New govt takes fixing economy as major challenge

The newly elected government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has seemingly chosen its immediate task of fixing economy, which has become a major challenge due to political uncertainty.Some of the most senior cabinet members on their first working day made it clear that the government vowed to tackle violence and anarchy to ensure security so trade and business can go ahead unhindered.”The strike and blockade in the last two to three months, especially the terrorism before and after the national elections, has brought the economic activity to a standstill,” Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said on the first day of his third tenure at the finance ministry.He further said such anarchy and violence unleashed by the opposition across the country over the January 5 parliamentary elections would not be allowed to stretch out further.For Muhith, as he is the finance minister, the imminent challenge is to expedite revenue collection process, which already fell short of target when violent political activities by the BNP-Jamaat alliance disrupted the country’s trade and business.Muhith’s last five-year tenure witnessed a phenomenal 190 percent rise in revenue collection, which was equal to the revenue growth in the past 15 years. The finance minister is likely to sit on Thursday evening or early next week with his ministry officials, including the high officials of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to chalk out a plan for the next five years.Similarly, Tofail Ahmed after taking charge of the commerce ministry on Monday said his first job would be to boost internal and external trade, strengthen relations with global trade partners and work for gaining quota-free market access and generalized system of preferences (GSP).The veteran Awami League leader was a commerce minister during Awami League’s (AL) 1996-2001 tenure.Talking to journalists on the first day in his office at the Industries Ministry, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said he would focus on accelerating industrialization process to help propel growth.Amu, who was the food minister during AL’s 1996-2001 tenure, said he would continue the reopening process of the closed industries located at different places of the country as part of his drive to further industrialization.He said the garment industries would also get special attention so the country’s most export earning sector can maintain its competitive edge and demand on the global market.Amu said the government would take effective measures for tackling violence and anarchy, which is the main challenge to continue the government’s development agenda, began five years back.Talking with journalists on the first day of his office, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said the government would give priority to make Bangladesh missions abroad more business-friendly for boosting trade ties with different countries.He admits that regaining GSP facility in the US market is a challenge, but not impossible.Alam said the government would give more attention to increase business in the European market beside the measures to restoration of GSP in the US market.