A Cautionary Note to Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina
Prof. Syed Ahsanul Alam Parvez*
After a landslide victory you are assuming the premiership of Bangladesh when the world is facing one of the worst recession of contemporary history. There are good reasons to believe that Bangladesh will face the trauma of the global recession by late 2009. The have-nots and the poor people of our country will not be able to bear it. So you have no option but to be proactive and act in time to surprise the world. Your and our creator gave you a lifetime chance to write your name in gold as the world’s most benevolent lady prime minister by turning Bangladesh to a middle income country during your office this time as prime minister. You have to address the issue of income distribution and social justice in our country very thoughtfully. You should be the first Prime minister of Bangladesh with the aim of raising awareness and creating framings and visions that promote equal dignity for all citizens in the country you govern.
I hope you will share with my concept- “Road map to good governance- The Nine-I model” (see www.goodgovernancebd.org for details) for building a democratic society ensuring good governance.
However political democracy rests on economic democracy, and economic democracy assumes a social order that provides equal opportunity for every member of the society to become economically self-sufficient and free from the dominance of some who control their subsistence in today’s world.
I am confident you will share the ideology of “the equitable distribution of wealth.” The key to economic self-sufficiency is growing the productiveness of the economy in such a way that lifts artificial barriers to equal access to those social institutions (e.g. Capital, credit) that determine who will become empowered as future capital owners. In Bangladesh only then can today’s property less citizens receive just share of their capital assets as well as wages for their work to meet their economic needs and develop to the fullest extent of their human capacities.
You have no time to rest but to move forward with your supporters as well as the supporters of Begum Zia, because at least 10- 12% of her supporters trusted you in this election for at least two reasons.
1. In view of many, the former prime minister wanted to salvage the “Maha Chors” and political cronies of her party which seemed like she wanted to present the nation a reign of corrupts and extremists. A political blunder on the part of an experienced former prime minister.
2. According to her critics, Begum Zia, during her honeymoon with “Razakars”, “Al-Badars”, and “Al-Shams” not only distributed political sweets but also distributed our national flag to them which was earned with the sacrifice of millions. The new generation voters expressed sharp reaction in this election by rejecting the collaborators of the genocide in 1971.
The world changed a lot. I know that now you know it better than anyone that you have to cope with international diplomacy of the world politics. Global circumstances cannot be ignored. See Barack Obama meticulously organized his team to salvage the sinking US economy and bring the change for which he is elected to his office.
You should meticulously arrange and rearrange the medium sized cabinet which you can gradually expand evaluating the performance of the cabinet members. You can throw out the bad performers after six months if they fail to give us good governance for which the country paid heavily last two years in both economic and political terms. If the credibility of any of your ministers are questionable or if anyone of them were convicted or corrupt at least by perception, kindly throw them out as soon as the first evidential complain against them reaches you. Congratulations for bringing new faces as ministers and junior ministers, thus creating a space for new leadership in your party.
Can you consider of giving some lessons to your cabinet crews so that they see how ministers in other democratic countries behave. Kindly arrange some cultural training for your ministers so that they can think, talk and act democratically.
People of Bangladesh no more wants to see vehicles carrying national flags in fish markets, marriage ceremonies, birthday parties, “gaye holuds”, clubs or community centers. Please teach them that, this is how they create a distance with their electoral and ensure confirm defeat in the future elections. There is a dogma in Bangla that “joto mantri toto porajoy.” Please instruct them not to irritate citizens with sirens and police men to demonstrate the presence of a minister. Ministers should limit themselves in using national flags in official business only and use sirens only while rushing to the airport or the parliament or any other urgency. In this way people will not hate them but will talk to them with open minds, irrespective of political identity. This approach will make them accountable to the people from all walks of life present in different social programs. This will pave the path towards a new accountable political culture.
We have a very strong vibrant media now to act as a watchdog against misrule and misgovernance and corruption. Our media has always played an admirable role to see a truly participatory and functioning democracy in the country where hopes, aspirations and will of the people will prevail and not trampled by elected despotic and authoritarian rule. Kindly instruct your ministers not to waste time by countering the media. The media cannot bring down any government. The media can only inform the government in advance that the voters will bring them down in the next election. Unfortunately some politicians always failed to receive the media message until they miserably fail in elections. The ministers should correct themselves seeing the public reactions in the mirror of the media.
Give target to Bangladesh diplomatic missions abroad:
To combat the global recession you have to increase the flow of foreign remittance which is presently in the decrease.
Please double the target of manpower export from Bangladesh to the countries that require skilled or semi-skilled manpower from Bangladesh . Let our ambassadors know that you will call them back if they fail to fulfill the new target of manpower export. Instruct them to explore new markets and also to create demand for our manpower in the countries already importing manpower from us. They should perform just like bank managers or have to come back home to do some other job. This is how you can fulfill your election pledge to create one job each house. Also remittances will show an uptrend and will give us a better position to combat the global recession.
Form Council of experts with people who wants to volunteer:
Many experts from different subject matters do neither want to become minister nor get other government facilities in lieu of their service to develop the economy and governance. They only need your patronization to render service to develop different sectors to take the country ahead. There is no harm if you consider council of experts in different fields like
2.Trade and commerce,
5.Exploring new markets for manpower exports
8.Monitoring law and order, etc.
These councils will submit reports to you every three months to assist you to call the respective ministers for a brainstorm towards policy decisions. This will help you to remain well informed and will also stop the ministers from going in the wrong direction.
Beware of Cars without number plate and MP’s without tin numbers:
Will your government allow anybody to drive vehicles without a number plate? Your voters are eager to see whether you will allow MP’s and ministers without tin number to run the country. Please don’t allow tax evaders to handle the money of the tax payers. Give two options to the MP’s without tin number which are- 1. They should rush to the NBR to get a number or 2. Quit from the government headed by the daughter of Bangabandhu. If mistakenly anybody without a tin number is sworn as a minister, instruct him to quit as he will be a glaring example for citizens not to pay tax.
Beware of Isolation syndrome:
May I draw your kind attention to the historical fact that some viruses in the civil-military bureaucracy and political nexus infect the prime ministers to develop a disease termed “Isolation Syndrome.” The disease becomes chronic when political cronies build air tight, air con compartments for the Prime minister, creating a No way to talk—No way to write—No way to reach situations. Due to Isolation syndrome Prime ministers can’t hear the people—can’t read the mind of their people. The voters can only see their Prime minister in small T.V. screens. No wonder everybody understands the gravity of security threats for any prime minister, especially security threats for the daughter of the father of the nation. But at least fix a fax or e-mail for complains to reach you, which you can see during your breakfast. I am confident everybody responsible for governance will be highly alert.
When I was writing this open letter from the University of Chittagong , you were busy taking oath. I was overwhelmed with millions of other democracy loving people of Bangladesh to see a group of clean people (perceived) as cabinet ministers. Once again Congratulations Prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
*Author Syed Ahsanul Alam is a Governance Analyst, Associate Professor at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh and Chairman-Center for Good Governance. His recent administrative post includes Vice rector- Premier University, Director-S.B Corporation (Sadharon Bima Corp), Treasurer-USTC (SWC), Representative of the President, USTC. He lectured widely at various business schools including University of Science and Technology, Open University, ABAC Thailand and also in Singapore . Rotarian Syed Ahsanul Alam is a well known Academician, Institution Building Personality and Activist for Good Governance. The Author may be reached at Cell: 880-1711 748 748, Fax: 880-31-2550872, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.goodgovernancebd.org.