PM’s misleading claim
THE claim that the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, made on Wednesday, i.e. the Awami League-led political incumbents ‘have implemented what we committed [and] in some areas... implemented more than what we pledged’, appears to be misleading at best and a deliberate denial of reality at worst. According to a report published in New Age on Thursday, when addressing a press conference at her office, she referred to the government’s success in widening internet connectivity to the union headquarters in the past four years although it pledged to take internet services to the upazila headquarters, in support of her claim. The prime minister also mentioned that power generation had been increased to 6,500 megawatts although the government had promised 5,000MW. While it remains questionable how effective the widening of internet coverage has actually been, the private rental and quick rental power plants, which have decidedly constituted a major component in the government’s drive at increasing power generation, seems to have done more harm than good. According to experts appointed by the state to review the sixth Five Year Plan, the fuel- and energy subsidy-guzzling rental plants have been responsible for slower GDP growth and higher inflation.
Suffice it to say, widened internet coverage and increased power generation were only two among a long list of promises that the Awami League, the lead component of the ruling alliance, made before the December 2008 general elections. ‘Measures... to reduce the unbearable burden of price hike and keep it in tune with the purchasing power of the people’ was the first of the party’s top five priority issues. Regrettably, however, according to available estimates, the overall cost of living has only gone up in the past four years or so while the real income of the people at large has remained largely static or gone down, not least because of the raging inflation, thanks to the flawed policies of the incumbent government. The Awami League also promised ‘multi-pronged measures to fight corruption’ but, according to the latest national household survey by the Transparency International Bangladesh, the amount spent illegally in 13 service sectors went up to Tk 21,955.6 crore, which 13.6 per cent of the current national budget and 2.4 per cent of the gross domestic product.
The less said about the government’s self-professed commitment to the rule of law, the better. Extrajudicial killing by members of the police, the Rapid Action Battalion and some other law enforcement agencies has continued, and so have enforced disappearances and custodial deaths. Meanwhile, law and order has been on a sharp decline, with increase in frequency and ferocity of different crimes — murder and rape, abduction and extortion, robbery and mugging, and what have you. To make matters worse, leaders and activists of the ruling party and its front organisations have been increasingly involved in crime, with law enforcers unable or unwilling to bring them to justice. Meanwhile, the ruling party’s promise for 100 per cent net enrolment at the primary level of education and pure drinking water for all by 2011 seems to have gone by default. The government is also unlikely to come good on its pledge to provide sanitation facility in every house by 2013.
Needless to say, these are the obvious few cases where the AL-led government has apparently failed to live up to its pre-election promises. Against such a backdrop, the prime minister’s claim of delivering on all her promises and more risks being construed by people at large as a denial of ground reality, if not deliberate deception. It is unfortunate indeed.
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