Where is our journey towards development taking us?
The sound of fireworks and the phantoms in the night sky at zero hour on January 1, 2020 was a display of how urban Bengalis celebrate the New Year, even amid various restrictions.
The skyline was full of fireworks and phantoms going up in the sky. It was quite a magnificent sight. The excitement of the New Year was palpable among Dhaka-dwellers. The celebratory mood gave me hope -- hope about the future of my country.
We have seen many examples of our forward march as a nation, especially in terms of the national development of our land. We have seen our economy improve, we have seen various communication structures go up.
The Metro Rail project in Dhaka city and the Padma Bridge project showed us that we are headed towards economic development.
There is no denying that Bangladesh is on its way to improving its financial fate. However, the fear of a slowdown cannot be totally refuted in 2020.
Last year, the attempt to rehabilitate and favour bank loan defaulters at the policy level was worrisome. It looked like we were trying to formulate policies that were not at all friendly for the banks to survive.
We were trying to side with the loan defaulters by giving them a privilege to secure further loans by re-scheduling their defaulted loans upon a down payment of just 2% of the total loan amount.
Our court of law halted that attempt.
We don’t want to see similar attempts in 2020. The loan market would destabilize if the willing defaulters were given opportunities to rehabilitate themselves. In that case, the good borrowers would be discouraged to remain good. It would send out a bad signal to the market.
At the same time, we would love to see a sustainable road map of our development.
Economic success has a cost. The environment suffers the most when a country tries to develop unsustainably. We are yet to have control over the environmental damage that development usually causes.
We have talked about the issue a lot, but we have not been honest and attentive about reversing the negative effects of growth on our fast-deteriorating environment.
We are too busy earning money, but money alone cannot earn us happiness. Improving GDP has nothing to do with our overall happiness. Most nations lose the happiness of their people as they race to increase their financial numbers.
There is hardly any time to look inwards and contemplate whether this affluence is truly making us happy.
Moving forward in 2020, I would appeal to our highest leadership to think about this.
I hope that the number of deaths due to road accidents decrease this New Year. Although it feels like there is no hope as far as road-safety is concerned, I still hope that our roads will one day be safe for the commuters, and our reckless drivers will be properly disciplined and contained.
Sexual violence statistics have also been bad this year. According to Ain O Salish Kendra, the number of rape incidents doubled in 2019. Rape is a crime that overshadows all economic successes of a nation.
I would like to see a rape-free Bangladesh. I would refuse to call our society a developed one or a civil one as long as we continue to violate our women.
I don’t believe that forming laws against violations will solve this plague. We need educative campaigns across the country. We need to invent ways for our women to remain safe from the hands of the rapists. And rapists need to be publicly disgraced.
Talking about education reminds me of the rat-race in our schooling system. Have you ever had a good look at our children who carry the burden of extra large sacks of books? What are they learning, anyway? What are we readying them for?
I believe that we are trying to create a gang of Western-style executives who are meant to search for jobs in various companies. But we have not done our research on what we are actually creating through our model of education.
How is this rat-race impacting the psychology of our children? We say that we are preparing them for the future. But do we know what the future looks like for our country?
We should not only be mindful about the application of this educational model, but also think about whether our ways of educating the nation is making its citizens happy in the long run.
Today’s youth have become tech-dependent, as we live in an ocean of electronic devices and gadgets. We, along with our children, seem absolutely gaga over the fact that we are getting an opportunity to use those devices.
Are we using the available technologies wisely? Have we thought about the impacts of becoming too tech-dependent?
My wish for 2020 is that we learn to use available technologies wisely enough to avoid -- or overcome -- their negative impact.
I would love to see Bangladesh grow in a sustainable way instead of paying too much attention to the short-terms gains. Otherwise, our journey towards development may lead nowhere.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.