Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Curing ailing Bangladesh

Dr. M. S. Haq writes in New Nation:

Bangladesh has been - relative to time, space and other variables - suffering from chronic infections caused by bacteria such as injustice, corruption and improper acts of powerful people - all, since independence of the country. Besides, the country is not immune to other types of infection such as fungal, viral - for instance, natural disasters from time to time. As a result, the cause, effect and causality associated with outcomes such as and as appropriate: a partial or otherwise incomplete treatment of or a delayed treatment of or an improper treatment of or a narrowly focused treatment of or an untimely treatment of or no treatment at all of above and other infections is becoming increasingly responsible for weakening - either directly or otherwise - the country's immune system in a variety of ways.

In other words, it can be said developments such as: continuing shortfalls in successive governments' accountability to an increasing number of Bangladeshis and concerned others under continually persistent uncertainties and a near uncontrollable depletion of useful resources, in one form or another though, have so far been instrumental in - among other things and as appropriate - the continuance of country's sickness, as well as ill health as a result of for example above infections.

Accountability of political parties - in a theoretical form, though - to people of Bangladesh and concerned others finds maximum but short lived expressions during for example, the country's election season. Interestingly, commitments associated with accountability usually start evaporating, in varying forms and degrees, from political and other arenas of Bangladesh as the ruling party/parties, the opposition party/parties, bureaucracies and concerned others start settling down into the domain of country's governance after each of the elections. As a result of above and other developments, Bangladesh has been experiencing - on, for example, a more or less continuous basis - several things at local, national and other levels. A few of them, relative to known and unknown variables, have been presented below - not in the order of priority and importance.

1. Election promises made to the people and concerned others by political parties are largely abandoned, and are left with the people and concerned others for such purposes as day dreaming, following the change in government.
2. Practices associated with the breaking of promises (I mean, those survive the abandoning process vide section 1 above) by for example political parties start showing faces to the people and concerned others - in a variety of ways, though - following the assumption of power by political parties. The practices usually continue up to the next election season.
3. Political-power propelled governmental justifications are frequently used to defend or cover-up or both governance related transgressions, irregularities and inefficiencies, to mention a few.
4. Contexts and pretexts are created, used and protected in pursuits of promoting and implementing partisan agendas - whether covert or overt or otherwise - in the name of overall Bangladesh. It has so far led to among other things: redistribution of the state's power, as well as authority mostly among few but influential political actors and beneficiaries including inter alia government servants - used in a wider sense of the meaning.
5. Efforts are made at any given time and successes are achieved in varying degrees, though - in pursuits of narrowing down gaps between promises made (I mean, during the election season) and actual outcomes achieved - - with the help of information that are not reliable or are misleading or both; by data and statistics that are products of engineering or re-engineering or other types of manipulation (used in a negative sense); via institutions or components of institutions that are politicized; and through corruption that remains under the protection of full-proof anti-transparent systems, whether temporary or not; to mention a few. One of the usual end results has so far been: governance by confusions and hiding.
6. The people are led to divide along political lines. The per capita deprivation is allowed to take or modify or both its shape again along political lines. The national interest is allowed to subsume by partisan politics and agendas. The politicians are afforded opportunities to gain maximally from the divide and rule philosophy of governance at local, national and other levels. The outcome from above and other developments has so far made it difficult for independent assessors (say, donors) and concerned others to determine and establish - in a proper and useful manner - the demand side and the supply side of per capita development in the country after the expiry of each term of the government therein.
7. Ordinary Bangladeshis are left at the mercy of for example, powerful and influential politicians as the duration of detention of people's power within the boundary of election season gets renewed - in one form or another, though - each time after the election in Bangladesh.
8. Genes of people of Bangladesh and others - for that matter intra and inter-generational transfers in pertinent areas - are affected (used in a deeper sense) by for instance environmental insufficiency arising out of injustices, corruption, poverty and governance related inadequacies, to mention a few.
9. The effort towards meeting initial requirements such as: a proper stock taking and the preparation of balance sheet by the incoming government is largely overtaken by for example: political expediencies; narrow political visions; a less than required political synergy; revenge taking attitudes plus activities; leadership that is not expectation-oriented, outcome-wise; anti-accountability partnerships and activities; and theories, as well as practices of rejecting everything (I mean, virtually everything); on the part of that government and concerned others. One of the usual end results has so far been: national wastage and insufficient governance at the cost of political ego, as well as emotional intelligence (for example, emotional intelligence in areas of deception).
10. Poor governance due for example to political failures has so far created and sustained opportunities for the country's defense forces, all seasoned opportunists and concerned others to rule the country via military or similar types of government from time to time. The outcome of military governments in Bangladesh has so far been a mixed one - for example: the re-introduction of multi-party political system in Bangladesh by President General Ziaur Rahman (peace be upon him); the holding of national election by the recent army-supported government in a reportedly effective manner and with national ID, as appropriate; and reported unlawful and unconstitutional actions, as well as activities of the army-supported government.

In light of above and other considerations, it can inter alia be said: the continuation of present day political culture and activities - that are for instance more self-seeking than collective in terms of nature, scope and outcomes - would not be of a much help and assistance when it comes to treating ailing Bangladesh in an effective and efficient manner.Let us do something more for Bangladesh. Let us make Bangladesh disease-free to catch up with opportunities of an ever competitive universe.

Let us replace tunnel-vision politics that draws largely its power from family, friends and acquaintances and not from ordinary Bangladeshis - - by politics that is, open, more competent, more pluralistic, more relevant and honest; by politics that could ensure wellbeing of all Bangladeshis for all times and not merely wellbeing of powerful and influential sections of political parties; by politics that is more innovative, more inventive, more dynamic, more futuristic, smarter, more people-friendly, more marketable to Bangladesh and other countries in their greater interest, and more satisfying, as well as beneficial to all (used in a humanly possible sense); among other things.Bangladesh will require several measures for materialization of above things. A few of them have been presented below - not in the order of priority and importance.

A. Identify and re-establish missing links between the culture of good governance and the culture of constructive politics and vice versa. Improve compatibilities between the two by for example: (i) minimization of, if not stopping initially, the misuse and the abuse of power of governance and power of politics - in a quick, result-oriented and sustainable fashion; (ii) strengthening and consolidation of political power, as well as will for better governance and transformation of resultant outcomes into inter alia effective anti-dotes to any future military or similar takeover; (iii) installation of doable and synergistic measures, strengthening of institutions (including inter alia the judiciary, law enforcement agencies) and development, as well as implementation of solid plus useful people-state synergies - for preventing any future failure of political governments, ensuring the government's accountability to people in a more impact-oriented and visible (as far as possible, though) fashion; introducing or materializing or both systems for giving exemplary punishments to say, violators of the constitution; and (iv) replacement of pro-poor political rhetoric by practical support to poor peoples' efforts towards taking the full charge of their development in a quicker and sustainable manner.

B. Develop a more loyal (I mean, to Bangladesh), more professional, more entrepreneurially enriched, more futuristic, more relevant and less peacekeeping opportunity-biased defense forces.

C. Promote sustainable development in the country through for example a rapid popularization of the use of solar energy in both hybrid and non-hybrid forms and through low-cost but reliable technologies for desalination of sea water for human and other uses. Maximize the use of trade, as well as investment potentials of the country for economic growth, per se. At present, Bangladesh does not know for sure: whether or not Padma bridge will be able to serve - at a rate of 100 percent - its beneficiaries and concerned others - 25 years after its commissioning? Whether or not Tipai dam will have adequate water to serve its purposes - 25 years after its commissioning, if that materializes eventually? I am telling it now because the impact of environmental degradation on say, the river systems during the above period is not fully clear to me at this point in time. A piece of advice here: do not kill time - create, as well as promote sustainable outcomes from solar and sea water and ensure their equitable, if not equal, distribution among Bangladeshis - in particular, the poor, the disabled, the sick and the elderly.

D. Explore possibilities such as privatization of collection of government revenues from sources at micro levels with a view to improving the size of collection that are presently constrained by for example Kach-cha receipts, number two receipts, no receipt at all, and so called VAT inclusive product prices (used in a wider sense) at relevant wholesales and retail sales levels. Implement possibilities - either in part or wholly - if found suitable.

E. Promote culture of: respect for people; respect for the rule of law; and livelihoods by honest earnings. Stop using political power, as well as authority and the power, as well as authority of executive branch of government in pursuits of for example: individual gains or group gains; and overpowering the country's criminal justice system in an unfair manner. Bangladesh is, at present, in urgent need of leadership by example - in areas say, anti-corruption, more impact-oriented, as well as cost effective implementation and quicker devolution of development programs, student politics, and partnerships with the poor and the women for their emancipation.

F. Promote market responsive education and education responsive to market competitions; stop private coaching facilities for students pursuing Bangladeshi systems of education; introduce or re-introduce in-campus (I mean, in-school, etc.) coaching for say, below average students and provide additional compensations to teachers who will coach deserving students; assist students in the effort towards optimizing the use of IQ for bringing about improvements in for example their academic and extra-curricular performances; make madrasha education more competitive than that at present; help students to help themselves in developing them as good, educated and useful world citizens; stop parental corruption by checking the financial status of parents of students at the time of their admission and on other occasions, as appropriate; and open the door for interdisciplinary knowledge, understanding and application by for example, enlarging choices in the domain of education and encouraging freedom of knowledge in the country.

G. Fortify the country's security and defense through: development and marketing of antidotes to weapons of mass destruction (say, biological, nuclear); de-commercialization of religions; smarter diplomacies (thanks to Secretary Clinton for the concept); media freedom conducive to local, national and global developments; a progressive integration of environmental accounting into local and national accounting systems; and stopping destructive politics with bureaucrats and bureaucracies; to mention a few.

H. Concentrate heavily on implementation of election promises. It is applicable to all political parties who gave election promises to Bangladeshis during the last election season - AL, BNP, JP, Jamaat and others. Implement a national development agenda to be reached on the basis of consensus of all political parties - during the present term of government. Use the resultant outcomes as a vital means for returning to power through the next election. I. Opinion differentials (involving cabinet ministers and others) are inter alia a healthy sign for democracy in Bangladesh. They should be encouraged - as appropriate - for say, pursuing constructive purposes, transparency and accountability. It is good to see our ministers (for example) have started sharing their opinions with the public.

The last word: do not create opportunities for others to benefit from say, intra and inter-party rivalries and conflicts. Unite meaningfully for the continuing progress and prosperity of Bangladesh and the world at large. Let us work towards that.