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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

New board of Biman formed

Staff Correspondent

The special assistant to the chief adviser who has been put in charge of the civil aviation and tourism ministry, Mahbub Jamil, said that Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd's board could not make any decision either on route planning or purchasing aircraft in the last seven months as most of its members failed to give enough time to the newly corporatised national carrier.

'Although the national carrier was turned into a public limited company in July last year, Biman's board could not take any decision so far since its members, most of whom are bureaucrats, could not give sufficient time,' said Jamil in response to a query at the press briefing held at the industries ministry on Monday, a day after Biman's board was reconstituted.

The interim government reconstituted the board of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd to infuse 'dynamism' into the corporatised national carrier. Mahbub Jamil, who is also in charge of the industries ministry, has replaced cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumdar as chairman of the board.

Initially the seven-member board, led by the cabinet secretary, was constituted for an interim period just to turn Biman into a public limited company, the special assistant told reporters, adding that the board has been recast from a broad-based multi-sectorial point of view.

The new board, which now includes members with expertise in marketing and aviation, will very soon take concrete decisions on fleet modernization and route planning, he mentioned.

When he was asked how much time they would need to make Biman commercially viable, Jamil declined to give a specific answer and set a timeframe.

Though Biman has a good market, no one has made any real effort so far to make it commercially viable, said the special assistant. He said that the official order for making the secretary to the civil aviation ministry, Sheikh Altaf Ali, an officer on special duty last week had no connection with the recent air service agreement between Bangladesh and India.

'It was a routine transfer…The agreement was rather an achievement for Bangladesh as our flight frequency to India was raised to 61 from 30.' Biman, left with five old DC-10s, three Airbuses and four F-28s in its fleet, stopped flights on major international routes and also shrank its domestic operations. It now plies 20 international and three domestic routes with 11 aircraft in its fleet and 3,495 employees.

The national carrier was corporatised according to the recommendations of a high-powered committee which also prescribed halving its 6,883-strong manpower. About allegations that many of Biman's officials were forced to retire under a so-called voluntary retirement scheme, he said a committee was looking into the matter to ensure justice in this regard.

Around 500 officials of Biman, who were allegedly forced to retire under the VRS last year, have appealed to the ministry for being reinstated in service.

At least 1,876 officials and employees of the now defunct Bangladesh Biman Corporation resigned under the VRS. The new secretary to the ministry, Syed Mohammad Zobaer, and managing director of Biman, MA Momen, were present, along with others, at the press briefing.

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