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Remembering the budget wizard

  • Published at 12:02 am September 6th, 2016
Remembering the budget wizard

Yesterday was the seventh death anniversary of M Saifur Rahman.

This budget wizard was born on October 6, 1932. He graduated from Dhaka University in 1953. He earned a CA from London and was made chairman of the IMF and World Bank’s Board of Governance.

He was a visionary who introduced the new mode of taxation called value added tax (VAT). Ultimately, it proved to be the major source of revenue.

Many of his close associates were not happy with him, as he refused to meet their self-interest, if it meant sacrificing the greater interest of the nation. He believed in real democracy. He did not spare criticising his party men if they went against the interest of the country.

He broke the world record by placing the budget 12 times before the parliament. Every nation has some valiant sons who contribute to the nation, and they should be recognised as such.

The Washington Post once wrote: “If Bangladesh could produce two Saifur Rahmans, the economy of Bangladesh would have been superior.”

Former late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto once said: “Give me one Saifur Rahman, I will give you an economically developed Pakistan.” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “Saifur Rahman was a good economist not only in Bangladesh, but also in South Asia.”

M Saifur Rahman was my relative. I remember, one day we went to his residence.

We went upstairs where there is an open veranda. A few chairs and tables were set there. We sat in that chair.

Durre Samad Rahman came towards us with a very sweet smile and received us cordially.

After exchanging greetings, she brought for us some refreshment, carrying the tray by herself. I promptly threw a question to her: “Why are you carrying the tray? You could have asked your maids to carry this.”

She replied: “Well, you see, you are my own guests, my nearest relatives, how could I ask servants to serve you?”

Let us now give a brief picture of M Saifur Rahman and Brig Gen (Retd) Qazi Shajahan Hafiz’s matrimonial relations.

Many of his close associates were not happy with him, as he refused to meet their self-interest, if it meant sacrificing the greater interest of the nation. He believed in real democracy

Both of them married the daughters of late Bazlur Samad Chowdhury, a reputed banker. BS Chowdhury’s eldest daughter married the editor of the Daily Dawn, Pakistan.

Saifur Rahman’s only daughter, Saifa Rahman married the son of late MR Siddiqui of Chittagong. Both Saifur Rahman and QS Hafiz’s maternal uncle-in-law was late AK Khan, veteran industrialist and minister.

Saifur Rahman’s eldest son married the daughter of former minister Chowdhury Kamal- Ibne- Yousuf, whose father was also a renowned political figure.

On one occasion, I went to my uncle Qazi Shajahan Hafiz’s residence to take his interview as a Tagore songs artiste at his previous DOHS residence early in the morning. At about 8:30am, a telephone call came.

He told me that Saifur was given a gala reception in his local area and he was profusely garlanded by them.

He was in a cheery mood, and happy having been cordially received by the people. He rang me up just to inform me of that good news.

On another occasion we went to visit Saifur Rahman in Gulshan. It was 1991. Under a caretaker government, the national election was held. Saifur Rahman could not come out successful in a parliament election.

He was sitting idle and relaxing, wearing a genji and lungi. Having seen us entering into the room, he threw a question to my uncle Qazi Jahangir Hafiz in a Sylheti dialect: Kita khobor? Jahangir said: Khobor bala, you are going to become finance minister again.

Saifur was surprised to hear this, and asked how he could be a minister again, since he could not pass in the parliament election.

He was looking straight at me and was smiling. My prompt reply was yes, you will be finance minister in a technocrat quota, and that became true.

According to his wishes, he was buried beside his wife and parents at their family graveyard.

May Allah rest their souls in peace. We recall a beautiful line from poet John Milton: “Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity.”

Kazi Liakat Hossain is Managing Editor, Dainik Dhaka, and Advisory Editor, The Economy.