Vol. 4 Num 318 Wed. April 21, 2004  
Front Page

Development Forum Meet
Saifur visits WB, IMF HQs for positive report

Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman is now in the USA on a one-week mission, mainly to persuade the World Bank (WB) into not making a negative report on Bangladesh in the upcoming Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) meeting.

Saifur feels 'sensational' and 'untrue' press reports have created a 'baseless' negative image of the country which may influence the WB's report on Bangladesh at the BDF meeting. He left Dhaka Monday and will be back on April 26.

The three-day BDF meeting that begins on May 8 will have seven sessions. There, the WB will present progress reports on various commitments made by Bangladesh in last year's meeting. Apparently, corruption, law and order, and conflicting politics are going to dominate this year's BDF agenda.

During the tour, the finance minister will also try to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the difficulties the government is facing in implementing various conditions the fund has tagged with the third instalment of its loan to Bangladesh under the Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities (PRGF) programme.

A finance ministry source said the government is now not in a position to implement those conditions within the stipulated timeframe, which makes it uncertain for the country to qualify for the $70-million tranche in June this year.

"We will inform them of our works and our economic success," Saifur said on his USA visit following a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) Sunday. "There has also been some reshuffling of IMF and World Bank staff and the

new officials who are now looking after Bangladesh's affairs should be properly briefed on our country."

"Besides, they must know that the press reports here are often fabricated and sensational. We have many successes and they must know the true picture. They will be informed about the development process in Bangladesh and we will also come to know about their attitude," Saifur added. "This will make the upcoming BDF meeting more effective."

But, according to the WB's latest quarterly update on Bangladesh economy, released Sunday, the donors' 'negative' impression on Bangladesh apparently did not derive from the press reports. The WB says it based its conclusions on its interactions with the government, donors, private sector, NGOs and other civil society groups.

According to the WB update, law and order situation, confrontational politics, politicisation of the executive and the judiciary at all levels, corruption and lack of access to basic services are the key issues of concern in Bangladesh.

On the question of qualifying for the third tranche of PRGF loan, Saifur said, "Reform is a very difficult task. Which country can implement a fast reform? Though I believe in speedy reform, the ministries concerned cannot take any decision alone, they must interact and work together."

The third instalment of PRGF has become uncertain, as the government could not implement some IMF conditions related to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and the nationalised commercial banks (NCBs) within the stipulated timeframe, a finance ministry source said. The government was supposed to appoint a private management team at Agrani Bank by March. But it has failed. The government has also committed to gradually privatise Agrani Bank by 2005 and Janata Bank by 2006, and to restructure Sonali Bank.

On Sunday, Saifur also held a meeting with the Bangladesh Bank governor and secretaries of the ministries concerned as final preparations for his USA tour.

Accompanied by Finance Secretary Zakir Ahmed Khan, Saifur will meet WB President James D Wolfensohn and Regional Vice President Proful Patel, and IMF Deputy Managing Director Takatoshi Kato and Director David Button. The meetings are scheduled to be held today and tomorrow. WB Executive Director CM Vasudev and Alternative Executive Director Akbar Ali Khan will be present at the meetings on behalf of Bangladesh.