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As IMF Tells Bangladesh How to Regulate Banks, Insiders Rush for Licenses

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- While the International Monetary Fund often insists it does not impose conditions on loans, for the $1 billion program it announced Wednesday for Bangladesh, it required among other things lower fuel subsidies, and centralizing bank regulation.

  Inner City Press asked David Cowen, IMF Mission Chief for Bangladesh, about this bank regulation condition, and about the rush by Bank Bangladesh to give licenses to nine new banks chartered by political insiders, on the eve of the IMF decision.

  Cowen described the required amendments to the Bank Companies Act, for "fit criteria for bank directors," and said that the IMF was aware of the recent license grants, and hadn't had the chance to discuss them with Bangladesh authorities.

  He said regular procedures for licensing new banks had been followed -- indeed -- and that the banks should be subject to the regulations applicable to all banks in Bangladesh.

Here's a description of the six most recent banks and their sponsors:

"former president and Jatiya Party chief H.M. Ershad (Union Bank), ruling party lawmakers Fazle Noor Taposh (Modhumati Bank) and Mohiuddin Khan Al Amgir (Farmers Bank), S.M. Amjad Hussain (South Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank) and Ashequr Rahman (Meghna Bank) and Moniruzzaman Khan Khandaker (Midland Bank), the income tax lawyer to Shaikh Hasina."

What was that again, about "fit criteria for bank directors"?

  Meanwhile HSBC is trying either to sell its 13 Bangladesh branches, reportedly to Standard Chartered, or simply to close them by some accounts.

  On April 10 HSBC announced it is in talks to sell off its operations in Pakistan and is moving in on a sale of its South Korean businesses to the Korea Development Bank.

  Beyond Bangladesh, other Asian markets where HSBC has fewer than 20 branches are Brunei Darussalam, Macao, New Zealand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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