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The Economy, January 5- January 11, 2022 Doc File

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This publication is passing 34th year

EDITORIAL

Let Democracy make an Auspicious Start

– Khaled Mahmood

When a state itself turns to be a terrorist, democracy, good governance, fair justice – all get naturally vanished. The law-making body in any welfare state-set-up should have fairly elected public representatives. Here the neutrality of the Administrative authority, independence of judiciary, honesty, justice, impartiality, sincerity and above all dutifulness are essential for the welfare of the common man. If the state machinery fails to be endowed with these qualities, the governmental system of the state simply becomes ineffective.

The internal and global politics and the economy of Bangladesh today face a serious crisis. The politics and the economy here do not ensure the real welfare of the people. Politicians, the law-makers, the administrative authority and the judicial hierarchy are attacked with death-causing cancer. Whatever ointment is applied on the over-side or the chemotherapy administered in any measure, there is no minimum probability of getting relief from this life-taking disease.

New concepts and ideas vis-a-vis time and desire of the people are to be conceived. Hence, it is most essential to think about new political philosophy and good leadership. Unless this depraved state machinery-frame and its activities can be uprooted through people-oriented social and mass scale upheavals, we can never realize the golden dream of new days. The democratic, political and fundamental rights of the common man would continue to be violated time and again. Because, at the top of controlling authority of our socio-economic system lie the corrupt undemocratic and despotic rulers.

Here is the mountain-high question on the abilities of the top-ranking leaders in the social, religious and cultural fields. The role of intelligentsia and of civil society is also controversial. Leaders of professional organizations are busy with the new business avenues. In a word, the judging  power of our society and state has gone down to the bottom.

A particular slice of the intelligentsia and journalists, not being party-blind, is trying hard to the last breath for presenting the real picture of the public opinion through the newspapers and the electronic media. They are playing the true role of the representative spokesman of the broad masses of the country. Some Patriotic students organizations, few good citizens and NGOs with their dedicated and distinguished leaders are involved in the efforts. They are now the actual ambassadors of the people and of the country. Many concerned persons individually and as NGO leaders are reported to have fallen victim to the wrath of the ruling party men due to their role in favour of mass welfare.

In our country, there is a government which champion and charioteer this undemocratic muscle power. Here are also a few opposition parties having no sense of duties and responsibilities. Added to them, are the infidels, traitors, shenanigans, radicalists and the so-called religious militants.

The nation wants to get rid of these evil forces without any delay.

The citizens of the country aspire to have an elected government comprising the political personalities with transparent character and without any involvement in violence against women, corruption, concealed murder, unlawful confinement, terrorism, extra-judicial killings, etc. It is to be kept in mind that a questionable election or an unelected government is adverse to the fundamental rights and aspirations of the common man. So, the establishment of a patrotic govt. based on free and fair election is the very expectation of all the people of the country on this solemn day.

The Father of the Nation Bangabndhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his historic speech on the 7th March, 1971, declared: “The struggle of this time is for freedom, the struggle of this time is for independence”. Let his historic declaration be the pathfinder of our right-deprived aggrieved people. Let it be the goal of our auspicious journey to democracy. Let the struggle of the sixteen crore people for democracy be crowned with success. E

(This Editorial was published in the The Economy on 17 March 2021. For our readers we reproduce this again. Editor)

SPECIAL EDITORIAL

The Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

On this august day, the 17th March of the year nineteen hundred twenty the young couple Sheikh Lutfar Rahman and Sayera Khatun was blessed with a child in the quiet village Tungipara bedecked with natural beauty, who, later on, enlightened the world with the qualities of his head and heart and brought for him the undying glory of being the father of a nation . It is his courageous and unerring leadership that lies at the root of his glaring success as a leader. He was born to be a leader. Nothing, imprisonment or torture, could detract him from the goal he set for his life and that was the freedom of his motherland and people from the clutches of the barbarous rulers. With this end in view, he joined politics while he was a student. He supported the creation of Pakistan as it was the crying need of the time.

But soon the realization dawned upon him that the interest of the people of this wing of the then East Pakistan could not be served by the rulers of Pakistan. So, he revolted against the unjust and oppressive reign dominated by the Muslim league leaders and Military junta. Provided divinely with a farsight into future, he devoted himself to the cause of the independence of Bangladesh and achieved the goal within a short time on 16 December, 1971 for which he was honoured with the title, “The father of the nation”. While he engaged himself wholeheartedly to consolidate the foundation of the new state, the most shocking and tragic incident took place and he was murdered brutally along with the majority members of his family on 15 August, 1975 by a gang of military officers, the remnant of the Pakistani forces.

True it is that Sheikh Mujib does not physically exist now with us but who can separate him from the people and the country he loved more than his life. He is with us in hundreds of ways. His Physical absence has been overlapped by his spiritual existence. He is alive with the old and the young, with the men and women of this country for which he sacrificed his life. He lives and will continue to live forever in the green fields, in the chirpings of the birds and in the cries of the children whom he loved heart and soul.

This year, his birth anniversary appears with a special message. The country is passing from the LDC stage to the development stage. Development in any country is normally associated with corruption of various kinds. To check corruption, the father of the nation warned the politicians, officers, employees and the people against this demon who is already out to swallow the benefits of development and even of independence, in thousands of his speeches. The pages of the newspapers are now found to be filled in by the news of corruption of different kinds. If this state of things is allowed to continue, the very fruit of development, even of independence, will be set at naught. The soul of our departed father will suffer most in the heaven observing the moral degradation of his people.

He stood like a rock against corruption. He knew that a nation immersed in corruption can never progress in the real sense of the term. The corruption creates disparity among the different classes of the society. The improvement of a class can never ensure the stable peace in the country. Because the people now-a-days do not shut their eyes to the fact how a class of people dealing with politics has amassed wealth overnight through corruption. At present, it is heard in the remote corner of the country that the politics in the country is the source of earning money. The major portion of politicians of the country are so much involved in earning money that the word, ” honesty” has been removed from the day to day activities of our life. So, corruption on the part of the responsible persons of the society will lead to a serious situation in our national life.

On this solemn day of his birth, we all, irrespective of post and position, take an oath to curb corruption of every kind at any cost.  Thus, the nation can be saved from the imminent danger. We can pay the best of our homage to Bangabandhu, The father of the nation, if we can stand unitedly against corruption, repression and injustice which have already threatened the existence of the nation. Long live Bangabandhu, long live his ideals. E

Editorial on Bangabandu’s birth centenary was published in the The Economy on 17 March 2021. For our valued readers we reproduce this. Editor)

TAX REVENUE

How to Increase Tax Revenue and Lessen Corruption:

A Reconciliation Oriented Model

– Sheikh Murad Hossain*

The low tax-GDP ratio of Bangladesh illustrates why tax revenue collection should be a top priority for the government. Increasing tax revenue collection and lessening corruption go hand in hand. Keeping this in mind, I can suggest a multidimensional model for increasing tax revenue. The model mainly focuses improving cross-agency communication. We start by identifying the dimensions where such communications will be fruitful and then look into each of the dimensions and the nature of communication suggested.

First, we have to outline the dimensions we will consider. We want to limit corruption using early stage actions. At the same time, based on the size of collected revenue and observed level of corruption, we can take the following dimensions into consideration: land registration, flat registration, building plan permit, automobile registration and corporate loan and advances. For each of these dimensions, a tax-payer is involved with one or more agencies and we want to create a system which allows for data sharing within these agencies and NBR to track the taxpayer’s conduct and validate their records through a cross-platform checking mechanism. This will reduce tax evasion opportunities through tighter monitoring.

Land registration: This service is provided through the land registration authority. My suggestion is having an additional requirement for a clearance letter for the taxpayer that has to be provided by the NBR. This creates a two-step verification instrument that allows the land registration authority to evaluate the land better and NBR to update his profile resulting in better transparency and removal of corruption opportunities.

Flat registration:Parallel to the land registration process, flats registration should also require a clearance letter from NBR in order to better judge the taxpayer’s ability and wealth. This should have an impact similar to the clearance letter for land registration.

Construction permit: Building plan permits, whether obtained through RAJUK, Municipalities or Union Parishad, should require a dual verification system. The idea is, building plan permits should not go out to people incapable of completing the construction work. NBR has a clear idea of the wealth level of individuals and can contribute to this process. This will also deter taxpayers from understating their wealth for tax purposes.

Automobile (car) registration: This is usually done through BRTA. In this case, the BRTA should inform NBR when a taxpayer is registering for a car, creating a more seamless flow of information. At the same time, NBR can notify BRTA if they find any inconsistencies with the purchase given the profile of the individual. This creates a more prudent system and limits the scope for tax evasion.

Corporate loans from Banks: As there are inclinations to produce multiple audit reports by some valued taxpayers based on the authority it is submitted to, it’s important to reconcile these across different agencies to protect the interest of all stakeholders. A corporation may submit a vastly different audit report to banks for acquiring loans and to NBR for taxation purposes. Whatever the real picture is, to ensure their credit quality objectively, banks and NBR should have to communicate and come to a single understanding about the health of the company. This leads to a better tax assessment capacity for NBR. Whereas for banks, they can now do a better job of credit assessment and reduce non-performing loans.

This entire model has a single philosophy at its core and that is cross-platform communication. This adds transparency to the whole process and will lead to better outcome for all stakeholders. To achieve this, a robust digitalized database and platforms with multi-agency access should be developed. In doing so, time needed to complete the process and visits to the ministries for the taxpayers can be minimized, ensuring that their experience is not hampered. I believe this model can greatly aid in addressing the tax evasion and corruption issue. When we can resolve these issues, we should be well on our way to increase the tax revenue for the government. E

* The above Article is written by Sheikh Murad Hossain

(Author’s own view)

Second Secretary

National Board of Revenue (NBR)

Bangladesh.

(This article was published in the The Economy on 17 March, 2021. For our readers we republished this. Editor)

 

Interview

Anti-Corruption Commissioner

Dr. Md. Mozammel Haque Khan Says :

“Even the  Slightest Lie

is the Mark of a Corrupt Mind”

Recently Khaled Mahmood, the editor of The Economy met Dr. Md. Mozammel Haque Khan, a Commissioner of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) at his office in Dhaka. The editor asked some questions on ACC to the Commissioner as a part of interview on the ACC, Bangladesh. Thereafter, Dr. Khan duly answered the questions on the ACC, Bangladesh. The Commissioner has explained and narrated the constraints and potentialities of the prevention and eradication of corruption from the country in clear and unequivocal terms in a nutshell. Considering the significance and importance of the gigantic statutory institution in national perspective, we publish the interview proceedings with the ACC Commissioner for our valued readers.

Khaled Mahmood : Would you kindly tell us whether ACC is an autonomous or a constitutional organization?

Mozammel Haque Khan : Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Bangladesh is neither an autonomous nor a constitutional body. ACC is an independent and impartial statutory body. This organization is created by the Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004.

Khaled Mahmood : Can you independently work or take any decision regarding your actions against corruption?

Mozammel Haque Khan : Definitely, ACC is legally mandated to take any action against corruption independently based on the section no-3 and 17 of the ACC act-2004.

Khaled Mahmood : What sort of cases you deal with for prevention of corruption?

Mozammel Haque Khan : In accordance with the ACC Act 2004, out of 11 operational agenda of the Commission, 6 pertain to action that is virtually preventive to corruption. It is a universal truth that preventing corruption before its commencement, is always a best policy. With a view to doing this, the Commission is taking multidimensional tasks.

Commission has formed CPC(Corruption Prevention Committees) in all the metropolitan cities, districts, upazilas, even at union levels, including the enlightened personalities of the societies. In association with the CPCs, Commission has formed 26,213 Integrity Unit comprising students from schools, colleges & madrasas to promote the value of honesty & integrity among the young generation. To promote good practices and prevent corruption more effectively, Commission has taken a five-year strategic action plan(2017-2021) with the support of GIZ. This will help the optimal utilization of limited resources. ACC is conducting countrywide public hearings and follow-up hearings in the upazilas & districts including Dhaka to create accountability among the public servants. Last year i,e 2019 about 2,90,356 posters & 8400 leaflets containing fine adages were distributed to create mass awareness. Besides, 1,09,648 exercise books, 89,093 rulers, 4,769 geometry boxes bearing useful advice as “No bad deeds, do not endure it”, “Go for fair deeds, build the nation together”, “Think the well being of the nation – go the right way” “shall tell the truth, stand opposed to

inequality and injustice”, ” shall obey the laws, live with safety”, pledge for patriotism,

adieu to corruption”, “None trusts a liar”, “Do not laugh at the Elders”, were  distributed among the students at secondary level classes all over the country. In the same year, 7374 umbrellas and 25,451 school bags were also given to the students and teachers of the educational institutions. ACC each year observes Anti-Corruption Week, International Anti-Corruption Day, the Founding Anniversary of the Commission, celebrates the Victory Day, observes the Independence Day, International Mother Language Day, National Victory Day and so on. For raising public awareness against corruption, some short documentary films dubbed as “Punishment”, “Triumph of truth”, “Get good & Let Good” & ” Mistake”. And, additionally, a few TV series have been televised  on private TV channels and BTV. Similarly, in the public places of the districts  & upazilas, where people largely get together, the same films are being exhibited regularly by the District Information Officers.

ACC is disseminating SMS over mobile phones to create awareness, organizes debate, painting and cartoon competitions and so on. Among the common people Dudak Darpon is distributed each year. To develop public awareness programs like discussions, meetings, debate, human-chains, rallies, seminars are being organized by the prevention wing, from the city to the grass-root levels.

Khaled Mahmood : What is the total number of anti-corruption cases you filed during the last two years? What number of them has been  successful leading to punishment through trial by the court?

Mozammel Haque Khan : In the last two consecutive years (2019, 2020)

ACC had lodged 363 and 285 number of FIRs. At the same time, 267 and 195  number of charge-sheets have been submitted to the court. The Number of  trap cases for the year 2019 is 16 and 08 in 2020. The conviction rate of ACC cases is 76%, for money-laundering the conviction rate is 100%.

Khaled Mahmood : Please, give us the structure including organogram  of the staff of ACC. Do you think that the present man-power is sufficient to  deal with such a gigantic work?

Mozammel Haque Khan : At present total manpower of the Commission stands at 2146. Among them only 243 officers are conducting enquiry and investigation. So, it’s clear that we don’t have sufficient man-power here in ACC. ACC is under-staffed. Our officers are  overworked.  Every day we get thousands of complaints through e-mail, mail, overhotline-106 and also written complaints by post. In 2018, as many as 16,606 written allegations were received from different sources including media. From hotline 106 of the complaint center we received 17,18,736, complaints. So it’s a difficult situation for us. Under-staffing makes employees stressed, as a result, deadlines are missed and actions are delayed and so on. However, the recruitment procedure according to the newly approved manpower is going on.

Khaled Mahmood : Earlier ACC had to file suits against the offenders in the concerned police stations. But now ACC itself can file cases. So have you sufficient arrangement of hajatkhana, police force and other logistics for the purpose?

Mozammel Haque Khan : For the sake of operational interventions one 20 member armed unit has been deployed by the Anti-Corruption Commission since 7 September 2017. Together with the officials of the commission, the members of the armed unit actively take part in effecting the arrest of the criminal and launching the Anti-corruption drives. Meanwhile, the operational procedures of the armed unit are drawn up and the notification has also been issued to that effect. The members of this armed unit are put to operations in pursuing this notification. With the purpose of keeping the arrested accused in temporary custody and to produce them before the court, the hajatkhana is being managed in accordance with the specific policy.

Khaled Mahmood : There is an allegation that the persons related to the present government get advantage of relief from cases but opposition party related persons are sued unjustly, leading to their untold sufferings, what would you say about the matter?

Mozammel Haque Khan : ACC conducts the enquiry and investigation on the basis of information and evidences. The ACC officials collect evidences of the fact and place their report before the commission. Commission emphasises on the gravity of allegations, not on the alleged person. We have prosecuted many veteran MPs and political leaders of the present government. There is no scope for being partial as ACC works in accordance with documentary proofs and evidences.

Khaled Mahmood : Bank Money- plundering cases including Basic Bank, Sonali Bank, Janata Bank, Agrani Bank are not as yet in final shape. Abdul Hye Bacchu, the former Chairman of Basic Bank is yet outside your touch, but why?

Mozammel Haque Khan : I think it’s not the whole truth. On the Basic bank issue we have lodged 56 FIRs. 120 accused including the MD of Basic bank have been charged for embezzlement. Amount of 2500 crore taka has been recovered and 4559,58,00,000 taka have been rescheduled. Some cases are under investigation. Those cases are complex in nature. Because we have to find the trail of money to detect the real beneficiary. Concerning Sonali bank scam, we have 35 cases under trial in the court, an amount of 13 crore taka has been recovered. Against Janata bank scam we have filed 5 cases and 44 crore taka has been recovered. Two cases against Agrani bank scam are under trial. The investigators can include a person in the case on the basis of documentary evidences. Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu has been interrogated by our investigators. Some investigation against Basic bank scam is still ongoing. They will disclose the fact before the Commission.

Khaled Mahmood : In the meantime one of the Directors of ACC has been arrested and put up for trial. To remove public perceptions about the existence of more such type of employees in the ACC do you contemplate to make cleansing drive here?

Mozammel Haque Khan : Yes, we do regularly conduct checks and balances for internal corruption. Following ACC Rules 2007, rule no-19, ACC has its Internal Anti- Corruption Committee for constant surveillance, monitoring on internal corruption and misconduct of the officers. If any officer is found to exercise his power wrongly, and to harass anyone unjustly, the Committee is empowered to take action against the officer for any offence under this rule. The Internal Anti-Corruption Committee is headed by the Chairman. The Secretary and DG (law and prosecution) are two members of the committee. Besides, the conduct of the officers is being watched out through the own Intelligence Unit of the Commission. In 2018, 3 officers of the Commission have been given rigorous and 01 support staff has been given minor punishment.

Khaled Mahmood : Many accused persons are found to be innocent in the trial process. Do you take action against the officers who are found to be involved in harassing any innocent person by charging in the court of trial?

Mozammel Haque Khan : There is hardly any scope for the officers to harass any innocent person. Because, at first, the Enquiry officer reveals the truth (primarily) by collecting information from different sources. After lodging an FIR, Commission assigns the case to another officer for investigation. In this stage, documentary evidence is collected. The investigative operations are

being frequently and intensively monitored by a supervisor.

After investigation, the concerned officer submits the

report to the Commission. After analyzing the investigation report the Commission may provide approval for submission of a charge sheet or final report accordingly or if necessary, they may send the file for re-investigation. There are lots of checks and balances for submitting the matter to the court for trial. Still if anyone harasses any person with an ill motive, we have provision to punish him.

 

Khaled Mahmood : The present law does not authorize any agency to file case or arrest any government official without prior permission of the government. Do you think that such a provision of law acts as a hindrance to the prevention of corruption among the public servants?

Mozammel Haque Khan : The Public Service Act 2018 prohibits arrest of any public servant on criminal charges relating to his official duties, but ACC investigates cases not related to his official duties, but criminal offences. ACC does not have any hindrances for arresting any accused. Besides this, we have a judgment from Bangladesh High Court Division on writ petition no. 12272 of 2013 that says;

“The corrupt persons, whether privileged or generapeople,  are birds of the same . feather and must be confronted with the process of investigation and inquiry equally, based on the position or status in the society, no distinction can be made. The result of the impugned legislation is that the very group of persons, namely, Government officials, magistrates and judges whose misdemeanor and illegalities  may have to be inquired into would be decided by the ACC.

The ACC should even start an inquiry or investigation  against them or not. The reasons as stated above, the Rule deserves to be made absolute. This judgement also  favours the ACC to enjoy the power to arrest. In the year

2018, we have arrested 28 government officials.

Khaled Mahmood : Sometimes the court makes remarks that the offenders can not be punished due to weak charge-sheet and improper evidences. Do you have any plan to overcome these shortcomings in this regard?

Mozammel Haque Khan : With an objective to make the country free from the gulping grip of corruption the actions of the Commission are set to become more dynamic, effective and visible. So in addition to enhancing the capacity of its own workforce the Commission devotedly endeavours to ensure its own transparency and accountability as well. Simultaneously, with the modernization of its own work environment the Commission in 2018 undertook a host of measures including training, seminars, symposium etc. for skill development of its workforce. In 2018, the Commission on its own management and with financial and technical assistance from various national and foreign agencies organized a good number of training including searching the sources of money, forensic investigation, foreign aid management system, comprehensive intelligence, senior security courses which were participated by 872 officials and supporting staff of the Commission. To increase the capacity of human resource there is no better alternative other than training. On return from overseas training the officers make a presentation sharing their learning points. The Commission has given the direction to the effect that the officers must apply at least one learning from their training to their respective work areas.

Khaled Mahmood : Would you please tell us-what percentage of the total corruption volume in Bangladesh is being tackled by Anti-Corruption Commission?

Mozammel Haque Khan : Corruption is a comprehensive term. It’s not countable and fixed in number. You can say either our country has high corruption or low corruption rate. This concept of corruption is also not constant, the variables change all the time. Corruption is a vast matter that can engulf every possible unethical thing. Even the slightest lie is the mark of a corrupted mind.

But the ACC only is empowered to enquire and investigate the scheduled offence fixed by the ACC act. So, it’s very difficult to say the percentage of corruption tackled by the ACC.

Khaled Mahmood : Please speak something about your chequered and successful career in order that future generation can follow your footprints in their life.

Mozammel Haque Khan : Well, I have joined ACC as a Commissioner with the status of a Justice of the High Court Division of Bangladesh Supreme Court on 02 July 2018. Before this appointment, I served as a Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration till 30 June 2018.

 I was born in Panchkhola village under Madaripur District in 1959. I passed my Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examination from United Islamia Government High School, Madaripur and Dhaka College, Dhaka in the year of 1974 and 1976 respectively. I have obtained BSS (Honors) and MSS Degree in Social Welfare from the University of Dhaka. I have completed my SD degree in Population and Development from Cairo Demographic Centre, Egypt. After that I completed Ph.D. in Public Administration. I joined as a member of BCS (Administration) Cadre in 1982 Regular Batch. In my career, I served in various capacities entailing Assistant Commissioner and Magistrate, Revenue Deputy Collector, Upazila Nirbahi Officer, Additional Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Jhenaidah District at the field level. Besides, I worked as a senior assistant secretary, Deputy Secretary, Joint Secretary and Additional Secretary in various Ministries of Government. I was the Private Secretary to the Divisional Commissioner, Dhaka, State Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Planning. I served as the Private Secretary to the Honorable President. In 2009, I was promoted to the post of and served in the Energy and Mineral Resources Division and the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Secretary of Government and served in Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs, Ministry of Communication, IMED Division, Ministry of Planning and Energy and Mineral Resources Division, Ministry of Power, Energy & Mineral Resources. In 2014, I was promoted as a Senior Secretary of the Government (the Energy and Mineral Resources Division and Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs). Outside my professional career, I am inspired by the principles of Scouting. Currently I am the Chief National Commissioner of Bangladesh Scouts and Chairman of South Asian Association of National Scout Organization (SAANSO). I am the President of JICA Alumni Association of Bangladesh (JAAB), Adviser of JICA Alumni Association Forum of SAARC Countries (JAAFSC), President of Greater Faridpur Employee Welfare Association and President of Bangladesh Karate Federation. I am much interested in the welfare activities for the poor and under-privileged people and spend much time working for the rural people of Bangladesh. In this regard, I am associated with some organizations at my village home in Madaripur District. I am the founder of Dr. Md. Mozammel Haque Khan College, Madaripur, Chief patron of Panchkhola Muktisena High School, Madaripur, founder Chairman of Wazeda Kuddus Welfare Foundation, Chairman of Wazeda Kuddus Old Home and Technical Training Centre for Backward Adolescent Children and Chairman of Hazi Nowab Ali Khan Orphanage, Madaripur. In recognition of my contribution to Scouting, I have received the highest award of Bharat Scouts and Guides (Silver Elephant), highest award of Bangladesh Scouts (Silver Tiger) and Tamarrow award of the Philippines. As a part of my official duty, I have participated in many foreign trainings and visited more than 40 countries of the World, such as Australia, Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Nepal, Philippines, Portugal, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vietnam.

Personally, I am very much hopeful of our future generation. They are really promising and competitive. To me, future success starts with a vision fixed in the present. The important thing is, you should do something that you really love passionately. At first, fix a set of goals and then work accordingly. If you fail, don’t take it as a bad experience, rather take it as a learning curve. Choose your role model and follow his traits to keep yourself motivated. Specially for young generation, I would like to say not to do anything for quick success. Try to keep patience and work wisely to achieve your desired goal. And finally, be positive and always believe in yourself that you can do something.E

* Above interview of Dr. Md. Mozammel Haque Khan, Commissioner, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was published in the The Economy on 17th March 2021 on the occosion of our 34th publication ceremony. We are reproduce this interview again for our valued readers. Editor.

 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

 

Ingenious team-effort can achieve

SDG revenue goal after pandemic

Mohammad Belal Hossain Chowdhury

Commissioner of Customs

During the hard days of Corona pandemic National Board of Revenue (NBR) achieved almost 20% revenue growth than that of the last Fiscal Year (FY) which seems to be the best performance in the last decade. CEVC Cumilla demonstrated unprecedented success in collection of revenue and over all administration.

 

On behalf of The Economy, an weekly international economic journal, the Editor Khaled Mahmood put a cluster of questions on the realisation of Taxes by CEVC Cumilla to its successul Change-maker and Commissioner, Mohammad Belal Hossain Chowdhury. He replied the questions. The answers are compiled, edited & printed for the valued readers of The Economy:

 

  1. Question: How long have you been in government service? When did you join the post of commissioner?

Answer: There is nothing certain but the uncertain. I’m the fortunate gift of uncertainties in life. Once I dreamt to be a Judge of the Supreme Court. The miracle happened and I was blessed with a 1st class job by the Almighty Allah when my fellow-mates were  attending classes in the University. I have been in government service since1995. I was promoted to the post of Commissioner in mid-2016 and got the opportunity to work in three working places.

First of all, I had been the Director  General of Research and Statistics at NBR for one and a half year, then Commissioner of Benapole Custom House for two years and eight months and now I have been working for one year in Cumilla. According to my age limit, insha’Allah, I will be able to serve the country till February 14, 2031. Probably,  I will be the man who will serve the Bangladesh civil service  for the longest period.

 

  1. EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

    Ingenious team-effort can achieve

    SDG revenue goal after pandemic

    Mohammad Belal Hossain Chowdhury

    Commissioner of Customs

  2. During the hard days of Corona pandemic National Board of Revenue (NBR) achieved almost 20% revenue growth than that of the last Fiscal Year (FY) which seems to be the best performance in the last decade. CEVC Cumilla demonstrated unprecedented success in collection of revenue and over all administration.

    On behalf of The Economy, an weekly international economic journal, the Editor Khaled Mahmood put a cluster of questions on the realisation of Taxes by CEVC Cumilla to its successul Change-maker and Commissioner, Mohammad Belal Hossain Chowdhury. He replied the questions. The answers are compiled, edited & printed for the valued readers of The Economy:

    1. Question: How long have you been in government service? When did you join the post of commissioner?

    Answer: There is nothing certain but the uncertain. I’m the fortunate gift of uncertainties in life. Once I dreamt to be a Judge of the Supreme Court. The miracle happened and I was blessed with a 1st class job by the Almighty Allah when my fellow-mates were  attending classes in the University. I have been in government service since1995. I was promoted to the post of Commissioner in mid-2016 and got the opportunity to work in three working places.

    First of all, I had been the Director  General of Research and Statistics at NBR for one and a half year, then Commissioner of Benapole Custom House for two years and eight months and now I have been working for one year in Cumilla. According to my age limit, insha’Allah, I will be able to serve the country till February 14, 2031. Probably,  I will be the man who will serve the Bangladesh civil service  for the longest period.

     

    1. Question: You were Commissioner in a high profile station like Benapole Custom House. Now you are in Cumilla VAT, a low ranked Commissionerate in the country. How do you feel?

 

 

Answer: Replying such a question seems difficult. I am surprised. People still ask me about Benapole. As a Commissioner, I worked first in Benapole & that period highly influences me all the time. I am also working with responsibility in Cumilla. Before taking part in Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS), my mother said that I would have to work in the country. So the Foreign Service was not in my priority list. I took part in the 15th BCS examination to know what BCS is. I joined Bangladesh customs as the youngest member of the cadre. I got the third position in order of merit out of 15 recommended members. Since the beginning of my service I have always looked for the development of quality in all my working places. Profile does not matter. Success in revenue collection and the development of team-spirit in Cumilla VAT appeared to me the highest concern. These have been able to generate greater contribution and vibrancy at the national level. Here too, I am enjoying the diversity of work.

  1. Question: After taking the charge of your position, how did you identify the existing problems? Will you please share the tactics you have applied to overcome them with us?

Answer: Definitely. It is almost known to all that revenue collection is not an easy task. It is difficult to deal with the unaccustomed taxpayers at the district level and more difficult with one-third manpower. In the beginning, the Cumilla team was nonchalant due to a lack of motivation. I started working with enthusiasm to overcome these obstacles. First of all, I identified the individual’s skills and area of interest. Then I provided them with proper training, deployed them in appropriate areas, created interest, established teamwork and made timely ‘slogans’ to mobilize their work. There was also practice of rewards and reprimands.

  1. Question: The media, taxpayers and stakeholders are looking at Cumilla as the best ‘performer’ among the field offices under NBR in terms of quality and quantity of work in the last financial year. From your perception, how is it justified?

 Answer: Cumilla Customs team has been the subject of media attention more than four hundred times in the last twelve months. Their exemplary works have been portrayed in numerous media houses. However, many extraordinary works do not get coverage in the media. Still, we are grateful to the media for supporting us. Some works like 581 bottles of Phensedyl seized from highways, excellence in 10 consecutive online VAT return submissions, 60 percent growth in June revenue, the highest growth in arrears including 30years old arrears and the record of annual and monthly revenue collection are the news that Cumilla holds only. However, all the commissionerates in the field of revenue have worked hard. As a result, the NBR has achieved the highest growth in the last ten years. Therefore, we greet all the colleagues of NBR and revenue areas.

Amid the Corona pandemic, Cumilla VAT collected 154 % more revenue (2021) than that of the July-September quarter of last year; 98 % online return submission due to the pledge of digital Bangladesh; triple hattrick excellence in 12 commissionerates in return submission in April 2021; 620 crores recovery from various brickfields; 18 successful operations against fake ‘biri’ cigarettes and bandrolls; seizure of VAT evasion products under 530 operations in courier services; detection of around 6 crore evasion in the verification of VAT returns; recovery of record Tk 4 crore from neglected ‘space and installation sector’; Inspection of markets, roads & shopping malls; registration of 3,085 VATable business organizations and identification of 5,657 unregistered VATable business organizations; recognition and awarding of excellence of officers in four stages in different categories specially in the expansion of new areas of revenue, registration and VAT survey; identification of fake bandrolls of cigarettes and ‘biris’, these have been the subject of media coverage throughout the year.

5.Question: Cumilla remarkably triumphs in revenue collection in the 2020-21 financial year. What is the secret behind this?

Answer: The constructive changes in CEVC Cumilla have brought success. Successes never come without efforts. It was tough for the vibrant 250 staff of the Commissionerate to achieve the target. This is the result of continuous hard work, motivation and regular training. The team spirit, patriotism and dedication towards the country’s service are also the secret of the Cumilla team’s great success. The list of achievements of Cumilla VAT is quite long. Major achivements at the top of the list are the Online VAT returns resulting in eleven times and 80% growth in the revenue collection of the last month. Insufficient manpower and the inability to reach a marginal level were the limitations. But our dedicated team worked hard 24/7. We tried our best to bring the backward Commissionerate to the forefront with significant progress in the indexes set by the NBR.

  1. Question: What steps did you take to increase the efficiency of the officers?

Answer: The success in revenue collection depends to a large extent on the capacity of the officers and on the knowledge of sincerity with proportionate respective levels. Diversified steps are taken to intensify their skills. Establishment of official discipline, office inspection, training of officers, job recognition, speedy settlement or adjustment, use of information technology, regular revenue review meetings, monitoring, identification of important sectors, collection of VAT at source, collection of arrears, preventive activities, verification of the input-output coefficient to ensure the amount of addition, determination of the amount of actual tax through audit and collect revenue with the penalty. That is why Cumilla Customs has become an example in presentation, etiquette, official decorum, achieving success and gaining recognition.

  1. Question: How challenging is the responsibility of a commissioner? What kind of challenges have you faced?

 Answer: It is difficult for a customs commissioner to work with goals. Always he has to go through challenges. Both the government officers and the taxpayers have to be monitored. I worked to improve the quality of research, policy formation, data management and strategic changes in NBR. Inspiring words and praise from Nojibur Rahman Sir, former Chairman and later Principal Secretary to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, is my great achievement. I had done more than 250 reforms in Benapole. As a result, the unloading time of imported cargo from India has come down from 33 days to 1 day. Passenger-travel time is reduced from 4 hours to 15 minutes on average. I conducted a seminar on 29 January 2020 with 250 government representatives on Corona Awareness. The story of the successes and achievements of Cumilla in the last year is now being discussed in the media. Responsibility means the responsibility of conscience. Those who are accountable to conscience, have to face more challenges and hard work.

 

 

 

  1. Question: What was the strategy at the beginning of this fiscal year to achieve the revenue target?

Answer: On 15th July, I joined Cumilla, on transfer from Benapole. On the same day, at 8 pm, I met virtually via Zoom with 150 officers and asked for exceptional service in the Mujib Year. I informed the entire team of the specific work plan, explanation and implementation method. Then formed separate monitoring cells headed by 6 revenue officers for revenue collection in risky and priority sectors, to prevent VAT evasion, area-based campaign initiatives were taken to involve officers and stakeholders, two hours Zoom Training was given to them on every wednesday at 8 P.M. Compliance meetings were arranged to encourage service to the Tax-payers.  From that day started the fancy work of an energetic group of hardworking, sincere and dedicated patriots.

  1. Question: Involvement and encouragement of the Cumilla team are an inspiration for teamwork. How did you keep them alive?

Answer: Vital energy is a prerequisite for continuity. I prioritize a few things after taking charge to maintain personal and social vibrancy. For example, singing in unison with the officers in mutuality and harmony is one of . Other initiatives are intensive monitoring of every officer, awarding prizes to the best performers in recognition of their work, data comparison and inconsistency review, formation of multiple committees from divisions and circles, follow-up the VAT deductors at source, compilation of ongoing projects of each VAT deductible company at source, adoption of new methods for revenue growth, creation of working environment with equipped office, assist taxpayers in filing online returns through help desk. Those steps inspired everyone with personal abilities & potentiality. Priority is given to the practice of official discipline. The success of one inspires and vibrates the others; competitive works environment creates the vibe of surpassing one another in new techniques, developing the talents of the officers to create interest on revenue collection through the practice of rewards and reprimands, is the most effective way to invite the best officer of the week to ‘Coffee with Commissioner’ and to select ‘Officer of the Commissionerate’ for success in the assigned task. As a result, the quality and quantity of work are increasing. In addition, the officials themselves have been constantly encouraged through their own VIBER GROUP.

  1. Question: What impediments did you detect last year while implementing the revenue collection plan?

Answer: Obstacles are always there behind every success. First of all, there is a psychological barrier It is the opinion that Cumilla is the backward VAT Commissionerate. The ghost of the subsequent impossibility creeps into the head of the team. There were many obstacles such as reluctance of the officers, the lack of expression, unawareness, avoidance, lack of VAT education, unfamiliarity with law enforcement, the inadequacy of using a computer, intolerant attitude of the marginalized people in the six districts of rural areas.

  1. Question: What is the secret behind the success of revenue collection in national and global perspective?

Answer: I believe training and motivation are the keys to any triumphant teamwork. Effective training and motivation to work can accomplish the thirst for success. As a result, Cumilla is exemplary in team success even amid pandemic. Moreover, we need to follow SDG 17.1, one of the most important goals included in to SDG that is ‘strengthen domestic resource mobilization,

including through international support to developing countries to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection’.

  1. Question: You had several inspiring slogans. How did this work in reality?

Answer: I think that slogans are inspiring and help execute works properly. Thus, I came up with some slogans to keep the team alive during Corona. This was a strategy to keep the officers rhythmic. ‘Otikrom noy betikrom’ (Not just exceed, but be exceptional) was one of them. This accelerated the creative activity of the officers in a short time. Every day the officers were engaged in the act of surpassing themselves expressing one’s worth through works.

Another inspirational slogan was ‘Connectivity is productivity.’ In this age of automation, creating the highest connectivity is a success. This connects  officers with officers & officers with taxpayers. Viber Group ‘Cumilla Customs Movers’ is one of the leading platforms for connectivity. Another slogan is ‘Nothing goes unpaid in Cumilla’. This slogan is reflected in the recognition and award-giving ceremony. The best taxpayers and the best performers are encouraged in this recognition. As a result, revenue increases. Officers started to work sincerely. ‘I had a 20/21’ was the slogan behind the success of the financial year 2020-21, which holds the record for the highest monthly revenue collection in June. ‘Eka hole hari, ek hole pari’ (United we stand, divided we fall) is the slogan for the unity of the officers of the six districts. There are many stories of success. They include the collection of arrears through team-work and settlement of certificate cases. Preventive Campaigns bear the witness of the officers unity. ‘Tel kom, vaja mochmoche’ (Less oil, Crispy fry) is basically a tactical slogan to collect more revenue with less effort of the commissionerate. As a result, it was possible to record the highest monthly collection in June with 29.66% growth in VAT deduction at source.

  1. Question: Cumilla Commissionerate was the topper 11 times in online return submission so far. Incredibly, your team has made it possible. How?

Answer: Keeping in mind the automation idea of the government, the technical methods or activities for revenue collection were increased. The main object was to increase online return submission. As a result, Cumilla Commissionerate became the champion by submitting online VAT returns in just one and a half months. From the first day of the month, the officers were instructed to make monthly online return submission successful in a meeting organized in the commissioner’s room and responsibility was divided among the officers accordingly. In addition to telephonic communication, bulk SMS on mobile phones, advertisements in newspapers and local cable operators and miking campaigns were launched to raise awareness among the honorable taxpayers. Many officials voluntarily canceled the weekends on Fridays and Saturdays and prioritized the work of submitting online returns. The goal was to retain the superiority of the Cumilla VAT team. Despite various limitations, the officials and employees of Commissionerate did not stop. Due to their tireless work, Comilla has been in the first place among the twelve Commissionerates of the country in online VAT return submission.

  1. Question: ‘One Stop Service’ introduced to solve VAT law and return problems, was admired across the world. How effective it was?

Answer: The program called ‘VAT One Stop Service Week’ was adopted from February 28 to March 4. At this time, this VAT week was celebrated in six districts simultaneously from 10 am to 4 pm every day. For this purpose, miking was done in every district town. As a result, the traders were provided with information related to online return submission, registration and other legal processes. It can also be called a VAT training workshop for traders. Following steps were taken by ‘One Stop Service’: Miking campaigns in local markets and locals, sending bulk SMS to taxpayers, each service booth being run by a revenue officer and two assistant revenue officers, campaigning in local and national newspapers and through local cable operators, providing courtesy pens, pads and gift items to motivate taxpayers, campaigning on Facebook Page Group providing information on online registration and return submission, answering various queries of people about EFD machines, daily work in each circle round-the-clock monitoring from Cumilla headquarter, contacting the headquarter for an immediate solution to any problem in case of temporary incapacity.

  1. Question: You have spoken about the seizure of a large consignment of Phensedyl. What’s the story behind it? Do you have any other success in curbing smuggling?

Answer: Cumilla Customs takes special precautions considering the risk at the time of seizing goods. Secret informers are engaged to trace the roots of the smugglers. The raids were carried out to seize illegal goods, search courier services, seize brickfield vehicles, prevent fake and counterfeit band-rolled Biris (one kind of local cigarettes) and cigarettes. Bangladesh Ansar, BGB and police members cooperate with our officers in the risky operation.

The attitude of the officers is commendable as they carry out late-night preventive operations, conduct operations in brickfields in remote areas and work overtime in addition to office hours. Cumilla’s Preventive team seized 581 bottles of Phensedyl on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway at Cumilla’s Paduar Bazar at midnight on 10th November, 2020. The truck was stopped after a long chase. The truck was loaded with the consignment from somewhere in Feni or Cumilla. These phensedyls were hidden inside the covered van behind the ceramic product package. These were being smuggled with the direct cooperation of this cycle. This incident stirred the whole country, which was reported in national dailies and television channels.

  1. Question: How did you ensure the health and safety of the employees while providing door-to-door service during the corona pandemic?

Answer: In the last year, more than a hundred employees and their family members were affected with Covid-19. Everybody came round. In the second week of June, 28 employees were affected by the Delta variant. All were recovered by intensive care, though it took a little time. I supervised the corona-affected employees at the weekly zoom meeting regularly. With full support, we delivered emergency medicines and nutritious foods for their treatment.

We encouraged them to carry out the Covid Protocol in the proper manner and the employees got the benefits throughout the year. We also gave some instructions: High protein foods should be taken, ray of the sun should be applied on the body, light exercise should be done, if any symptoms are seen, rapid treatment should be ensured, green tea with ginger and lemon, whenever there was cough, fever, feeling of headache, gave instructions for testing Dengue as well as Covid, instructed to use good quality masks, giving inspiration and courage to the affected employees, formed Covid-19 team to provide all-time medical services and a doctor for round-the-clock supervision.

  1. Question: What is the total number of VAT circles in your commissionerate and which is the highest revenue circle?

Answer: There are 16 VAT circles under Cumilla Commissionerate. Cumilla Sadar, Laksam, Chandina, Debidwar, Feni Sadar, Sonagazi, Chagalnaiya, Noakhali Sadar, Companiganj, Chatkhil, Laxmipur Sadar, Ramgati, Chandpur Sadar, Hajiganj, Brahmanbaria Sadar and Nabinagar. Laksam circle is the largest in revenue collection. Last year, the revenue of Tk 1,976 crore was collected from this circle. The highest revenue of Tk 1,619 crore was collected from Abul Khair Tobacco Company Limited (AKTCL) at Laksam.

  1. Question: As far as I know, Cumilla Commissionerate has a lack of urban-based megacorp, manufacturing or industrial zone. What is the main source of revenue here?

Answer: In reality, no significant industrial factory has been established in the six districts of Cumilla Commissionerate. Abul Khair Tobacco Company Limited (AKTCL) provided the highest revenue in Cumilla. The company paid about 58% of the revenue in the last financial year. In addition, a significant amount of revenue comes from VAT paid by different government projects. To meet the future demand of Tripura and the Seven Sisters of India, it is now necessary to set up a planned export-oriented industrial zone at Cumilla and Noakhali region.

  1. Question: What are the major industrial factories here? How many medium and small-type industries are there?

Answer: Abul Khair Tobacco, Abdul Monem Ltd., Nipro JMI Pharma, JMI Syringes and Medical Devices Ltd., Globe Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Globe Soft Drinks Ltd are notable entities among the big industrial factories. In the middle, there are about 100 organizations including BSCIC and the others are hotels & restaurants. If the communication system is further improved, there is a possibility of setting up new industrial factories in these districts in  future.

  1. Question: To which sector do the major entities belong of the ten thousand VAT registered units? Is the collection of revenue from these units satisfactory?

Answer: There are 10688 units registered in cumilla commissionerate. Of these, 7500 are construction companies and suppliers. Last year, revenue of Tk 476 crore came from the construction companies.  This collection is 20% more than that of the last year. This growth can be said to be satisfactory. Taxnet is underway to expand. According to VAT and SD law, 2012, it is mandatory to register all types of contractors, suppliers, source taxpayers, collectors, projects, bank, insurance and all other business entities that have VATable activities including import and export.

  1. Question: What was the target of your commissionerate in the last 2020-21 FY? Have you exceeded the target? If not, why?

Answer: A target is set for each commissionerate at the beginning of the financial year, though it is reviewed in the end. In the last 2020-21 FY the revised budget of Cumilla Commissionerate had been fixed at Tk.3355 crore. We have collected Tk.3225 crore, which is about 98 percent of the target. Finally, the target was not achieved but it was too close. The main reason behind this is that the target was almost three times more than the capacity and potentiality in the last (June) month. The CEVC Cumilla has been instructed to increase almost three times more than the  collection of Tk.721 crore in the last month instead of the average collection of Tk.240 crore in eleven months. But indomitable Cumilla team collected revenue of Tk.569 crore, which is the 238% of the monthly average collection.

  1. Question: What is the target of your commissionerate for the financial year 2021-2022? Do you think you exceed it?

Answer: A target of Tk.4236 crore has been set for the financial year 2021-2022. During the Corona period, economic activity declined worldwide. Bangladesh is no exception. We are working hard to keep the wheel of the country’s economy moving. If there is no inevitable hostility, the taxpayers pay the revenue properly, sufficient manpower is available from the beginning of the financial year and they are able to work as planned, this goal can be achieved.

  1. Question: What is the position of your Commissionerate in the revenue collection among all Commissionerates in the last FY20-21?

Answer: The position and importance of any commissionerate is not considered by the amount of revenue. In the case of VAT at source, almost half of the NBR’s revenue comes without the help of any kind of manpower. At the airport, there are more than 100 customs officers in three shifts to curb smuggling and provide priority services. The main thing is not to collect revenue from the airport but to provide quality services. In terms of revenue collection, Cumilla VAT is in the sixth among twelve field VAT commissionerates of NBR. Cumilla has the highest growth in June 2021. The revenue meeting of NBR also expected negative growth in May. But the FY 20-21 ended with a record revene growth of 11%.

  1. Question: How many land ports are under your jurisdiction? What are the prospects for bilateral trade and tariff collection?

Answer: There are 3 land ports in Cumilla commissionerate: Akhaura in Brahmanbaria, Bibir Bazar in Cumilla and Bilonia in Feni. Revenue of Tk. 5.32 crore was collected last year from these three land customs ports and exports amounted to 3,60,351 MT.

Akhaura Land Customs Station located in Brahmanbaria District with 7 acres of land is known as the gateway to the Seven states of India. In the Indian part, Agartala has a large and sophisticated high-rise and extensive infrastructure including rail/road facility. A wide road suitable for transportation has been constructed from Akhaura land port. Comparing its potentiality in the public interest with its contribution to business and economy, Akhaura is more important than Tamabil in Sylhet. Traders have been demanding for a long time the import of all products through this station. If all the goods are allowed to be imported through this station, huge economic development will be achieved in the region. The distance from the railway station to Akhaura is only 4 km and the distance from the capital Dhaka is only 142 km. Its distance from the port city of Chittagong is 206 km. In the meantime, development of the four-lane land port road under SASEC (South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation) has been fully launched.

Another customs station in Comilla district is Bibir Bazar. It is a very potential station due to its  geographical location. Inclusion of all importable  goods can multiply the revenue collection through this land port. This customs station is located only 08 km away from Comilla city, 111 km from Dhaka and 147 km from the port city Chittagong. The distance from Agartala, the capital of Tripura state, to Bibir Bazar customs station is only 61 km. Due to its geographical location, Akhaura Land Customs Station will be an important gateway in the shortest possible time. There is a new customs station called Bilonia Land Customs Station at Parshuram in Feni district. At the Indian end, a paved road has been built to transport goods from the land port of Bilonia. Rail communication is being established here soon. Mr. Joynal Hazari, a representative of the local people along with the importer, C&F Agents Association, also repeatedly requested for permission to import all kinds of goods. If all the goods are allowed to be imported through this station, massive economic development will be achieved in that region. This station is able to make a huge contribution to the overall economy of the country as the distance from the capital Dhaka is only 151 km.

  1. Question: Do you have any new plan to increase the volume of revenue in your commissionerate?

Answer: Proper planning is essential to increase revenue collection and provide quality services to stakeholders. Cumilla team had been successful in the last financial year due to timely and skill based activities and services. Regular zoom training, in-house training, motivation sessions for newcomers, continuous monitoring of daily activities, assignment & responsibilities based on skills and interests, ensuring proper use of information technology, expanding the field of survey and VAT. Setting specific targets for large and small organizations  are the different parts of our adopted plan.

  1. Question: How many officers and employees are there in this commissionerate? Are they adequate in comparison with needs?

Answer: Total 228 officers and staffs are working where the approved manpower of the commissionerate is 593. The main source of energy in the field is the Assistant Revenue Officers who are 60 in number against 195 approved posts. With only 40 percent of the officers, so many successes were achieved in the last year. There are 04 Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners against 12 approved posts. Overall, one-third of the officers work through rewards and incentives based on skills and interests. The present manpower is, by no means, sufficient to achieve the revenue target of Tk. 4236 crore. Letters have already been issued to the NBR for this purpose more than once.

  1. Question: Do you have enough vehicles for the movement of officers and other staffs to collect revenue?

Answer: Commissionerate consists of six districts in the field. The area is about 13,349.96 sq km. The distance between Ramgati and Brahmanbaria is 242 km. On the other hand, Barayarhat is 154 km from Daudkandi. Officials are required to visit brickfields, remote markets, shops and project offices on a regular basis. There are not enough staff buses and vehicles for the movement of officers and other staffs to collect revenue.

  1. Question: Is there a need to create and expand new offices in the Commissionerate to facilitate revenue collection?

Answer: There is no need to expand the office in the existing situation. However, the Commissionerate needs its own space and office to provide services and training to eleven thousand taxpayers. It must be healthy, accessible and safe. In the meantime, about 16 (sixteen) acres of land along the Dhaka-Chittagong highway has been selected for the smooth conduct of a standardized regional office, headquarter, training and preventive activities.

  1. Question: What is the process of online VAT registration? Is it taxpayers-friendly?

Answer: Every country has its own taxpayer identification rules in the tax system. Bangladesh’s Value Added Tax (VAT) system is no exception. That is done by providing VAT registration or enrollment. It depends on the amount of annual sales of a taxpayer. Earlier, applications for registration and certificates were issued manually which was time-consuming. At present, one can apply for VAT registration online at home from the NBR’s website www.nbr.gov.bd without any fee. It does not even need to be renewed. If VAT registration is mandatory for someone, he has to apply by filling in the Scheduled forms. If someone is unable to apply online, he has the option to take help from the ‘help desk’ of any customs office, ONE-STOP service or the concerned VAT office.

After verifying the application, the Divisional Officer sends the online registration certificate within 03 (three) working days. It is difficult to complete the registration by verifying the information within 03 working days. After getting registered, it is mandatory for a taxpayer to submit the return online by the 15th of next month. Otherwise, the VAT online system imposes a fine of 10,000 /BDT automatically.

  1. Question: EFDMS machine is a much-talked issue now-a-days? What significant role does it play?

Answer: ‘Easy to buy VAT lottery, no need to spend money’. Actually this system is introduced to encourage taxpayers. The buyer has to keep the invoice/receipt issued by the machine for a month after buying something at the store. Restaurant bills, product receipts, store invoices are all now being issued on EFD machines. These invoices of EFD machines are used as Lottery tickets.

This system has been introduced to create a business-friendly environment by establishing transparency and accountability in VAT collection and to reduce the accounting costs of traders. Initially, the system was launched on 25 services, later it was planned to be rolled out to all services. ‘Mujib borsher ongikar, EFD te NBR’  is one of the slogans that NBR adopted on the occasion of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

A few days ago, a customer received taka 1(one) lakh as prize money of EFD lottery buying drinking water by taka 115.

  1. Question: How is the EFD lottery conducted?

Answer: Under the lottery policy, a committee consisting of 6 executives headed by a Member of NBR (VAT implementation and IT) runs the lottery draw. There are 10 steps in the lottery to give 101 prizes. The first prize is Tk. 1 lakh, the second prize Tk. 50,000, the third prize Tk. 25,000 for five winners and Tk. 10,000 for the next 94 winners. However, the conditions given below are applicable:

  1. a) The buyer must have a VAT-6.3 based receipt issued by the EFD machine i.e. the invoice of the EFD machine is the lottery coupon
  2. b) All EFD invoices for the next one month effected from the date of the draw will enter into the lottery
  3. c) If there is no holiday, the lottery will be drawn on the 5th of the month
  4. d) The winners must publish their coupon numbers within three working days after the draw
  5. e) The winner must apply for the prize within the last working day of that month
  6. f) Application form should have name, signature, address, invoice and mobile number, date of issue
  7. g) The NBR will award the first three prizes
  8. h) The fourth prize will be given by the Commissionerate accepting the buyer’s application
  9. i) Prize money will be paid by cheque
  10. j) The awarding authority holds the power to reject, approve and repeal the application
  11. k) According to the rules, it is mandatory to install EFD machines in the business institutions selling goods and services in all city corporations and district cities.

After the draw, the numbers are published on the NBR’s website and in newspapers. The claimant carries the cheque with proper proof. So far, many consumers in Dhaka and Chittagong VAT Commissionerate already have received lottery prizes.

  1. Question: There is a kind of fear and lack of confidence among the Taxpayers. What steps have you taken to overcome this complication or harassment?

Answer: This question is important in the perspective of the present context. The NBR does not want to harass the taxpayers in any way. To serve this purpose, the online system has been introduced. Harassment occurs when the context is created. The question of harassment arises when the service seeker comes to the office and does not get proper service or the officers fail to provide the service as per the demand or vice versa. The new Value Added Tax and Supplementary Duty Act, 2012 have been

 enacted. The law has come into force from 2019 AD. The current law has introduced online registration, online returns, online payments etc. through automation. As a result, taxpayers do not need to come to the office and they also get services quickly. These issues help to overcome this lack of confidence. The National Board of Revenue and field level commissioners are working to take the VAT system to the level of public confidence. At present, 50 percent of the institutions registered in Bangladesh are submitting their returns online. The rate of online return submission in Cumilla is 98 percent. This is how the harassment and the lack of confidence are reduced.

  1. Question: Many of us are not aware of the online payment system. How important is it in raising proper revenue?

Answer: At present e-payment is a popular payment medium. Usually, in the case of a transaction, the buyer has to pay the price in cash to the seller. But it is possible to pay the price online without paper notes through e-payment or online payment. This system is very risk-free & safe and helps to ensure government revenue. The National Board of Revenue is encouraging e-payments. The first e-payment was introduced in customs. Currently, online payment for VAT deposits has been introduced. Taxpayers can make online payments of the revenue for a particular Tax period on NBR’s website (www.vat.gov.bd) staying at home and they do not need to go to any bank to serve this purpose. Similarly, VAT can be deducted and refunded. Proof of the revenue deposit in this regard reaches the taxpayer’s email.

  1. Question: Benapole Custom House to Cumilla VAT, how do you assess the environment, achievement and incidental perspective of the work experience of these two arenas?

Answer: Customs House and VAT Commissionerate differ in work type, quality, quantity and environment. Customs is full of challenges and animosities. Fast service needs to be provided to the taxpayers. Customs operations at the border port of Benapole are even more challenging. Towards the end, Corona further scattered us. I worked for  two years and eight months in Benapole and during this period I made about two hundred and fifty reforms and changes.  These reforms were made in the process, method and infrastructure and intensive training to the officers.

When I joined, it took thirty-three days for a goods-laden vehicle to come to Benapole from Kalitala Parking in Kolkata. After the reformation, this duration was reduced to three hours for perishable products and one day for other products. It would take 4 hours for a passenger to cross the ‘Metropass’ from Benapole. At the time of my leaving, it took 10-15 minutes for a passenger to cross. I worked to resolve traffic jams, product jams, file jams, passenger jams, Assessment jams, bilateral jams and even emotional jams. The result of all these works is the unloading of cargoes in the shortest possible time and the revolutionary changes in the passengers’ pass.

After joining CEVC Cumilla, I called a zoom meeting with my officers & employees and a detailed plan with the way of implementation was explained to the team. The excellence in work by a patriotic, hard-working, sincere and exceptionally energetic team started then. Different administrative and reformative activities have been taken in the last 13 months in Cumilla to make a taxpayer-friendly environment and my team worked hard to achieve the goals.

  1. Question: Your administrative and reformative activities in Cumilla with one-third manpower during the covid-19 pandemic are exemplary for others. What would you say to young executives as a successful Change maker and senior bureaucrat?

Answer: Bangladesh is now in demographic  dividend. To reap the benefits, 39 percent of the young population need to be turned into skilled human resources. The future leadership of the country is in their hands. I believe that every young person has different talents in creativity and identity. To develop their latent talents, they need a worthy place, time and opportunity. The evaluation of the talents of the youth in my administration is therefore paramount. The novice officers are being upgraded by pertinent training, supervision and accountability. Smart and diligent officers are posted according to their eligibility. Prompt action on any issue, motivation, inspiration and reward for recognition of special work are the key to success even with small manpower. My advice to the young officers is that they should perform their duties with utmost importance to the interest of the country, they should be humane in public service and should be aware of the proper application of laws & rules. Besides, the youth should acquire technical and technological skills, adopt strategies if necessary and become proficient in solving bureaucratic problems. Practicing teamwork, co-operation, interest in learning, living an orderly life of discipline can make an officer a competent leader. We are Bengalees and our ability lies in the heroism of 1971. The then bottomless basket of 1973 is a self-sufficient and middle-income country today. I believe ingenious team effort can achieve SDG revenue goal after pandemic. I dream Bangladesh will be prosperous one day by the service of the youth having the spirit of the liberation war in their hearts and will be the role model of the world economy. E

 

 

OPINIONS

Unshown income does mean

Black Money

– Mainul Islam*

The 20(2) Clause of Bangladesh constitution states: the state shall try to create such a situation in which no one shall be able to enjoy unearned income and where all labours, intellectual or physical, shall be the fullest manifestations of all creative attempts and human personalities.

In the English Version of the constitution, the income gained without labour is called unearned income. The provision of the constitution has to be quoted only for the reason that the Honorable Finance Minister has broken the constitution by saying recently that “so long the unshown income remains, there will be the arrangement for making it white.” From the head of the state and Prime Minister down to every minister they have taken the oath to uphold the constitution at the time of taking the responsibility. So, their obligatory constitutional duty is to ensure that no person can enjoy the income without labour or illegal earning. In the constitution, there is no room or word like “unshown or undisclosed income. That phrase has been added to the income tax ordinance, 1984. That term is completely unconstitutional and through which the then Government attempted to minimise the problem of illegal money.

‘Unearned money is the black money which can be made white by paying only 10% tax as stated in the constitution’-by saying this the policy makers have seriously violated the constitution. On this subject, a well-defined judgment has been expressed by Nasiruddin Ahmed, the retired chairman of the NBR in the opinion column of the Daily Star published on 24 May, 2021 under the heading, “Should Black Money be legalised? I think that the top-most leadership of the govt. should consider it with appropriate importance. Because, it is the well-considered view of a former NBR chairman. I am related with Nasir Uddin as a student of the Deptt of Economics of Chittagong University). He has shown that a total of 30 thousand 842 crores taka has become white or ‘earned income’ by taking advantage offered by the Government of Bangladesh. And the Government have earned 3 Thousand 9 hundred taka as tax revenue. But if the current year is excepted, in no other year the Government have had earned so much money. Except the current year, in no other year so much black money has been legalised. He has opined that the Government declaration that if the black money is invested in certain sectors neither the Government nor any department will raise any question about the source of its earning, has encouraged the black money owners to come out with the disclosed money. He has also opined that because of the corona pandemic such a booming upturn of black money has been possible. He has said that the constitution of the country has not provided for any such opportunity. Such an unearned income might have issued from the shirking of income Tax, money laundering or informal economy (corruption).

According to the constitution of the country, the undisclosed income should be earned through the legal sources and that has been upheld in the Income tax Ordinance, 1984.So the income received from the illegal sources is not eligible to be included into the spontaneously shown income. As the illegal income issued from various kinds of illegal activities, there is no constitutional opportunity to turn it into legal income. The declaration that no governmental agency cannot question the source of the shown income, has no constitutional sanction. Because the constitution of the country has not provided for any means to turn the unearned or illegal money into lawful income.

Nasiruddin has shown in his graph that only in July- March period of the financial year 2020-21 the  illegal income 14 Thousand 200 hundred crores taka have been turned into earned income only by paying  10% cent tax. This is a big jump upward. He makes it clear that to turn unearned income into legal income by paying only 10% cent tax is equal to showing utmost dishonor to the honest tax-payer and extreme differential attitude to them. It is immoral and tantamount to providing illegal advantage to them. He holds that the government does not get any benefit as it creates the tax-compliance attitude of paying the least amount of taxes among the tax-payers. Rather it conveys an erroneous message to the society and confirms the unfavorable attitude of the international community about the administration of the government.

Nasiruddin has stated that in the 15(2) section of the 194 income tax ordinance there is an opportunity of showing unearned income by the voluntary payment  of 10% cent fine along with the payment of taxes at the applicable rate. In India, in the scheme of declaring the illegal money of 2017, there is a provision that the illegal money can be made legal only by paying 49.40% percent money in the form of tax, surcharge and fine. So, the present arrangement of making the illegal money, legal by paying only 10% tax is neither lawful nor moral. It is the outright violation of the Income Tax ordinance 1984. Nasir has placed a few recommendations for the timely reformation of the Income Tax ordinance. The detailed description of these recommendations seems to be unnecessary in this column.

I do believe, The foremost reason of still remaining the ratio of tax-GDP below 10% percent is the unlimited failure of the government to realise the income tax rightly. Behind this failure lies the governmental policy of the continuation of this budgetary provision of keeping this income earned through corruption outside the net of Taxes every year. The ratio of Tax-GDP in Bangladesh is the lowest in South-East Asia. This open and direct patronization of the corruption in politics and economy bears testimony to the tolerance of corruption is nothing but a mere political expression. Those countries of the world in which the leaders have tried their utmost to uproot corruption, have been able to create excellent examples in the competition to economic progress.

It is my conviction that government will have to bid adieu to the present patronization of black money through the present policy of turning black money into white one if the government want to make the income tax the principal source of tax-revenue.

It is a mere foolishness to pay 15-20-25 percent income tax white the owners of black money are able to make their black money white by paying only 10% Percent tax. How the government will check the

amassing of black money when the owners of black money will go on in increasing black money showing the certificates of the payment of taxes for his black money paid earlier.

How many of millionaires who have been created in Bangladesh pay more than one core income tax? The proprietor of ‘Hakim Gardah’ tops the list of the highest income tax payers year after year-but the names of those business magnates (at least 255) persons according to wealth research have become the owners of thirty millions of dollars or 255 cores of taka in Bangladesh at Present) are not found in the list. The owners of black money are the main smugglers of capital to the foreign countries. If the government assume that there has been a great wave of investment because of this step of turning black money white, they will commit a great mistake. The government will get rid of the evil circle of dangerous dependence on the internal country-loan to meet the ever-increasing deficit in governmental income only when the government will be able to set up income tax as the principal source of revenue by erecting an insurmountable resistance to corruption in stead of nursing it. E

[Mainul Islam, economist and retired professor of the department of Economies, Chattagram University

** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.

 

 

NATIONAL THOUGHTS

Bangladesh is no more a bottomless basket

but a role model for developing Countries

-Helal Uddin Ahmed

Recently our Editor Khaled Mahmood met Mr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Local Government at his Office in Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka with a view to having an interview.Thereupon on the suggestion of the Secretary the Editor of The Economy supplied him a questionnaire covering various problems and prospects of the Ministry. Later the Secretary has kindly returned the questionnaire duly answered by him.

Dwelling upon the activities performed by his Ministry he remarked that the coverage and volume of works done by his Ministry is huge and enormous. His Ministry acts for building a visionary Bangladesh turning the rural country into a semi urban Bangladesh where our national tradition and culture of thousand years would be nourished and flourished with the admixture of rural and urban values of life.

We publish below the interview/questionnaire and answers for our valued readers for having an idea of the activities of the Ministry of Local Government.

A Questionnaire from The Economy to Mr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. “At beginning Mr. Helal Uddin Ahmed says”:

Thanks. At the very outset, I want to make a matter clear. At present, there is a Ministry named Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives wherein there are two separate Divisions – (1) Local Government Division and (2) Rural Development and Co-operatives Division having one secretary for each individual division. I myself hold the responsibility of the Senior Secretary of Local Government Division and I have been working in this segment of the Ministry since May 30, 2019.

Question: 1. What is the area /periphery of the Ministry of Local Government?

Answer: At present all areas of Bangladesh expect the areas included in the Cantonment Board are under the Local Government Division. All local government bodies are under Local Government Division throughout Bangladesh They are: City Corporations, Pourasavas (Municipalities), Zila Parishad (District Councils), Upazila Parishads and Union Parishads and the organizations like Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Birth and Death Registration Office, National Institute of Local Government and WASA.

Question: 2. What is the number of districts, upazilas, unions and villages throughout the country?

Answer: There are 64 districts, 495 upazilas including 492 effective and 3 newly constituted ones, 4567 unions and approximately 87319 villages throughout Bangladesh. They are all under our Ministry.

Question: 3.  What financial allocations have been earmarked for the development program implementation of the Local Government during 2021-22 fiscal year?

Answer: A total amount of 39219.46 crore taka has been allocated for the normal of development works of the Local Government during 2021-2022 financial year. Out of this a total allocation of Tk. 5321.77 as management expenditure and Tk. 33897.77 as development expenditure have been fixed.

Question:4.  Is this budget expenditure sufficient?

Answer: For the purpose of keeping the ever increasing development flow more and more budget allocation is necessary. Of course, this budget amount is sufficient for the Local Government Division if Local Government Institutions are run by their own earnings.

Question: 5. What volume of development works in the entire country has been implemented during the last 12 years under the present Government by the Ministry of Local Government? Would you kindly present a brief description of the same?

Answer: Advancement and achievement of development works by the ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives during 2009-2021 time-spans are the following:

* Development of local governance system and management of reception of facilities by the mass people has been modernized.

* Towards the development of transport and communication and of overheads 311 projects have been undertaken and implemented by the LGED from 2009 to 2021. During the last 12 years 69,212 kilometer roads have been constructed and metalled.

* 4,12,841 meter bridges and culverts have been constructed throughout the country.

* 341 Upazila Complex Buildings have been constructed and extended.

* 2,134 Growth Centers and Market-Bazaars have been developed.

* 785 Cyclone Shelters have been constructed and reconstructed.

* 1050.50 Kilometer dams have been reconstructed and developed and 1,253 water resources structures and regulators have been constructed.

* In urban areas, 8162 Kilometer roads and footpaths, 3698 kilometer drains have been constructed.

*In Municipal areas 29 bus and truck Terminals have been built.

* For ensuring pure water supply and hygienic sanitation in the rural and municipal areas 47 projects at a cost of 12,246 crore taka were undertaken and implemented through Public Health Engineering Department during the last 12 years.

*During the last decade the national sanitation coverage has been lifted upto 99%.

* 3.03 Lakhs of water sources have been built throughout the country.

* 1,170 producer Tube-wells have been established.

* 143 ponds have been dug and re-dug.

* 147 water treatment plants have been built up.

* 13,493 kilometer new pipeline has been set and re-set.

* Through the setting up of 53 water reservoirs water supply activities running programs remain functioning.

* For ensuring hygienic sanitation 7.24 lakh low-cost sanitary latrines and 4544 public toilets and community toilets have been built up.

* 226 Rural Piped Water Projects have been implemented.

* In 39,300 primary schools safe water sources have been built.

* Wash Block has been set up in 28,500 primary schools.

* Dhaka WASA has achieved the water producing capacity of 245 crore litre water against a demand for 230 crore litres of water.

* At the cost of 1 thousand 7 hundred 59 crore taka Sheikh Hasina Water Treatment Plant under Karnafuli Water Supply Project has been constructed by Chattogram WASA.

* Khulna WASA Water supply line has been uplifted to 290 km from 227 km. Water production and supply quantity in Khulna Metropolitan City has been raised to 11.9 crore litres in 2018 from 9 crore litres in 2009.

* Rajshahi WASA was established in 2010. Rajshai WASA has achived the capacity of producing 7 crore 40 lakh liters of water daily.

* Local Government (Union Parishad) Law, 2009, Local Government (Upazila Parishad), Amendment Law 2011, Zila Parishad (Amendment) Law, 2016 Local Government (Pourasava) Law, 2009 have been enacted. For enhancing  the capability of Upazila Parishad, Zila Parishad, Municipalities and Union Parishads, 40 rules have been promulgated.

* From 2009 to 2021 an allotment of 3617.60 crore taka has been given in favour of Union Parishads for the development of rural infra-structures.

* Undertaking of projects on the basis of local public opinion through ward meetings, open budget meeting, regular auditing and the transparency and accountability of the local government bodies have been ensured.

* Through the setting up of union Digital Center in every Union Parishad the information technology based services have been taken to the doorsteps of the people.

* With an aim of reaching technology-based services at a low expense in short time to the mass people, Union Digital Center has been set up in every union in the country. Local people receive 112 types of services from these centres.

* 05 new City Corporations (Narayanganj, Cumilla, Rangpur, Gazipur and Mymensingh) have been created. Dhaka City has been divided into two – Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation with a view to providing improved civic facilities to the city dwellers.

* In Pursuance of SRO no. 201 Act, 2016 on 28 June, 2016 and with an aim to providing improved citizen service to the city dwellers City Corporation area has been extended covering eight unions adjacent to Dhaka North City Corporation and another eight unions adjacent to Dhaka South City Corporation.

* From 2009 to 2021 financial years 29 Pourosavas have been created; the number of pourasava in the country at present stands at 328. The class status of 188 pourasava has been upgraded from 2010 till now. Out of them 84 B grade porurasava have been upgraded to A grade and 104 C grade pourasava have been converted into B grade. From 2009 to 2017-18 financial year the feasibility study of 160 pourasava has been completed. As a result of the up-gradation of class status of pourasava the standard service and work have improved. Master plan of 238 pourasavas has been formulated.

* From 2009 to 2020-2021 financial year 78 Poura Bhaban for Pourasavas and 10 Pourasava Auditorium have been constructed with the lump sum grant assistance for Pourasava development of Local Government Division.

* 11 new Upazila have been constituted.

* ZilaParishad/District Councils have been categorized into ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Classes.

*In 61 District Councils under Local Govt. Division a program has been undertaken for setting up a Digital Center in each of them. Through the opening each of their self website the people are being made aware of the activities of Zila Parishad.

* By establishing Registrar General Office in 2010 online registration of birth and death has been introduced.

* For the immigrants in 45 Embassies/Missions in 33 countries registration of birth and death has been introduced.

Question: 6. In what fields of development activities the Local Government Ministry is contributing to the country?

Answer: The Local Government Division is participating in different types of development activities of developing and improving infrastructure and overheads in rural areas like: Construction, maintenance and management of roads including bridge-culverts of upazila, unions and villages of rural and urban areas, development, maintenance and management of Growth Centres and markets-bazars connected with the upazila, unions and villages. Different types of development works like improvement of socio-economic conditions of women, provision of sanitation and good drinking water, extension and development of civic facilities, development and extension of small-sized irrigation infra-structure including eco-friendly planned urban overheads are being accomplished by the Local Govt. Division.

Question: 7.  Bangladesh is a fertile land of problems and prospects – here the activities of your Ministry run continuously. Yet then what sort of programs have you to materialize the potential new visions?

Answer:The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman dreamt of a Sonar Bangla (The Golden Bengal). The Bangladesh which was once branded as a ‘bottomless basket’ has earned the acknowledgment as a developing country today. The entire Bangladesh today is connected by road-ghats, bridges, culverts etc. All civic facilities including the supply of good drinking water, electricity, internet, education have reached the mass rural people. Now, we are all working together for implementing the new and new potential dreams shown by the honorable Prime Minister. Specially there are projects for maintaining constructed roads, metallization of all rural Kacha roads, constructing durable and eco-friendly roads in inaccessible hilly, haor and coastal regions and supply of good drinking water. To meet the increasing demand for water in the urban areas there are projects of setting up water treatment plant of overground water and modernization programs of wastage management including keeping the towns/cities neat and clean and transport jam free. Within the birth of 45 days of the child birth registration has been made compulsory throughout the country. Moreover, modern training is being arranged for the officials-employees of all local government organizations with a view to improving the services and standard of services provided to the people.

Question: 8. I am sure that you would agree with me that the importance of Local Government Ministry in developing rural infra-structure is very high. The development of sixty eight thousand villages means the development of geo-diversity of the entire Bangladesh. In this huge development work volume, your daily activities are making significant additions. What is the size of manpower engaged in such gigantic works? Is it sufficient compared to the need for the purpose?

Answer: At the Ministerial level, we the entire team work under the leadership of the Minister. In the Local Government Division 56 officials in total are working. Moreover, under this Ministry 8 offices and organizations are run by their own manpower. There are 1 Chairman, 3 reserved seated female members, 9 members and supporting officials-employees at local level in every union and Pourasava. In every upazila parishad there are 1 Chairman, 2 Vice-Chairman, 4 assistant employees and a transferred manpower of 17 offices. In every Zila parishad there are 1 Chairman, 20 members and concerned officials-employees. In the City Corporation there are 1 Mayor, 1 Councilor for every ward and daily wage-based manpower. I think, for running the daily development activities the existing manpower is sufficient compared to the need. It is now necessary to extend the technology in development works and provide training to the manpower.

Question: 9. What kind of policy matters you follow in the process of execution of proper accomplishment of works and their ordering by plans and programs?

Answer: In the process of work plan, proper ordering of functions and accomplishment of work of our Ministry governmental rules and procedures such as Rules of Business, 1996 and Secretariat Instructions, 2014 are followed. Now-a-days majority works are done by electronic methods like e-file, e-gp etc.

Question: 10. How are the programs and works in this Ministry persued and evaluated?

Answer: In our Local Government Division the local government institutions all over Bangladesh are regularly monitored and evaluated through Inspection and Evaluation Unit. In every district there is a Deputy Director and in every Division there is Director, Local Government who send report to the Ministry by regular inspection, Scrutiny, investigation and evaluation in their own fields. Moreover with the beginning of every financial year and annual agreement (Annual Performance, Agreement) or APA is done and assessing that by the end of the year a grading list is announced and rewards are given.

Question: 11. How do you face the disabilities, incompetence, non-progress of work, negligence, failure, indolence and corruption on the part of the officials-employees of your Ministry?

Answer: In this Ministry here we work under the leadership of the Minister. Every month in this Ministry a monthly co-ordination Meeting is arranged and every three months a Coordination Meeting is organized with all the offices/organizations. In the said Meeting pending works and problems or non-coordination of this Ministry with offices/bodies, if any, is solved through discussion. Side by side our stand against negligence to duty or corruption is very clear. If there is any proper allegation of corruption, departmental case is filed against the government employees after enquiry. Public representatives are suspended temporarily and sometimes dismissed permanently if allegations are proved.

Question: 12. How do you coordinate the works with the other Ministries in a proper way? Do you want to transform the villages into towns? As an alternative, do you plan to make a set-up of a township having culture nurtured through thousand years in the agrarian Bengal in a new shape of traditional but, newly cultured people oriented refined infrastructural society that would present the country to world community in a new appearance? Do you have any long drawn out work program? If so, how would you or do you want to implement them?

Answer: With a view to building up Bangladesh as a developed digital one in tunewith the election manifesto of the present government under the leadership of Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, all the ministries are working together. With this aim, it sometimes necessitates co-ordination with other Ministries. To accomplish the works of Local Government Division very often coordination becomes essential with Cabinet Division, Ministry of Public Administration, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges, Ministry of Planning etc. In such cases, coordination is done with the inter-ministerial meetings.

We are committed to reach the modern civic facilities to every village by holding high all our rural tradition and heritage, culture, religion, folk-practices etc.

nurtured through thousand years. With this view, Government has undertaken a project named ‘My Village – My Town’ which is being implemented by our Ministry. Moreover, we are working with an aim of improving the socio-economic condition of every person of towns and villages following plans of the present Government viz. Delta Plan – 2100, Perspective Plan/Vision – 2041, achievement of all indicators of SDG by 2030 and the plan to turn Bangladesh into a middle income country by 2021. To achieve this goal, at present, 8th 5 year plan (July 2020 – June 2025) has been formulated. At present, all works are being implemented as per the said guidelines.

Question: 13.  You are a Senior Officer of the Government and work relentlessly to implement various plans of the Government. Do you think that you can and are able to act with confidence, experience, merit, honesty and sincerity? Can you render your services hundred percent with dedication for the national welfare? Do you face any obstacle in doing so?

Answer: You see, hundred percent application or achievement thereof is a theoretical matter and it is also not possible to determine. Yes, Of course, I have tried to bring about a positive change by applying my experience, merit and competence. I made efforts to bring about changes in the external conditions and standard of delivering services wherever I worked sofar. I have dedicated my entire service time to the welfare of the country and of the Nation. I always tried to solve the problems of my junior colleagues by identifying those ones and encouraged them for the use of latest technology and innovation in rendering their services. It enhanced the inspiration amongst the officials-employees for work thusand it has improved the standard of service. As a result, the fate of the people has changed.

Question: 14. We expect a short description and evaluation of your service life, different positions you held during your tenure of office, nature of works done, good or bad experience, hope and despair, disappointment, frictional situations, success and failure and so on.

Answer: You see, I have always been happy with my position and posting. I wholeheartedly have carried out my duties and responsibilities the government has entrusted me. Most of my service life I have done my duty outside Dhaka especially in the hills and haors. Hence, I got the opportunity of mixing with the backward people, had the chance of knowing their life-living. At the same time, I got the scope of working for uplifting their fortune which I treat to be a good luck for me. I have never been disappointed in my life. I served in different capacities like Magistrate, Upazila Nirabhi Officer, Chief Executive Officer – Zilla Parishad, Deputy  Commissioner (DC), Divisional Commissioner, Secretary. At present, I am serving as Senior Secretary. In a holistic consideration I claim myself to be a successful one. Therefore, I extend my gratitude to the Almighty Creator. Finally, I thank the Honorable Prime Minister for giving the chance to serve as secretary that a civil servant desires most. E

 

 

NATIONAL

The Country is Attacked with the

Discomfort of Ill Competition

– Mamtaz Karim Bhuiyan*

‘Being addicted to the prohibited, the poor fellow is a believer in the counterfeit by leaving the original’. It is, as if, an irresistable flow. Beginning from the dawn of nature till today the entire creation follows an unknown destination. Uncontrolled imaginary delusion of mind makes man sometimes devoid of rationality. As a result, human qualities of man takes the shape of demonian form which contributes to the creation of misdeeds and bizarre. Consequently, all sorts of anti human crimes such as irregularities, immoral practices, bribe, corruption, rape, plunder and murder enter into the apertures of the society. Then slowly starts withering of virtues like kindness, devotion, sense of respect, love, affection. With the extinction of satisfaction of the soul dissatisfaction takes the place. A strong desire and urge for having more and more catches the mind.

Whipping of six inner foes makes the holy soul of man polluted and kills conscience. Then emotion-driven soul is not driven by conscience Then the unsatisfied mind being lost in highly ambitious and luxurious enjoyment starts galloping like a unbridled mad horse behind the money. He does not then care to see who is its interest holder, who is the owner of the money, to whom belongs the daughter, of whom the wife is. Good or bad, black or white all turn to be the same before him. Whatever loathsome may be the act done by him, he does not feel warried, instead he gets inspired and  becomes proud for the works done by him.

In a society, where social set up breaks down due to irregularities and mismanagement, people suffer from fear-scaring. They remain afraid of unknown danger. Invariably here starts coming of the news of unwanted and undesired incidents.

A society when is swallowed by such an unkind, cruel and undesired reality, it is to be assumed that the society has decayed. To save the falling society attacked with wood-worm, cleansing drive is to be made from his own home. Bangabandhu-daughter Sheikh Hasina has by now taken a positive step of this sort. Future only would say the results of this cleansing drive. The nation today is waiting with extreme eagerness for good results from the drive.

In the past days, people feared to tell a lie as it would make a sin. But now they fear to speak the truth as it would invite danger. But it is also true that people love the outspoken speaker till his interest does not suffer. It is astonishing to think that today a sex-worker is said to be a model. Gambling is called Casino. It is so said because if casino-club is closed, the young community would be unemployed. Interest is called profit and bribe is called speed money.

To those persons who have earned crores of taka in anti human and terrorist style, my question is, for whom these heaps of money and wealth are required? How much money is needed for living a life? We know that demand is unlimited.  Perhaps now you would say that this is for the progeny. But dear friend, you can turn your offspring into wealth without making so much wealth for the descendant. Good-education and ideal image are the greatest wealth of the world.

We all know that our life is limited, food is fixed and death is inevitable. But then why are we so busy with this temporal world leaving the world next? For a real believer in the eternal life, this sort of the evil cannot lead him to evil of any kind. Many persons think that life hereafter is a matter of uncertainty. But is it really so? In fact, it is not so. The wise and thoughtful persons when he thinks about it, he finds it near at his elbow. It is only a matter of breath. If you wake up from sleep, it is morning but if you don’t rise from the sleep, it is the life hereafter. If it is so, what is the distance between the two worlds?

There is a class of people in our midst who speak out on hearing the words of religion that we know all of these things. Alright, if you know, why then don’t you follow? There is no success in knowing the matter only. Success lies in the acceptance. Moreover, I know everything is not a language of man rather it is a boastful talk of Iblish, the Satan. Perhaps you don’t know the unknown things that lie outside your knowledge may help making innumerable epics. There is no end of learning  in the life-time of a man. In the holy Hadith, there is a saying ‘Man learns from the cradle to the grave’. If you really know so much thing, do you not know that misappropriation of possession of others is an unpardonable sin which Allah the Almighty Himself cannot pardon? What would you do with heaps of money? Ajrail does not accept bribe and the burial cloth has no pocket. Then what benefit this wealth can bring to you? What kind of bad sign this temporal world is providing by taking such a shape of faded image? The running laws, administrative  system, human conscience and rationality, social rules-regulations – all these are today captivated by the inauspicious chain of power. On whom would the liabilities of all these factors  fall upon? What transitory period the nation is now passing by?

Have we today fallen on the historical truth from the cover of history to the forehead of civilization which got established in this earth through centuries and ages?

In the opinion  of Aristotle, the father of Political Science, the autocratic government has 5 symptoms: First, it will rule longer period by occupying power forcibly. Secondly, it will kill the philosophers, intelligentsia and erudite people throwing them in the law-trap.  Thirdly, it will plunder the freedom of speech of the citizens. Fourthly, government and administrative structures will be filled with the persons devoid of common sense. Fifthly, without assigning any reason common people will be tortured.

The representatives of the people by taking oath in the Parliament breaks their commitment, work contrary to telling good policy and ideals, embezzle the wealth of others. The definition of corruption in the language of Aristotle is ‘Abuse of public possession for private benefit’, we are then 100% sure that they are doing corruption. They are corrupt; nothing good can be expected of them.

Time has now come to identify these corrupt people. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pronounced in an unequivocal language that terrorists, corrupt extortionists whatever party they may belong to will have no concession.

It is not that the people of the country are corrupt. Why will the liability of the misdeeds of a very few people be borne by the nation? A half of the total good words made so far has not been materialized in practice. Being engaged in corruption himself a person cannot tell words of honesty to others.

History is the witness, good results does not come from a battle by keeping the fort unprotected. It results in being the victim of attack from the back side. So before ruling others, own house should be made safe.

Greed has also a limit and the boasting has also a multitude.

In a country where zero tolerance against corruption is announced, the price of a pillow is 5957 taka, the price of a curtain is 37 lac 50 thousand taka, to make a signboard costs 3 and a half lac taka, a book of 5 thousand taka costs 85 thousand taka; the salary of a cleaner in a rail project is 4 lac taka. A man of sound brain won’t believe it. Whereas this has happened in this country. This picture of an independent country earned at the cost of 30 lakh martyrs is such a matter of pain that it could be expressed well by Bangabandhu if he were alive now. Once a renowned journalist David Frost made a question to Bangabandhu, What is your qualification? In reply, he said, I love my people. David made the second question, What is your disqualification? In reply, Bangabandhur said, I love them very much. This is the pattern of the true patriotism of a man. Where are those sun-sons and patriotism today?E

*   The Writer is a  Journalist & a Social Worker

** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.

 

 

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