4 YEARS OF GOVT
Many promises not keptKhadimul Islam
The Awami League-led alliance assumed office this day four years ago with lofty promises amid great expectations of people but the government has so far mostly failed to live up to such expectations.
Many of the pledges the ruling Awami League made at the time of 2008 general elections have remained unfulfilled. Good governance has remained elusive, the rule of law is yet to be established and rights violations continue to be rampant as the government steps into the final of its five years today.
The Awami League pledged to ease the burden of price spiral, one of its five major priorities, but consumers needed to pay 13 per cent more on an average for goods and services in 2012, according to the Consumers Association of Bangladesh.
A preliminary report of the Nutrition, Health and Demographic Survey of Bangladesh 2011 said that about 25 per cent households were facing food crisis.
The Awami League’s other priorities were the establishment of good governance and strict enforcement of human rights, ending extrajudicial killings and keeping the police and other law enforcers above political influence to provide security for every citizen.
Dhaka-based rights watchdog Ain o Salish Kendra on December 30, 2012 said that the overall human rights situation in the year was ‘alarming’ while law and order was ‘frustrating.’ It also said that oppression on and violence against women and children had increased in the past four years.
According to another Dhaka-based rights group Odhikar, three people disappeared in 2009 compared with 18 in 2010; And in 2011, the number of people who disappeared shot up to 30 while 24 people political and labour leaders disappeared in 2012.
The Awami League pledged, under an employment guarantee scheme, to provide at least one young person of a family with employment for 100 days. But the number of unemployment and underemployment kept increasing every year.
According to the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the existing unemployment and underemployment rate hovered over 40 per cent while about two million people join the labour force every year.
The report of the latest Labour Force Survey, of 2010, carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics said that number of jobless people had increased to 26 lakh in 2010, up from 21 lakh three years ago.
The Awami League before the 2008 elections promised an ‘effective action against corruption’ saying that ‘multi-pronged measures to fight corruption will be put in place. Powerful people will have to submit wealth statements every year. Strict measures will be taken to eliminate bribe, extortion, rent-seeking and corruption.’ All the promises have belied the ground reality.
Big scams involving the Padma Bridge project, the railway, the Hallmark Group and the Destiny Group detected in 2012 have questioned the transparency and credibility of the Awami League government.
What is more alarming is that some ministers and high government officials were found involved in at least three such scams although the Anti-Corruption Commission inquiries failed to catch big shots.
The government neither moved to appoint an ombudsman to promote good governance by fighting corruption nor ensured the disclosure of wealth statements and sources of income of the prime minister, ministers, lawmakers and members of their families every year.
The biggest-ever fund embezzlement by the little-known Hallmark Group overshadowed the country’s ‘mixed performance’ on the economic front in 2012.
The growth rate of export earnings continued to slow down in the first five month— from July to November — of the current financial year.
The share of loans and advances to the manufacturing sector has also declined over the years from the 2008 financial year to the 2012 financial from 27 per cent to 23 per cent, according to the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
Promises for strict measures to eliminate bribe and corruption remained on paper as the Anti-Corruption Commission expressed concern about its authority and freedom to contain corruption.
According to the latest survey report of the Transparency International, Bangladesh, released in the past week said that bribery rate in the public and private sectors had doubled in two years. The health sector is the only exception where corruption has significantly increased to 40.2 per cent from 33.2 per cent over the period.
The government pledged a comprehensive, long-term policy on electricity and energy. But the government drew public criticism for its controversial policy allowing unsolicited quick rental power plants to tackle nagging power outages.
Data available with the power division show that quick rental power plants set up by mostly the ruling party people ate up more than 80 per cent of the subsidy on power although they could feed about 10 per cent of the electricity to the national grid.
The government could not enact the civil service law aimed at making the administration more accountable and transparent despite efforts in the past four years but has extended the retirement age to the benefits of public servants.
The local government system remained dysfunctional in the past four years as the government preferred to keep upazila and union councils under the control of lawmakers and appointed partisan administrators to district councils without holding elections.
Most of the pledges including a separate pay scale for teachers, elimination of illiteracy by 2014 and the highest budgetary allocation to the education sector, made in the election manifesto of the ruling Awami League remain unfulfilled.
The implementation of the National Education Policy 2010 is going on at a snails pace and many key elements of the policy were yet to be addressed, said members of the policy implementation committee.
The introduction of Primary School Certificate, Junior School Certificate examinations and distribution of free school textbooks, however, earned praise from all.
The agriculture sector also witnessed success with bumper crop production keeping prices of rice more or less stable. The growers, however, complained about not getting fair prices of what they produced.
Provisions for increasing the number of reserved seats to 100 for women to be elected to the parliament by direct vote are yet to be made.
The expansion and modernisation of the railway is still elusive although the government increased fares by more than 100 per cent. Traffic congestion continued to cause suffering to the people in cities and towns.
The government has failed to ensure safe drinking water for all and is far from achieving its target to provide sanitation facilities for every household with only a year left for it to serve out its tenure.
The independence of the lower judiciary remains on paper as neither a separate secretariat has yet been set up to establish the Supreme Court’s control over the lower judiciary nor any legal instrument has been framed for the appointment of Supreme Court judges.
The government in the past four years has taken no tangible initiative in this regard although Awami League in its election manifesto pledged that the ‘genuine independence and impartiality of the judiciary will be ensured.’
A record number of cases were withdrawn as they were ‘politically motivated’ and a record number ruling party men won presidential clemency.
On a bilateral plane, the government failed to make any headway in resolving the longstanding issues with India such as the sharing of the Teesta water and the settlement of boundary and enclave issues although New Delhi got passage for its over dimensional cargoes through Akhaura to Agartala for installing its power plant at Palatana.
The government earned criticism for the immature handling of the Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus issue that led to a cold relation between Dhaka and Washington.
Bangladesh’s win in the maritime boundary case with Myanmar, however, restored Dhaka’s legitimate claim top the Bay of Bengal and it would allow the government to explore untapped marine resources within the country’s territorial waters.
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