The other day, one of my junior colleagues called me over my cell phone. After enquiring about my health and present job status he entered into a conversation I had least expected. Out of the blue he asked me if I had any bank account or if I had money deposited in any of my bank accounts. I was dumfounded after he asked me about my bank accounts.
So far I know him; he is not the person to ask for a loan until and unless he leaves his wallet back at home mistakenly. I was damn sure he wasn’t going to ask for any loan from me. The idea that struck my mind first was he must have been crack a joke. To which I also replied sarcastically that I didn’t know exactly how many accounts I had opened in my entire job life. I explained in detail to him that I had had to switch from one job to another and naturally bank accounts had also had to be changed many times.
How on earth could I tell him about the number of bank accounts when I can’t even remember my birthday and the first day of my joining job. I have never felt or rather thought it to be necessary to remember all those things like ‘my first day at school’ and ‘my first day of my job experience’. They always sound to me as if I am writing an essay for the SSC of HSC examinations.
I told him that I had numerous bank accounts but I had no mentionable amount of money deposited in any of them. I even explained that it had never been in my character to save money. “I exactly don’t know where the money comes from and where the money goes,” I said. He gave a big smile that I could hear from the other side of the phone. He might have thought I had gone crazy as it was out of imagination of someone how a man couldn’t have any deposit in any of the bank accounts after years of doing jobs at so many institutions.
But what I said was true. There wasn’t the slightest shadow of doubt about my financial status. He then blurted out the truth like a bombshell. He began to advice me to withdraw my money from the banks if I had any as many people were doing so. He went so far as to say how banks were going to bleed to death without money as they were suffering from liquidity crunch. He kept talking about the crisis the banks were in. I also know about it and so does everybody as now it is the talk that can be overheard everywhere – at a tea stall, restaurant, home and such words are in circulation among those who have never thought about it before even for a moment.
He went on to say that very soon the banks were going to be bankrupt and will not be able to return the deposited money to its clients. I brooded over the matter and was trying to fathom out was it really going to happen in our country? News on television barely a couple of months back portrayed a grim picture of economic crisis prevailing in Lebanon where people were seen demonstrating in front of the banks they had deposited their money in. The demonstrations went on for quite a long time before they stormed into banks with guns. No, they didn’t loot any bank money. They just withdrew their own money from the bank accounts at gunpoint and left the bank peacefully.
What my junior brother or colleague told me had struck people’s mind after the news on widespread corruption in banks, dollar crisis and exorbitant price hike of essentials. Again the economic meltdown in Sri Lanka had also made people panicky and nervous. Even a section of international news media said months back after Sri Lankan political and economic instability that Bangladesh could be the next country that was likely to meet the safe fate.
In recent times, the news on all those that I have just mentioned has made people jittery. No pep talk will work. It is true that with each day passing the foreign exchange reserve is dipping. Reports on corruptions at a number of banks have fuelled such notion of people.
A media report on November 30 said a company had taken a stupendous sum of money of Tk30, 000 crore in bank loan which was way beyond the group’s entitlement. One after another the names of banks are coming up with their involvement either for money embezzlement or corruption of this type or that. What is more mortifying is the statement of our Finance Minister. When quizzed on the delicate issue of lending Tk9, 500 crore by Islami Bank, Social Islami Bank and First Security Islami Bank under suspicious circumstances he said he didn’t know what was wrong with the banking sector.
Moreover, when the minister told the reporters to let him know about the banking sector corruption in writing it was quite disturbing and unsettling. Of course, it is the duty and responsibility of the division concerned of the Finance Ministry to look into what is going on in the banking sector. So far I know from various newspaper reports that the government is also concerned about the issue. But such statement from a statesman may put the government in an awkward position.
The government and the central bank should immediately take prompt action against the banks that are breaching the banking rules and norms. If not, people might lose their faith in banks that will ultimately bring our economy to its knee. Before that happens the government must swing into action to save the banks and the nations from its imminent peril.
The writer is a journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected]