Fresh elections thru’ talks possible: Muhith

UNB, Dhaka :
Echoing his other cabinet colleagues, Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Tuesday said the new government has been elected to work for five years.
“The new government is there for five years. The Prime Minister has already said that since BNP didn’t participate in the election, there could be another election through discussions. But, it’s now in BNP’s court and we’ve nothing to do,” he said.
Muhith was taking to reporters at his secretariat office in the afternoon.
The Finance Minister also said BNP should have participated in the 10th parliamentary election, but it played foolishly. “They (BNP) might have won the election …who knows?”
Asked about BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s Monday’s speech at Suhrawardy Uddyan, Muhith said almost everything depends on them, but still they are talking about the legality of the government. “They (BNP) are almost saying that this government has retained office with weapon power…this is nonsense,”
The minister, however, alleged that the arms are commonly used by the BNP chairperson’s accomplices-the Jamaat-Shibir.
Replying to another question whether there is any outside pressure on the government, Muhith said, “What foreign pressure? There’s no reason for any pressure as we’ve offered BNP, and that offer has to be taken by BNP. The matter of pressure is totally useless.”
About the independent pay scale at the Bangladesh Bank and the state-owned commercial banks, he said the government would definitely deliver it as the matter is already in the process, reached a level and now would move from that level. “Why should we change our mind?”
Muhith told another questioner that he would consider banning hartal as it takes its toll on the economy when it is use frequently.
About the status of Padma Bridge project, the Finance Minister said the work on the much-awaited bridge project would be completed in the next four years while there would be very limited expenditure in this fiscal year.
Of the total ADP allocation for Padma Bridge in the current fiscal year, he said, Tk 4,000 crore is being spent on meeting the cost of dearness allowance (DA) for government officials and employees.
He said, although the main bridge construction work would begin this fiscal year, there would be only mobilization for which there will be limited expenditure.
Asked whether the government would seek fresh financial support for the Padma Bridge from outside sources, Muhith said, “We’re not now seeking assistance for Padma Bridge from outside, but we’ll surely take it if someone comes up. This is our project and, I think, Bangladesh should implement some of its projects with its own money.”
He told another questioner that the government is yet to receive any indication from outside to this end and said that he had requested the ADB in October last to make a third-party review of the tender bid documents and response is yet to come from them.
“There’s a rumour that the ADB and JICA are thinking about it. So, I shall get a reply very soon, because I’ve reminded them that we’re receiving good responses in bids,” he added.
The Finance Minister said, the bids for the consultant of the Padma Bridge as well as river training would close in this February and then it has to be evaluated. “We’re not planning for one or two years, we’re planning for life of the project.”
About the insurance sector, he lambasted again this sector saying that insurance is the most corrupt and the most unregulated sector in the entire economy, and the plunderers of this sector need to be punished.
The Finance Minister also admitted there has been a serious lobbing from certain quarter so that the current Insurance Development Regulatory Authority (IDRA) chairman could not retain office.
He said, the performance of the central bank is generally good as it has really improved its surveillance. Although there are often cases of fraud in the banking sector, Muhith said this sector is doing well facing the ‘normal trouble’