ENOUGH statistics on growth rate of the gross domestic product (GDP), Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) success stories, improved performance of various sectors of economy etc., were highlighted by the Prime Minister recently while addressing the special session of the United Nations on the occasion of its 60th anniversary in New York. Similar statistics were given by the finance minister while presenting budget to the Jatiya Sangsad (JS), but as a retired person from a non-pensionable job, I am very much alarmed over the prevailing situation. Thus, after every budget I do believe that I am sliding towards greater poverty. I retired from the job around 1989 with a basic pay of Tk 5700/- per month (pm) when the highest pay was Tk 6,000/- pm only for the government servants.
Since I did not like to live on interest incomes, I invested my savings and benefit funds in the unit fund certificates of the Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB) that comprised of investments mostly in public limited companies (PLCs). I received Tk 100,000/- as dividend against 4,000 units in 1988-89 and also in 1989-90. But then came democracy and I received Tk 70,000/- in 1994-95 and 1995-96 against these 4,000 ICB units. Lately I received less than Tk 50,000/- against these 4,000 unit certificates during the period between in 1999-20 and 2001-05. Thus, what is my real growth rate considering old age, price hike, cost of living index and so on? Recently, the salaries and benefits of ministers, MPs and judges were raised by around 50% per cent on the grounds of higher cost of living and other factors but many of the to-be-pensionable persons soon are helpless and they are becoming poorer and poorer.
Even I did invest some money in the purchase of shares and right shares but most of the sponsors of such companies have cheated the investors as they do not pay dividend for years. Some pay a meagre amount, some do not hold annual general meetings (AGMs) and some do not pay dividend after declaring the cash dividend. The Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of such PLCs are also commercially important persons (CIPs), very important persons (VIPs), ministers, top industrialists and businessmen of the country but most of them have cheated the shareholders. In the process, the Chartered Accountants have, time and again, played a dubious game by juxtaposing accounting figures in many cases. It is hard to believe when some PLCs with a paid-up capital of around Tk 200 million have an annual turnover, ranging between Tk 3.0 million and Taka 30 million or so. Unfortunately, privatisation are often praised but all these PLCs are run or managed privately under the company laws in force while the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) performs its role as the watchdog-cum-controller.
Since we continue to be corruption champion as per Transparency International (TI) reports for the past several years, it is time to engage a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) economic cadre so that it could be ascertained whether shareholders' money were invested properly or diverted to unknown destinations. Many a top executives including the accounts personnel of the PLCs of the USA were fined and sentenced concurrently because of their fraudulent activities. Let the finance ministry do something in the name of accountability, transparency and so on!