April 23, 2007

Busting some national myths

Today seems to be a good day to bust a few national myths. So here goes, in no particular order:

Myth: “Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are the root of all our troubles. Minus-2 will solve all our problems”
Fact: While these two have definitely contributed a lot to our woes with their personal animosity, their support for corrupt elements and their exclusionary politics, they are by no means solely to blame. Bangladesh has severe structural problems, not least of which is the fact that the judiciary is not independent enough to tackle corruption and the law is not clear enough to draw the line between corruption and legal behaviour.

Myth:“I am the daughter of the father of the nation. I should be allowed back into my country”
Fact: It is about time that Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Wajed stopped using her father’s name for anything. The only reason I support her right to return is because she is a citizen of Bangladesh. We all know who your father was, we respect him and pray for his departed soul. What have you done to deserve our respect? Besides, is being a citizen of our country not privilege enough?

Myth: "Like father, like son".
Fact: A theory disproven since the Prophet Ibrahim! Bangladeshis, please, PLEASE, stop believing in it and voting accordingly. And yes, feel free to substitute the words “daughter” where appropriate!

Myth: "BNP is the enemy of democracy and introduced dictatorship in Bangladesh."
Fact: As much as I admire Mujib, it was unfortunately his move to create BAKSAL that destroyed all semblances of democracy in our country. Democracies need a minimum of two sides. One-party states are thus inherently undemocratic.

Myth: "BNP will protect us from India, AL won’t."
Fact: Neither party has a coherent, intelligent foreign or international trade policy, not just with India but with any country. BNP-sympathisers complains about India turning Bangladesh into a “captive market”, but when India cuts off food exports, we complain loudly! Either we trade with India or we don’t, no one is forcing us to keep our borders open!
Here’s something to think about: non-tariff barriers. These are the single biggest impediments towards increasing our trade with India. Can’t we make moves on the diplomatic front at all to get India to reduce these? Do we not hold any of the cards? Answer is of course we do! But who’s using them? Instead of linking things like Tata’s investment to reducing tariff barriers, what our bureaucrats would rather do is milk the deal for all it’s worth. If you could get these non-tariff barriers down, we could get to the Indian market. Which by the way is what every American and European company has been dying to get into!

Myth: "Only politicians are corrupt."
Fact: Corruption in a significant part of society forces other parts to become corrupt as well. If a policeman needs to pay one lakh to get a job, s/he will definitely try to make it back. Similarly if a politician asks for money to not hinder even the simplest of business deals, then the entrepreneur must make it back somehow. If a professor needs to toe the party line to get appointed in state-run universities, s/he will expect students to do the same. Corruption breeds corruption. Let’s face facts: we have all gone through a terrible time in our history where people had to do what they did to survive. Should we punish them all? Or only the biggest offenders?

Myth: "1/11 changed everything"
Fact: While evidence is still pending, the post-emergency CTG so far has not acted in fundamentally different ways than its predecessors - except perhaps on the above point where it has tried to get a coherent foreign and international trade policy going. The CTG is plagued with the same insularity (they are hostile to every other power centre), lack of transparency (we have no idea who is taking the decisions and who is enforcing those decisions) and accountability (if decisions are successful, who do we reward? If not, who do we ask to step down?). Until these three problems are solved, I’m afraid it’s just another false dawn for Bangladesh.

1 comment:

Fugstar said...

neat post.

Sad how its just business as usual in the manner press coverage.