Saturday, September 05, 2009

RIP M Saifur Rahman

The country's longest serving finance minister M Saifur Rahman who steered the Bangladesh economy toward a free market path and presided over series of economic reforms died yesterday in a car crash.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s(BNP) one of the worthy politicians was travelling to the capital when his car spun out of control after the driver tried to skirt a cow on the busy Dhaka-Sylhet highway.

Instead, it fell into a five-feet deep ditch with the 77-year-old leader tied up under a seat belt. Local people rescued the ailing leader unconscious but he was declared dead as his body was rushed to Brahmanbaria Sadar Hospital at 3.00pm. He apparently failed to untie his seat belt as he was already in ill health due to prostrate cancer.

The United States lauded the late leader's "critical role in improving the lives and bringing prosperity to millions of Bangladeshis by opening Bangladesh's economy and promoting free market reforms".

A professional chartered accountant who completed his higher study in London, Saifur Rahman was hurled in politics by the late president Ziaur Rahman during the crucial rebuilding period of the nation in late 1970s.

Mr. Rahman was a partner of the famed accountancy firm Rahman Rahman Haque KPMG and placed 12 national budgets during his three separate tenures at the helm of the finance ministry.

A BNP standing committee member, he served president Zia as an adviser and then served his cabinet first as commerce and later as finance minister.

After Zia's death, he served as finance minister in justice Abdus Sattar and to Khaleda Zia, who was prime minister when BNP returned to power between 1991-96 and again between 2001-06.

His reforms during his first tenure under Khaleda Zia are widely credited with putting the country on the free market path and stabilising the country's macro economic health in the ensuing decades.

The country's percentage of poverty dropped to below 40 per cent in 2006 from a staggering 59 per cent in 1991, thanks in large part to the market economy he championed.

According to ex finance adviser Mirza Azizul Islam, "The reforms he initiated during his time as finance minister led the country towards higher growth path. He brought down inflation, fiscal deficit and stabilised macro economy. The country is still reaping the benefits of his economic reforms. If his policies are continued, I am sure the growth will be accelerated further."

Mr Rahman was the first to introduce VAT (value added tax) in Bangladesh in 1992 as part of expanding the tax net and orchestrated major banking reform in early 1990s.

He sought to divest all four state-owned banks including the largest Sonali Bank and privatized scores of loss making state-owned enterprises that have been a big drag on the government’s expenditure.

A deft economic policy planner, Mr Saifur Rahman was elected to parliament for four times, serving both Sylhet and his Moulvibazar constituencies.

Mr. Rahman was born in Bahar Mordon village of Moulvibazar district in 1932 to an illustrious Muslim family.

He joined politics in the early 1950s when as a vice president of Salimullah Muslim Hall he took part in the Language Movement of 1952, for which he was awarded the prestigious Ekushey Padak in 2005.

After graduating from Dhaka Univeristy in 1953, he moved to the United Kingdom to pursue higher studies in accountancy and qualified as a Chartered Accountatnt in 1958.

In his colourful career, Mr. Rahman served scores of local and international organisations, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB), the Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA) and Bangladesh Jatishangha Samiti.

He presided over the golden jubilee conference of the World Bank and IMF as elected governor in 1994 held at the Spanish capital of Madrid.

Although I have always been the first one to criticise the Bangladeshi politicians, the contributions of Saifur Rahman to Bangladeshi economy cannot be ignored. I am deeply saddened by the loss of the architect of Bangladesh’s financial reform and pray that he is granted paradise.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Jammie Dodger: Jacuzzi

I have a new colleague at my workplace. He works in a different department within the same floor but we chat occasionally to keep track of each other’s wellbeing. He is of sub-continental origin-born and brought up in London. I call him Jammie Dodger- purely because of his funny but likeable character.

Jammie Dodger tells us stories that keep all of us at work going in the difficult times. He loves to share his amazing stories. As I have taken the sombre oath of keeping my blog readers entertained, I hereby will share some of his stories.

One of the first stories of Jammie Dodger is of his unique experience at his local gym on the night before his ‘A’ level physics exam.

He apparently decided to go to his local gym to use the Jacuzzi to ‘let off’ some steam before the difficult physics exam. So there he was in his shorts ‘letting off’ steam. Then he in his own words ‘nodded off’. After a while he woke up with the sound of giggling all around him. He woke up and found out that there were about 7-8 girls in the Jacuzzi and all were staring at his shorts with seductive smiles. He looked down and found out that his manhood had snaked out through the passage of shorts and with the waves of Jacuzzi it created an illusion of swaying from one side to the other. He then quickly tucked his manhood back inside the shorts and walked off the place.

He didn’t do very well in that physics exam the next morning as he kept thinking about the girls checking out his manhood!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trousers Island

Bangladesh is becoming the ‘Trousers Island’, if not the Treasure Island, for global apparel importers as local manufacturers are sourcing jeans and other cotton trousers at the cheapest prices and maintaining admirable quality, according to ‘New Age’ of Bangladesh.

The industry’s strength has weighed up with Bangladeshi exporters occupying the number-one position in the US market of jeans and other cotton trousers in December, industry insiders told New Age.

Quoting the latest report of world’s leading market survey organisation Research & Markets, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association officials said by December Bangladesh controlled 13.82% market share in USA.

The market surveyor, quoting US official data, showed that in 2008 US importers’ procurement of cotton trousers from Bangladesh totalled 299.9 million pieces, up 26.3% from that of the previous year.

Chinese suppliers lost their position to Bangladeshis as their shipments grew by less than 9% to 288.7 million pieces in the year.

Mexico, which was the top exporter of trousers to USA just two years back, stood third, with a more than 10% decline in shipments totalling 224.4 million pieces.

Vietnam stood at fourth position in US cotton trousers market, with 184.2 million pairs of trousers and an export growth rate of 14%.

A Bangladeshi official at VF Corporation’s procurement office in Dhaka points out that with developed backward linkage, local jeans-makers are finding fabrics cheaper locally and delivering shipments within a short period.

‘It is really fantastic to feel that one in every seven trousers sold in the USA is made in Bangladesh,’ he said. ‘Importers are diverting their procurements from other countries to Bangladesh and it is becoming a ‘Trousers Island’.

Bangladeshi suppliers recently received significant orders diverted from Mexico as depreciation of the value of Mexican Peso and some other factors made Mexican trousers costly, Anwar noted.

Abdus Salam Murshedy, managing director of the Envoy Group, a leading jeans supplier to American brands, points out that China’s growing reluctance to low-end products are also diverting many buyers to Bangladesh.

Partex Denim managing director Showkot Aziz Russell said finer quality denim fabrics are being produced in Bangladesh, attracting more procurement by global brands.

Partex supplies fabrics to many jean makers who source all top global brands including H&M, C&A, Marks & Spencer, American Eagle, and Uniqlo.

With a 2-million-yard annul production capacity, Partex is said to be the largest among some 20 local units that are now able to meet more than half of the industry’s demand that earlier had to be fed by imports.

The robust growth in trousers shipments to the USA is also significant for Bangladesh as she earns more than one-third of her entire apparel export proceeds from that country by selling denim and other cotton trousers.

According to the latest official data, in the January-November 2008, Bangladesh apparel exports earned $3.17 billion from the USA, with cotton-based trousers accounting for $1.19 billion and non-cotton trousers $147 million.