Friday, March 22, 2019

Muhith throws tantrum in post-budget presser over poverty

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2018-06-09 02:21:51 BdST


AMA Muhith has thrown a bit of a tantrum over questions posed by the press that his latest budget will leave the poor even poorer.

The 85-year-old finance minister, who has made 12 national budgets – 10 of them on the trot – grew testy during interaction with journalists at the post-budget news conference on Friday.

He said he felt ‘ashamed’ to be fielding these questions, particularly on criticisms that the poor will be worse off if the budget is implemented.

When reporters asked him about the criticism, Muhith got angry. “Don’t you know what state Bangladesh is in now? Is poverty rising? Is it?”

When some of the gathered journalists answered in the negative, he said, “Poverty is not rising in the country now. Those who say poverty is rising are lying. Of course lying.” 

Some of the journalists still maintained that inequality was rising despite poverty alleviation. 

“No. Inequality hasn’t risen. (Well) It is rising, but please find out for how many,” the finance minister replied.

He then kept shouting, “To those who don’t admit that Bangladesh has changed… Now 22.5 percent of its population is poor. The rate was 70 percent before you were born. It was 37 percent seven years ago.”       

“Try to understand where Bangladesh was and where it stands now. How can you say that the poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer through the budget?”   

At the end of the news conference, he, however, said he was ‘sorry’ for his comments and offered apologies to the press.

“But the journalists should have thought earlier what types of questions they needed to ask here,” he added.