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মঙ্গলবার, ১১ অগাস্ট ২০২০, ০৯:০২ অপরাহ্ন

The Way Forward: A Five-Point Program for National Renewal

Dr. Reza Kibria  :

  1. Preface

 

“You can be standing right in front of the truth and not necessarily see it, and people only get it when they’re ready to get it.”                                                                               George Harrison

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”                                                                             Thomas Jefferson

                                               

Many citizens of Bangladesh feel that as a nation we have lost our way. This sense of disillusionment is reflected in the common refrain, “is this the nation people fought so hard for (during the Liberation War of 1971)?” While we have made significant economic and social progress since then, rising inequality, the destruction of the institutions of the Republic, the pervasive culture of corruption, the breakdown of social values, and the deterioration in our physical environment have created a sense of gloom. A malaise pervades our politics, confrontation and repression blocking attempts to find solutions to national problems. Lip service is paid to principles that are flagrantly violated in practice. The people face a Government without accountability that seeks subjugation and subservience, and that fails to defend our national interests. The experience of the past decade in particular, has brought the deficiencies of the current framework of governance into sharp focus. Marginal adjustments and tinkering with a hopelessly flawed system will simply not be enough to create a free and prosperous nation. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the urgency of tackling the problems we face.

 

 

  1. Introduction

 

“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”                        Joseph Stalin

 

“When a nation has reached this point, it must either change its laws and mores or perish, for the well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.”     Alexis de Tocqueville

 

 

  1. This document presents a possible way forward for Bangladesh. It primarily represents the author’s views and while no claim is made for comprehensiveness, it covers key issues of public interest. In the absence of democratic processes, the articulation of the people’s opinions has been stifled, and so an attempt is made here to present ideas for consideration by our citizens. Detailed reform plans are not presented, for the sake of brevity and where inputs of expert opinion are required. This paper is largely prescriptive rather than descriptive, as many of the problems facing the nation are obvious.[2]

 

  1. It should be understood that the changes envisaged herein may require a transformation of the entire governance framework. Just as importantly, it will require a major shift in the mind-sets of our citizens, as well as the unlearning of patterns of behavior, ways of thinking and distorted value systems that have allowed an undemocratic culture to flourish. While some degree of public cynicism for Government is common in all democratic cultures, in Bangladesh public respect for politics and politicians has reached very low levels. Individuals of ability and integrity are unwilling to enter politics, which may involve risking their reputations and in rare cases, their lives. Intolerance and the brutal suppression of dissent, the culture of impunity that allows the misuse of power, the subservience of citizens to administrative officials and political leaders, the cult of the personality, and the failure to allow citizens to participate in the processes that determine how their lives will be governed – all these have become part of the political landscape under a system that masquerades as a democracy. Today the public is terrified of the Government, whereas in a truly democratic state, the Government is scared of public opinion.

 

  1. This paper is written against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world. A failed and unrepresentative Government, responsible for destroying the social fabric and the economy, is now faced with a crisis it is not equipped to handle. As it is widely distrusted it has been unable to develop the national unity to deal with the key tasks of containing the coronavirus, feeding the millions who have lost livelihoods and initiating economic recovery.

 

  1. Governing with a malevolence tempered only by incompetence, the current regime is unable or unwilling to effectively address the challenges our nation faces. Public policy is focused not on fulfilling the needs of the many, but on satisfying the insatiable greed of the few.

 

  1. The consequences of bad policies differ greatly: some affect all our citizens, others just a few; some can be corrected or their effects reversed in a few years, and others will require decades to fix and may cause hardship for generations to come. What is clear that great harm has been done and is being done to the nation by reckless and poorly-designed policies. However, there may be still time to take corrective actions and retrieve the future for our children and grandchildren. There is no time to lose.

 

  1. It is proposed that national renewal can begin around a 5 Point Program:

 

  1. The people of Bangladesh are the source of all political authority;

 

  1. Bangladesh shall be governed in the interests of all of its citizens;

 

  1. Freedom of speech and freedom of dissent shall be protected;

 

  1. No individual born into poverty shall be condemned to a life of poverty;

 

  1. We will leave our children a stronger, safer, healthier and more prosperous Bangladesh.

 

 

III. Objectives and Guiding Principles

 

 

“Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress.”

Robert F. Kennedy

 

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”                   Abraham Lincoln

 

 

  1. The core principles underlying the program of change outlined in this paper are presented here, together with the ultimate objectives of these reforms, essentially defining the nature of the new Bangladesh that is envisioned. Drawing on the experience of the past five decades, major changes in the Constitution will be needed to achieve the objectives set out below. The order in which these are presented should not be viewed as indicating their overall importance.

 

  1. Our citizens’ happiness is the ultimate goal of public policy. Without neglecting programs to improve economic and social indicators and meet citizens’ basic needs, actions to improve overall well-being will be taken. In the obsession with economic growth rates, policymakers have lost sight of distribution issues and the real purpose of all individual and collective endeavor. The 2019 UN World Happiness Report places Bangladesh in 125th position, just ahead of Iraq.[3] The ranking takes into account a variety of measures: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perceptions of corruption. For Bangladesh the obvious priority is to address the deficits in material needs of a significant part of our population, but wider measures of well-being need to be kept in mind. To achieve these improvements social sector policies will need to be coordinated with an over-arching vision of the ultimate objectives of economic and social development.

 

  1. All power is vested in the people of Bangladesh. Government will exercise authority only on behalf of and with the consent of the people of Bangladesh. Establishing the principle of people’s participation in governance at all levels is not only important for ownership of public policy, it is a direct check on the power of the political oligarchies that currently have a stranglehold on power. A liberal democratic framework is proposed, one in which the majority shall not infringe on the rights and privileges of minorities. The people’s will shall be reflected through free and fair elections. Representative democratic government requires an independent Election Commission (EC) headed by individuals of integrity and courage and capable of standing up to powerful political forces. The pre-conditions for free elections must also be established, through effective checks on accumulated black money, weapons, and intimidation of voters, officials and the media. The techniques of vote fraud developed in recent years will need to be countered and the voting system redesigned to ensure that effective audit and verification of results can be undertaken.[4] The role of money in politics has grown in even the oldest of democracies and while accepting that it cannot be totally eliminated, measures will be taken to contain money power in politics.

 

  1. The rule of law must exist in fact as well as in name. Justice must be assured for all citizens and not just the privileged few. An independent judiciary must operate to offer all citizens the protection of the law and ensure the rights enshrined in the Constitution. The role, activities and structure of law-enforcing agencies will also need to be fundamentally reformed.

 

  1. Checks and balances will be introduced that will reduce the dominance of the executive branch of the National Government. The “winner-takes-all” system has seen the nation lurching from one “elected dictatorship” to another. Reducing the swings of the political pendulum can be achieved through various means, notably: 1) Constitutional changes strengthening the power and independence of other branches of the National Government; 2) by creating regional counterweights to central political authority and possibly, the introduction of a system of proportional representation for a fraction of seats in Parliament. However, much will ultimately depend on the nature of the individuals heading the Government, as no system, however well-designed, is immune from the risk of being undermined by unscrupulous individuals. Term limits will be introduced for high office. Public institutions shall be made more professional and the problem of political influence in appointments (civil service, police, health system) will be addressed.

 

  1. Free speech and the right to dissent shall be protected. The public shall have access to information needed to evaluate the performance and activities of the Government through a comprehensive Right to Information Act. Except for issues relating to national security, laws and regulations restricting free speech such as the Digital Security Act 2016 will be rescinded and a national law protecting both professional journalists and those expressing views on social media shall be enacted, with such privileges limited only by the need to stop incitements to violence, harassment of individuals or communities and illegal activities such as the sale of drugs. All types of journalists and those expressing opinions in the public domain – the front line of the fight for democracy – shall be provided protection from every type of harassment.

 

  1. Decentralization of political power and resources to elected regional, municipal and local governments. This will entail a substantial change in the distribution of total budget resources from the current share of less than ten percent. Local governments will gradually take over important social spending functions and broaden their own resource mobilization, while at the national level the focus will be on supporting minimum national standards (education, health care and public safety). The Dhaka-centric system of resource allocation must be ended, and new centers of economic growth must be actively promoted.

 

  1. No discrimination on the grounds of religion, gender, disability or race will be tolerated in Government or society. All citizens shall be treated fairly and compassionately, giving weight to both their contributions to society and their needs. This is not only the only morally defensible position for our nation, but is also the principle that supports productive efficiency and optimal resource allocation.

 

  1. “Bangladesh First” will be the basis of all our dealings with foreign countries, individuals and commercial interests. The best interests of our nation shall be protected at all times in all multilateral and bilateral undertakings. Those responsible for protecting our interests will be chosen on the basis of integrity, merit and commitment to the nation.

 

  1. Equality of opportunity will be the right of every citizen. It shall be the duty of the State to ensure that those disadvantaged by poverty or disability shall be given every opportunity to avail of the public services and facilities that will ensure that they can achieve their full potential as human beings and maximize their contribution to the nation. This is difficult to achieve in practice as can be seen in the anomalies in the distribution of income and wealth that remain even in the most “socialist” of countries. However, this is the principle we should strive for. The current situation represents a deterioration of conditions before 1971, when education provided some possibility of social mobility for individuals from the least-advantaged communities. As a society, there is a tendency to under-invest in education, and this will be corrected through large scale investments in human capital.

 

  1. Social justice will be an important consideration in the design and imposition of taxes and the allocation of public funds. The State must play a role in alleviating natural and inherited inequities in the distribution of wealth, while ensuring that the incentives for work and entrepreneurship are not compromised. The orientation of the National Budget must be moved from the facilitation of rent-seeking by urban elites to one focused on inclusive and sustainable development. The Government will seek to ensure productive employment for all citizens (on the basis of a National Employment Program), and support measures to raise productivity so incomes are sufficient to allow them to lead lives of dignity and fulfillment. While the export of labor will continue, the focus of policies will be on: the upgradation of skills of migrant workers, and promoting investment to create more job opportunities within Bangladesh.

 

  1. The market will be the principle mechanism for economic management, supported by strong regulation to overcome areas of market failure, including monopolistic practices and restraints on competition. The operation of formal and informal cartels and all restraints on free trade shall be directly opposed by the State, which will seek to heighten competitive pressures, eliminate barriers to entry of new market. State participation in commercial enterprises will be confined to areas where “public goods characteristics” or considerations of national security make it the only cost-effective or practical solution (such as vaccination programs, public lighting and defense). This will also involve the withdrawal or commercialization of enterprises used over the past five decades for rent-seeking by political interests. In each area of public and private endeavor, regulation will be reviewed and streamlined and strong and effective inspectorates shall be created to protect the public interest.

 

  1. Corruption at all levels of Government will be systematically rooted out. This will require a change in the political culture, containing the role of money in politics and a systematic campaign (beginning at the primary school level) to ensure social opprobrium and non-acceptance of corruption. The acceptability of politicians turning into businessmen after gaining power must be challenged. Some difficult issues must be addressed directly: the size and scope of Government, the absence of checks on discretionary power, the need for transparency in the awarding of public contracts and the issue of compensation. The expanded use of IT will reduce the scope for rent-seeking through discretionary authority but much will depend on the leadership and transparency of public agencies. Public officials will be held accountable to a sworn Ethics Code which will cover all aspects of misconduct and require declarations of financial interest and conflicts of interest.

 

  1. Standards of public service delivery shall be set that will ensure that all citizens can have equal access to public services, regardless of status or wealth, and that transparency and value-for-money guidelines are met for all outlays. A Citizen’s Charter shall be promulgated that will mandate standards of service that all citizens shall be entitled to as well as strong mechanisms for redress of administrative wrongs.

 

  1. The interest of future generations of citizens shall be protected. In the pursuit of the welfare of the current generation the rights and interest of future generations need to be taken into account in all areas of policy including the environment, international and bilateral agreements, the utilization of non-renewable resources, infrastructure and power projects and financial and debt management policies. There are economic decisions (such as the savings/consumption trade-off, i.e., when current consumption is sacrificed in order to save and invest for the future) that involve explicit inter-temporal distribution choices. Even in the most representative of democracies, a significant portion of the citizens – i.e., children, who arguably have the biggest stake in policies that impact on the future – will obviously have no direct say in choosing those who govern. However, State policy-making will not ignore the interests of future generations.

 

 

 

  1. Sectoral Reform Priorities

 

 

 

 “While free markets tend to democratize a society, unfettered capitalism leads invariably to corporate control of government. “                                          Robert F. Kennedy

 

“For there is no other way to preserve what is good in the past other than by exorcising all that was bad in it”.                  Lee Kuan Yew

 

  1. The sectoral reform summaries presented below cover most key reform areas. However, they represent only broad outlines of possible policy reform directions. Some issues, such as the need to improve road safety, enforcement of building and safety codes, and the urgent need to ensure strong action to check crimes against women and children are not discussed explicitly as real progress in any of these areas will necessitate changes in social mores as well as improved governance. The over-arching problem is one of restoring public faith in the leadership and institutions of the Republic.

 

  1. Implementation of meaningful and sustainable reforms will need to be preceded by careful (but urgent and intensive, given the need for early action) sector reviews drawing on “the best and brightest” of specialists in each field, with representation from key stakeholders. While broad consensus must be reached on the shape and intent of reforms, full agreement can rarely be achieved, so that those who lead must develop workable coalitions for change. Those managing the overall reform program will also need to consider sequencing and time-frame issues. Reform in some areas may be a precondition for effective implementation in others, and reform priorities must reflect the importance of achieving at least some “quick wins” that will bolster support for long-term reforms where even large benefits are not immediately obvious.

 

The National Government

 

  1. In addition to the introduction of checks on executive authority, the roles of each branch will need to be more clearly defined. The executive will be accountable to the people directly (through free and fair elections) and indirectly through the legislature and judiciary. Legislators will focus on legislative activity and policy review rather than development activities. Parliamentary committees will be assigned greater powers including monitoring and overview functions. The problem of corruption at all levels will be dealt with, starting from the highest levels, moving away from the current system of targeting political opponents. The scale and range of central government operations will be reviewed to assess relevance and efficiency in terms of national objectives and the effectiveness of public service delivery, and wherever feasible the possibility for devolution (under the constitution) or decentralization of functions will be explored.

 

Sub-National Government

 

  1. Elected provincial and local governments will be provided with a phased increase of total budget resources, preceded by large-scale capacity development programs. This can be done on the basis of a Sub-National Government Reform Commission and implemented either through constitutional changes (as in Indonesia from 1999) or gradual increases in national budget allocations and devolution of functions. The system of municipal governments already in place will be strengthened further, while provincial governments of an appropriate size that will be responsible for major service delivery functions should be established. These reforms will have a three-fold purpose, as they will: 1) end the current Dhaka-centric system of administration by bringing Government closer to the people; 2) support economic decentralization, and 3) establish alternative centers of political power that will provide a check on central government power. To counter the risks of the misuse of the power of local elites, systems of central oversight (including audit and inspection) together with greater direct participation of ordinary citizens in the business of local governments will be needed.[5] The most important thing is that elected local governments be provided with adequate resources to undertake this wider range of functions, through the allocation of central government revenues and the mobilization of resources at the sub-national level. The administration of the country will also need to be fundamentally transformed in line with these new structures. Any devolution of power must be accompanied by mechanisms to ensure the broad consistency of standards of public service across regional jurisdictions and central intervention to deal with existing and emerging provincial disparities.

 

 

 

Economic Policy

 

  1. One of the most important changes will involve the re-orientation of economic and financial policies through restructuring of the National Budget. Incremental budgeting patterns that reflect incompetence and support for rent-seeking interests will be replaced by zero-plus budgeting where every proposed outlay will be assessed for relevance. This will involve curtailing subsidies and funding for special interests and tilting allocations towards human capital development, pro-poor programs (such as universal contributory insurance, employment generation and rural development.

 

  1. The fundamental principles of good budgeting – comprehensiveness, predictability, value for money, contestability (open competition for all national budget resources) and effective accountability – will need to be established. The restoration of discipline in government finances shall be given high priority, with sustainable fiscal deficit policies supported by controls on the build-up of debt and contingent liabilities (including liabilities under Public Private Partnerships). Fiscal consolidation efforts over the medium-term will focus on the elimination of waste and corruption in current and capital spending while reviewing the existing framework of fiscal incentives and taxation.

 

  1. The current shortcomings in the regulation and management of the banking and financial system shall be addressed through a major overhaul of the central bank and the framework of bank supervision. The enhanced regulation and monitoring of financial markets (including developments in financial technologies) will include measures to protect the interests of both consumers of financial products and the interests of potential foreign direct investment (FDI) entrants and investors in capital markets. Competition shall be the guiding principle of the operation of goods and services markets. Overall, fiscal and monetary policies shall be coordinated to support sustainable and inclusive growth, price stability and external competitiveness. These will be essential to achieve the diversification of the economy that has eluded the country so far.

 

Education

 

  1. Indicators of education quality (rather than mindless obsession with the “pass” rates of public examinations and percentages of GPA 5 examinees) point to a deterioration of standards at every level. Slipping standards in teaching and administration at public tertiary institutions has been obvious, with the media exposure of poorly-qualified political appointees being involved in corrupt practices and also failing to protect their students from political repression. The role of political affiliations in faculty appointments and the nature of student politics in general will be altered in order to initiate a revival of academic standards in our universities. The activities of the University Grants Commission in the regulation of private universities and financial support for universities also need to be re-evaluated. Other critical issues include the management of schools and high schools where parents’ and teachers’ representatives are dominated by local political leaders, and the widening gaps in quality between students of English-medium and Bengali-medium educational institutions, which may be solidifying frameworks of economic and social privilege.

 

  1. Globalization and the dominant role of English in trade, investment and IT, together with the need to upgrade the language skills of migrant labor need to be taken into account in modernizing educational curricula. There are no quick-fixes and short-cuts in developing a quality education system. The political leadership must be able to take a long-view (without many quickly perceptible rewards) if genuine improvement in educational standards are to be achieved. With human and social capital estimated to account for about three-quarters of the wealth of nations, improving education represents the biggest hope of future economic advancement, and the biggest challenge, facing our nation.[6]

 

Public Health

 

  1. Public trust in the quality of the health system is extremely low, with those who can afford it choosing to travel abroad to deal with even relatively minor medical problems. For the poor, healthcare is expensive relative to average incomes and any significant medical problem may force them to liquidate whatever assets they have and resort to moneylenders charging extortionate rates. Even in this sector has not been immune to politicization over the years, with entry to medical schools and appointments to public hospitals sometimes conditioned on political allegiance. An additional set of issues that has contributed to the deterioration in health has been air and water pollution, the contamination of agricultural land through excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and the contamination of food at the retail level through poor handling and hygiene practices and the use of dangerous chemicals such as formalin. All these problems cannot be tackled without a major overhaul of the system of governance in order to provide for the effective implementation of public health regulations.

 

  1. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the poor state of the public health system, with underfunding (on a per capita basis even by regional standards) compounded by mismanagement and corruption. Remuneration in the health sector also needs to be reviewed, together management of health facilities and national standards of training for doctors and nurses.

 

Law and Justice

 

  1. There is deep dissatisfaction with the way the legal system operates in Bangladesh, with long delays and slow case resolution, extra payments for common legal services, high costs of legal representation and public perceptions of widespread corruption. Most individuals and owners of small businesses feel that the protection of the law is the privilege of the rich and powerful. To restore confidence in the legal system a series of major reforms will be needed, covering such issues as compensation, physical and financial resources, and upgradation of skills and legal education. It will be important to assign the task of making judicial appointments to a Supreme Judicial Council, so that selection is on the basis of merit, seniority, experience and qualifications, rather than political loyalty. The quality and nature of the network of public prosecutors also needs to be improved. Penalties may be applied for cases brought purely for political harassment together with a standardized system of individual compensation (charged entirely to those convicted) for victims of crimes may be considered. Time limits for the disposal of different types of cases will be introduced.

 

Administration

 

  1. The administration and institutions of the Republic require fundamental reform. The centrality of professionalism, performance and merit will be restored in appointments and recruitment, and considerations of political affiliation largely eliminated. This is vital not only to restore the trust and respect of the people in institutions but to create frameworks for effective formulation and implementation of public policy. While the Executive shall have day-to-day control of the administration, the oversight role of Parliament shall be enhanced. Service conditions and compensation will be reviewed and the organization of the civil service shall be aligned with the restructuring of the Government that will be undertaken under reforms to strengthen sub-national governments.[7] As this administrative reform process will necessarily take many years to complete, interim structures for policy formulation and implementation will need to be created.

 

The Environment

 

  1. Bangladesh is one the nations that will be most affected by the problems stemming from climate change and the degradation of the global environment. While the solutions to the issues such as the acceleration of global warming lie in concerted international action, this should not be an excuse for inaction at the national level. The shortcomings in governance bear a significant part of the blame for the poor design and implementation of environmental policies. There are difficult trade-offs to be assessed – such as the need for jobs against the growth of the more polluting industries, and balancing the demand for electricity with the costs and choice of power-generation technologies. The absence of public debate and inadequate information on the consequences of public policy choices impacting on the environment are issues that will need to be urgently addressed following the restoration of democracy.

 

Public Safety and Security

 

  1. A significant part of the agencies of the Republic that are funded by taxpayers to provide them with safety and security are in practice used by the rulers of this country to harass, intimidate and in some cases physically harm the opposition. In return the Government takes no effective action against these agencies’ illegal activities including extortion, and rent-seeking. The security agencies’ role in maintaining the current regime in power in defiance of popular opinion has naturally led to a loss of public confidence. Fundamental changes in the leadership, ethos, systems of monitoring and control of security agencies will be needed. A system of Justices of the Peace or “Tribunes” may be established in each district who shall have the power to challenge the misuse of power and address citizens’ complaints.

 

National Security

 

  1. The main strength of Bangladesh, our population, needs to be more effectively harnessed in the defense of our nation. At the same time our conventional defense capability has to be upgraded and modernized – keeping in mind our limited budgetary financial means – to ensure that we can deal with any current and emerging threats to our sovereignty.

 

Foreign Policy

 

  1. Our foreign policy will be formulated on the principle of “Bangladesh First”. While maintaining friendly relations with other nations, the best interests of the people of our nation must always be paramount. There has been a failure to build up and mobilize a network of powerful and friendly international interests willing to support our foreign policy objectives. This has become glaringly obvious over the past decade, notably with regard to the issue of the Rohingya refugees. Multilateral and regional commitments will be assessed on the basis of our long-term national interests and bilateral relations will be governed by a clear understanding of mutual benefits and genuine reciprocity. The quality and range of our diplomacy must be enhanced. This will be done on the basis of a strategic policy review and a comprehensive survey of the organization and operational effectiveness of our diplomatic service as well as a bi-yearly strategic policy review. Non-diplomatic service ambassadorial appointments will be vetted and service conditions as well as standards for recruitment and in-service training for the diplomatic service will be enhanced.

 

  1. Conclusion

 

 “Despair is typical of those who do not understand the causes of evil, see no way out, and are incapable of struggle.”          V. I. Lenin

 “It looks pretty hopeless, but we must not give in”.

Field Marshal Blucher to his troops just before his victory at the Battle of Waterloo

 

 

  1. As stated at the outset, no claim is made for comprehensiveness of issues or even the representativeness of the views expressed in this paper. The intention is to set out possible reform policy positions which need to be validated by the people of this nation through broad-ranging public debate. Perhaps nothing much can happen unless our people get the chance to express their views freely, and feel their views will resonate in the corridors of power.

 

  1. There is a widespread perception that the entire “system” has become distorted and corrupt. Those in power who should be guiding national policies towards sustainable, equitable economic and social development, now spend much of their time seeking private gain. The most difficult challenge will be to overcome powerful and dangerous interests that have used the breakdown of accountability to rob the nation and transfer their ill-gotten gains abroad. These dark forces have stifled freedom and creativity and used murder, forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and false cases to try to silence their critics.

 

  1. The scale of changes needed to bring the nation back on track to good governance, the rule of law and inclusive and sustainable growth, is indeed quite forbidding. However, we must ask ourselves whether the difficulty of the task before us should be a justification for inaction. Perhaps the current Covid-19 crisis will help create the impetus for undertaking fundamental changes in the way our nation is run. Those who see the courage, patriotism and talent of the young people of Bangladesh are optimistic about the future. It is this new generation that will lead the nation out of darkness towards a future in which the pledges of 1971 – of freedom, social justice and equality of opportunity – can finally be redeemed.

 

Dhaka, March, 2020

[1] I dedicate this paper to my mother Asma Kibria (the artist, who died after a long battle with illness in 2015) and my father Shah A. M.S Kibria (who served the nation as Foreign Secretary, and Finance Minister, was also UN Under-Secretary General, assassinated in 2005).  Their courage, sense of duty and love for Bangladesh still inspire me. I am indebted to Dr. Kamal Hossain, for his patient guidance and encouragement since my first days at Oxford.  Sultan M. Zakaria painstakingly reviewed this paper and provided thoughtful comments. My wife Simi Kibria, friends Dr. Zubaidur Rahman, Mrs. Nargis Rahman also reviewed this draft and provided helpful comments. The responsibility for any remaining errors and omissions is of course entirely my own.

[2] Some of the problems were covered in a 1996 report which was the product of a large group of Bangladesh experts, “Government That Works: Reforming the Public Sector”, (World Bank/UPL). As Coordinating Author and Lead Consultant for the report (responsible for drafting large sections) I note with dismay that many problems discussed in that report remain still exist or have worsened.

[3] Various indicators of happiness (drawing on the work of John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, the late King of Bhutan H.M. Jigme Wangchuk, Prof. Richard Layard and others) are now used around the world. The first UN World Happiness report released in April 2012 served as a foundation text for the 2012 UN High Level Meeting, Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.

[4] The use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), shunned by the most advanced democracies with widely respected frameworks of governance, should be discontinued until such time as the possibility of fraud in such technologies is eliminated.

[5] The system of local government in the United Kingdom may be a useful model in designing such reforms.

[6] See: Where is the Wealth of Nations, World Bank (2006). This study attempted to decompose the wealth of 120 countries into its component pieces: produced capital, natural resources and human resources.

[7] Reforms will draw on the experience of countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Singapore.


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