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A Losing Scheme?

Bangladeshis now top the list of boat-riding asylum seekers in Europe. More and  more Bangladeshis took the perilous boat ride for Europe. Thousands more await on Libyan shores to set off a clandestine journey.

According to International Organization for Migration, just end of March this year around 3000 Bangladeshis sought refuge in Italy.

What garnered lots of interest to everyone is that Bangladesh is not ravaged by war.Yet thousands of its youths risk their lives to reach their dream destinations in Europe.

This is purely a governance crisis. Lack of employment opportunities , social security system and proper guidance led them to embark on such a precarious journey.

It tarnished image of a government that boasts its higher GDP growth, swollen forex reserve and increasing flow of remittances.

Migration itself does not improve a country’s image. People migrate because of political and economic reasons.

Since Bangladesh earns lots of remittances from migrant workers,  Bangladesh in general encourages migration.

As long as people going abroad and sending money , Bangladesh is ok with it. It does not trouble Bangladesh whether the recruitment  is done in a transparent way or the migrant worker is exploited or traffickers are taking advantage of loopholes in govt policies.

Outside Bangladesh, dilapidated conditions of Bangladeshi refugees will certainly raise some unpleasant questions. Why are they leaving their home? If Bangladesh’s economy is doing well why are so many Bangladeshis taking such a risky journey? Why did Bangladeshi authority fail to stop these modern day Vikings? Why is Bangladesh not taking stringent measures against the human traffickers?

Governance situation in Bangladesh has degenerated in recent years. Rule of Law index, prepared by a US think tank, aptly captures it. Bangladesh is ranked 113 in 2016.

Opposition parties are cornered. Presspeople are harassed on spurious charges. People are being killed for holding different views and taking anti-populist sides on different issues. NGO operations have come under greater scrutiny. Laws are passed to contain NGO operations.

NGOs have been successful in creating employment in rural areas. These employment generation activities have come to a halt due to lack of fund and government obstruction.

Investors are extra cautious about going ahead with their investment plan at this uncertain time and in a country where corruption is in virulent strain.

This clandestine trade has been going on for some years with the tacit support of the elites of the society. There is no doubt about it.

Two years ago Rohingyas’ perilous plight to Malaysia shocked everyone. That should be a wake up call for the government. It did not turn any stone to tackle the trafficking issue.

No responsible minister took any responsibility. Govt remained silent without realizing the gravity of the incident.

Result is obvious. Another tragedy unfolds in farther afield.

And now when hapless Bangladeshis made headlines abroad we notice lackluster reaction from the govt.

It is quite surprising that traffickers are doing their jobs at great ease here. Perhaps those holding secured perch in overseeing this get  their fair pound of flesh.

One tragedy is enough to call for govt’s urgent action. If that did not happen  in the wake of another tragedy, then we need to call into question the need of that govt in our lives.

Migration of people  itself should be viewed as a sign of people’s disapproval of a dysfunctional country. It sounds a strong statement at first. However a closer examination throws some weight behind such statement.

The country of origin fails to a great extent to meet the need of its citizens. Sometimes the country itself plays the role of an oppressor. Stakeholders of the country do not manage to resolve the political differences among them. The resulting imbroglio often causes uncertainty and despair among the left-out.

Sometimes incompetence in managing the economy leaves a great number of people outside the mainstream economy.

Inadequate policy measures and lack of clear vision do not bring out the left-outs on board.

They  lose the trust in the country of origin and migrate to somewhere else. This is  tantamount to endorsement of a failed state.

A country does not only make up with men in uniform , men in white collars, men in blue collars, men with  mustache, men in keffiyeh, men with skullcaps, ladies in pink sarees, ladies in silk sarees, ladies in hand spun sarees, teens in lehengyas, boys in jeans, men with trimmed beard, men with untrimmed beards, men with shaven chicks, veiled women, women in pencil heels, shisha smokers, foreign  weapons, foreign  soap operas , eye in the sky, tanks, 3D Navy, banks with abundant cash,banks without cash, SUVs, jumbo jets, wi fi hot spots, multiplexes, party pets, foreign pets, pirated software, pirated books, pirates in patriots’ boots, eye dazzling forex reserve, morality police, watchmen, fearmongers, soothsayers, eavesdroppers, secret cult like organizations, agency run pleasure houses, boot lickers, loyalists, anarchists, orthodox men, promises of FDI, duty free luxury goods and sky scrappers.

A country needs to exist in people’s hearts.

What is its worth if more and more people consider it a losing scheme?

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

(9 juin — 16 juin)

Glissement de terrain a tué environ 152 personnes, dont 5 soldats de l’armée de la terre, à Chittagong Hill Tracts. La pluie torrentielle a provoqué cette tragédie.

L’autorité américaine a appréhendé un diplomate bangladais pour avoir torturé sa bonne. Ministère des Affaires étrangères de Bangladesh a appelé l’ambassadeur des États-Unis chez ministère et demandé explication. Il a été accordé la mise en liberté provisoire après avoir payé une caution de $50.000.

L’armée de l’air a signé accord avec la Russie pour livrer 5 hélicoptères MI 171Sh. Ils seront armés avec «Shturm» ,missile anti-char de combat. Les blogs de défense «bdmilitary» et «QUWA» ont corroboré la nouvelle.

L’ambassade de la Chine met l’accent sur réalisation des projets signés pendant visite officielle de Xi Jinping en utilisant les crédits commerciaux. Les crédits commerciaux demandent plus d’ intérêt que les crédits gouvernementaux. Donc, la désir chinoise a causé assez de soucis dans le gouvernement bangladais.

Don’t Tax The Future

English medium schools  have fallen prey to govt’s 15% VAT in the proposed budget.

There is little hope that govt will change its decisions in this matter.

In a post budget press conference Finance Minister M A Muhit made it clear that he would not reconsider his decision and he would go ahead with 15% VAT on English medium schools.

Govt justified its stance by saying that the wealthy of the society send their children to English medium schools. So the schools will not have much trouble to pay the VAT.

But govt perception has some holes. The middle class also send their children to English medium schools.

The urban middle class see these schools as a mean to get world class education. They think the schools recruit the best teachers in Bangladesh.

In the face of spiraling fees, they may not send their kids to English medium schools.

So govt decision will make the English medium schools exclusively for the rich.

I see this VAT on English schools as a punitive tax on the middle class. It will discourage them to avail education at English schools.

Moreover govt decision is directly influencing the choices of individuals.

If a person thinks one’s kid will get the best education in English schools, then the govt should not meddle in that decision.

John Stuart Mill in his “On Liberty” wrote:” The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of individuals composing it; and a state which postpones the interest of their mental expansion and elevation to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives in details of business; a state which dwarfs its men , in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes — will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.”

Why does the govt want to dwarf its own citizens?

More and more govt appears to be an obstructionist rather than a pioneer in introducing uniform policies in education.

Rather than VAT, govt should concentrate who should operate theses English medium schools and how  they could do so.

Since most of the problems  faced by these schools stem from these two key areas.

A rent-seeking class eye it as a source of generating steady stream of revenues. The latest move will provide them another opportunity to hike school fees.

On many occasions it has been found that this rent-seeking class has strong ties with political elites.

Industry insiders have also a note of  caution for the govt. Many schools may be out of operation as rising  costs may increase their operational costs manifolds and higher fees may affect attracting  new students.

These schools remain a source of decent jobs for university graduates.

Closure of schools will have adverse impacts on employment. This year govt targets to create more job opportunities. In that light , too, this 15% VAT on English Schools seems to be contradictory to govt objective.

A year ago govt tried to impose VAT on private university fees. We witnessed spontaneous protests from students.

The students held sit-ins and asphyxiated key roads. Their message “No VAT On Education” is literally visible on every car and wall. In the wake of their agitation, govt finally gave in and revoked its decision.

Govt seems pretty receptive to anarchist cry. However it does not heed peaceful and reasonable protest.

Patience of parents of students studying in English medium schools may not run thin unlike the private university students.

But the move will eventually antagonize a section of vote bank.

From itching utility bills to soaring prices of kitchen commodities, govt’s revenue-building policies did not give any comfort to these parents.

This latest VAT row will further complicate the matter squeezing almost their empty pockets.

If govt is really want to create a knowledge based society then how this extra burden on schools will help it to achieve that goal.

Rather it can trim the defense purchase. What is the point of increasing the number of wage employees in fatigues that fully depend on govt in bearing expenses?

There is no rush to go for defense shopping right now since we have good relations with all our neighbors and there is no big international crisis looming over.

It is a laudable move from the government to introduce English as a medium to answer the questions of Bangladesh Civil Service examinations.

It did that so that English medium school students could sit for public exams.

For the middle class who could barely afford school fees of these schools, having their children a quality education is a dream.

And govt has no right to spoil that dream.

Govt should trash the idea of imposing 15% VAT on schools. Instead it should focus on ways that help molding uniform education policy.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

(2 juin —- 9 juin)

Police est train d’essayer à appréhender journaliste bangladais Afsan Chowdhury pour  commentaire  dans son compte de Facebook.

Dans son compte, il s’est dit qu’un de coupables de Raintree Hotel scam était fils de Général Masud , ancien chef de Task Force contre crime et corruption du gouvernement intérimaire.  Il est aussi patron de «Picasso Restaurant ».

Le Général a porté plainte contre le journaliste en utilisant section 57 de la loi de l’informatique.
La section 57 a été utilisée pour harceler les journalistes, les bloggeurs et les dissidents.

Plateforme des partis islamistes Hefajet-i-Islam s’en est pris à avocat  Sultana Kamal. Elle a été ciblée pour son commentaire dans une causerie télévisée. Hefajet a aussi menacé de l’attaquer.

Une Américaine a été tuée à Tongi. Son mari possède un restaurant à New York. C’est la deuxième fois elle a été ciblée. La force élite RAB a appréhendé le tueur présumé depuis Dhaka.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

( 26 mai — 2 juin)

Je n’ai pas pu finir «La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux» à l’heure parce que je suis tombé malade . J’ai mal à la tête et de la fièvre. Je me suis enrhumé aussi. Par ailleurs , le mois de jeûne a commencé ici. On jeûne presque 15 heures chaque jour.

Cyclone «Mora» a frappé  la région littorale de Cox’s Bazaar en laissant 6 personnes mortes. Le bilan préalable indique presque 52.000 maisons ont subi des dégâts.

A Rangamati, la tuerie mystérieuse d’un dirigeant du parti en exercice a déclenché attaque contre les maisons des indigènes.  Presque  300 maisons y ont été rasées.

A  Narayanganj Police a trouvé une cache d’armes dans un canal. Il semble que la cache d’armes, dont des lance-roquettes et des mitrailleuses, appartienne aux sécessionnistes indiennes.

Le gouvernement a présenté budget pour la prochaine année fiscale. Une surtaxe de Tk 800 dans les comptes bancaires a causé polémique dans la presse.  Une TVA uniforme a aussi mis en colère les hommes d’affaires.

Le bruit court que Bangladesh va bientôt signer accord de $ 1 milliard avec la Chine pour acheter des appareil de combat. Selon le blog militaire «bdmilitary», Bangladesh a envie d’acheter 16 exemplaires de J10 B, 7 exemplaires de K8W, 1 exemplaire de Y 20 et 1 exemplaire de K J 200. Dans le budget actuel, le budget de défense témoigne une augmentation de Tk 20 milliards.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

( 19 mai —- 26 mai)

Un dirigeant du BNP a été tué par balles à Khulna. La tuerie s’est déroulée chez bureau. Son père et frère ont aussi trouvé la mort dans la même façon. La famille de victime a reproché la Police pour la tuerie. Néanmoins Police rend les ultras responsable pour la tuerie.

Un blogeur  a succombé aux blessures , issues d’une explosion de climatiseur. Il était aussi ingénieur. Il y a un mois il a été blessé. Mais la presse n’a pas divulgué son identité de blogeur. Après sa mort dans un hôpital , le site numérique où il blogait a divulgué que Utpal Chakravarty écrivait dans le blog du site. Dans son dernier récit, il s’en est pris à commercialization du cours privé pour inscription dans une écloe de médecin.

Une incendie mystérieuse a causé assez dégâts aux Sundarbans, la mangrove plus grande dans la region. L’incendie a complètement détruite une partie de Sundarbans.

Le sculpteur qui a mis en place la statue de Thémis dans la Cour d’appel l’a démantelée .  Hefajet-i-Islami, plateforme des partis islaistes, a critiqué la statue et demandé à l’enlever. Les fidèles des partis gauchistes sont descendus dans la rue en écoutant la nouvelle et se sont insurgés contre le pas.

Des gens ont évincé «Kashmiri Camp», un quartier d’urduphones à Mirpur 11. En signe de protestation les urduphones ont manifesté leurs mécontents dans les rues à Mirpur 11.

My Two Cents On NGO Fund

Bangladesh’s leading think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) called for a Tk 1 billion fund for local NGOs ahead of next fiscal budget. In a press conference CPD exhorted creation of a trust fund that will help the government to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This demand was made amid severe fund shortage as foreign sources are drying out and as govt creates all sorts of obstacle in the normal functioning of NGOs.

Government seems to have some issues with NGOs. Recently it introduced policies that indicate it is less interested to allow them operating freely in this country. A quarter within the government tried to cast aspersions on NGO activities. Some people like to term them as extended arm of extra-constitutional force.
Clearly, mistrust and fear drive a wedge between the govt and the NGOs.

In October 13 2016 it introduced Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill 2016. The bill drew a lot of flak from Civil Society Organizations, international rights bodies and press. The bill demands that govt review a project at any moment and cancel the project, NGOs need  prior approval from govt when their staffs travel abroad , NGOs register with govt body for receiving foreign fund and submit plans of their activities to govt, govt reserve the right to impose punitive actions and cancel registration in case NGO’s failure to comply govt-set standards. Human Rights Watch called the bill bears elements of an authoritarian govt.

Since the introduction of this bill, NGOs have been on the receiving end of low tempo of activities.

The best way to bridge the differences between government and NGOs is to engage them in govt funded development projects.

I worked with various NGOs. I am aware how NGOs are making differences at grass-root level. So, I second CPD’s position. However, I would like to differ slightly from CPD on the usage of this fund.

It was Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development that was the lighthouse to  show way for rural development and scaling up the riff-raff of the society. Akhtar Hameed Khan’s “Comilla Model” not only kick started rural development projects in Bangladesh,  it also received international recognition.

Then came the micro-credit revolution that demonstrated quite successfully that the have-nots pay back their loan.

The Jobra village model is now being replicated in almost all the continents to fight poverty and to prove that capitalism can play a role in empowering the poor in backward societies.

It is indeed a puzzling thing to many how the micro borrowers never default on repaying their loans while most of the big borrowers are loan defaulters.

I worked for sometimes in the development sector. Our industry and service sector are not developed enough to mop up the large section of the educated labor force.

The sector offers seasonal employment for many and remains a good source of decent jobs.

What is important is that it is a sector where the educated labor force serves the ordinary people by employing what they learned at the universities and colleges.

For aspirant bureaucrats, college teachers, university teachers, the sector provides an opportunity to learn about challenges at the societies as they spend a transition period before moving on to their respective fields at the later stage of career.

Development practitioners and researchers working on policies spend a significant time in this sector to share their insights, findings and recommendations on key policy issues with policy makers.

This kind of valuable input helps policy makers to formulate policies that will in the end benefit the desired group.

The fund can be best utilized to build and maintain infrastructures in rural areas. Right now LGED is solely tasked with undertaking such projects. LGED projects often reek of corruption. People spare no occasion to vent their anger on the poor quality of infrastructures.

In Sunamganj this year we witnessed how flash flood washed away a poorly-built embankment  causing sufferings to thousands of people in Haor areas. Later it was found that a politically blessed contractor had got the job to build the embankment.

Instead of LGED contractors, govt could outsource these tasks to NGOs. Public Private Partnership and calling for open tenders are the two ways the govt can proceed.

Transparency in awarding the contract and participation of NGOs and other construction companies will reduce the bout of corruption and increase the quality of infrastructure projects.

Teaming up with NGOs also has positive externality. Accounting firms will likely to bag more opportunities as government will want to oversee the progress and successful completion of projects done by numerous NGOs.

The proposed fund can also be used to hire third parties or firms to audit and monitor a given project.

Our annual development expenditure does little help to address people’s problems. It is meant to fill party men’s coffer.

If government is really honest about people getting benefits from its development expenditure then it should allow NGOs to implement annual development expenditures.

Education, health, infrastructure development, agro-business, market development, entrepreneur development are the areas where government can easily work with NGOs.

The biggest advantage of bringing the NGOs onboard in implementing development  projects is that government can easily fend off political influence, which is in most of the cases the reason for development benefits not reaching to target groups, while implementing development projects.

Specialized NGOs work for a target group should be on the first row of contenders getting public fund. Few years ago I watched a TV report that reported that a School for sex workers’ children in Netrokona would be shut down because of lack of funding.

Banks often do not lend to marginalized communities to start small businesses. Govt can easily provide fund to organizations that work with underprivileged and social outcast communities.

It is good to see the idea of NGO Fund is garnering support within the government. Finance Minister at a program said that he would consider attribute fund to research on physically and mentally-challenged people in the upcoming budget.

Our home grown NGOs now operate on farther afield. By no stretch of the imagination could they be described as “working for other countries’ interests”. NGOs recruit some of the finest minds and have a vast network. Government can use these tremendous resources to attain its development goals.

Let the next budget be a new chapter for opening cooperation between NGOs and govt. And with the efficient use of NGO fund, the left-outs in the society will have a chance to have greater market access, to overcome credit constraint, to get access to education, to get quality infrastructure and to avail affordable medical care.