• Friday, July 25, 2014

Contain violence, grow economy

Shakhawat Liton

The government plans to go tough on violent politics in order to jack up the economy and achieve higher growth.
The finance minister yesterday hinted taking  action against such disruptive activities and called on the political parties to shun street violence, which hurts the economy bad.
The country lost Tk 11,000 crore to the political turmoil in the run up to the January 5 parliamentary elections, he said in his budget speech, adding that the BNP-led alliance enforced 45 days of blockades and hartals between July last year and January this year.  
"A vigilant and inspired nation, as we are, can hardly afford to stand the menace of deaths and wanton violence," he said.
His warning comes as the BNP-led opposition alliance is preparing for intensifying street agitation to realise its demand for restoration of an election-time government and holding an early polls under such administration.

Muhith, however, said protests and criticisms were the essence of democracy and those would be allowed. "But it deeply disappoints us when this is marred by vendetta and violence."  
But political analysts say Muhith's comment is a veiled threat to government's critics and that the threat means the government will not tolerate any criticism.
In this regard, they cited the government's reaction to the criticism against the making and purchasing of subpar crests awarded to foreign friends and organisations and AL lawmaker Shamim Osman's alleged link with Nur Hossain, prime               suspect of the seven-murder in Narayanganj.
They also made a mention of the dozen or so conditions that the BNP-led alliance is to meet for holding any public rallies or gatherings.
So it is difficult to believe that               the government will allow criticisms or protests, the analysts added.
"It has already been proved that the government cannot tolerate any criticism. And I fear it will go tough on its critics," M Hafizuddin Khan, a former caretaker government adviser, told The Daily Star.  
Prof Nizam Ahmed, a parliamentary affairs expert, echoed his                view and said the finance minister's warning seemed to be a "fresh threat".
Nizam, also a teacher at Chittagong University, said the AL itself resorted to violence in the past when it had waged street agitations.
"This is the nagging political culture. So, the government needs to take steps to change this culture," he added.
To issue his warning, Muhith used the issue of economic damage caused by political violence ahead of the one-sided polls boycotted by the BNP-led alliance.
"In the run up to the 10th national election there had been a serious political unrest in the first six months of the current financial year…. These hartals and blockades were not limited to 12 or 24 hours, rather at times even continued for a week," he said.  
As a result, he added, communication was disrupted, port activities came to a halt, retail and wholesale buying-selling came down to almost zero which had a debilitating effect on revenue collection.
Also, around 200 lives were lost to such violence last year, with at least 18 dying on the polling day alone.
Due to such political unrest, the target of tax revenue had to be revised downward at Tk 1,30,178 crore  in the outgoing fiscal year by slashing Tk 11,000 crore, which is 1 percent of the GDP, Muhith added.
"Despite the destructive activities of the opposition, the revised estimate will be only 2.8 percent less than the original estimate determined at the beginning of the current fiscal. It means that even in adverse situation, we could sustain the momentum of ADP implementation and maintain effective cooperation with our development partners," he said.
Muhith also boasted that his party assumed power for a straight second time and thanked people for their "unflinching trust" in the AL.

Published: 12:01 am Friday, June 06, 2014

Last modified: 8:37 pm Friday, June 06, 2014

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