Have we all gone nuts? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 13, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 13, 2012

Pleasure Is All Mine

Have we all gone nuts?

Sympathisers crowd into the room of a seriously ill patient at a hospital gasping on a thin edge of recuperation or, perhaps just sinking. The visitors would be discouraged with a standard piece of advice: patient has need for treatment, not for a jostle around his or her bedside. As well as being obstructive to a treatment regimen he or she has been placed on, it can also be demanding on the patient's last ounces of energy.
Similarly, the Padma Bridge project is on a sick bed -- thanks to evasive handling and uncalibrated response in the aftermath of WB's cancellation of loan. Whereas it should be handled with utmost care, almost everybody is in a rage to register his or her contribution to the verbal duels as if that can bring tangible progress towards a viable solution of the crisis!
Beating about the bush, never coming to the point has become a national pastime. Lest we soon wear it as a badge of national identity, liabilities to national image being already overwhelming, it's time politicians pull back their wagging tongues!
What World Bank's indictment on the government's handling of Padma Bridge project could not do, has been done squarely through our own conduct. More harm is done to the goodwill of a nation by irresponsible and incoherent utterances of those who are supposed to lead, not create problems for us. No international institution or a foreign country worth its salt would confuse goodwill for a nation with any particular government's conduct because the people and the country transcend any government. It will, therefore, be fallacious to entertain the idea that the country and the people are being deliberately punished by the World Bank. Some of its previously lacked transparency track record leading to creation of the 'integrity vice presidency' notwithstanding.
Various conspiratorial theories are making rounds, some so absurd that people are left completely bewildered. They feel being fooled around, their intelligence insulted!
Two contradictions stand out in the government's approach: first, the prime minister and the finance minister are apparently not on the same page. The PM is charging the World Bank with hoodwinking and pointed a finger of suspicion to 'somebody' who she thinks has instigated the WB's decision. To the best of our knowledge, the finance minister is trying to keep the WB option ticking. If it is a matter of strategy it couldn't be a good one to be sure.
On another level, ministers, with or without portfolios, having no link to Padma Bridge are talking out of turn, or out of hat or more to the point, setting the sail to the headwind of the prime minister's rather misplaced blistering reaction.
Here are some of the samples -- thick with politics, wafer-thin on economics. Food Minister Abdur Razzak reportedly said the other day, "Those who want to make Bangladesh into a Pakistan or a failed state are conspiring about Padma Bridge." The AL's veteran presidium member Sajeda Chowdhury gave two hoots to the US. Suranjit Sen Gupta is no person to lag behind in reeling off such stuff.
At the other pole, BNP leaders and loyalists are castigating the government in a way as though they have got themselves a windfall in the upset timetable for the dream project they apparently want botched up.
Opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia was first to directly link the prime minister and her family to the scandal. Picking up from her, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam claims that World Bank letters have mentioned the names of prime minister, finance minister and the ex communication minister Abul Hossain. Even if this is taken at the face value the question is in what context, if any, the names have appeared in World Bank's communication. In the main, veracity of the statement is wholly unsubstantiated. Has Mirza been privy to the WB letters or anybody close to him? Since he makes a public statement he should have backed it up with evidence of some kind or form or not make it at all.
Barrister Moudud joining the BNP chorus has ruled out building of Padma Bridge 'with our own resources'. The elaboration is missing.
The punch line comes from a discussion meet organised last Monday by Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal on 'Current political situation, future leadership and Tareque Rahman'. The virtues of Tareque as 'modest, well-behaved, frugal' were recited by a former VC, DU and one of the speakers even pronounced, "These thieves do not have the ethical honesty to build Padma Bridge with the country's resources; this can only be done by Tareque Rahman."
For the government's part, try as it might to pass the debacle off as a clash of principles, corruptibility remains an issue with us (black money being one of its visible manifestation), and we have given the WB the handle to act the way it has. This is one lesson we should try not to unlearn -- ever, if we want to hold our head high.
That a crisis is an opportunity is never as true as it is today. Consider this as the watershed from which we robustly and wholeheartedly own up to corruption that is taking place and present to the world our best face forward with a clean image topping up the achievements of our people undaunted by odds.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.
E-mail: husain.imam@thedailystar.net

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