In October 1982, BCC President Agha Hasan Abedi gave a newspaper interview to the MidEast Report, a New York publication. In it Mr Abedi discussed the high quality of BCC and his vision for the future. These are extracts from the interview reprinted in BCC inhouse magazine December 1982 issue.
Mr Abedi, Third World countries face considerable difficulties. What do you consider the most pressing?
They are in great difficulty and I think they will continue to remain in difficulty so far as their debts, their repayment and the interest payment is concerned. I think the problems are not at the level of the commercial banks, but at the level of the Central Banks, and the governments of developed countries will have to do something for this matter because their own interest is also involved. Personally, I believe, given the political will of the leadership, it should not be difficult, because after all, a number that appears to be too big when looked at in the context of the lending by commercial banks, if you see it in terms of the economic resources of the developed countries, you would find that if they want they can resolve this problem. But the Third World cannot resolve it on their own.
In the interest of the Third World and in the Western World's own interest, the West should take it very seriously and resolve this problem and create an agency which would aid both the commercial banks who have lent this money and the Third World to resolve this problem.
The United States, the industrialised democracies and the 'surplus OPEC countries' would have to do something because, if they realise the significance and the dimension of this problem, I think this is the time that they should do something like that. Of course, it would be to the mutual interest . . . and nothing is done on an entirely altruistic basis. There should be a sort of a 'Marshall Plan' to the Third World. Having said that, I think I am not very hopeful that the developed world would really do something ... except rescheduling.
How should Third World countries set about tackling their problems?
I think the Third World has to rely on their own resources and, in my view, they do not have the financial resources. But they have natural resources, and, more important than that, they have the human resources.
Take the example of China. What they have done in the short period of thirty years. They have depended much more on human resources than anything else and they have been able to capitalize the energy of these human resources. Given the political stability, the leadership and some support from the West, I think this problem can be solved by the Third World countries themselves.
By the way, we had contributed something in dealing with these issues by establishing a Third World Foundation and a Third World prize which was sponsored by us. Of course, they are new and they are totally independent and we have no links with them other than giving financial assistance.
They have already held two annual conferences where these matters were discussed. Hopefully, this year also there will be a conference to discuss the problems of the South and we may be able to produce something.
It is the people who ought to realize that they have to develop a sense of nationhood and they have to develop a sense of self-reliance.
Could you talk a little about the philosophy behind BCC?
Our philosophy is the age-old philosophy of banking. There is nothing new about it. Our greatest concern and our greatest desire is to protect the interests of the clients, the depositors. For this reason and otherwise we maintain the highest standards of banking and we keep our ratios sound.
We maintain a very high liquidity. At the same time, we also try to make progress and more than anything else, we like to grow. We think that growth is extremely important, because either you would climb up or you would go down. There is nothing static in life. We have, however, taken care that our growth is a balanced growth.
This is so far as the banking aspect is concerned. But, more than this, we had started the bank, not only to make profit and to grow, but also there had been some more important objectives. We had a major purpose in starting this bank. We want to serve a useful purpose, not only for our shareholders, but for our clients and our staff whom we call the 'BCC Family'.
We serve a purpose to society and then to humanity at large. We would like to serve God. We would like to obey His Will This is the distinction between us and other business institutions. We try to. serve society and humanity absolutely without any consideration for bias, caste, creed, colour, religion, or race.
What is your vision for the future?
I do not only have a vision, but I also believe that BCC has a date with destiny and if l was to talk about that now it would be misunderstood because there are a large number of unknown, unseen and intangible factors which the reader would not take into account. BCC is going to grow - and grow beyond the expectations of many people - but this does not mean that it would grow in any other manner except within all the banking disciplines and the highest standards of banking operations. We are not short of funds for capital. We have a high quality, and our emphasis and focus have always been on human resources.
And so the more we are able to collect human resources of high quality, the more we would grow. I have never in my life found any contradiction between growth and being sound and conservative. Provided we have human resources. Provided we have financial resources.
This is what our aspirations are. That we become the largest bank of the Third World and, certainly, it has always been, right from the beginning, one aspect of our major purpose that we create a better understanding between the South and the North. between the Third World and the developed countries, and we are, in a very small way, contributing in that respect.
We intend to develop such a relationship, not only through the banking operations, but also otherwise through the Third World Foundation.