Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said there was a plan to allow scam-hit enterprise Hallmark to resume its business, adding old businesses have to run the show.
“I cannot create new businessmen. Businesses will have to be run by existing ones,” Kamal told the press at the secretariat on Wednesday.
Kamal said: “Hallmark Group will pay back their loan and return to business.”
“A process to allow Hallmark to run their business has been initiated. They have the capacity to repay their loans and resume their business,” the minister said.
“Like them, other groups will be brought back. I want the businessmen to repay their loans and start normal life,” said the minister.
Currently, Hallmark Group Chairman Jasmine Islam and Managing Director Tanvir Mahmud are behind bars in a case over misappropriation of more than Tk 1,568 crore from state-owned Janata Bank.
Jasmine, wife of Tanvir, was denied bail in August last year in a case filed on October 4, 2012 by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
From jail, Tanvir sent a proposal to finance ministry several months ago requesting a solution to their predicament and to allow him to return to business, said a senior executive of Sonali Bank.
Wishing anonymity, the official said: “Finance ministry high-ups are dealing with the proposal and no specific decision has been made yet.”
Hallmark, the second top defaulter of Sonali Bank, has a total defaulted loan of Tk 1,713 crore as of December 2018. The business group makes up 3.69 percent of the total loan of Sonali Bank.
In 2012, the Bangladesh Bank investigation found Hallmark had embezzled Tk 2,686 crore from Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch between 2010 and 2012.
Mustafa Kamal on Wednesday said the ‘exit plan’ of loan rescheduling at 2 percent down payment will change the country’s economic scenario.
“The exit plan is now in court and disputes will be solved soon,” he said, sounding hopeful.
The exit plan has some major components, and simple interest rate formula is one of them.
“If banks cannot follow the decision, we will then merge them,” said Kamal.
Sounding firm about implementing simple interest rate formula, he said: “We can give licenses to banks but also cancel them.”
On the government’s plan to use state-owned organisations’ deposits, Kamal said: “It will not trigger any liquidity crisis as the money will not be withdrawn right now. The government is yet to specify how the deposits will be used.”
On India’s move to merge major state-owned banks, the minister said Bangladesh has no such plan.
“The government does not expect profit from state-run banks. Rather those are to provide quality services to the people,” explained Kamal, adding: “If the banks’ quality of service falls drastically, then the government will merge them.”