The new president of the country's apex trade body, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), has already written to Bangladesh Bank asking for opportunities for businesses struggling to pay instalments against loans to turn around their fortunes before declaring them as loan defaulters.
He also believes heightened inflation is a global issue, rather than unique to Bangladesh, as prices of daily essentials and energy prices have witnessed spikes across the world, including the USA and Europe.
Bangladesh is trying to curb inflation, but the global supply chain disruption creates crises on the supply side, which is the cause of the price hike in some cases, he pointed out.
Talking to UNB, Mahbubul Alam gave his opinions on different issues including inflation, the dollar crisis, export diversification, and the challenges in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Alam was elected as the new president of the FBCCI as a leader of the Sammilito Oikko Parishad, for the 2023-25 tenure. The election was held on July 31 and he took charge as president on August 14. He also serves as President of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCCI).
Beyond his business acumen, Mahbubul Alam has received recognition in the form of CIP (Trade) and CIP (Industry) Awards from the Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh. He is also a committed philanthropist, contributing to various social causes.
Internationally, he is the recipient of a "Certificate of Merit" from the World Customs Organisation.
Alam said in the present economic reality, suppose an entrepreneur has 12 factories; among them one or two will have fallen into problems, but the other 10 would be running well. In this situation, if the business group was declared as defaulter, the entrepreneur would not run the other factories, and a large number of employees would lose their jobs.
He acknowledged that in the last two years, a huge volume of loans went into default as many businessmen are not paying their instalments. The FBCCI president said, the federation (FBCCI) has already written a letter to the Bangladesh Bank (BB) to not declare any company as defaulter without understanding the reality.
He suggested running the factories as an option to get a return. He opposed wholesale declaration of loan defaulters rather than giving opportunities to improve.
Alam agreed that the businessmen have to return the loan money, otherwise the banks will be in trouble.
Regarding the dollar crisis, the FBCCI president emphasised enhancing remittance earnings by sending more skilled human resources abroad, along with the unskilled manpower already being sent.
He also urged the government to develop a system through which remittances could be sent easily to Bangladesh using legal channels from the Middle East and other areas of the world.
Alam, the owner of Chattogram-based M/S Alam Trading, also emphasised enhancing the capacity of foreign missions of Bangladesh so that those missions can arrange trade fairs to display different traditions and non-traditional products as part of the export diversification campaign.
Regarding SDG achievement, the FBCCI president said the capacity of domestic businesses must increase to compete with global manufacturers in the age of free trade.
Alam said, "Despite different types of obstacles and unfavourable environment, the entrepreneurs of Bangladesh have survived and continued running their businesses even during the Covid-19 pandemic period."
The FBCCI president emphasised massive research and innovation activities involving youths for Bangladeshi companies to cope with the requirements of the 4th Industrial Revolution,
However, he doesn't buy into the hype that Artificial Intelligence or machine learning will affect employment in Bangladesh, as he believes many jobs still exist that require a human hand.
The FBCCI president also focused on increasing domestic rearing of chicken, pigeons, cows, and goats which will help to meet a large portion of the consumption demand for eggs, milk, and meat.
It is not possible to supply readymade products, eggs, meat, milk, and other essential items to everyone, he said. Some people have to develop self-dependency when it comes to agricultural items, he pointed out.