National Board of Revenue (NBR) has held a secret meeting with the Cigarette Manufacturers’ Association of Bangladesh (CMAB). The meeting was held on April 28, 2014 at the chamber of Golam Rahman, the NBR chairman, from 11.00am to 12.15pm at the NBR office, although it was slated to be held at the NBR conference room at 10.00am as part of the 2014-15 pre-budget discussion with the cigarette companies.
The Association members arrived at 10am at the conference room to attend the meeting and left the place sensing the journalists. Due to the presence of the journalists at the meeting, the Association members felt embarrassed, and started playing ‘hide and seek’ instead of the open meeting at the NBR conference room.
Latter, they agreed on open meeting as the NBR chairman assured them. However, at around 10.30am the NBR chairman invited the CMAB members to his room for some ‘unidentified’ reasons and the closed-door meeting lasted for around one and a quarter hours.
After the meeting, the Association members ‘technically’ tried to avoid the journalists when they were approached for some queries about the closed-door meeting. Sheikh Basir Uddin, Managing Director of Akij Group replied that he is not bound to inform anything about the budget proposal, when he was asked about the budget proposal by the journalists. He was also asked that as all the organizations are discussing in public about the budget proposal, why there is ‘hide and seek’ by the CMAB. “What kind of question is this?” he angrily replied. When the question was asked to Golam Moyeen Uddin, CMAB chairman, he also avoided it.
The NBR office said that the chairman disagreed talking about the secret meeting with the journalists after it was asked that why there is a secret meeting between the NBR and CMAB. Mohammad Abdus Samad Al Azad, Budget Negotiator and First Secretary (Taxes Legal and Enforcement), told journalists about the ‘secret meeting’ that it held as the CMAB members were few.
Since cigarette companies have some sensitive issues, they did not participate in the open pre-budget meeting. Besides, the NBR chairman has also ‘suggested’ the Association members about the budget proposal, said he. However, he also remained tight lipped about the budget proposals.
A source from the meeting, however, disclosed that the CMAB leaders have urged the NBR to grant some special benefits to the cigarette companies and reduce tax on cigarettes.
However, the Finance Minister AMA Muhith had a ‘coincidental’ meeting with the NBR officials before the scheduled meeting with the CMAB leaders.
The Minister nurtures a ‘special’ relation with the Cigarette Association, confirms a reliable source. According to the source, the government took initiative back in 2011 to amend the tobacco control act. The issue was on the agenda of a Cabinet meeting on 19 December, but the CMAB requested the Finance Minister on 18 December to discard the issue from the Cabinet meeting agenda. It was told that if the draft of the tobacco control law is passed, cigarette companies will be ill-treated. The Minister had a secret link with the CMAB in deferring the draft of the amended tobacco control act, says the source. The source also said that the Law Ministry has had a meeting with the CMAB on March 18, 2014, at the Law Ministry by violating the Section 5 (3) of the international treaty – Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Following the treaty, government representatives cannot have any secret meeting with tobacco companies. The government signed on FCTC in 2003.
Please note that the original report has been published in Bangla on today’s (28 April) Banglanews24.com, we have translated into English for international readers. For original report, please see the following link: