Photo Courtesy: Geoffrey Hiller
Bangladesh is a country which is said to have everything it needs. The country is endowed with huge manpower, arable land and natural resources. The natural resource endowment offers great opportunities for achieving high levels of growth and development if properly managed. For all these good reasons, the economy of Bangladesh has shown its strength amid the global economic slowdown. It has managed to grow over 6 percent a year for the last few years.
Economists, particularly those at Standard Chartered Bank, feel Bangladesh, a land of 160 million people, could join the ‘7 Percent Club’ of economies that expand at least 7 percent annually for an extended period — allowing their economies to double every decade. Current members of the ‘Club’ include China, Cambodia, India, Mozambique and Uganda.
Apart from the RMG sector, according to experts, Bangladesh has made major strides over the last few years in laying the groundwork for a diverse and successful outsourcing market in the IT sector. According to them, the IT services industry within Bangladesh has been growing fast serving international and domestic clients in the banking and telecom sectors. The industry now employs over 20,000 people, and is exporting services to European, North American and East Asian clients. Bangladesh’s emerging outsourcing players already have strong credentials. Bangladesh offers a vast pool of young, trained and English-speaking resources – available at costs almost 40 percent lower than established destinations like India and the Philippines.
Another driver of economic growth has been the inflow of remittances — money sent home by Bangladeshis who have sought employment abroad. More than $11 billion worth of remittances flowed into Bangladesh last year, more than 10 times the amount from foreign investment, and the annual inflow is expected to rise to $20 billion in five years’ time, the government estimates. Of course, the fact that tens of thousands of Bangladeshis go abroad each year highlights a weakness in the country’s economy: well-paid jobs are hard to come by.
Despite having all these potentials, the people of Bangladesh feel deprived and deceived as they remain poor. This is the nation that had fought a nine-month bloody war against the Pakistani occupation army, dreaming of an exploitation-free Bangladesh. But the gap between rich and poor is widening in Bangladesh every day, giving rise to social tensions and sometimes violent protests.
After the country’s independence, this generous nation walked an extra mile allowing the political leaders to put the country on track by strengthening its nascent democracy, yet today they live in untold miseries because of deception by those on whom they reposed their confidence. Every citizen of Bangladesh suffers because of corrupt practices. Bangladesh remains poor and its people struggling for survival because of corruption. This virus is working its way into the vitals of the nation. It is developing as an epidemic threatening our existence.
Although we are having elected governments through elections at almost regular intervals in the last few decades, the country’s political system is growing ever more dysfunctional because of intolerance and lack of maturity of our political leaders. Seeing the current political situation in the country, many apprehend that our democratic march forward will be at stake as we have failed to construct a viable liberal framework and attain stability.
The protection of individuals’ rights, including those of individuals we dislike or with whom we strongly disagree, has often been a struggle in our society. Consider the case of Prof Abdullah Abu Sayeed who was bashed by Members of Parliament in the House recently for wrong reasons.
Studies of adults indicate that psychological characteristics play a much more important role in influencing tolerance levels than do traditional demographic characteristics such as social status, income, and residence. Individuals with higher self-esteem, who are less dogmatic and less authoritarian, tend to better withstand the ‘threat’ of ideas at odds with their own. Level of education achieved also consistently predicts a person’s level of tolerance.
As ordinary citizens of the country our problem is that we have so much patience for the wrong deeds of powerful people while completely intolerable to the fellow citizens. Our wrong perception about democracy is: Democracy means holding elections. Holding elections and thus giving power to a particular party without strengthening the constitutional organisations is nothing but a blunder.
“Democracy is far more than just holding of elections. It requires independent courts, a free press; constitutional checks and balances; robust institutions such as independent mosque and churches that are kept away from politics, non-partisan civil servants. All modern democracies hold elections, but not all elections are democratic.”
“In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme,” as Aristotle says.
As a matter of fact, democracy is not an easy game, if you really mean it. It has its own natural rules. Above the game rules lies a higher set of rules, which apply to all social play. These are the rules that make social play possible. These are rules about how to play with other people. These rules are, in essence, the principles of democracy. We also have our rules which we use to rule the people to misguide and exploit them.
The future of our democracy would largely depend on how the uphill challenges like unfair political practises of making politics a matter of family business, constitutional anomalies and military interventions are countered.
There is no denying that the pervasiveness of systematic governance deficiencies affects the entire public sector in Bangladesh. This impedes the performance of economic function. It is also important to reform the country’s election finance system in order to reduce pressure on politicians to spend heavily on polls to recoup their investments in getting election through corruption. The picture of corruption frequently given by TIB is a cause of concern as it has a crippling effect on our collective existence. It hinders the economic growth and development of democracy.
Despite commitments by the successive governments to establish good governance and eliminate corruption, the goals have remained elusive. Corruption not only bruised the country’s image but it also remains to be a stumbling block in the way to development of the country. The watchdog apparatuses, through which we are supposed to keep corruption at bay, do not simply work. The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) virtually has to work at the dictate of the government. All these missing will have to be addressed to guarantee the existence of basic safeguards against corruption.
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