Spectre of fear and power struggle haunts the country

Abu Hena

A spectre is haunting Bangladesh – a spectre of fear, panic and power struggles. Dirty politics has pitifully torn asunder the age – old social ties that bound us for centuries and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self- interest and wanton disregard for the life of the daily wage earner.

Veiled by political illusions, it has substituted brutal and mindless murder of the ordinary and the innocent. In the name of democracy the power brokers have caused still more death, misery, degradation and despair. Lust for money, wealth and power has reduced men and women into easy target of violence, vandalism, arson and petrol bomb.
Our politics and economy stand on the precipice, making it inevitable for a steep downward slope into the horrors of the past. The politicians fail to grasp how bad things are. They don’t understand how fast things are deteriorating.

The clock has stopped
The clock has stopped and we are not free any more. This is a dangerous moment in our nation’s history when we feel totally unsafe and helplessly insecure. Men, women and children are traumatized by rampant attacks on buses, trains and public places. The mood of failure and paralysis in law and order is widespread. The atmosphere has been heightened by the growing distrust between the leaders at the top who matter most. The events envision a broken country policed by a peacekeeping force after a civil war.
The impertinence and presumption in public servants including ministers has caused draining of money from the pockets of the people. They are always, and without exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Their extravagance, prodigality and misconduct have ruined the state. Almost the whole public revenue is employed in maintaining these unproductive hands who in times of peace produce nothing and in times of war acquire nothing which can compensate the expense of maintaining them. Such people, as they produce nothing, are all maintained by the products of other men’s labour. Their insensitivity is so acute that when the air is thick with tears, the top civil servants of the country are busy doubling their pay, perks and allowances.
With the bulk of the electricity generated from the oil-fired power plants and the international price of oil plummeting to a new low, the Energy Regulatory Authority has proposed an 18 percent price hike for bulk consumers and nearly 21.5 percent for retail consumers. According to Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), the economy lost 36. 46 billion taka in the first 16 days of political unrest which began on 5 January. The figure is equivalent to 2.69 percent of the GDP.

The lucky loan defaulters
Manufacturing units are running out of inputs and job cuts are feared if blockade continues causing industrial and social unrest. The blockades and strikes are costing the country’s vital RMG industry millions of dollars. Each day the crisis continues, the livelihood of more and more workers are being put at risk. The four state-owned banks wrote off Tk 15,228 crore bad loans between 2002 and 2014 while Tk 15,667 crore still remains outstanding. The government in its boundless generosity has now decided to bail out the big defaulters by rescheduling their loans for further extended period.
The government’s new debt strategy based on costly foreign loans will also increase the current 45 percent share of foreign borrowing to 60 percent. There will be a decrease in concessional foreign loans to be received during the period from current 75 percent to 60 percent and an increase in the country’s commercial or semi- concessional loans from the current 6.1 percent to 14 percent plus by 2017.
According to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington based research institute, more than $16 billion was illegally siphoned off out of Bangladesh between 2002 and 2011. More than 14 lakh SSC examinees, their guardians and teachers are now faced with uncertainty over the exams scheduled to begin on Feb 2 as blockade continues.

Culture of victimhood
At the moment the essential daily predicament of all Bangladeshis is this: there is no margin for error anymore. This is not unconnected to the predicament that just as we earned our independence, a huge revolution was beginning to shape our lives — the expectation of freedom and happiness. Today it is most embarrassing to live in a free country and not be happy, safe and secure.
We have lost, somehow, a sense of mystery about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role. Today we teach our children not the principles that made our country, the moral force that led us to endure nine months of horrors to free our nation. We do not teach our children our glorious past history. We teach them the culture of resentment, of hatred, of grievance, of victimization.
It’s clear now that present politics is a dirty, boring and abominable business. It’s time we rise against it, fight the devil and come out of this existential despair, the stage of anxiety and uncertainty. If we are honest and well intentioned, all our conflicts will disappear into consensus and all our pains, sufferings, trauma and resistance to change will end.
The writer is a former MP, columnist and author

Source: Weekly Holiday

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