Bangladesh's economic crisis and lost sovereignty of political leadership

Bangladesh's economic crisis and lost sovereignty of political leadership

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prothom hello ,

Debapriya Bhattacharya

There are many reasons behind the emergence of this situation. Firstly, the required amount of tax could not be collected from domestic sources. Secondly, it was not possible to stimulate private investment. There are many other reasons why even foreign aided projects could not be implemented on time. Infrastructure projects are being implemented at exorbitant costs.

It is not that the government did not start people-oriented projects. Many projects were launched under the social safety net programme. But nominal allowances have been given to the beneficiaries. There has been corruption in distributing the allowance among the real beneficiaries. Above all, there is gross neglect in the education and health sectors. We have not been able to allocate more than 2 percent of GDP to education. We have not been able to allocate more than one percent of GDP to the health sector.

The official figures released in recent times regarding the socio-economic condition of the country are worth noting. A special picture has emerged. For example, a recently published sample vital statistics report shows that the average life expectancy of people in Bangladesh has decreased, infant mortality rate has increased. People are borrowing to survive. Food insecurity has increased. Unemployment has increased among the youth. About 40 percent of the labor force is either unemployed or lacks education. The little employment that has taken place is in the informal sector, there is no respectable employment. According to the government's household survey, inequality between consumption, income and wealth has increased sharply. Bangladesh is now one of the top countries in the world with a rapidly growing ultra-wealthy population.

prothom hello ,

How did this difference come about?

Debapriya Bhattacharya

It must be acknowledged that this Government has made sustained efforts to maintain a transformative vision and practical roadmap. There have been some positive, isolated and random, policies and programs for public welfare. But the lack of democracy in this journey made it hostage to vested interests and development efforts did not yield balanced results. The energy sector has made the situation worse.

There has been a significant change in the pattern of vested interest groups in Bangladesh in the last one and a half decades. Now BGMEA cannot be called a monopoly of power. Now there are massively powerful and influential people in the energy sector, bank owners, i.e. defaulters, contractors of mega infrastructure construction.

prothom hello ,

Why are all these problems not being solved?

Debapriya Bhattacharya

From the experience of different countries, it has been seen that a single engine aircraft can fly only up to a certain distance and not more than that. While one engine is operating, the steps necessary to start the other engine cannot be taken. Such countries invariably turn away from democracy and become authoritarian states.

In a democratic system, the government gets feedback from the people, but in those political systems this penetration gradually stops. It is characterized by lack of democracy within the party, absence of representative local government, uncompetitive national elections, etc. Administration, law enforcement agencies, judiciary and monitoring agencies lose their neutrality. A scheming professional community, controlled media and a dysfunctional civil society emerge.

An unholy nexus has now developed in Bangladesh between the political elite, the business community and groups within the state apparatus. This alliance hinders accountability and transparency in the economy. Yet competition and transparency are vital to take Bangladesh to the next level of inclusive and expansive growth.

It must be kept in mind that a competitive economy requires competitive politics. Our politics is now disappearing. In political, social and economic practice subordinate loyalty and meritless relations have been given priority over rights and merit. This is a major hindrance to enterprise, innovation and excellence.

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