Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday likened the energy situation to Achilles' heel and said he is tired of speaking about the crisis, a deadly weakness of the country.
“I do not want to talk about the energy crunch as I have become tired mentioning it. It is an Achilles' heel not of this government, but of the country. There must be an improvement in the near future,” he said while addressing a team of business leaders in his office at the secretariat in the city.
The minister's remarks came when a delegation of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) led by its president Asif Ibrahim called on him.
The minister said some of the rental power plants would be up for production this year, ruling out claims that many of them would not be ready in time. 'Some may fail to come into operation in time. But the 2011 programmes are almost certain, more or less.'
Muhith said efforts are on to give the public private partnership (PPP) framework a serious boost. 'The PPP thing has not developed and blossomed although the strategy is there.”
“There are some issues involved with it, which we are trying to fix. Meanwhile, work on some PPP projects are going ahead.'
The finance minister said the Direct Tax Act would be up for discussion in the next session of the Parliament, not during the ongoing session.
On tax holidays, he said: 'My stance on the tax holiday is clear -- I do not want any tax holiday. I want taxation, but initially the process should kick off with low taxation in order to help people develop the habit of paying taxes.'
'I think we will do that. We have gone for this type of arrangements with some companies and they have not come up with any complaints against it. We will give them low rate for a period of time.'
Earlier, Asif Ibrahim in his speech urged the government to expedite completion of projects such as the Padma Bridge, four-lane Dhaka-Chittagong road, elevated expressway and big flyovers as measures addressing infrastructure barriers.
'We would also propose to increase budgetary allocations for infrastructures in 2011-2012.'
Ibrahim said the current energy and power scenarios are serious concerns faced by the industry proponents, urging the government to use the PPP concept to solve the nagging energy crisis.
He said share prices of many Z category companies are increasing although they do not declare dividends or hold annual general meeting regularly. 'They should be brought under control and their shares should not be more than 10 percent of the total shares.'
The DCCI chief said there should be strong regulations for the institutional investors who are the dominating players in the market, as sometimes banks are more interested in trading rather than funding industrial development.
Ibrahim said access to quality and credible corporate information is still a major issue in the market. 'Investors, without bothering much about underlying fundamentals, went on buying shares at exorbitant prices. For a healthy capital market, corporate information should be authentic and credible.'
He said the regulator should accurately monitor whether companies manipulate information. 'If such cases arise, exemplary punishment has to be meted out.'
He said high corporate taxes could be one of the reasons for banks and financial institutions to have a fascination with the trading sector. Existing level of corporate tax can be reviewed in line with the present needs.
He said those who received windfalls should be requested to reinvest at least portions of their profits in the market to enable all find a way out of the situation