Trade-off, scarcely for that trade

Khawaza Main Uddin | Update:

Trade-off, scarcely for that tradeThe fact that foreigners are capturing white-collar jobs in high number, despite legal barriers to their service, has been by this time a matter of concern to many Bangladeshis. The locals are either deprived of opportunities for lack of contact with the employers or they perhaps just don’t fit in for the standards required. Both are bad news for the nation.

Majority of the foreigners serve in Bangladesh without valid documents, suggests the mismatch between figures of remittances they send and the number of work permits issued by the authorities concerned. The government of Bangladesh, too, is deprived of income tax from most of the high-paid jobholders with whom it cannot even officially deal.

And there is no sign that the country can replace the foreign workers by sons and daughters of the soil very soon. The youth being educated at home are not either getting any scope to come in touch with quality foreign experts or teachers, since hardly any foreigner is welcome in education and research field, where free thinking, and knowledge creation and distribution are essential.

So, the sacrifice the Bangladesh people had to make to see their development inclusive of quality education has not been useful.

After serving almost five years based on notion of development without ‘much democracy’, the finance minister said at a pre-budget meeting with economic reporters in May that they would address quality of secondary education, provided the Awami League is in office once again. He is also ‘100 per cent confident’ about the chance.

We hear of such futuristic plans when the man in the charge of education for almost 10 years, is grappling with options of how to stop leaks of question papers in public examinations. What else can he do in the face of such a big task?

The finance minister, too, has hardly had any answer to the Bangladesh Bank heist worth US$81 million, and scams involving Janata, BASIC and Sonali banks involving billions of taka. He has failed to publish the probe report of the 2010-11 share market bubble burst, let alone trying the culprits.

When state-owned Janata Bank has been ruined, in Mr AMA Muhith’s words, by its former chairman Abul Barkat, an appointment was given there, rather to display women’s empowerment than aiming rescue of the bank.

It is hard to ascertain the value Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury as female speaker adds to the 10th parliament when the manner of its election is well known to everyone.

Former chief justice Khairul Haque made a public statement about recent road crashes, saying this cannot happen in any civilised country. By questioning the state of our civilisation, does he want to make up for the historic verdict abolishing the caretaker government system he wrote after his retirement that led to the prolonged political crisis and that claimed hundreds of lives by this time?

The finance minister has at least acknowledged widening disparity in society since he claims full credit for poverty alleviation in the past one decade. He is too busy to notice that cost of living in rural areas, as reflected in the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics survey, has been higher than the people’s income.

In a state of suppressed media, he enjoys the luxury of denying reports of flight of capital from Bangladesh. When many Bangladeshis made second homes, he claimed non-resident Bangladeshis are returning home for making investments.

In 2008, Bangladeshi voters were promised: “Powerful people will have to submit wealth statements annually. Strict measures will be taken to eliminate bribes, extortion, rent seeking and corruption [the Awami League’s election manifesto].” Even years later, none from the ruling camp is compelled to submit wealth statements.

We are still talking about making our cities liveable after ‘forfeiting’ voting rights to have mayors from the ruling party in 2015.

Development can barely be understood in most rural public hospitals when on-duty doctors abstain or their positions remain vacant for months. Moreover, thousands of people go abroad for treatment while many more show no-confidence in the domestic healthcare system.

Why do today’s youth demonstrate demanding justice in recruitment in civil service? Either fairness is missing or opportunities are not there or maybe both are true simultaneously.

Problems such as inequality, absence of social protection and exclusion of the silent majority from the leadership process could not be solved by the hype created about middle income country status.

Still, planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal called the middle income country status a misnomer as Bangladesh has entered what he said as the development category of China and Russia [Banglavision, 10 May 2018]. He, however, admitted that the government has not yet been able to accomplish basic development which, he pledged, they would do after 2021, a period for which his party is yet to get the people’s mandate.

In that case, what has been the outcome of the ‘less democracy, more development’ puzzle that health and family welfare minister Muhammad Nasim spoke of after the one-sided general elections of 2014? 

* Khawaza Main Uddin is a journalist. He can be reached at khawaza@prothom-alo.info

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