As we welcome the New Year . . . | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 01, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 01, 2010


As we welcome the New Year . . .

We look back at the one just departed

AS we ring in the New Year in Bangladesh, in the fond hope that it will turn out to be better and more promising than the one just ended, it is time to go back to 2009 in order to get a sense of what it meant for us. We note that the New Year also happens to coincide, nearly, with the Awami League-led government's first full year in office. In essence, therefore, a survey of 2009 is an observation of how the government has fared in these past twelve months. Broadly speaking, it is indeed a record of how the nation has done in the year just ended.
On balance, there have been all the encouraging signs to show that the government as well as the country were generally on the right track. For a start, agricultural productivity was appreciable. Being the linchpin of people's livelihood, it was one area where the government demonstrated a firm grasp of reality, with the result that food production remained satisfactory. Despite such vagaries as weather and floods (though the latter were not of disturbing dimensions last year), worries on the food front were absent. But, to be sure, there was a hike in prices of essential commodities, especially of rice, a fact that the government was trying to grapple but with little success towards the end of 2009. Which is as much as to suggest that if the government means to have some New Year resolutions for itself, one should definitely be aimed at checking unscrupulous price-related behaviour on the part of businessmen and traders. In some other important areas such as energy management, the government's focus on saving power through having shops and markets close early in the evening eventually produced a good result. Power outages are today no more the nightmare they were a year ago. Where policy formulation and direction are concerned, the vigour with which the government moved in such significant areas as strengthening primary education, emphasising health and promoting Right to Information is creditable. In 2010, more substance ought to go into these aspects of governance. Another area, or call it problem, that was handled fairly satisfactorily was the offer of stimulus packages to industry to bail it out of the effects of the global recession.
Areas of positive performance apart, the government has sometimes appeared to be caught unawares in certain critical areas. Surely the tragic happenings at BDR in February, a mere fifty days into the inauguration of the new government, were a crisis that shook up the administration. To add to its difficulties, the student and youth wings of the ruling Awami League did little service to the country when they repeatedly indulged in such acts as manipulating tenders, occupying university residential halls, et cetera. For the nation as a whole, the stubborn absence of the opposition in the Jatiyo Sangsad (despite its participation in House committee meetings) has meant new worries over the future of democratic governance. The issue of 'crossfire' killings, with ministers often speaking on the subject in discordant voices, is yet to be resolved to people's satisfaction.
In 2009, the government successfully steered the Bangabandhu murder case through. In foreign affairs, a renewed emphasis on relations with neighbours together with an activist role in such global arenas as the environment summit gave diplomacy a new sense of purpose. Even so, 2010 will be, as 2009 was, a real test for the government. This is when they must start delivering in real terms to make good on their electoral pledges.

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