Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
The year 2017 like previous years is eventful. For Bangladesh the govenance performance is a mixed bag of success and failures. The dynamism exhibited by the government hardly deserves mention if not far from admirable. Criticism is not that easy a task. There are differing viewpoints in looking at the state of performance. Here I would like to touch upo some highlights and antecedents that are eventful. A country that was once famously dubbed bottomless basket has become an important example for other countries within the developing world. The progress achieved over time has placed 'Bangladesh on a path of sustained growth, eventually starting a virtuous cycle whereby higher human and social development is followed by higher growth, igniting a positive feedback.' Growth rate is remarkable Pakistan's GDP growth rate is lagging behind that of India and Bangladesh, (World Bank." While India is named as the fastest growing economy in the region, Pakistan sits behind Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal in growth rates. India's economic activity is expected to accelerate to 7.7 per cent in 2017, after maintaining a solid 7.6 per cent in 2016 due to a growth in consumption - boosted by normal monsoon and civil service pay revisions, the report reveals" As the Economist reports Bangladesh's GDP per capita now higher than Pakistan'
Bangladesh was expected to reach its first United Nations-established Millennium Development Goal, that of poverty reduction, two years ahead of the 2015 deadline. Bangladesh is also making progress in reducing its poverty rate & there is big chance of overcoming extreme poverty rate by 2030 according to the World Bank
As most reports revealed: Government achieved noticeable success in confronting chronic power load-shedding that it inherited. But concerns are now being raised about sustainability of success for continued fuel supply crisis.
The proven reserve of natural gas is fast depleting. The exploration for new resource is not giving confidence of major success in less than 8-10 years. Exploitation of discovered coal resource is stuck in political indecision.
Bangladesh is walking the wrong route of exclusive reliance on imported fuel without required home works. All these are leading the long-term energy security to deep uncertainties.
It is not installed capacity, what matters is actual generation and quality of supply to end users. The 15,000 MW includes 2,300 MW off-grid captive power generation exclusive for use in industries, 3,000 MW liquid fuel-based contingency power supposed to be phased out by this time and 600 MW import from India.
Grid connected generation capacity is about 12,780 MW. For various reasons ranging from fuel deficit, transmission distribution networks constraints actual generation averages 8,300-8,500 MW. Only on one occasion on June 30, 2016 during peak hours' actual generation touched 9,032 MW.
Having said these there is no reason why the creditable achievements of the present government over the past eight years in increasing power generation and disciplining the sector can go unnoticed.
But side by side to success there have been some failures which creates genuine doubts about sustainability of success.
The nation was suffering from chronic power load-shedding and gas supply crisis in 2009 when present government came to power in the last term. The installed generation capacity at end 2008 was 4,942 MW and highest generation achieved during peak hours of summer 2008 was 3,500 MW.
The average power demand at that time was about 6,000 MW. Eight to ten hours' unpleasant load- shedding in summer days was causing unbearable miseries. From that position achieving installed capacity of 15,080 MW and average generation of 8,300-8,500 MW is no mean achievement.
The access to power has also increased from 49% in 2008 to 78% (off grid solar power supply included) in end 2016 is also a major achievement. Reduction of system loss to 13% is also a major achievement.
The present power generation and supply situation is much better than what it used to be in 2008. But at the same time gas and fuel supply situation is in deep crisis. Failure of a political government in exploiting own superior coal resource and utilise this as priority option for power generation is frustrating.
Performance in Banking sector is helplessly hopeless because of massive corruption in term of alleged money laundering. Mirza Fakhrul has alleged that corruption is "all-encompassing in Bangladesh" and that "government corruption is destroying the banking sector".
According to reent reports, discipline in the banking sector is apparently under strain. At the same time criminal activities in banks have increased. In the absence of good governance, many banks have indulged in irregular activities and corruption.
Bangladesh Bank is the responsible for making proper banking policies as our financial condition demand and monitoring if the others bank obeying or violate the rule. Not only that if anyone try to violate the rules, Bangladesh Bank give punishment as soon as possible. But in our country Bangladesh Bank is corrupted by itself. How it will control the other, where there isn't proper security to protect nation's resource. Recent report says that in the hacking and money transfer crime from Bangladesh bank, there are few officials of BB are involved.
According to The Financial Express, it is alleged that loans have been given to fake companies because of political pressure and connivance of dishonest bank officials. Directors of state-owned commercial banks appointed on political considerations have allegedly played an important role in this regard. Millions of Taka has been withdrawn in the name of fake companies by opening local letter of credit. Although many irregularities have been detected by the central bank, no punitive action has been taken against banks and bank officials. Letters have been issued to the Chief Executives of the banks several times.
Hall-Mark scandal of Sonali Bank is unprecedented and did have a negative impact on the banking sector. Hall-Mark Group and some other groups of businessmen have taken Tk 35 billion (Tk 3,500 crores) from Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch of Sonali Bank through local letters of credit. Depositors of this bank have become worried. The banking sector makes progress on the strength of client confidence.
The central bank will have to be more careful so that confidence on baking is not shaken. Political influence is making the banking sector risky. Government's management is also responsible for indiscipline in the banking sector. Rules of granting loans have been neglected.
As for road and railway development" during 1915- 1917 "Bangladesh saw its per capita income rise, which elevated the country to the status of a higher middle income nation. The power sector has made significant progress, so have some of the vital megaprojects on the infrastructural front. The poor and the handicapped have been provided with food grain at affordable prices. The Transparency International report saw Bangladesh come out with the same score although there has been a downslide since last year by one position in its Corruptions Perception Index (CPI).Under the master plan, the AL government has undertaken several projects to build 571.30 km new railway lines across Bangladesh. Railway Minister Md. Mozibul Haque noted that the government approved 85 projects costing Tk 45,423 crore after the formation of the Hasina government in 2009. Reports suggest that BR would build a 166.33 km new railway line connecting Dhaka with Jessore via Mawa, Bhanga and Narail with the financial assistance of China, while 50.41 km Kashiani-Gopalganj-Tungipara route to be taken up soon. Besides, the government has constructed a 35 km new railway line on Tarakandi-Bangabandhu Bridge section and revived Kalukhali-Bhatiapara, and Pachuria-Faridpur rail routes.
Moreover, the 64.75 km Khulna-Mongla section has been implemented under Indian Line of Credit (LoC). The Bangladesh government had also submitted a proposal to the Chinese government for setting up a chord line from Fatullah on Dhaka-Narayanganj section to Chittagong via Laksam. Furthermore, BR has completed a feasibility study to build a new rail to Munshiganj through Satkhira on its own. In addition to these, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has endorsed a mega project of BR to build rail tracks from Akhaura to Laksam facilitating movement of goods and passenger.
In order to enhance tourism and trade in the southernmost parts of the country, the AL government has decided to build a 120 km dual-gauge passenger railway line from Dohazari, a village near Chittagong, to Cox's Bazar-a tourist hotspot of Bangladesh.
Reports say the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar Greenfield Project is among the seven investment sub-projects which have been undertaken by BR to upgrade Bangladesh's rail connectivity with other Asian countries. The project is part of the proposed Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) and would provide access to neighbouring Myanmar and beyond.
South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) has agreed to support BR in constructing the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar section of the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar railway route in south-eastern Bangladesh. The project was endorsed by the SASEC trade facilitation and transport working group meeting in Tokyo on November 26, 2016. BR is renovating the 47 km Chittagong-Dohazari section on its own funds. Earlier in September 2016, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves as SASEC Secretariat, granted $ 1.5 billion of funding to the project. This is the largest investment ever made by ADB to Bangladesh's railways.
The Chittagong-Cox's Bazar Rail Project will take five years to complete and create considerable job opportunities for local community. The rail route would be extended up to Myanmar's border and the proposed sea port at Matarbari. The route will also establish link with the western region of Bangladesh and India's North East especially Tripura. The rail project would help Bangladesh meet its targets under the 7th Five Year Plan and railway master plan that seeks to increase the country's freight market share to 15% and passenger market share to 10%.
In another major development on March 6, 2016, the Bangladesh government signed a deal worth Tk 231.37 crore with a consortium of five companies, both domestic and foreign, for the consultancy services of the 72 km Akhaura-Laksam Double Line Project in the Dhaka-Chittagong route. Railway Minister Mozibul Haque said under the agreement, all aspects of the project-from design to completion of the construction work-would be supervised by the consortium.
Reports indicate that of the Tk 231.37 crore, the Bangladesh government would release Tk 59 crore and the rest will be obtained from the ADB as loan. As part of the master plan, the AL government wants to facilitate movement of passenger and freight and increase export, import and commercial activities on the Dhaka-Chittagong route. The Akhaura-Laksam rail project is expected to be completed in five years. It may be added that Prime Minister Hasina had already inaugurated the double line railways in Laksam-Chinki Astana and Tongi-Bhoiran sections.
The Hasina government has also decided to improve the traffic conditions of the heavily-congested capital city Dhaka by introducing metro rail. Traffic in Dhaka, home to 15 million people, is one of the slowest in the world with commuters spending three-to-four hours in jams daily. On February 20, 2013, Bangladesh inked a loan agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for setting up the country's first-ever metro rail system, involving $ 2.8 billion.
The proposed 20.1 km ground and elevated railway would cover Dhaka from north to south with 16 stations and would carry four million passengers every day, reducing jams to a great extent. The metro rail would lessen travel time to 36 minutes, which currently takes hours. Under the deal, the JICA will release 85% of the cost at a nominal interest rate of 0.01%.
Reports suggest that metro rail project's main construction work will begin in early 2017 and end in 2022. Once the metro rail becomes operational, Dhaka's commuters could enjoy hassle-free journey. Metro rail officials have pointed out that the rail scheme would be noise-free, with noise barriers and vibration-free lines, and the cars would be made of stainless steel and aluminium alloy. Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority under Roads and Highways Department of the Communication Ministry is implementing the project. The metro rail project is likely to play the role of a catalyst in the economic development of Bangladesh.
In its bids to expand railway connectivity across the country, the AL government has initiated the process of building bridges along with railway lines over the major river systems of Bangladesh as well. In a significant development on August 8, 2016, Bangladesh Railway Bureau and China Railway Group signed a deal worth $ 3.14 billion to set up a rail link across the Padma Bridge in Dhaka.
The bridge will establish link between the western and eastern parts of the country. The 168.6 km railway line originating from Dhaka and terminating at Jessore would also provide crucial rail link in south-western Bangladesh.
Despite many flyovers have been installed in Dhaka and Chittagong there is no visible improvement in Traffic management .Traffic jam is becoing a formidable problem for normal vehicular movement leading to loss of daily revevue.
To make transportation of goods between Dhaka and the country's third sea port at Payra cheaper and faster, the Bangladesh government has decided to introduce container train service through foreign collaboration. On December 20, 2016, Bangladesh inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Britain's DP Rail to design, finance, operate and maintain the 240 km Dhaka-Payra rail route. The $ 7.5 billion deal is described as the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) for Bangladesh's railway so far. The rail project is important for Bangladesh to expand its international trade especially in the arena of readymade garment (RMG)-Bangladesh's biggest export item.
Experts are of the opinion that the new rail route will play a pivotal role in the development of the country's southern region. The DP Rail is hopeful that the freight train service will start functioning prospectively in 2024.
The British firm is reportedly working with China Railway Construction Corporation (International) Limited as its key civil engineering contractor. Bangladesh's Ministry of Railways think that the Dhaka-Payra rail link could fetch significant revenue by facilitating transportation of goods to and from the deep sea port at Payra.
To meet the country's development needs and priorities, the AL government has initiated much needed up gradation of Bangladesh's rail transport network throughout the country. Efforts are also underway to improve sub-regional connectivity through rail and integrate Bangladesh with the booming markets of the neighbouring countries and beyond. The Bangladesh government needs to pursue the goals envisioned in the 20-year master plan vigorously as the key advantage of the rail transport network is in long distance travel and carriage of goods. BR could hugely contribute to the country's economy once all the railway projects undertaken begin functioning.
In social development arena Bangladesh was immunizing 17% more children against measles than other economies at the same level of income. Similarly, gender disadvantage in primary and secondary education disappeared by the mid-1990s.
Since the late 1990s, Bangladesh has outperformed other countries at a similar level of development in terms of female primary and secondary schooling, although it still lags behind at the tertiary level. Our estimates show that between 2006 and 2010, Bangladesh was enrolling over 7% more girls in primary education than other economies at the same level of income.
Overall, the empirical evidence shows a clear trend: that Bangladesh has steadily progressed over the past 4 decades, transforming itself from a laggard into a leader.
Today, the country outperforms on multiple social development indicators, given its level of economic development. Considering its unfavorable initial conditions (e.g., devastation caused by the 1971 war and the famine of 1974) and the existing challenges of poor public governance and political instability, Bangladesh's achievements in social development are truly surprising.
Bangladesh is confronted with a number of governance challenges. All these challenges have far-reaching implications for the future progress and development of the country unless properly addressed. First and foremost challenge is the institutionalization of the democratic governance system in the country. Second, eradicating corruption from the polity is one of the most important challenges of today. Corruption has spread like cancer in all walks of life throughout the nook and corner of the country.
Third, avoiding the tendency to politicize public services for narrow personal, group, and political interest is another key challenge of governance in Bangladesh. Politicization of public services is a continuing practice since the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country in 1971. Quick mitigation of the three challenges will enable institutionalization of democracy, eradication of the curse of corruption, and merit and performance based public service. At the end of the day effectively facing the governance challenges will benefit citizens of the country.
Supreme court is the guardian of the constitution protecting human rights. It should be given enough leverage over prevent powerful authorities to promote mass interests and public security.
(Governance Challenges in Bangladesh. Available from: https:/www.researchgate.net/publication/290478330_Governance_Challenges_in_Bangladesh [accessed Dec 27 2017].)