Vol. 5 Num 1104 Mon. July 09, 2007  
Front Page

Biman corporatisation won't pay off if govt retains all shares

The restructuring of Biman Bangladesh Airlines by turning it into a public limited company (PLC) would bring no positive changes if the government kept 100 percent shares of Biman in its hands, speakers at a roundtable yesterday said.

Bangladesh Economic Association (BEA) and Media Foundation for Trade and Development jointly organised the roundtable titled "Restructuring Biman" at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.

The speakers stressed the need for a "road map" with a clear-cut strategy on how the government would turn Biman into a PLC. They said during the rule of political governments Biman was destroyed in a planned way.

Speakers at the roundtable said Biman would have to offload its 100 percent shares in the market to make it a profitable organisation. They also demanded full autonomy of Biman.

Presided by the BEA President Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, the meeting was addressed by Managing Director (MD) of Biman MA Momen, BEA General Secretary Prof Abul Barkat, former Bangladesh Bank governor Mohammad Farashuddin Ahmed, former finance secretary Matiul Islam, Acting Secretary to the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry Sheikh Altaf Ali, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin, FBCCI Director AKM Shahidul Haque and Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) Director Shajahan Khan.

Singling out corruption being the main reason for Biman's current bad shape, Biman MD Momen said there are areas where efficiency could be improved. He claimed Biman was systematically destroyed for furthering the interest of vested quarters in the past.

For example, the Biman MD said a trim plate (a small spare part) worth Tk 9,860 was bought at Tk 5,10,000.

On floating Biman's shares, he said no one would buy them at this moment, as it is a "losing business". He, however, said it would not be right to keep Biman's shares in the government hands. He favoured floating Biman's shares as soon as it becomes profitable.

Civil Aviation Secretary Sheikh Altaf Ali said before buying aircraft we would have to identify which types of aircraft is appropriate for Biman.

Farashuddin said after Biman becomes a PLC, the cabinet secretary would be the chairman of Biman's board of directors replacing the civil aviation minister; this would not bring any meaningful changes.

"It would bring no results if Biman is turned into a PLC while 100 percent of its shares are in the government hands," he added.

Terming Biman a goldmine, Abul Barkat said it was turned into a place for thieves during the last 20 years. He also identified corruption as the main problem in Biman and recommended punitive actions against corrupt people working in Biman before it becomes a PLC. He wished all sales agents of Biman were shown the door.

The FBCCI chief said restructuring Biman is urgently needed but if Biman board is not empowered with autonomy, it would bring no benefits to Biman. "If Biman board is controlled like before the situation would remain the same," he said.