People are failing to reap the benefits of the economic growth Bangladesh has been achieving for over a decade due to lack of good governance, weakness in the regulatory bodies and structural flaws in political parties, analysts said yesterday.
Political parties should address the issue in their respective election manifestoes to ensure inclusive growth, they said at a civic dialogue titled “Middle Income with Quality and Dignity: An Agenda for Bangladesh”.
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Bangladesh and Power and Participation Research Centre jointly organised the event at the LGED Auditorium in the capital.
A remarkable progress has been achieved in the socioeconomic sector since 1990s, but the country's good governance is still far below different in global indexes, said Wahiduddin Mahmud, a noted economist and advisor to a former caretaker government.
“The upcoming election needs to be accepted by the people. Even after 47 years of our independence, we have a basic agenda. And that is an accountable and stable governing system,” he said.
“The current politics and its unfair exercises are mainly responsible for problems in the corporate governance,” he said.
There remain a number of challenges to attain sustainable development goals as the country's allocation for health and education is far lower than its peers, he added.
Sakhawat Hussain, a former election commissioner, said the country's political parties “have been doing their job like private organisations”.
“There is no particular reference in our constitution about the structure of the political parties. We are lagging behind our competing countries because of weakness in our political institutions,” he said.
“The Election Commission's infrastructure is the largest in comparison to the others in the subcontinent. Despite that, the EC has failed to discharge its responsibility properly,” Sakhawat said.
The country does not have any policy on institutionalising the commission, creating crisis to take timely decisions, he said, adding that the businesspeople were now panicked about the situation after the polls.
Rokia Afzal Rahman, vice-president of ICCB, pointed out the rising inequality in Bangladesh.
Quoting a recent Oxfam report, she said Bangladesh has been ranked 148th out of 157 countries. India and Singapore – although financially in a much better position – ranked 147th and 149th respectively.
“One of the prime philosophies of taxing is to reduce income inequality,” she said.
To harness benefit from the demographic dividend, she said the government must create job opportunities for the ever growing number of unemployed youths.
The ICCB vice president also said the massive development of the country that has taken place in the last few years was not a bi-product of good governance.
Hossain Zillur Rahman, another advisor to a former caretaker government, said one of the core objectives of political parties for ruling the country was providing unfair facilities to the people involving with their organisations.
A demographic discrimination between Dhaka and the other parts of the country has been created, he said.
The political parties should focus on the issues, he said, adding that the electoral process should be credible so that people can vote without fear.
Salehuddin Ahmed, a former Bangladesh Bank governor, said people from all walks of life had not got the benefits of the economic development.
“The central bank has framed a lot of rules and regulations to supervise banks. But banks hardly follow those as many defaulters often reschedule their nonperforming loans more than three times breaching the rules,” he said.
The upcoming government should strengthen the organisational structure of the regulatory bodies, Salehuddin said.
Among others, Selim Raihan, executive director of SANEM, Ghulam Quader, a former advisor to a caretaker government, Asif Ibrahim, a former president of DCCI, Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, M Ramizuddin Chowdhury, editor of daily Purbokone, Nasim Manzur, former president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Abul Kasem Khan, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry; MA Taslim, former chairman of Tariff Commission; and AB Mirza Azizul Islam, advisor to a former caretaker government; also addressed the event.