Impunity is not the answer  

Mahmudur Rahman   | Published: January 07, 2019 22:08:14 | Updated: January 08, 2019 22:22:34


The Swiss banking system defies the basic tenets of democracy in terms of transparency. Here's an example: anyone can open and maintain accounts without any risk of disclosure. Over the years the stance has softened somewhat, with the Swiss government cooperating with outraged government about such accounts. To date not a single person's. Account details have been disclosed. Generic statements on 'total' deposits have been made available however.

Dictators and despots alike, many of whom are no longer in the land of the living have safe deposits, with only specified successors allowed access. The moneys unclaimed become property of the banks after a certain period of time.

And so the news that two bankers of Credit Swisscom have been arrested for their part in a $ 2.0 billion fraud where their involvement has become apparent. It begs the question why the fraudulent lending pattern in Bangladesh cannot or isn't being addressed. Two hundred and twenty-five billion is the Taka equivalent of bad loans dished out, probably never to be repaid. There's little to suggest that any of this is recoverable in terms of sales of assets that were, to begin with, less than adequate to cover the scale of loans.

The two specific questions that float around are: where did all this money go and why are the defaulters out of a bit of any law, given no cases are filed against them? Was there indirect collusion per courtesy of Bank Directors and bankers themselves? Bankers are desperate to get liquidity to meet huge holes in capital and depositors are just as reluctant to cough up due to low interest rates - at times below inflation.

The Bangladesh Bank has taken a benign approach, essentially suggesting they've run out of ideas or lack the options desired to redress the situation. With an absolute majority the government can take harder stands against defaulters provided it can rise above parochial interest in protecting some of its own that may be responsible.

The US is in a standoff between the President and House of Representatives resulting in budget halts that sent 800,000 workers into the uncertain territory of 'no pay cheque', and another 400,000 contractors affected. Up to now, the basic services such as garbage collection and museum and national park entrance have been affected. What it says is that in a balance of power situation even a President of Donald Trump's ilk can face the music. It is the kind of approach required for a financial debacle to be handled. The parliamentary standing committees suddenly gain prominence in that they can ask the difficult questions required to get to the bottom of it all. Whether this will happen will show the morning and relate all of us to the rest of the day.

mahmudrahman@gmail.com

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