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Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

Bangladesh is a promise-land. It is full of economic, political and social paradoxes. Promises spring from potential demographic dividend with high percentage of population in the active age-group ranging from 16 years to 54 years of age, hardworking and innovative farmers, increasing female- participation in job markets, vibrant RMG export sector, ascending expatriates’ remittances, risk-taking entrepreneurial growth, advances in adoption of modern technologies, on-going financial deepening, etc. Some of the above are natural outcomes and outcomes of the foundations laid by government policies as facilitators since independence.

Bangladesh made significant progress on economic and social fronts despite narrow resource-base, poor governance, natural calamities, political instability, mounting financial and moral corruptions, failing institutions, a lack of accountability, and the highest population density per square kilometre in the world. This is paradoxical, indeed. In the absence of political instability, failing institutions, corruption, poor governance, and a lack of accountability, Bangladesh could be an economic miracle.

Given the demographic trends in economically advanced countries, overpopulation in Bangladesh need no longer be viewed as a liability. Indeed, it will become a great asset by transformation into human capital through creative education and training to meet evolving skills needs in the rest of the world. Farmers are the real heroes who help attain self-sufficiency in foods and save billions of foreign currencies. Absent self-sufficiency in foods, the foreign exchange reserve would deplete fast. The temporary emigrants who live and work hard in modern slavery abroad are also real heroes. Their remittances coupled with earnings from RMG exports keep the wheels of the economic engine moving forward. Emergence of modern entrepreneurs adds to this momentum. To be noted, every Taka earned by farmers and every Taka in exchange of a foreign currency sent by an expatriate stay in Bangladesh. They contribute much more to the national economy through multiplier effects. The same cannot be said for RMG exports. In fact, the largest source of the profit for this sector is the depressed wage and unsafe work conditions. No wonder, this sector is in turmoil today.

In return, what do they expect and what do they see today in Bangladesh like the rest of the 160 million people? They expect Sonar Bangla, the dream shown to them by the Father of the Nation. Naturally, they expect a truly democratic and corruption-free Bangladesh with good governance and accountability.

Democracy has become an empty political rhetoric. Many of the current politicians in Bangladesh do neither believe in democracy nor practice democracy in their respective political party. They use democracy as a ploy to subjugate the common people who, in fact, are the ultimate owners of the country. Financial corruption is rampant everywhere. More perniciously, moral corruption has infected the academia, the judiciary and the so called intellectuals at large. Moral corruption is worse than prostitution. Some of them are very vocal against financial corruption. Indeed, this is undoubtedly good. Hopefully, this is not a strategy to camouflage own moral deficits. All institutions are politicized. Politics is polluted and hijacked by the greedy and the unscrupulous.

The two major political parties are two sides of the same coin. They are at the roots of these problems. A family is the nucleus of a country. Those who cannot run families successfully cannot govern a country successfully. This is a fundamental truth. For a happy family, all members need due space. Family unity thrives on compromises, not on personal whims. They all are true for a peaceful country. If someone is pushed to the wall, a severe reaction is inevitable. Social cohesion also hinges on accommodative space.

Do we see them in Bangladesh today in the current political environment? Not so. Election is just one element of democracy that has to be peaceful, fair and credible .Only a truly independent and empowered Election Commission can ensure such election. Caretaker Government is an insult to all politicians. Maybe, it was a doctrine of necessity for a while. But it cannot continue forever. People elect leaders to serve them, not to exploit them. What we see is exploitation of the common people in the name of democracy. The Constitution provides all the guiding principles for a greater good for all. Its true democratic spirit has been decimated through subsequent amendments. It has now become a great source of confusions with a heavy concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister relegating the Position of the President purely ceremonial. The Guardian of the country is virtually powerless. In my view, the Constitution in its current form needs a thorough review by constitutional experts. If necessary, it may even be re-crafted in light of the uniqueness of the country. Investment of time is a crying need. Any haste will not serve the purpose.

Failure to reach a compromise by the two major political parties through constructive dialogue in good faith and trust with mutual respect is making the nation bleed. The country is in flame. In their barbaric power struggle innocent lives are being lost. It has become a daily affair during violent cycles of gheraoes and hartals. Both leaders at the top lost their dearest ones in assassinations, staged by a few misguided and unruly military personnel. Their hearts were deeply tormented and still tormented. The whole nation deeply lament their unnatural deaths. Why can’t they place them in the heart-breaking positions of those who lost their dearest ones in the very recent barbaric political game? How many more innocent and precious lives have to be taken away on the streets to overcome madness for power? Blame and counter-blame cannot give those lost lives back. Islam is for peace, not for unjust violence. Islam is not for outsourcing violence and intolerance to kill innocent people. Unnatural deaths on the streets are now common with no accountability. People may have to pray for natural deaths if the violence does not end. There is no display of human conscience at all. Is it what dreamt of by 3 million people who died for independence? Their souls are crying that people with one blind eye cannot see and with one deaf ear cannot hear on purpose.

The economy with potential to emerge as a tiger in Asia is being damaged, businesses are being paralysed, and the day-to-day living of the poor is being hurt. How much more can the silent majority tolerate? There is a limit to everything. People being pushed to the edges of tolerance will come out of fear and may unwillingly welcome any other alternative for temporary relief. If so happens, the stumbling democracy will be the first casualty. As a result, both major political parties will suffer. They learned nothing from the recent past.

May Allah give them wisdom to be on the right track. Time is running out. One-sided election will bring no fruitful and sustainable results. It will further push the country toward darkness. May Allah save 160 million people from political vulturism and vulgarism.

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Matiur Rahman is the MBA Director and JP Morgan Chase Endowed Professor of finance at McNeese State University, USA.

17 Responses to “What do we see today in the paradoxical promise-land?”

  1. Akteruzzaman

    Even from outside of the country the writer has given a good picture about the political problems in Bangladesh. What we need is a set of creative proposals to get out of this violent mess. Political parties in Bangladesh dont like to sit on opposition benches of the parliament. Politician could serve the country even while in opposition. What do you suggest to cool down the temper of the losers in election? What do you suggest Sk. Hasina should do now? If she gives a good election, the AL will lose and get a violent bashing from the Jamat. If there is a doctored election, the violence will continue.

  2. Golam Arshad

    Hasina should immediately step down! The country is in the brink of a violent civil commotion!! President Abdul Hamid must summon a Dialog with Leaders of both the Parties BAL and BNP!! The Nation bleeds!!!!

    • Shabbir A. Bashar

      But the President is in Singapore for a medical check-up.

    • Mitul Askary

      Khaleda should also retire from politics with no time intervening taking full responsibilities of all arsons, anarchies, violences and killing of people that carried out in the name of hartal and blockade.That will help return our lives from the hell fire. Is it not correct and fair, Mr. Golam Arshad?

      • Golam Arshad

        I fully endorse your take on the current political situation! A Dialog is a MUST to secure SECURITY, PEACE AND A CREDIBLE ELECTION! If NO DIALOG, I will strongly support an ARMY INTERVENTION, to clean UP and ensure SECURITY for the beleaguered NATION. Thank you !

  3. Iftekhar Hossain

    The ‘spirit of liberation struggle (Muktijuddher Chetona)’, meant an unprecedented unique unity of the nation—devoid of language, religion, ethnicity—against an invading brutal army and their local collaborators. For the first time an iron-strong unity of the entire Bengali nation (together with other ethnicities) was forged against the killers. The struggle took place under different political and ideological banners but the ‘unity’ of the purpose was always there.

    The current political situation—violent, ruthless and barbaric—should lean on that spirit; i.e. unity. Division of the nation is not any answer and has little to do with the liberation struggle spirit. All sensible parties, groups, communities and individuals should unite and isolate the ‘minority’ that represents the dark force. The force of destruction can never be any majority and never can truimph. But what needed is statesmanship—a vision, tolerance and wit to unite us all in order to bring an end to this senseless downward spiral of self-destruction.

    • Golam Arshad

      Iftekhar: Can’t agree more. Tell me why there is AMNESTY ? You know the answer! To Move on… never to FORGET But FORGIVEN. History documents : Forgiveness is MORE POWERFUL than VENGEANCE or VENDETTA!UNITY NEVER COMES IN THE FLAME OF WRATH OR VENGEANCE. Hit me HARD and FOR PEACE AND AMITY, I will FORGIVE YOU. Conditional Amnesty is NOT an AMNESTY, it is a rhetoric to contain the rising flame to a low lit spark for next vengeance! Prove me wrong if I am not right! I do admire your wisdom!

      • Iftekhar Hossain

        Arshad: Thanks, it is always encouraging to find people having similar views. Statesmanship prevails, not necessarily always in form of arrogance but as humility and if necessary through sacrificing one’s own credo. Withdrawal, for instance – at times – can be a bold step. People of this stature, though rare, are not fully absent. A few examples are as follows:

        -Only last week Valdis Dombrovskis of Latvia resigned as Prime Minister, taking the responsibility of a roof-collapse. No one even asked him to do this
        -Nelson Mandela stepped aside paving ways for future leadership
        -Bangabandhu surrendered to killer enemy in order to avoid massacre of his countrymen
        -Mahatma Gandhi quit his party to enhance greater cause

        Should not men of the above character be our ideal?

      • Golam Arshad

        Dear Iftekhar: Thank you my friend for your kind and warm compliment. We grew up in the SIXTIES,that time, STUDENT MOVEMENT, heralded FREEDOM FROM OPPRESSION AND DISCRIMINATION, pave the way for earning that DEMOCRATIC RIGHT, which culminated into the Glorious BIRTH OF BANGLADESH. Our POLITICS those DAYS, never strangulated by HIGH ARROGANCE, the LEADER OF FREE WILL, (BONGOBONDHU SHEIKH MUZIBUR RAHMAN, even when the movement reached CLIMAX, he took a breather and accepted the LEGAL FRAMEWORK ORDER, and you know the rest of the STORY! What is happening NOW, both major Party equally responsible, in fomenting. VIOLENCE,BLOOD in SHEER ARROGANCE OF VENGEANCE AND VENDETTA! CAESAR would stumble, Nero would Blush!as NASTY PRIDE AND WRATH flaming lives into ashes…challenging the WILL OF GOD! As a SINNER of ALL SINNERS, I surrender in total submission begging GOD ALMIGHTY for PEACE AND MERCY! Are we not RESPONSIBLE for a life fumed to ashes? GOD ALMIGHTY SAVE US AND DESTROY THE TOWERING HEIGHT OF BLATANT ARROGANCE!SAVE!PLEASE SAVE US!!

      • Golam Arshad

        Abid:You In a “Reverse Stroke” hunting BLOOD for PEACE. Then Wait for that “Doosra” and watch out! Dragging in PEACE to your Middle Stump!!

      • Abid Hossain Chowdhury

        Mr. Golam Arshad : Eta blood-er bodoley peace noy. Apni bhul blochen! Justice protishtha korar jonno shasti ditey hobei.

      • Abid Hossain Chowdhury

        Mr. Arshad & Iftekhar:

        Aponader logic shorbongshey grohonjoggo noy. Dhalaobhavey-to amnesty hotey parena. Kichu aporadhikey-to shasti ditei hobey; naholey-to tara khun-kharabi korey shomaj-shovottaei dhongsho debey. Amra agey kichu boro boro mass killerder shasti dei; tarporey amnesty dei. Abong shetai houa utchit.

      • Golam Arshad

        The Thunder of Blood will never usher in PEACE! Let us take a DEEP PAUSE for PEACE!

      • Abid Hossain Chowdhury

        Mr. Golam Arshad :

        Taholet-to ami khun korei jabo; Amar kichui hobeyna. Ami khun korbo abong buk phuliea hatbo. Shanti asbey? Kono Dinei shombhob na. Apni bhul pothey hatsen! Binito anurudh, nijakey shuddho korey nin. Allah apnar shohai houn!

  4. Shabbir A. Bashar

    Too academic an article, sometimes emotional and nostalgic – even partisan – and somewhat removed from the reality of Bangladesh, by the professor from the deep south of the USA. Given that he is a faculty in the College of Business, it would have been more interesting and appropriate had he written about the adverse import taxes on raw materials that are stifling the growth of manufacturing industry and export oriented businesses in Bangladesh. Jobs need to be created to impede the rise of devils: “idle minds are a devil’s workshop”; it has to be private industry led. Government has to act as the facilitator to pave the way for massive industrialization. Sadly, neither the politicians nor their “civil servant” lackeys have any concept of business, entrepreneurship or management. However, his call for a thorough, deliberate and inclusive revision of the Constitution is something that I support wholeheartedly. The Constitution of a country is not something any individual or group of individuals should play with for their temporary convenience. Any changes to it should require direct public participation through a referendum – just like in the early nineties when the “Presidential” system of government was changed to the “Parliamentary” system of government.

  5. Golam Arshad

    TRUTH KINDLES IN RIDDLE HEART! Professor, yes you are RIGHT, Nations in shamble and now in FLAME, for What ? Greed and Power, who will end it!!! I wonder in utter dismay and total delusion. Good job Professor!

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