‘Inclusive elections an instrument for ensuring democratic accountability’

Prothom Alo

Absence of equitable development has given rise to extreme inequality in the society as democratic accountability has weakened during this period.

Ensuring that accountability entails inclusive, transparent and competitive elections in the country.

Speakers made these remarks at a media briefing organised by Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh at the city’s Brac Center today, Wednesday.

Four separate reports were presented at the press conference titled "Citizen agenda for inclusive development and equity: Education, Health, Climate Change, and Social Protection".

CPD’s distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said, “We have to understand how true and accurate the development story we hear from the ruling party is. Discrimination has increased along with growth. The rule of the middle class has diminished of late. A coterie comprising very wealthy, politically powerful and internationally connected has risen up.”

He said a true development can be achieved through ensuring the rights of underprivileged class. This will not be possible without establishing democratic accountability. Election is the biggest tool for the citizens to express their rights and accountability can be ensured by inclusive, transparent and competitive election.

Citizen’s Platform’s core member and Manusher Jonno Foundation’s executive director Shahin Anam said the question remains whether we have created a society that safeguards justice and rights of people. Many people in the country are deprived of justice and basic needs.

Conducting the event, CPD’s distinguished fellow and Citizen’s Platform’s core member Mustafizur Rahman said socioeconomic development is not possible leaving behind a large group of people in the country.

The Citizen’s Platform last year held dialogues with local people visiting different districts of the country. Based on the opinion of the people during these discussions, Citizen’s Platform has identified 11 issues and experts prepared policy recommendations. These briefs made thematic recommendations in the context of current socio-economic challenges, people’s expectations and upcoming national elections. Separate reports on education, health, climate change and social safety were presented in the event.

Ganasakkharata Avijan’s deputy director Mustafizur Rahman presented the paper on education. He said many underprivileged students are dropping out of school and quality of education is not being ensured in the country.

His recommendations to improve the education sector in the country include bringing 100 per cent schools under mid-day meal coverage, arranging training for teachers and enhancing the quality of textbooks.

Bangladesh Health Watch’s advisor Yasmin H Ahmed presented the paper on the health sector. She said good governance in the health sector is a big challenge. Commission business and middlemen increase the health cost.

She recommended producing raw materials of medicine in the country, increasing the competence of quality control organisations of the health sector, ending corruption and controlling the commission system.

East West University’s senior lecturer Eshtiaque Bari presented the paper on climate change. He recommended leveraging local experience in the fight against climate change.

Around Tk 40 billion had been allocated to the climate change trust fund in Bangladesh for 851 projects between 2009 and December 2022. Time has now come to review whether these projects are being of any use to the people, he added.

Dhaka University’s professor of development studies M Abu Yousuf said the top 1 per cent wealthy people control 25 per cent wealth of the country while the bottom 5 per cent are being poor.

He said there are 113 different social safety programmes in the country and these should be reviewed. A management information service (MIS) is needed for coordination among the social safety programmes to identify the actual beneficiaries.

The speakers opined that political will is necessary to implement the recommendations that have come up in the reports. These issues should be included in the electoral manifestos of political parties.

Ensuring inclusive development would be easier if a strong civil society and progressive bureaucracy work hand in hand.