Hasina appoints Mahmood Ali to revive Bangladesh's sagging economy

The 81-year-old politician takes on the challenge as calls for reform and good governance in the finance and banking sector grow

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 11 Jan 2024, 09:04 PM
Updated : 11 Jan 2024, 09:04 PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in charge of reviving Bangladesh's economy battered by the shocks of war and three years of COVID-19 curbs.

A career diplomat before joining politics, the new finance minister faces the daunting task of shoring up an uneven recovery in the faces of global headwinds and weak confidence among consumers and the private sector.

He was elected to parliament for the fourth straight term from the Dinajpur-4 constituency in the Jan 7 balloting.

Despite not being a part of Hasina's previous cabinet, he has served as a minister twice before.

In 2012, Mahmood Ali was given the responsibility of helming the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.

After serving that ministry for a year, he was made the foreign minister. He played a crucial role in developing Bangladesh's relations with several countries for five years.

In 2014, Ali helped stave off the brewing maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and India. The exchange of enclaves also took place between the neighbours on his watch.

Later, in 2018, he chaired the parliamentary watchdog on the finance ministry, holding officials to account.

The 81-year-old politician returns to work as calls for reform and good governance in the finance and banking sector grew louder at the end of 2023.

Bangladesh, like other nations, is still suffering due to the economic jolts and upheavals caused by the pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

During this critical period, AHM Mustafa Kamal's role as finance minister was questioned time and again.

Kamal struggled to stay fluent during the budget announcement in the last few years due to complications from old age. At that time, MA Mannan, who was the planning minister in the previous government, extended him a helping hand.

Many assumed Mannan could succeed Kamal as the finance minister. However, both of them were eventually dropped from the cabinet.

Mahmood Ali’s name came as a bit of a surprise after Hasina unveiled the line-up of her new cabinet with a flurry of announcements on Wednesday.

When AK Abdul Momen went missing from the list of minsters, many thought the prime minister might reinstate Ali to replace the Sylhet-1 MP as foreign minister.

Born on Jun 2, 1943, Ali grew up in Daktarpara village of Khansama in Dinajpur. He completed his BA in 1962 and MA the following year in economics at Dhaka University.

He went on to teach at the university's economics department in 1964.

In 1966, Ali left Dhaka University and joined the then-Pakistan Foreign Service and played a significant role on the diplomatic front during the Liberation War.

He was later appointed as the representative of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh in Mujibnagar in the United States in May 1971.

Ali also served as chief of the foreign mission of the Mujibnagar Government and, in 1971, as executive assistant to Chief Justice Abu Sayed Chowdhury of the Bangladesh Delegation to the United Nations.

He has performed diplomatic duties in various missions on behalf of the Bangladesh government after independence. He was the Head of the Sub-Mission in Beijing with the rank of ambassador. He was also made the ambassador to Bhutan, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Nepal and the High Commissioner to the UK.

He was the first ambassador of Bangladesh to Ireland.

As an additional foreign secretary in Dhaka, he signed the Three Bigha Corridor Implementation Agreement with India in 1992. In the same year, he joined talks on the repatriation of Myanmar refugees.

Ali joined the Awami League after retiring from civil service in April 2001.