B’desh to privatise 17 industries

Dhaka, April 18:

Bangladesh’s military bac-ked government plans to privatise 17 loss-making fir-ms from jute makers to textile factories in the next four months as it steps up a sell-off drive, an official said.

Sale of the 17 firms marks the start of a wider process that will involve disposing of all loss-making companies and some profit-making ones, privatisation co-mmission head Abu Solaiman Chowdhury said. “They are part of 49 industries that we have listed for privatisation. We will privatise all of them as quickly as possible,” he said.

The cabinet committee on economic affairs approved the privatisation of the first batch of 17 companies yesterday, he said. “Th-ese 17 are all loss-making firms. The government has decided to privatise them to make them profitable and to decrease the financial burden on the government,” Chowdhury said.

The 17 companies comprise 12 textile and jute factories, two chemical companies, a leather factory, a paper mill and a can plant. “We will go for open tenders to sell the factories to interested bidders. The wh-ole process may take about four months,” he said. Bangladesh has been under emergency rule since January 11 when the president cancelled elections amid allegations of poll rigging and installed a military-backed administration.

The government, headed by a former central bank governor, has vowed to cle-an up corruption and carry out sweeping political refo-rms ahead of elections that it has promised by the end of 2008. It has also moved to expedite a pro-private sector policy to boost economic growth and generate employment in the impoverished South Asian nation of 144 million people.

Bangladesh nationalised most privately owned industries immediately after its independence in 1971. The government began gradually reversing the policy in the early 1990s after the companies’ heavy losses started taking a toll on the nation’s finances.