Abul Maal Abdul Muhith was four months younger than me. Both of us passed our entrance exam and IA at the same time. I got first place in the entrance exam and Muhith got first place in the IA exam in 1951. The two of us were admitted to Dhaka University at the same time, Muhith in English Literature and I in Physics.
The two of us joined the Pakistan Civil Service together in 1956 and while working there we went to London to study on a scholarship. I studied at Cambridge University and Muhith at Oxford University.
Muhith studied development administration at Oxford and was interested in it ever since.
After returning from London and rejoining the government service together, our work place was in close proximity. Muhith had joined the Ministry of Planning and I started working in the then External Resource Division under the Ministry of Planning.
Even after the independence of the country, our workplace was in the same place - we worked in the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Finance or the Foreign Aid Wing.
Muhith was a very hard working, devoted and dedicated public servant. He did everything he could to serve the people. He also used to study a lot. After retirement, he joined politics and I got involved in research work. Apart from politics, Muhith also did a lot of research work.
Muhith formulated the largest budget in Bangladesh, making ten budgets consecutively during the Awami League government starting from 2009. He also formulated the budget during the HM Ershad government.
Muhith was the main contributor behind the macroeconomic stability Bangladesh is seeing now and the highway of development that Bangladesh is currently on.
Muhith used to discuss with everyone before formulating each budget. In these discussions with economists, researchers and officials from the private sector and various government ministries, he openly discussed the real economic picture of the country as well as where and what to do.
One of his main roles was to introduce the practice of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the development of public infrastructure with private sector and foreign investment.
During his time, various facilities were introduced to attract foreign direct investment in Bangladesh. His efforts to decentralise the administration were eye-catching. For this, he also introduced the practice of the "district budget".
In addition to increasing revenue collection, Muhith also took the initiative for online filing of income tax and value-added tax returns to alleviate the suffering of taxpayers. Muhith was always trying to encourage taxpayers to pay taxes. The economic modernisation of Bangladesh started with Muhith's help. During his time, Bangladesh consistently achieved 7% or more growth.
Muhith spoke to me at length about the poor condition of banks when he was the finance minister. He admitted that while many banks were weakening, he had to approve new ones under political pressure.
Attempts have been made at various times to reform the banking sector, including the formation of a commission, but this has not been possible due to political reasons.
He enacted the Demutualization Act to restore stability in the capital market. Although there was a lot of talk about taking out foreign loans by introducing sovereign bonds during his time, he did not do so.
Muhith also spoke to me about whether sovereign bonds could be introduced or not. I told him that in order to issue such bonds, one has to review the past and future stability of the macro economy. When issuing such bonds, many decisions have to be taken which cannot be taken due to political reasons. So I also forbade the issuance of sovereign bonds.
Last week, I went to Muhith's house. He was barely able to move his hands, yet he managed to take my hand and close his eyes for a while.
He has given his life in the service of the people. Such a civil servant is very much needed in Bangladesh.
M Syeduzzaman is a former finance minister of Bangladesh