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Bangladesh - September 24, 2023

Country’s economy in turmoil

Farhad Chowdhury: Right now, the country’s economy is facing tough challenges. Export earnings are not increasing. Expatriate income is down. Investment stagnated. Shortage in gas-electricity supply in factories too. The government is not able to handle the situation by fixing the prices of daily commodities and importing them. Ministers say syndicates are destabilizing the market.
But unable to catch that syndicate. The Consumer Protection Department sometimes catches scammers. But the mafias remain elusive. Meanwhile, thousands of crores of taka are being smuggled abroad. The volume of defaulted loans has broken all previous records. But the government is unable or unwilling to take action against them.
For so long, government policy makers have not wanted to admit that there is a problem in the country. Any private survey and research report would be blown away by them. But after ruling the country for 15 years continuously, the government is realizing that the economy is not doing well. For this they are taking the advice of economists.
Last Thursday, Bangladesh Bank Governor and Finance Ministry officials sat with economist and former caretaker government advisor Wahiduddin Mahmud. He said, ‘Government and banks cannot be given loans by printing money. Rather, the government should focus on increasing exports and expatriate income.
But how will export earnings and expatriate earnings increase, if there is no political stability in the country. Politics in Bangladesh is always unstable and uncertain. The uncertainty is increasing with the parliamentary elections ahead. The government and the opposition are in a standoff over the election. The government says that the election will be held under the current constitution. The opposition party claims that there will be no election with the current government in power.
The two sides have been fighting each other for a year. There are so many problems in the country, politicians have no problem with this. They think that all problems will be solved only if they can stay or come to power.
Ahead of BNP’s road march in Bhairab on Thursday, the party’s standing committee member Gayeshwar Chandra Roy has sought a commitment from the leaders and workers whether they are ready to go for strike-blockade in future if necessary to topple the government. They raised their hands and said they are ready. Another member of the party’s standing committee, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, said, “Tsunami should be created in Chittagong to send out the vote thieves.”
On the other hand, the leaders of the government party said that any program that destroys the peace of the people will be suppressed with strong hands. The problem is that with the change of power in our country, the definition of peace also changes. Today Awami League’s hartal-blockade program destroys peace. However, being in the opposition party, they have always carried out such programs.
I think, if the BNP and its like-minded political parties give strict programs like hartal-blockade, the government will not sit. Awami League leaders and activists used to keep the streets hot with peace marches during the opposition party’s hartal in the late 1990s. There was conflict between the two groups.
Looking at BNP’s continuous program, it seems that they don’t want to spend more time. It wants to be finalized by October, before the election schedule is announced. The Election Commission is giving a glimpse of announcing the schedule at the beginning of November. The ruling Awami League is also making vigorous preparations for the elections.
The question is how the election will be? 2014 and 2018 models? The 2014 model is elections with the majority of registered parties on the ballot. If the government does not want such a one-sided election, then they have to come to an understanding with the opposition parties. It can be within the constitution or by amending the constitution. The 1991 elections were held under the dictator Ershad’s constitution.
In this case, the Election Commission is also responsible. Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal has said several times that the election will not be participatory unless a big party like BNP participates. But the countrymen also want to know what they are doing to make the election participatory. But the BNP initially did not want to come to the polls during the army-backed caretaker government.
If the result of participating in the elections is a repeat of 2018, then why the opposition party will go to the elections. Awami League leaders and ministers promised fair and free elections, but the opposite is happening. If thousands of leaders and workers of a party have to go around with millions of cases, how will they choose?
Just as leaders from both sides were heating up the streets over the election, news came that the European Union would not be sending a full observer team to the election. They said that it is not clear at the moment whether the necessary conditions will be fulfilled during the national elections of Bangladesh. In a letter written to the Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal, EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley informed about the decision.
On the other hand, the US pre-observation team is coming from October 7 to 13. They will check whether they will send observers to the election in Bangladesh or not. Awami League and BNP have sent a joint delegation from Bangladesh to observe an election in another country, is it possible to think of such a thing?
Bangladesh’s political leadership has not been able to reach a consensus on elections in 52 years.
For this, they ran to foreign diplomats. Foreign diplomats also flock here. Are these not shameful for us? The current election crisis in the country is actually a crisis of democracy. If we cannot hold a free, fair and inclusive election even in 2024, conflict is inevitable. And in that street conflict, whoever wins Awami League or BNP, the people and democracy of Bangladesh will lose.
On Friday, the US State Department announced that the United States has begun imposing visa restrictions on people who obstructed the democratic election process in Bangladesh. It includes members of law enforcement, ruling and opposition political parties. Now the question to the country’s political leaders, will they sit together to solve the crisis, or choose the path of conflict?

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