The new landed gentry
FROM what has been published in the press, a tenth of Dhaka city's area, with the exception of the cantonments, is now owned by eight members of parliament (MPs) belonging to the ruling party. This is hardly surprising given that land is still viewed as the most valuable asset whose value never depreciates. Owning land is not a crime. Owning vast amounts of land bought by monies whose source is not totally white is of course another matter altogether. Wealth statements of the individuals in question over the last five years give us some inkling as to how our MPs have made an effective transition from being lawmakers to landlords.
Today, lawmakers own 31,600 acres which is many times more than the lands allocated to the industrial export processing zones. Little wonder that we seem to have so much trouble finding lands to establish new industrial zones to attract foreign direct investment! This wholesale buying of lands, ownership of private companies and fisheries – all profit making ventures have nothing to do with public representation. It goes a long way as to why so many “people's representatives” belonging to different districts prefer to spend their time outside their constituencies. We strongly deprecate this new culture of business encroaching on to the turf of politics. Politics is not merely about getting elected and amassing a fortune, it is about giving something back to the electorate who exercised their franchise to elect representatives to address their local needs.