I am most saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. A M Kazemi last week due to ill health and eventually a victim of COVID-19. While we all pray for the salvation of his soul, let me, through you, those working at the Bangladesh Bank (BB), offer my personal condolences to his family and friends.
I met Mr. Kazemi in March of 2005 as I was visiting Bangladesh Bank for three weeks ahead of taking up a 2-year assignment as the Resident Economic Advisor/Chief Economist at the Bank on behalf of the World Bank. During this visit, I took up the task of recruiting staff for the eventual team of economists that I was to lead. About a hundred had applied for the jobs (at two levels) including a dozen or more who were already on the staff of BB. Mr. Kazemi actually chaired the Recruitment Committee and took a vigorous part in the deliberations during the interview process, (though not during the written test phase which preceded the interviews). He never for a second ventured into offering any view of who to recommend except for his considered assessment in the meeting itself. I had heard that government offices always fall prey to pressure and end up employing candidates with powerful links regardless of their suitability. BB allowed no room for that complicity, at least not under Mr. Kazemi's watch. I felt much re-assured that I would be able to carry on my work without undue hindrances from senior management.
While I did resume my stint at the Bank (July 2005), my expectations were fully met over the entire 2-year period. While as per my job description, I was officially reporting directly to the Governor, most day-to-day back and forth was facilitated by the senior most Deputy Governor, Mr. Kazemi. Thus throughout my stay, practically each week I was to spend several hours chatting with him over central banking policy matters (most of that in the Governor's office), reviewing written reports produced by the Policy Analysis Unit (PAU) that I was leading, or even sorting out administrative matters (e.g., liaising with the World Bank in DC or recruitment matters within PAU). In all such engagements, I found him firmly focussed on reason and integrity. His knowledge of the core tasks of central banking, particularly monetary policy management, was deep and profound, not generally expected in many developing country central banks. While inside the bank, he had a reputation of being a hard task master and stern in manners, he had indeed an excellent sense of humour; although he indulged in light moments somewhat economically. During his own retirement ceremony, he asked forgiveness of his staff and emphasised that any disagreements and admonishments he may have had dispensed toward colleagues were strictly and exclusively on professional grounds, and never as a reaction to anyone's personal attributes.
After a long gap, recently I had met him a few times in early 2019, and he participated in a seminar that I gave at the Bank on Public Debt. As customary with him, he neatly summarised my (fairly long) talk highlighting the main takeaways and what was left undone. It was another example of his wit and knowledge, no less diminished by his semi-retirement over a decade earlier. Indeed, he was still serving as a Senior Advisor to BB.
Thanks to Mr. Kazemi and my erstwhile PAU members, the joy and mutual understanding that I enjoyed while at BB will remain with me till my last day.
Syed M. Ahsan, Ph D is Professor Emeritus, Concordia University, Montreal, Australia