The electoral process has entered a crucial phase with the scrutiny of nomination papers and their filtration against some set criteria. Already a record number of proposed nominees have been rejected; they have a narrow window for appeal though. After this has been availed of by rejected nominees, result going one way or the other; and following withdrawals of candidatures in a multiple nominee settings, we will get to know who shall be in the race. Everyone hopes that the much-vaunted election will be participatory, competitive and inclusive.
In this backdrop or, foreground, if you will, one of the acid tests the party, 'jote' or independent nominees must go through relates to loan default, more precisely, its standard euphemism, called loan rescheduling. In this election season bankers eyed on a loan rescheduling spree by aspirants so as to avoid falling foul of Representation of the People Order (RPO). It debars loan defaulters from contesting in the election.
It must be made abundantly clear that when loan recovery is reduced to 10 to 30 per cent down payment by way of allowing rescheduling of loans, the banks are settling for a minimalist, even indulgent approach to loan default of the wilful variety.
That said just to underline the need for a reasonably effective drive against a habitual and entrenched default culture, let's assess the mixed bag impact of the national election on loan rescheduling. On the one hand, there hasn't been the rush for loan rescheduling experienced before the previous elections; on the other, we have reports saying a sizable number of the nomination papers have been rejected on grounds of loan default. In fact, why a flurry of applications for repayment scheduling recast was missed this time is baffling because participation in the current election looks to be the broadest-based in recent history.
The statistics portray a low demand for rescheduling: Sonali Bank, the largest state-owned bank, rescheduled 10 defaulters recovering a mere Tk. 170 million (17 crores); Agrani and Rupali received Tk. 20 million (2.0 crore) and Tk 50 million (5.0 crore) respectively .
Private banks - Prime, Pubali and Dhaka -rescheduled 12 defaulters and recovered Tk. 10 million (10 crore) put together.
Between November 08 and 27 a total of 202 applications were filed for rescheduling loans, out of which 42 applicants were turned down on the ground that they had applied too close to the deadline for submission of the nomination papers - November 28. It is worthwhile to note though, the RPO this time allowed candidates to get their loans rescheduled until a day before the submission of nomination papers. The cut-off time reduced from a week to a day could be of little avail in terms of facilitation, it seems.
Many candidates 'got stay orders from court instead of seeking rescheduling loans' because their loans were already rescheduled thrice, the maximum number allowed under the Bangladesh Bank rules.
However, what needs to be emphasised here is the fact that many heavy to mid-weight defaulters have outwitted the banks by rescheduling their loans well ahead of time to render their candidature "unproblematic."
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