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     Volume 4 Issue 70 | November 11, 2005 |

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Congratulations to Bangladesh!
Better Luck next time Finland!

Mirka Kristina Rahman

FOR receiving the title for the most corrupt country in the world congratulations are in order for Bangladesh again the fifth time in a row! Being a native of Finland, labeled the least corrupt country in the world but residing in Bangladesh, I am not sure whether to weep for Bangladesh's victory or Finland's loss of the first position to Iceland. I can only try to reconcile my feelings by thinking that nothing happens in Iceland anyway and that at least Chad is now accompanying Bangladesh at the bottom.

More disturbing still is the denial of the situation by the local authorities and the blaming of Transparency International for erroneous results or international conspiracy behind it. The decent thing to do would be to acknowledge the fact that a level of corruption does exist and then come up with concrete solutions that will significantly change the most corrupt states. If Transparency International is wrong, then so are all the other international organisations involved in the surveys including EIU, Columbia University, Merchants International, etc, as well as the local and international media and the general public facing it in their daily lives while shopping for essentials, obtaining telephone connections or seeking for certifications. How long can one deny all this in the face of growing evidence showing otherwise?

It has been frustrating to observe that anybody is capable of anything--nothing and everything is possible through corruption. It is a different world with different rules of the game where positions lost can be regained the next day with a freshly purchased new set of cards. The Finnish saying "Siberia teaches you" through our elongated and thorny relationship with Russia has turned into "Bangladesh teaches you" in my case.

Bangladesh seems to struggle with the complexities of strong cultural roots mixed with the mindset of new breed of young entrepreneurs whose only goal is to get rich quick. The root of the corruption lies in these opportunistic business people entering the elections by buying their nominations and votes and corrupting the lawmaking process by ensuring that their "chosen" companies get all the important jobs in all the sectors. At the same time, opportunistic supporters at various levels of power seek to get their cut of anything and everything. With all the players taking their cut, the final product gets smaller and smaller in the end or evaporates totally.

Back in Finland, the five million inhabitants can count on the government to take care of them and their needs by arranging a safe society with free education, health care and housing for all. This sounds absurd for Bangladesh with 140 million inhabitants but it would not be absurd if those who got a chance to be a part of the government did not rush to take care of themselves instead of their constituencies' voters. Finland did not always have everything but we always had one thing: honesty and integrity and trust in our leaders in making the right choices for all. Bangladesh cannot be turned around over night but in a period of five years many things can be improved upon if there is focused leadership motivated by the desire to get things done for the greater benefit of the country.

Maybe we should consider outsourcing the management of the country to more capable hands who would show absolute intolerance towards corruption inside and outside its own circles and focus on bringing social fairness. While this is not likely to happen, we should at least start with allowing foreign assistance in ensuring fair elections with transparent ballot boxes and funding to establish a fool proof voting system. If we wish to bring in ethical decision-making with utilitarianist values, justice and rights, we need to ensure that the individuals with social standing representing these values have a fair chance of being chosen by the people. Maybe this would help to ensure a new kind of next five years for Bangladesh.

The writer is an Assistant Professor of BRAC University.

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