Muhith’s colourful life ends at 88; To be burried today in Sylhet

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The colourful life of former Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, who steered Bangladesh’s economy into a new height under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and thus helped the country to cruise through a decade of massive economic prosperity, came to an end today at the age of 88.

Muhith — acclaimed widely as an economist, diplomat, bureaucrat, language veteran and freedom fighter — was one of the country’s longest serving finance minister and also helped the country to attain healthy GDP growth on sustained basis.

After assumption of office by Awami League in 2009, Muhith became the Finance Minister for the 2nd time and for the first time with AL ticket and thus ushered Bangladesh into the era of trillion-taka budget. His policies helped shape its economy to its current status.

With Muhith’s economic farsightedness, Bangladesh witnessed sound macroeconomic management for over a decade with increased budget size, public spending, increased spending in social safety nets, higher spending in Annual Development Programmes including rolling out the works of mega projects while the poverty rates also came down significantly under the supervision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

In his long exchequered career, Muhith delivered national budget for a record 12 times equaling that with another former Finance Minister Saifur Rahman.

After delivering budget for two consecutive years in the FY83 and FY84, Muhith first delivered his budget as a Finance Minister of the Awami League government in FY10 with an outlay of Taka 1,13,815 crore. Within a span of 10 years, the budget size of Bangladesh increased nearly by four times as Muhith delivered his last budget in FY19 with an outlay of Taka 4,64,573 crore before stepping down from his office and also from politics.

Despite being a student of English literature, Muhith’s widespread movement in the economic arena drew praises of all, especially his role for mobilizing domestic resources for implementing the dreamed Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project following the announcement of the premier for implementing the bridge with own funding after the World Bank withdrew its proposed $1.2 billion funding making a fake allegation of corruption attempt.

A former member of the Awami League’s Advisory Council, Muhith had been sick for quite some time. He was hospitalised for fatigue in the first week of March. After his condition improved, he returned home in Banani.

Following is the life sketch of Muhith:

Early life and education:

Abul Maal Abdul Muhith was born on 25 January 1934, to a Bengali Muslim
political family in Sylhet. His father, Abu Ahmad Abdul Hafiz, was a judge. His mother, Syeda Shahar Banu, was one of the leading women of the Bengali language movement. He was the third child in a family of fourteen children, and his younger brother is Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, the incumbent Foreign Minister
of Bangladesh.

Muhith passed the matriculation exam from Sylhet Government Pilot High School in 1949. He secured first place in his Intermediate examination in 1951 from Sylhet MC College. He stood first class first in B.A. (Hons.) in English Literature in 1953 from University of Dhaka and passed his Masters with credit from the same university in 1955. While in service to the government, he studied at the University of Oxford in 1957-1958. He completed a Master of Public Administration at Harvard University in 1964.

Early career:

Muhith served as the general secretary of the central committee of the Pakistan Civil Service Association during 1960-1969. He joined the Pakistan Embassy in the United States as an Economic Counselor in 1969. In 1966, he was honoured with the Tamgha e Khidmat award by the Pakistan government.

During his service as the Chief and Deputy Secretary of Pakistan Planning Commission, he made a report on the discrimination between East and West Pakistan and that was the first submitted report on that issue in Pakistan National Congress.

He was the first diplomat of Washington Embassy who showed his consent in favour of Bangladesh giving up the side of Pakistan during the Independence War of 1971. He was appointed the Secretary of Planning in 1972 and Secretary of the External Resource Department of Finance and Planning Ministry in 1977.

Retirement and return:

Muhith went for self-retirement in 1981 from his service and then he started his second innings of his career as the specialist of economics and development in Ford Foundation and in the IFAD. He became Finance and Planning Minister in 1982-83. Next, he worked as the specialist of different institutions of World Bank and the United Nations. He had been a recognised figure in the World Bank, IMF, IDB and in different organisations of United Nations. He was the Visiting Fellow of Princeton University in 1984 and 1985.

Muhith took oath as the Finance Minister of Bangladesh government on 6 January 2009 and in August 2009 he inaugurated the building of the Benapole Customs and Immigration Check Post.

Muhith retired from Government and from his role as Member of Parliament for Sylhet-1 constituency at the elections of December 2018. His younger brother AK Abdul Momen succeeded him as MP.

Personal life:

Muhith was the husband of designer Syeda Sabia, and the father of two sons and a daughter. Their daughter, Samina Muhith, is a banker and an expert in the field of monetary policy. Their elder son, Shahed Muhith, is an architect, and younger son, Samir Muhith, is a teacher.

Works:

In his colorful life, Muhith authored a number of books including
Bangladesh, emergence of a nation (1978), Thoughts on development administration (1981), American response to Bangladesh liberation war (1996), Bangladesh in the twenty-first century: towards an industrial society (1999), Issues of governance in Bangladesh (2001), State language movement in East Bengal, 1947-1956 (2006), History of Bangladesh: A Subcontinental Civilisation (2016).