BM Sajjad Hossain
Bangladesh is one of the poorest and most densely populated nations in the world. Unfortunately, we could not use the opportunities that might be used to develop the country alike or better than many other countries those which were several times poorer than us. Many rich countries have natural resources, and we have too i.e. natural gas, coal, flowing river etc. They make proper use of their resources in the productive sectors, but we are not. So, thousands of people in our country use their gas burner to dry their wet cloth. Even cooking by using this natural gas is the least productive work in the world.
Many Third World countries earn a lot from exporting their natural resources; as such South Africa, has only a small unskilled labour force. Bangladesh economy still remains excessively dependent on agriculture, this accounts for almost 20 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) and employs more than half of the labour force. However, one day no natural resources will be available to sell, but with a large number of population, we can develop a long-run human capital development programme that will work for providing skilled labour force like in Japan or the USA. Then the higher GDP growth and investments in both public and private sectors will be accelerated with more employment opportunities.
Many African countries are facing socio-political instability due to racism, but here in Bangladesh we all are working together, and we do not think about racism at all.
However, we have some problems regarding our policy, political culture and political parties. Just a few years ago, a few Islamist extremist groups threatened Bangladesh's democracy and pluralist traditions. They have been tackled. But political violence and corruption, coupled with bureaucratic red tape, still plague the country. Political parties have to think about the country and its betterment, not only about lining their own pockets. They have to work with cooperative attitude rather than bragging about their contribution to the Liberation War and development in the past. None in a civilised society likes to suffer from political violence. So political parties should realise the real situation and devise policies for the betterment of the country.
There are dozens of political parties in Bangladesh but very few of them have definite ideologies or programmes to be followed by their supporters and the future generation. Though some parties have ideologies and programmes, the leaders often defy them in their selfish interest. The nature and composition of major parties reveal a disappointing state of affairs.
Another great impediment to the growth of democracy is the dynastic element in party leadership. Khaleda Zia became leader because she is the widow of late President Zia who founded the BNP and Sheikh Hasina because of her father who founded Bangladesh. The leaders of these two political parties, the BNP and the Awami League, are permanently settled in their respective positions closing all the possibilities of emergence of any new leadership in their respective parties. This anti-democratic dynastic feature in the party leadership has been the greatest impediment to democratic development in Bangladesh. This is destroying, on the one hand, our political institutions and preventing and discouraging honest and dedicated people to come into politics, on the other.
These two parties alternate each other in power. But the nation is earnestly looks forward to the emergence of a dedicated leader who would institutionalise democracy. It is the responsibility of the people to make democracy a success. For this, the spirit of tolerance and unity is needed. In spite of mutual disagreements, the people should join together to face a national crisis.
Bangladesh lacks democratic political culture. Democratic norms and values could not strike root in our society and polity. Our politicians lack political morality which gave rise to the system of caretaker government to arrange national election. It is a sign of popular distrust in our politicians.
Our political institutions are not strong and developed to strengthen. Our parliament does not work effectively due to continuous boycott by the opposition. Our political parties are safe haven for the vested interests. Besides, there is a lack of tolerance, mutual respect, trust and reciprocity among our politicians and political parties. It is time that the institutional weaknesses in democratic politics and governance are removed so that rapid and sustainable development can be achieved.
The writer, a development researcher and assistant editor of Japan-based newspaper Bibekbarta, teaches Economics at Atish Dipankar University of Science and Technology (ADUST), Banani, Dhaka.