Where do we go from here?

The honourable prime minister may crack down on political activists or troublemakers, but Bangladesh won’t settle down politically in the short term

Bangladesh Economic Association (BEA) recently organised dialogue on the political impasse that has crippled the country and is eating into the future of the Bangladesh economy. Some say it was organised in response to another recent citizens dialogue held by a few NGOs and advocacy groups.

I have been a life member of the BEA for the last 27 years. However, the BEA didn’t feel like inviting me and many of my friends to their dialogue. Media reports showed a few ruling party supporters and loyal journalists, not necessarily economists or members of the BEA, taking central roles in the said dialogue.

As usual, the dialogue could not go beyond the narrow interests of the ruling party. I could see the BEA also forcing in a direction to give birth to another forum named EAB (Economic Association of Bangladesh), like DAB (Doctors Association of Bangladesh), or MAB (MBA Association of Bangladesh), or TAB (Teachers Association of Bangladesh). No matter who does this, it will be very shocking.

While the BEA has not produced anything satisfactory during past several years without publicising some utopian thinking of a few in their leadership, I would have thought the new leadership would do something strategically important for Bangladesh and its future.

However, they were clear on one thing – the ongoing political uncertainty was eating into the future of the country. No matter what happens in the coming days or months, Bangladesh will be forced into an economically backward state. It will take a long time to recover, if that is at all possible.

I bet the problems are not going to be solved with the recently held election, which has helped the ruling Awami League earn a crude majority. The honourable prime minister may crack down on political activists or troublemakers, her stalwarts might find a cunning way to further marginalise BNP, or become successful in sending Khaleda Zia out of the country, but Bangladesh won’t settle down politically in the short term.

Therefore, economic stagnation is here to stay with lower GDP growth, higher unemployment, more job losses, and perhaps even increases in the number of people living below the poverty line.

Some people thought military rule would have brought in some respite, or at least put a temporary brake to all these unnecessary killings, the supply chain breakdown, and disruption in business activities. But our military friends are thinking that military rule can’t be a solution. They are haunted by the failures of Moeen U Ahmed, or their cushy lifestyle is not allowing them to take any challenges or risky tasks on their hands.

A few of the commanders are also exceptionally grateful to ruling party tycoons for where they have been brought today, and for more than adequate favours showered on them. Many also think running state affairs have become extremely complex over the years. Therefore it is better to stick to business as usual.

This means a few of our civil society forerunners and international well-wishers are stuck for the time being. Uncertainly is likely to stay here for a few more months, if not years. Our politics will limp along. More importantly, our economic competitors will be gaining much out of our miseries, and smiling to themselves.

Governance failures, massive corruption, distribution of favours among the beneficiaries of misrule, institutional failures, and policy paralysis will become synonymous with Bangladesh. Some people will blame their fate, some will migrate to developed countries, and some will go for massive compromises.

The international community has more important issues like Sudan, Syria, Iran, or Africa to deal with. So they may pretend to be crying, but they don’t have much time and energy to dedicate to Bangladesh. The Bangladesh situation is much more complex. Politicians, and those who run them, are more cunning, lethal, and devastating.

Khaleda is unlikely to stop violence or leave Jamaat, as is desired by Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh has nowhere to go. Television reports said civil society members (I don’t know what qualifies one to become a civil society member though) have opined that the newly elected government should try to go for another proper election involving all the parties within next two years or so.

I don’t know from where they got this “two years” term. According to Sheikh Hasina, the people of Bangladesh despite all odds and challenges have come to the polling centres and elected them for another five-year term to make Bangladesh a truly “Shonar Bangla” or Golden Bengal. The journey is on. We can’t succumb to the pressures of the few who do not want a prosperous or successful Bangladesh.

Yes, we wanted reform. We needed to go for massive political reforms which would change the way our politicians do politics. Who will drive these reforms? Sheikh Hasina or Khaleda Zia? Come on, give me a break. Will the Supreme Court or the media push us in that direction? That is not going to happen in the near future.

We needed an overhauling of our political system. We are waiting and praying. The Almighty can’t be so indifferent to Bangladesh with so many God-fearing people submitting to him five times a day.

Source: Dhaka Tribuhne