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Strong democratic institutions to ensure good governance

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16th-May-2018       
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Reazuddin Ahmed :
Good governance that is crucial for achieving higher growth unfortunately remains disappointing in Bangladesh until now. The poor state of governance is reflected in inefficient  delivery system, delay in decision making, deteriorating law and order situation and absence of democratic polity.
The strong and vibrant democratic institutions are required to protect people's right as well as to  ensure good governance. But unfortunately, the democratic institutions have not been strengthened by any government due to politisation of the independent institutions.
The Parliament that is the mother of all democratic institutions is largely dysfuctional. The present Parliament has a unque political model that is rarely seen any where in the world. The opposition in this Parliament is both in the opposition and  is the partner of  ruling party in the government. In the west minister system of government, the opposition is the shadow government. The voice of dissent by the opposition keeps the ruling party on the track. But in our Parliament, praises are showed by both the ruling party and the opposition on the performance of the government. The opposition at times supercedes the ruling party in prasing the  ministers and functionaries of the  government.
Besides this, the Parliament over the years failed to  function as the true representative of the people. Whenever the ruling party had the two third majority, the Parliament was made rubber stamp. As a result, other democratic institutions remained weaker than the Parliament. This is the reason why good governance could not be strengthened in our country. It remained poor and weak.
There is no denying that in the absence of vibrant democracy, the good governance remains weak. The size of the government in our country is very big. In a market economy the size of the government is kept within normal size. But our government is oversized. The government is unusually big that delivers very little. It takes weeks and months to clear a file. There are instances that it took eighteen months to reach a file to Minister's table after eighteen days. It tavelled from the bottom to the top. The officials circustically say that it took only eighteen days to  reach the file to its destination. It could take more time. Thanks to the efficiency of the bureaucracy.
One of the major elements of the good governance is that the bureaucracy takes decision independently and quickly. But in our country the bureaucracy is rent seeking and inefficient. Therefore, there are many files that remain stuck up for months. These files move only when speed money is paid. The tax payers pay for the bureaucracy that delivers poorly. As we stated that the size of the government is big because people do not work properly. There are six to eight helping hands for the officer. These duties can be performed by half of the employees now in work,. This increases the cost of administration and slows down the decision making process.
The efficiency of the administration can be increased only when there is accountability. A strong Parliament ensures accountability. But our Parliament can not assert for accountability for the simple reason that the members of the present Parliament was not elected in a free and fair election. The last election was not inclusive. The Parliament members who were elected without vote, can not assert their position. they are not morally and politically strong enough to assert. As a result, a weak Parliament produced a weak government. The weak government is always poor in governance not to speak of good governance.
In the absence of good governance and strong democracy corruption spreads in all sectors. There is no denying that presently good governance is largely absent in our country. As a result  corruption has become all pervasive. The bureaucracy remains at the centre to expedite decision making. But in our country decision making process is slow and delayed in all the cases. As a result, the investors especially the foreign private investors are shying away from Bangladesh. They are not ready to wait for months and years to get the approval of a project. After getting the approval it remains challenging to get the land other utilities  such as   gas and electricity. These are reasons why the foreign private investment remains very low in the our country. The overall investment remains far behind the required level. If this hurdle is not removed, Bangladesh will face challenges in achieving SDG goals within the stipulated time.
Bangladesh urgently needs  to strengthen democracy by holding a free and fair election. The election should be inclusive. All parties should get the political space to tell their massages to the voters. But unfortunately, the opposition presently is pushed to the wings and only the ruling party is at the centre stage. In such situation is it possible to get the level playing field in the upcoming election? It is needless to say that if the next Parliament is not elected properly, the country will be limping in getting good governance. In the absence of good governance, it will be hard to achieve higher growth.
Bangladesh shall have to graduate from least developed to developing country. The country needs to achieve atleast 8 per cent growth to graduate. But the core area in this venture remains  the good governance. It is expected that the government  will do all its best to achieve that goal. But it will  remain impossible to establish good governance without strengthening the democratic institutions including the Parliament. The government should be accountable to the people and the Parliament that will produce a government must be properly elected. The government should be formed with the mandate of the people. There is no short cut to this goal.
Presently, the corruption in the banking sector has surpassed all past records. The banks are suffering from liquidity crisis. The depositors money has been looted from the banks. Such looting of public money and weakening of financial sector will stand in the way of achieving social development goals. Unless that SDG can be achieved Bangladesh is unlikely to properly graduate from LDC to developing country. The good governance remains at the centre to achieve SDG within the stipulated time. That's why there must be good governance and bureaucracy should be efficient.
(The writer is Editor, Daily News Today)

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