FRAGILE States Index authored by the US-based Fund for Peace and published by Foreign Policy (FP) has ranked countries based on “an annual snapshot of their vitality and stability (or lack thereof).” It is the same research body that used to bring out Failed States Index. Now they have changed the name of the project into Fragile States Index, thinking that “fragility puts the emphasis on human beings” more than the states. Methodology, however, remains the same.
The study has not spared the United States: “Iran is up, America is down;” so it can claim to be fair in its assessment. The mystery of slant, if any, can never be fully fathomed.
On the Fragility Index 2013, Bangladesh is 29th with a score of 92.8, Sri Lanka at 30th, India 81st, but Pakistan is at 10th and Somalia 2nd. Bangladesh is not as bad as Pakistan and Somalia which are within the top ten in terms of fragility.
The criteria for ranking include demographic pressures, refugees and internally displaced persons, group grievance, human flight and brain drain, uneven economic development, poverty and economic decline, state legitimacy, public services, human rights and rule of law, security apparatus, factionalised elites and external intervention.
Not all the parameters are applicable for Bangladesh and those that may have been can be broadly identified. The breakdown of the overall score of 92.8 was not immediately available but it is worthwhile to obtain the scores under different heads.
When you see the screaming headlines in newspapers about embezzlement of money adding to the known list of scams, you know how corruption and abuse of power have made inroads into our lives. And it keeps smearing our image and wiping off what could be an add-on to our GDP. Some samples: Tk. 4,000 crore vanishing from the state-owned Basic Bank; five of the six international gateway operators are traceless having defaulted on Tk. 531 crore to BTRC; and the higher percentage of Bangladeshi account holders with the Swiss Bank.
As Walter Sickert aptly sums up: “Nothing knits man to man like the frequent passage from hand to hand of cash.”
We have our version of an insight provided by World Bank's Chief Economist Dr. Zahid Hossain ... “that wealth is being amassed by a few (and their number is growing) is crystal clear but what concerns us more than income disparity is the disparity in economic opportunities.”
The devil is in politics. As BNP chief Khaleda Zia threatens to wage a movement after Eid, the government has reportedly ordered activation of cases against BNP and Jamaat leaders across the board. Top district level leaders in the opponent camp may be caught up in the hook.
It is misplaced intimidation and provocation all around, if you think rationally. After the fifth January election the government shouldn't have any grievance against the BNP. Being the benefactor of the BNP's folly, the ruling party could use its soft power to engage the opponent aiming to stabilise the political future of the country. This will be in overriding national interest.
The benefits of peaceful conflict resolution far outweigh the costs of so-called political crisis management. The latter is but a crush-and-annihilate-strategy with the people at the receiving end. And, the economy which is bouncing back will be derailed again. Who can relish such a prospect?
American satirist Willy Cuppy said: “Aristotle was famous for knowing everything. He taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking.” We would say, the brain exists here not to cool the blood but to set it boiling, let alone trigger any thinking.
Sometimes you get a positive message from very unlikely quarters. Spare a thought on Afghanistan and you see an unprecedented vote audit unfolding post-presidential polls between former World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani and ex-Mujahideen adviser Abdullah Abdullah. Every one of the eight million ballots cast will be scrutinised, the recount to be completed in mid-August.
The important thing is not so much the manageability of the operation as the spirit behind it. The deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry gives the eventual loser a 'plum position.' He will be kind of a chief executive for the government, and become prime minister if a constitutional change that is on the slate is pushed through. It promises to create a new centre of power in a government dominated by an immensely powerful president to-date. In other words, it is inclusive and tailor-made to suit the Afghan situation.
The Afghan example only highlights one thing: The sanctity of the electoral process even in a fractured democracy like Afghanistan is being staunchly upheld.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.