The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in financial matters came into renewed focus recently at a workshop in Dhaka. Top level representatives from the Bangladesh Bank, the Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group and the Association of Bankers Bangladesh (ABB), who participated in it, articulated the importance of the ADR in resolving financial disputes in one voice. The Bangladesh Bank Governor appreciated the BIAC's role and spelt out the vision that the country would be a regional ADR-friendly centre. The BIAC Chairman detailed his organisation's endeavour over the last eight years and referred to a set of draft guidelines it had submitted to carry forward the task of the ADR. The IFC pledged to work with the government so that the concept of the ADR could spread. In a dynamic, fast growing and competitive economy, the news that the BIAC has left its mark as the first international arbitration institution in the country must come as a welcome piece of information .
It is accepted by all that Bangladesh needs a reliable credit infrastructure and efficient associated procedures to improve the business environment. The ADR is definitely one of the major tools to achieve this. As the country gives consideration to the recently submitted budget for the fiscal year 2019-20, various issues are coming to the surface for discussion. Reforms in banking, issues of loan default, multi-layered VAT and state of the share market have figured prominently in recent discourse. There has been even talk of reforming the National Board of Revenue. However, the issue of ADR in such a setting is indeed distinctive in that it will help business at a minimal cost and time and possibly help usher in a new vista for getting to the goals of the national budget from a different angle. Already we have had the ADR in resolving low-level criminal and land disputes for decades. In fact, before formal courts came to exist, the ADR of some labels was the inherent instrument of the Bengali society as of the rest of the world. These have been codified and given legal status through subsequent enactments. The formal courts are very much there to resolve litigation; although it is more scientific and logical to take recourse to courts for ending litigation, it is at the same time more costly and time-consuming for the ordinary citizen. Our courts are under-staffed and over-burdened. In matters of financial dispute resolution, the Artha Rin Adalat Ain 2003 has been the sole instrument for long. However, this mechanism has also been over-strained. Besides, alternative ways to get rid of disputes through the wisdom and inputs of all big stakeholders, as proposed and exemplified in the above-mentioned workshop, bode well for financial disputes, where all actors could be participants. On the opposite side, no economy could waste its time and money behind pointless non-performing elaborate procedures.
The constructive pathway indicated by the workshop should be carried to finality and fruition. The BIAC-sponsored `ecosystem' that has the ADR as its core part calls for prudent and timely exercise before resorting to trammels of litigation. It saves toil and time. Everybody will be waiting to see what the draft guidelines tell us in their final shape. The Bangladesh Bank has done a laudable job by supporting the BIAC initiative. We look forward to better days in alternative dispute resolution in the financial arena. Its effect on other spheres of society may also be worth counting.
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