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The pensioners’ club

  • Published at 02:02 am August 25th, 2016
  • Last updated at 04:56 pm August 25th, 2016
The pensioners’ club
The majority of the Bangladeshi population is in the 30s which makes up an estimated 60% of the workforce, with a life expectancy of 70 years of age. Almost all of our cabinet ministers are over 60, which is admirable considering their health complications and levels of energy. It has been 45 years since we were liberated and a handful of our serving parliamentarians were actually born in liberated Bangladesh. Most of those who are lucky enough to represent us in the parliament were not nominated by the party due to their merits -- in most cases, they were nominated to continue their fathers’ legacies. The current Bangladeshi cabinet is a reminder of the Greek philosopher Pleto’s teachings which dictated that the young must submit to the rules of the elders -- teachings written over 2,000 years ago. Participation of elders in the Westminster system is not an exclusive phenomenon that takes place only in Bangladesh. Under a functional democratic system, it would be extremely discriminatory even to suggest that age should be a matter for an individual to hold an elected office. It must also be considered that, because of life-long involvement and sacrifices, our political figures were able to create a larger than life image of themselves.

The whole world is increasingly turning to young politicians for leadership and new ideas, and the Bangladeshi youth expects the people in charge to do the same. Therefore, the ministers must echo our voices

I personally have desire and respect for such achievements. But then again, we must admit that political office and government business is not just about individual image or past achievements. The ruling of the elders reached an extreme height in Bangladesh. Earlier this year, during the G8 summit, Prime Minister Seikh Hasina met Prime Minister of Canada Justin Tredeau, Prime minister of UK David Cameron, and Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi --  all of them in their 40s. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were elected as presidents of the United States in their 40s, and even the Chinese Communist Party is turning to their younger generation for leadership. Now, have a careful look at our cabinet. Mr Muhit is in his 80s, then Matia Chowdhury, Tofail Ahmed, Amir Hossain Amu, and almost all other cabinet ministers are either in their 70s or in late 60s. They are the same ministerial faces from the 1996-2001 cabinet, which only means that virtually no changes have been made even after 16 years. The new additions are also as old as them, with few exceptions. It is clear that they have served our nation to their fullest. Now, it is high time for fresh ideas and new faces. Our current cabinet ministers fail to communicate with the new generation of Bangladeshis, which is 60% of the workforce. What is the point of having cabinet ministers who cannot communicate with such a vast portion of society? I’m part of the 60% and my friends are also from the same age bracket. Whenever I discuss politics and government with my friends, we actually talk about the young ministers like Junaid Ahmed Palak, Tarana Halim, Anisul Haque, and sometime Obaidul Quader Chowdhury -- because, somehow, we feel that they are communicating with us. They understand our language. I cannot remember when was the last time we had a conversation in relation to ministerial performance of the greats like Matia Chowdhury, Tofail Ahmed, or Amir Hossain Amu. It seems my friends are not even interested in criticising them, and it is not our fault. The ministers fail to include us in their speech and actions. The generation gap between us is far too great. They talk about the past, while we want direction for the future. It is not that we do not respect them or don’t acknowledge their sacrifices, we do. It is not that we are not pro-71, because it is our generation who made war tribunals a reality. The fact is, we’re just not on the same wavelength. The same applies to those who have become parliamentary representatives to continue their fathers’ legacies. There is visible evidence that they are not credible enough to receive our attention, even to be criticised. It is a fact that Annisul Huq receives far greater attention than Sayed Khokon, but someone like Nazmul Hasan Papon can never compete with Junaed Ahmed Palak or Tarana Halim in terms of social media attention and expectations. The leadership revolution of advanced democracies negates the age-old idea of “ministers having life-long experience in politics.” It is an illusion created by power-hungry politicians to continue their rein of power. The whole world is increasingly turning to young politicians for leadership and new ideas, and the Bangladeshi youth expect the people in charge to do the same. Therefore, the ministers must echo our voices. Because of health complications, ministers and cabinet members fail to engage and energise the young workforce. Under their leadership and watch, Bangladesh has become the champion of corruption and still remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. I have yet to see a politician in Bangladesh who opted for voluntary retirement with respect and dignity. Politicians here seem to continue their career with the same old agendas and ideas until death claims them; and after their death, their children claim their positions. Their hunger for power and greed have become so extreme that the younger generation of politicians are, in fact, at their mercy. The youngsters cannot ask for responsibility, cannot present their ideas in fear of the “elders” in politics. I’m not suggesting any radical changes because that would be impossible, unrealistic, and unreasonable. All I’m asking is for balance: More representation of the youth in the cabinet, a balance between tradition and new ideas. Then, maybe, at some point, we might be able ask more important questions like why the younger generation has to carry the burden of their elders’ failures in politics, or if we will ever be able to do something about our lead position in the downward race of corruption.
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