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.
In this context, he further said that this region has now become food surplus area and there is no monga in this region, adding that this has been possible due to activities of RAKUB, inspired by the farmer’s-friendly policies of the present government and supported by Bangladesh Bank that has ultimately empowered RAKUB for providing necessary agriculture loan to the farmers.
He mentioned in the past, different special program like Zero poverty credit program, MSFSCIP, RSCP, SECP, Swanirvor RIN Program “SAGRIB” etc were undertaken for the socio-economic development of this region and recently the bank has introduced some special programs like Muktijoddha Rin Kormosuchi, Adivasi Rin Komosuchi, Boideshik Kormosangshan Rin Kormosuchi for Socio-economic development in this region.
A high profile banker, Mr. Husain terming RAKUB as a specialized bank, mentioned that RAKUB plays a vital role mainly for providing agriculture credit facilities to the farmers for three core sectors of agriculture i.e. for crop, fisheries and livestock. In this context, he also mentioned that the credits are being disbursed in a transparent way under relaxed conditions and at reduced rate of interest while the rate of interest in other sectors are from 13 to 15 percent, whereas for production of pulse, oil-seeds, spices and maize the rate of interest is only six percent.
He then added that for making repayment procedure easier RAKUB has introduced Revolving Crop Credit Program under which farmers have to make repayment of interest amount only every year and at the end of the year the credit is renewed.
He informed us that Rashahi Krishi Unnayan Bank has been established for the agricultural and socio-economic development in the Northwest region of the country and this bank belongs to the farmers and general people of this region. So, RAKUB is determined to render the services to the doorsteps of its valued customers and at the same time the bank trying to provide modern banking facilities to them.
Accordingly, Mr. Husain requested all people of this region for receiving services from RAKUB because it is the bank established for serving this region only and suggested the officers and staffs of the bank for providing timely, transparently, honestly and competitively better services, so that the customers are satisfied and consider this bank as their own, and if such banker-customer relationship can be established, development of RAKUB and socio-economic condition of this region will further be strengthened.
In an exclusive interview, he replied to a number of questions. The excerpts of his valuable interview are produced here for The Guardian readers at home and abroad:
The Guardian: Would you please give us a short introduction to the founding history of the Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank (RAKUB) through which it has come to its present position?
Mofazzal Husain: Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank (RAKUB) was established by the President’s Ordinance No. 58 of 1986 with the aim of providing institutional agricultural credit for optimum utilization of agricultural potentials of the then Rajshahi Division, presently Rajshahi and Rangpur Division. RAKUB started functioning on 15 March, 1987 by taking over all the 253 branches and other offices along with assets and liabilities of Bangladesh Krishi Bank within the administrative jurisdictions of the present Rajshahi and Rangpur Division. Comparative picture of the bank at the time of establishment and the current period as on June 30,2014 is given below:
The Guardian: Would you inform us about the institutional coverage of RAKUB around the northwest region of the county and also inform us about the total number of branches and manpower including bankers and others working at various levels with the network of RAKUB around the region?
Mofazzal Husain: The Head Office of the bank is situated at Rajshahi. We have two Divisional Offices and two Divisional Audit Offices at Rajshahi and Rangpur . The bank has 18 Zonal offices and 18 Zonal Audit Offices in 16 districts of its jurisdiction. The branch network comprises 376 branches including one in Dhaka. The organogram of RAKUB is consisted of 5982 employees. However as of June, 2014 a total of 3540 employees are working in the bank. Among them 2426 are officers and 2426 are staff. Most of the branches are situated at union level and RAKUB providing all sorts of agriculture and other loan facilities to the farmers of all village/union of this region.
The Guardian: Would you comment on the efficiency of the personnel working at various levels of RAKUB and also say what facilities are available under the network of RAKUB to provide the personnel with latest knowledge of banking sector as well as with other relevant facilities of the modern age?
Mofazzal Husain: RAKUB has a good number of skilled and efficient personnel especially for rural banking activities. Moreover a large number of officers and staffs are engaged in all types of banking activities like updated general banking functions, remittance, foreign exchange and commercial credit functions. Apart from its traditional agricultural credit operation the work forces are being regularly trained up to develop their skill and attitude in all the areas of banking activities of modern and agricultural credit banking from the bank’s own Training Institute, BIBM, Bangladesh Bank, PATC etc. RAKUB has already brought its 132 branches under computerized banking system and planned to bring all other branches under computerization within this year. We have already deputed skilled Computer Operators/Data Entry Operators in all the branches and offices. Furthermore, the Information and Communication Technology Department of the bank is equipped with highly qualified and skilled technical personnel.
During the year 2014 we are going to recruit 566 new officers/staffs with a view to cope up with modern banking facilities. We have a plan to introduce online banking (Core Banking Solutions) system by 2015.
The Guardian: Would you reflect on the management system of RAKUB and also discuss the powers and functions of the Managing Director of RAKUB?
Mofazzal Husain: The Managing Director is the Chief Executive Officer of RAKUB. Moreover, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the bank as an ex-officio. The Managing Director has to supervise all the functions of the banks continuously. Under his direct supervision and guidance DMD, GMs, DGMs are working like a family in a decent atmosphere. He has to keep close contact and represent the bank to the Government, Bangladesh Bank and all other related public and private organizations. In a word, a bank’s success or failure mostly depends on the organizing and leadership capacity of the MD.
The Guardian: In this context, would you say how far the Managing Director is able to perform his assigned responsibilities smoothly in an environment of Bangladesh where he has to face multimode of pressure in and outside the office every now and them?
Mofazzal Husain: Multimode pressure from in and outside of the office is a common factor not only in Bangladesh rather in almost all the countries of the world. However, a Managing Director of a bank like RAKUB has to execute all the tasks professionally and proceed forward strictly observing the set rules of the Regulators and has no alternative to go beyond the rules. However, skilled and capable Managing Director should have the ability to manage everything perfectly. Again, when a MD is justified and proved to be transparent and accountable, he faces less pressures like those similar is the case with me.
The Guardian: It is learnt that the RAKUB is operating deposit accounts like general banking system. Would you please tell us something about this and also say the justification of introducing general banking system although this is a specialized bank established only for agricultural enhancement?
Mofazzal Husain: In answer to this question I would like to mention that RAKUB has been operating general banking system functions since its establishment. Therefore, general banking system has not been introduced in the bank newly or recently. However providing credit facilities for the development of agriculture is the first and foremost activity of the bank. Along with this special activity RAKUB is performing all other modern banking activities and provides credit facilities for different purposes like SME, Agri-industries, Cash credits, Poverty alleviation programs, foreign aided special credit programs. Moreover, the bank operates all general banking activities such as deposit banking, Remittance collection and payment, issuing bank guarantee, foreign exchange business etc.
With a view to cope up with the present need of the society RAKUB has to introduce some special deposit schemes to strengthen its deposit base. Recently Bangladesh Bank has given us instruction to increase deposit to avoid dependency on Bangladesh Bank’s refinance for providing of agricultural credit.
Under the agreement with the Western Union the bank provides service to the Bangladeshi people living abroad to send their hard-earned foreign remittance at lower cost to their dear-ones at all the branches quickly. Very recently we have signed an agreement with Dutch-Bangla Bank for providing mobile banking service through our bank. At present the mobile banking service is available at a few branches but this service will be available at all the branches very soon.
The Guardian: Would you discuss about the deposit situation and the progress of the School banking Account of RAKUB?
Mofazzal Husain: Deposit is the lifeblood for operating banking business smoothly. The deposit base of RAKUB was not satisfactory. Mainly the bank is dependent upon refinance facility provided by Bangladesh Bank. But now this facility is getting cheaper day by day. Considering all these factors the bank management has given special emphasis to mobilize deposit for making sound financial system of the bank. With a view to making the deposit mobilization program successful, priority is given for of core deposit i,e sustainable and low cost deposit. Each employee covering branch, Controlling Office and Head Office has been given instruction to collect at least one new deposit account daily. The instruction has also given to arrange month-long new Account Opening Fair in March and customers gathering program fortnightly in September and in January and monthly basis from March to June each year at all branch. Because of strong monitoring and supervision, the bank is able to mobilize deposit an amount of Tk. 3047 crore against the target of Tk. 3000 crore in the 2013-2014 financial year. This is the first time in the history of RAKUB where total deposit has crossed Tk. 3000 crore. The bank management has fixed deposit target of Tk. 3800 crore for 2014-2015 financial year for making strong deposit-base and to be self-reliant.
In November 2010, Bangladesh Bank (BB) instructed all banks to open school banking accounts. It said students need to be brought under banking services to help them contribute to economic activities through savings. School banking is a step towards financial inclusion and financial literacy goals taken by Bangladesh Bank, as it helps children to learn about the banking system and it encourages children to develop the habit of savings. RAKUB introduced school banking in a befitting manner after the central bank issued a circular in this regard. As on September 30, 2014, a total of 91386 school banking accounts havebeen opened with a total balance of Tk 4.28 crore. Of course this is the highest number of Accounts so far been opened by any bank in the Northwest region.
The Guardian: Would you discuss the overall areas of RAKUB’s financing?
Mofazzal Husain: According to the president’s ordinance No.58 of 1986 the administrative jurisdiction of the then Rajshahi Division was assigned as the jurisdiction of the bank. At present, RAKUB is executing its banking activities in 16 districts of Rajshahi and Rangpur Divisions through its 376 branches.
The Guardian: Since the RAKUB is established mainly to enhance the lot of the farmers of the north-west region of Bangladesh, would you inform us what specific services and facilities are being provided to the farmers by RAKUB in true sense?
Mofazzal Husain: As a specialized bank RAKUB plays a vital role mainly for providing agriculture credit facilities to the farmers. Every year disbursement target of the bank is allocated for three core sectors of agriculture i,e crop, fisheries and livestock. Again the credits are being disbursed in a transparent way under relaxed conditions and at reduced rate of interest while the rate of interest in other sectors are from 13 to 15 percent. Moreover, for production of pulse, oil-seeds, spices and maize the rate of interest is only six percent. Furthermore for making repayment procedure easier we have introduced Revolving Crop Credit Program under which farmer has to make repayment of interest amount only every year and at the end of the year the credit is renewed.
The Guardian: It is alleged that the poor farmers when go to the RAKUB branches for loans, they are not getting proper treatment and services from the bank officials, and even for getting loans, they have to pay commissions or gifts in the form or the other. Would you give your reaction to this and suggest what immediate step should be taken to improve the situation?
Mofazzal Husain: The present govt. is a farmer-friendly govt. This govt. is paying highest importance to agriculture and the farmers. Annual national budget allocation for agriculture by the govt. proves its justification. At the present moment such allegation is not true. In the past there were mismanagement and tendency of such corruption in the bank as well as other organizations of the country. Now the days are changed and after joining the bank as the Managing Director I paid highest importance on transparency and establishing accountability especially in credit disbursement. I have sent messages to the field level in this connection and monitor the matter regularly. As a result the tendency of said allegation has been reduced to a satisfactory level. If any complain regarding harassment of farmer or any corruptions against any employee of the bank is raised, we take instant action against such complain. We have taken the strategy of zero tolerance against corruption.
The Guardian: It is said that the northwest region of Bangladesh is a neglected region and to bring changes in its agro-economic activities, RAKUB has been established in 1986. In such a situation, would you assess how far RAKUB has been successful in bringing the excepted changes in agro-economic scenario of the region?
Mofazzal Husain: You have rightly pointed out very important issue. RAKUB was established in 1987 for bringing changes in agro economic activities of the North-West region of the country. If a glimpse of look is given on the credit activities of the bank especially on agriculture, it will be clear to everybody, what RAKUB is performing for agro economic development of the neglected region of the country. In 1987 total loan of the bank was only Tk. 563.83 crore, whereas as on June 30, 2014 total loan of the bank stands at Tk 4455.78 crore . Moreover, for development of rural economy the bank has undertaken various micro-credit programs. If someone travels from one district to another district of this region by road or train he/she will see green after green besides the road. In this green view of this region RAKUB has great contributions, especially to providing credit facilities to the farmers. Again if someone goes to RAKUB financed fishery village at chapila of Natore and Raninagar of Naogaon will thunder him/her.
The Guardian: As a distinguished banker of the country, would you also discuss the problems that RAKUB usually faces in implementing its programs effectively and also suggest their possible solutions so that RAKUB can contribute expectedly to the region?
Mofazzal Husain: There are several limitations what RAKUB has been facing as a regional bank in the country. Firstly business avenues or scopes in this north-west region is limited while other banks have great opportunities to provide credits in different big industries, shipping business, rubber and tea garden, shrimp cultivation land development and housing business and many other service oriented potential sectors in other regions of the country. Secondly, as a specialized govt. bank in most of the cases we are to depend on the decisions of the Ministry of Finance(Bank and Financial Institutions Division) which are sometimes very lengthy procedure. We suggest that considering the present perspective of the country some authority should be delegated to the Board of Directors to run the bank more judicially and effectively.
The Guardian: Upon the experiences of your long observation as Managing Director of the RAKUB, would you reflect on the various socio-economic problems of this region and also suggest necessary steps in all these regards keeping in view the role of the RAKUB in the region?
Mofazzal Husain: Per capita income of the people of this region was very low in comparison to other Divisions of the country. Once northwest region of the country was considered as food deficit and monga area. Now the scenario has changed. This region has now become food surplus area and there is no monga in this region. This has been possible due to farmer’s-friendly govt. policies, Bangladesh Bank’s support and of course RAKUB’s contribution for continuous support in disbursing of agriculture loan to the farmers.
In the past, different special program like Zero poverty credit program, MSFSCIP, RSCP”, “SECP”, Swanirvor RIN Program “SAGRIB” etc were undertaken for the socio-economic development of this region. Recently the bank has introduced some special programs like Muktijoddha Rin Kormosuchi, Adivasi Rin Komosuchi, Boideshik Kormosangshan Rin Kormosuchi for Socio-economic development in this region. Apart from continuing present programs more new and effective credit programs are to be introduced soon.
The Guardian: In the end, would you please give your valuable message for all concerned with RAKUB and especially for the people of northern Bangladesh?
Mofazzal Husain: Rashahi Krishi Unnayan Bank has been established for the agricultural and socio-economic development in the North-West region of the country. This bank belongs to the farmers and general people of this region. We are determined to render our services to the doorsteps of our valued customers. At the same time we are trying to provide modern banking facilities to them. I request to all people of this region for receiving services from RAKUB because it is the bank established for serving this region only.
For the employees of the bank I would like to suggest for providing timely, transparently, honestly and competitively better services, so that the customers are satisfied and consider this bank as their own. If such banker-customer relationship could be established, development of RAKUB and socio-economic condition of this region will further be strengthened.