That the local government has been left in the limbo has once again been voiced by none other than the Chief Advisor to a previous caretaker government Justice Habibur Rahman. The former chief justice, however, made the comment in connection with Bangladesh's likely economic take-off that, a number of economists have predicted, will help the country exceed many western economies by the middle of the century. He has rightly observed that the envisioned economic prosperity cannot be achieved without decentralisation of administration. And there is hardly any better way than doing this by making the local government (LG) bodies strong, effective and as much independent as possible. Successive governments have reneged on their promises to strengthen the LG bodies and delegate enough power to the elected representatives at that level. On that count, political parties have failed to live up to the expectations of people at the grass-roots level. But they surely could have done better if they did not look for establishing a tight grip on the different tiers of local bodies in the interest of narrow politics and monetary gains.
The more is the devolution of power, the greater is the opportunity to exercise creative power. Involving greater number of people with the process of production and allowing their creative spirit to soar higher are at the root of the miracles that have happened within specific geographic boundaries throughout history. In the 10th century living standards in India and China compared well with that of the western Europe with China leading the way. Even until the 15th century China and India combined had a total gross domestic product (GDP) much higher than western Europe's. But all that changed with the adventurous voyages the European embarked on and the industrial revolution that followed with the invention of the steam engine in England. At this stage, Bangladesh certainly has the potential of attaining the middle-income country's status because of the remittance and contribution from the garments industry and some service sectors. But to make an economic miracle happen, it will have to bring about a kind of socio-economic revolution.
It is because of this that the LG bodies have to be given the free choice to set their own goals on education and economic front. If the central government is satisfied with the role of a facilitator with power to coordinate and supervise and in exchange for this receive revenues for running the administration, things can indeed get better and better. To do this there is the need for political sagacity as well as firm resolution. If people's mandates matter, politicians should be respectful to the desire of the common people. This certainly is not to say that things will transform overnight; but at least the process should be started now in right earnest. Power vested in a few hands with the bureaucracy pulling the string from behind the scene has for long caused the country to bleed. It is time the entrenched grip was gradually loosened for the sake of allowing the country to shape its destiny as comprehensively as it is capable of.