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Popular economics, unpopular government

  • Published at 05:16 am June 6th, 2013
Popular economics, unpopular government

A business editor of a vernacular daily told me they receive at least four press releases issued by the central bank each day.

These are all about either the central bank trying to arrest the attention of the banks on green banking, increased SME financing, digitisation, expanding the agricultural or rural finance, renewable energy finance or the governor inaugurating the charitable activities, scholarship programmes of the banks, seminars on inclusive growth, digital Bangladesh, school banking, etc.

No doubt the central bank seniors are working hard to divert financing to the hungry streams of the economy or at least remain popular by highlighting on the popular issues. Their monetary policy came out to be effective, at least temporarily, to curb inflation and foreign exchange reserve has increased significantly.

In the energy sector, no matter whether it is rental power or repairing or reengineering of the existing large plants, the government no doubt have been successful in generating increased power by around 75%.

Though new gas fields could not be explored, installation of compressors has eased the gas situation to a certain extent. Recently the government has decided to supply gas to households in the northern region.

The least-speaking and most-working education minister has been successful in bringing in a measure of possible discipline in the education sector, especially in the secondary and higher secondary level. Corruption might not have gone down significantly in this sector, but we have not seen any embarrassing situation for the government either.

The agriculture minister, apart from her extremely abrasive language against the opposition or critiques, was always found vigilant about the peasant’s causes. She might not have been able to increase the procurement price for rice or paddy in view of the rising production costs but she made sure inputs or subsidies reach the farmers in time and without any hassle. Having an above average visibility about Indonesia subsidy management through postal department, I thought her 10 taka account should have arrested much more global attention.

Though there were some allegations against the food minister being extra ordinarily biased towards his own constituency, he by and large also did a good job in maintaining overall food security, supply or distribution integrity.

 The former commerce minister and now the civil aviation minister is reportedly doing a good job in streamlining Biman and the tourism sector though the gentleman was being somehow ruthlessly cursed by the media.

Despite the finance minister coming out to be too weak in handling the Grameen Bank or state owned bank issues, his long standing civil service background helped him a lot to bring in above average fiscal discipline as well as ensuring increased revenue collection.

Once one looks at the Banani flyover or the Hatirjheel bypass, he or she must be thanking the government. People at Gulistan or Jatrabari also would say the same in near future. Though critiques are talking of corruption with more than required expenditures, the railway division also arrested renewed interest from the government.

Despite all of the above-mentioned wins, the government seems to be quite confused, unpopular and disorganised. Surprising though, a senior official in the army told me the other day, if there is an election within next three to six months and election commission decides to deploy the armed forces, no matter who is managing the election time government, the ruling party will be seriously marginalised, if not washed out.

Though it was hard to swallow for me, I was thinking out loud – Is it going to be so? Is this because of the 1) inept handling of the BDR killing, 2) indifferent attitude towards the sufferings of the small investors in the capital market, 3) Hall-Mark, Bismillah or Destiny cases, 4) Padma bridge corruption, 5) poor handling of the religious issues in a predominantly Muslim country, 6) too subservient to India, or 7) wrong handling of the media or court issues 8) behaving too autocratic in a democratic set up, 9) losing all trusted friends in the outside world and most importantly, 10 ) massive corruption all over impacting the lives of the common people?

I don’t know which one is correct. There is possibly more than one reason contributing to increasing unpopularity of a large deemed-to-be-democratic party like Awami League, founded by nobody other than our founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Interestingly, I have seen many seniors, despite being an ardent supporter of Bangabandhu, think that the present Awami League government has ruined the country.

Could it be inclusion of too many young faces in the cabinet? Could it be otherwise morally corrupt civil servant cum advisers goofing up big time? Or is it the inability of the party stalwarts to accept changes in a changing world or new world order? Or the “mediocrity” among the civil servants who are assisting this government? I wish I had an answer.

No doubt the government is behaving weird. Something has gone very wrong somewhere. Economic gains are being increasingly shadowed by political failures. We can only wish they come to their senses sooner rather than later.

We want democracy. We want democratic values to sustain, and strong institutions to emerge that will safeguard our democracy and spread its values to everyone.

 

Mamun Rashid is a business professor and financial sector entrepreneur.

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