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Lawmakers' taste for luxury costing Bangladesh US$125m

Publication Date : 12-02-2013

 

As many as 315 incumbent lawmakers in Bangladesh have imported duty-free cars depriving the state exchequer of more than 10 billion taka in taxes, according to a list placed in Parliament yesterday.

This is not the first time. In the last parliament (Jatiya Sangsad), 275 lawmakers had imported duty-free luxury vehicles, costing the state 2.8 billion taka in taxes.

The list placed by Finance Minister AMA Muhith says more than 200 MPs of the ninth Jatiya Sangsad have imported Toyota Land Cruisers, over 18 MPs have bought Volkswagons, while the rest various other brands.

As per the list, so far 70 MPs have enjoyed tax exemptions of over 50 million taka, 55 lawmakers over 0.4 million taka each and 16 MPs over 60 million taka each to import duty-free cars.

Also, 54 MPs got tax exemptions of more than 30 million taka, 90 MPs more than 20 million taka each and each of around 60 MPs got tax exemptions of 10 million taka.

However, at least 35 MPs have not used the facility. They include leader of the House Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia, Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, Commerce Minister GM Quader, Social Welfare Minister Enamul Haque Mostafa Shahid and Civil Aviation Minister Farukh Khan, among others.

Import of duty-free cars has always been a controversial issue in Bangladeshi politics. The facility has been abused since the provision was introduced during HM Ershad's rule as president in the 1980s to give MPs benefits to ensure their loyalty to the regime.

Since the restoration of the parliamentary form of government after the fall of Ershad in 1990, MPs in all parliaments since 1991 have been enjoying the benefit of importing vehicles without paying customs duty, sales tax, development surcharge and import permit fees.

Many legislators of the eighth parliament sold their luxury cars - though the laws did not permit so - within three years of purchase.

The army-led joint forces seized a number of those luxury cars from businessmen during the past emergency regime. And in the wake of gross abuse, the provision was scrapped during the past caretaker government's tenure through an ordinance promulgated by the then-president in 2007.

But the current parliament did not ratify the ordinance. It restored the provision in April 2010 to allow MPs to import vehicles free of duty.

A new provision was inserted into the law to provide each MP with transport allowance of 40,000 taka per month. And the provision also allows the prime minister, speaker, deputy speaker, ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers, chief whips and whips to enjoy the benefit.

 

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