Category Archives: Government

How Devolution Can Change Our Politics

Jyoti Rahman

Published in the Daily Star Forum, March 2009.

This piece examines the benefits of spreading out political power.

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Fighting Corruption:Do We Have a Flawed Approach?

Mridul Chowdhury

Published in the Forum (May 2008 )

During the past year, there has been significant rejoicing over the capture of some corrupt government officials who have amassed huge amounts of wealth through manipulating loopholes in government procedures. The rejoicing is understandable, but what is sad to see is that there is so little talk about the very loopholes that have allowed these individuals to suck out money illegally from helpless citizens. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) seems to have taken on a rather narrow-minded mission to strike at corrupt individuals, and has largely failed to bring to light the sources of these corruptions in the government. Continue reading

Checks and Balances

Jalal Alamgir and Asif Saleh

Published in the Forum (May 2008 )

As the elections promised by the end of the year draw nearer, speculation about future political alignments continues to mount. Some ask: Will we see a gradual return to one-person rule over political parties? Will the parliament be able to actually discharge its duty of representing the people? Will the creation of new institutions simplify or complicate politics? And many wonder: What will help avoid a future political crisis like the one that precipitated 1/11? Continue reading

Balancing act

Tazreena Sajjad

Published in Daily Star (July 2007)

With a roadmap to elections to be announced by the caretaker government on July 15, the country is rife with conjecture on the form of this handover. This also opens up a space to contemplate on the existing and future possibilities of civil-military relations in Bangladesh.

What is critical to remember in these speculations is that 2007 is not a new phenomenon and neither will the prospective handover, necessarily, break new grounds. In the history of regime transitions, Bangladesh is another nation attempting to reach a balance between the will of the people and a dire need for stability through other means when political leadership has proved to be anything but satisfactory.

Transitions from military-backed unelected regimes to democratically elected governments are nothing new. Continue reading

The argumentative oligarchs

Syeed Ahamed

Published in Forum (July, 2007)

It is only where political parties seriously challenge [the] relative autonomy and, along with it, the mediatory role of the bureaucratic-military oligarchy that conflicts arise in which, so far, the latter have prevailed.” Hamza Alavi (1972)

The ruling power in Bangladesh, when viewed in its historical context, essentially rested with three intermingling oligarchies: politicians, civil bureaucrats, and the military. While the first exhibited a disputed liaison with the others, the other two have demonstrated a reasonably steady companionship.

The oligarchs that emerged during different epochs have now appeared at a critical crossroad where the destiny of Bangladesh will be chosen for many years to come. In this vital juncture, this piece re-examines the evolution and inter-relations of these oligarchs in Bangladesh’s internal power politics. Continue reading

Apolitical budget of non-political government: What does it mean for inflation?

Syeed Ahamed and Jyoti Rahman

Published in Daily Star (11 June 2007)

Joseph Levine, a Hollywood movie director, once said that: “You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough!” He could not possibly have known how literally successive political governments of Bangladesh followed this approach.

While a non-political government is in office, no budget is apolitical. Like all previous budgets, this, too, sits in its own political context. The government’s political reform agenda is inexorably linked with macroeconomic conditions in general, and rising inflation in particular. Continue reading

Inflation up, government down

The survival of Bangladesh’s unelected interim government will be based largely on its stewardship of the country’s economy.

Amer Ahmed

Published in Himal SouthAsian (June 2007)

When Bangladesh’s current caretaker government was sworn in on 11 January, the country was on the brink of economic disaster. The economy was still licking its wounds from last year’s crippling labour riots, when the all-important garment industry had suddenly exploded over wage concerns. The political violence that followed, pitting Awami League forces against Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) forces, brought life to a halt in the capital and other major cities in January and February. Industry – with the garments sector being among the most visible and hard hit – took on losses that amounted up to millions of dollars a day. Small businesses relying on daily commerce felt the pinch in the absence of customers and consumers. Continue reading

Secretly selling Biman

Joseph

Published in Himal SouthAsian (June 2007)

On 9 May, Bangladesh’s state-owned airline, Biman, announced the slashing of 1400 jobs. Another 1000 positions may be on the block in the near future. All in all, this means a cut of nearly half of the flag-carrier’s current roster. According to the company’s managing director M A Momen, Biman has requested BDT 3 billion (USD 43 million) from the finance ministry to provide severance packages for the 1400 employees.

The BBC carried the news item. But only one Bangladeshi newspaper gave it coverage, and then only on its webpage. Herein lies the problem. Continue reading

Frequently asked questions to people who criticize the CTG

Asif Saleh

Published Daily Star, May 21st, 2007

Q. Are you better off than you were 6 months ago?

A. Depends on whom you ask. The slum dwellers who got evicted, or the 150,000 people who are in the jail without charges, are not. But people perhaps are happy in general with the political stability, with a new hope that the days of politics as usual are over.

Q. Are you happy that some of those people who thought Bangladesh was their own property have been thrown in jail?

A. Absolutely. No well-intentioned person will oppose any anti-corruption drive.

Q. Are you seeing a more hands-on, pro-active, government with good and capable advisers?

A. We like the advisers who talk less and work more. We are happy with some of the announcements, and now we want to see them implemented.

Q. Then why are you complaining?

A. Like everybody else, we see this as a tremendous chance to fix the democratic institutions and set ourselves for the future. We also strongly believe in democracy, more than in any other system in the world.

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Taming the Tiger: Farooq Sobhan’s Visit to D.C.

Tazreena Sajjad
Sajjad, T. (2007, May 16). Mr. Sobhan goes to Washington. The Daily Star, 5 (1041)

Bangladesh had definitely sent one of its very best. On a beautiful spring day, some of the who’s who of Washington D.C. and representatives of many of the most established institutions in the nation’s capital had assembled at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to hear Farooq Sobhan speak about Bangladesh.  The title of the talk interestingly enough was changed at the last minute to ‘The Role of Bangladesh in South Asian Cooperation’. The event was sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for Strategic Studies and the Hudson Institute.

The  critical timing of such a discussion notwithstanding, the fact that Sobhan’s talk focused on external issues relating to Bangladesh as an emerging regional player, and the choice of the caretaker government to send him as a representative to the U.S. government gives one some cause for thought. After all, there is starting to be a general sense of unease about the motivations and goals of the caretaker government in the international circles. Then too there is a growing level of skepticism about which direction the democracy project is heading. A clever political maneuver, yet one that was not too subtle; the dispatching of a highly intelligent and respected individual to both appease the U.S. government and at the same time, shift the focus of concern from the internal tensions at the home front and focus attention on how Bangladesh can contribute through bilateral and regional ties, to a more secure and economically strong region. It was as if an undertone of a message was communicated; that this caretaker government was one with vision; while tackling domestic issues it was also concerned about the role of this small nation in a volatile region with tremendous potential.

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