Farmers’ loans must go to farmers
IT WOULD seem that the Bangladesh Bank’s efforts to improve access of genuine farmers to farm loans, and remove the power of middlemen in the way, has fallen flat on its face. The central bank introduced the facility of opening bank accounts with a Tk 10 initial deposit by farmers in January 2010 to ‘facilitate agriculture credit as well to encourage savings among the farmers.’ However, according to a report front-paged in New Age on Friday, only 2.81 per cent of the 95.54 lakhs accounts opened by farmers have so far been used for availing farm loans, pointing to dismal performance of the seven banks operating the accounts as well as the failure of the central bank to implement the policy. In fact, out of a total Tk 3,930.56 crore given out as farm loans from July till December 2011, only Tk 90.11 crore, or only 2.88 per cent, was disbursed through farmers’ accounts. The more graver implication of all this, as a Bangladesh Krishi Bank official admitted, is that most of the loan is actually not being disbursed to genuine farmers and is in fact going to middlemen and others based on political consideration. Meanwhile, according to the central bank figures, saving deposits through these farmers’ accounts have also been fairly low. Essentially, the farmers’ accounts scheme so far seems to have failed on every count for which it was created in the first place.
Given the situation, the Bangladesh Bank should indeed take to task officials of the Sonali Bank, Janata Bank, Agrani Bank, Rupali Bank, BASIC Bank, Bangladesh Krishi Bank and Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank for not just having failed to disburse the loans through farmers’ accounts but actually resorting to unacceptable means of loan disbursement such as responding to lists provided by chairmen of the local union council. Farmer’s loans are intended for the benefit of our farmers and the misuse of such facility should not be treated slightly. The government and administration working on ‘political consideration’ has indeed become a bane, and when schemes to reduce such misuse has already been put in place, such as farmers’ accounts, failure to still reach the farmers is simply unacceptable.
The central bank must now come good on its word to make farmers’ loans disbursement through farmers’ accounts, mandatory. And not only that, given the loopholes that may still exist in the system, the bank, with help from other agencies of the government, must regularly monitor the scheme at the field level, needs to make sure that the scheme for farmers’ account is not exploited by non-farmers.
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