Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 05:54:19 PM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

'Development': Rhetoric for Authoritarian Rule

photo by

  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Save
  • E-mail
  • Print
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Anu Muhammad :
We are living in the digital age of globalization under neo-liberal model of capitalism. This phase can be described as development with steroid, growth with environmental disaster, affluence with poverty, digitalization and financialization, growth with high inequality and vulnerability. This phase is also charecterised by authoritarianism in different colours. Rising religious-ethnic-racial hatred, strengthening of extremist-hatred politics that we are witnessing in different parts of the world are very much integral part of this global (dis)order.
In this age, we are witnessing increasing depletion of human and material resources on war and surveillance, unprecedented expansion of repressive machine and high growth of private (in) security business. This model of governance trickled down well to different corners of the globe. Intolerance, hatred and violence appear as guiding principles of today's 'rule of law' in different countries and in global scale.
Bangladesh is not exception. Here we see the format of development that is highly dependent on primitive forms of accumulation that include widespread corruption, rent seeking, illicit business of arms, drug and human trafficking, grabbing of common property, commission based bad deals with big foreign and local companies, high level of bank loan default and resource outflow and so on. There is no doubt that all these forms of accumulation contribute to GDP growth. Moreover, wholesale privatization of education, health care and natural resources, grabbing common property including river, forests, open space, dismantling national capability and implementing projects of mass destruction have become priority development agenda. In the present development path, people's ownership over common properties is practically denied, lack of worker's rights is severe, environmental blindness and structure oriented approach remain dominant in development projects, manufacturing myth to rationalize harmful foreign 'aid'ed and/or investment projects is part of development advertisements, institutions are made crippled to allow only to serve ruling groups, lack of accountability and transparency become permanent features. As a consequence, we see growing resources but increasing deprivation, dazzling cities with increasing slums, worst level of pollution, high rise buildings with poor safety records, big projects destroying ecological balances, increasing inequality and vulnerability. Conditions of public services, i.e., public health care, public education, safe drinking water, public transport, public security are getting poorer beside increasingly expensive supply of the same. State responsibility for providing these services to the citizens is not recognized in this model.
This development model has environmental, political and cultural consequences. Obviously, this nature of 'development' asks for squeezing democratic rights, denying public criticism and scrutiny. The state machine specially coercive forces become the crude instrument of super rich bank-land-forest-river grabbers. In the process demo(n) cracy, instead of democracy, becomes the rule, (mal)development and demo(n) cracy grow together. Here lies the source of authoritarianism. Present dominant forms of global capital accumulation and waves of authoritarianism give strong moral and physical support to this.  
Periodic election cannot change this scenario specially when state machine is under total control of a single party or a group. Even elections can be a tool for strengthening authoritarian rule.  Andreas Schedler examines the logic of 'electoral authoritarianism'. He showed that, 'electoral authoritarian regimes play the game of multiparty elections by holding regular elections for the chief executive and a national legislative assembly. Yet they violate the liberal-democratic principles of freedom and fairness so profoundly and systematically as to render elections instruments of authoritarian rule rather than "instruments of democracy" (Powell 2000).' He also explained that, 'rulers may devise discriminatory electoral rules, exclude opposition parties and candidates from entering the electoral arena, infringe upon their political rights and civil liberties, restrict their access to mass media and campaign finance, impose formal or informal suffrage restrictions on their supporters, coerce or corrupt them into deserting the opposition camp, or simply redistribute votes and seats through electoral fraud.'(See for details: https:/www.ethiomedia.com/accent/ea_schedler.pdf)
The present government of Bangladesh has proved itself to be the most powerful regime of all times in the country's history by establishing total control over all institutions. After the one-sided election of 2014, the manner in which it has monopolised power over the five years has broken all past records. The last national election in 2018 was unbelievably controlled and manipulated that is unprecedented in country's history.
It is obvious that the election procedure had been carefully planned for quite some time. PR agencies and many local and foreign groups worked on implementing this plan. But the most despicable incident occurred on the night before the election. Eye witness accounts, news in the media and written complaints reveal that in many centres the ballot boxes were stuffed on the night before the polls.
Such a horrific nature of election, using all state power to implement this, does not obviously prove the ruling party's strength. It proves, on the contrary, that the party felt extremely insecure about peoples support. However, the government and the ruling party are hardly bothered. After all, to the government and its partners at home and abroad, power is all that matters. There is very little consideration as to whether the ways and means were legitimate or not, ethical or unethical, or what the long term consequences will be to the development of the democratic process and institutions.
The development model projected by the government is nothing new. It has been continuing over the past few decades, having taken tangible shape in the eighties. The corporate groups from home and abroad seem to be very happy with this authoritarian rule. They highly applause for the present government's unabashed march ahead to fulfill all these agendas with little or no regard for public opinion, laws and consequences for the country. Global capital and its managers (the World Bank, IMF, ADB et al) are driving force of this model. It is easier and cheaper for them to make space in authoritarian rule. Actually they want to see the government in a country as coercive on the one hand, and indifferent to the interest of people and environment on the other. There they can do as they please, siphoning off their profits abroad in exchange for a commission or other such favours without any accountability.
A multitude of environmentally dangerous projects of India, China, Japan, Russia and the US, such as the Rampal coal-fired power plant and the Rooppur nuclear power plant, are being implemented in Bangladesh. India has ample political clout, China's power lies in its big funds. Every project has a number of financial beneficiaries among ruling elites. Greed for profit of the powerful groups has increased (beyond any limit in absence of any accountability. That is why construction costs of roads, bridges and other projects in Bangladesh are the highest in the world.
The government is now propagating a concept of 'development democracy' and celebrating the success of its unprecedented authoritarian rule as a decade of development. We have seen twice in the past such decades of autocracy and 'development' combine. One was during the sixties under the rule of General Ayub Khan, the other as in the eighties under General Ershad.
There is similarity between those two decades and the current one, but differences too. The similarity is in the sheer volume of infrastructure projects and the lack of transparency in the finance along with high level of corruption. The main difference between the present decade and those two of the past is that the former two autocrats did not have organised political party and support base. In both of those instances, after ascending to power through martial law, the autocrats tried to use state power to establish their own party and to pull public support. Ayub Khan's 'basic democracy' was used to spread the power net to the union level. Ershad made similar attempts through the upazila system. But the present government came to power with organised party and with a huge electoral victory. The present ruling party is the oldest and largest political party in the country who successfully exploits its earned credibility for leading Liberation War in 1971 to do things opposite to the spirit of Liberation War. We know that, when autocracy is buoyed by public support, a propensity towards fascist politics and culture merges.
The imperial fascist sermon 'either with us or against us,' with the declaration of war on (read: of) terror, an eternal war, has been shaping present global (dis) order. This mantra has been used as clearly a provocation for unfolding hate politics and creating fertile ground for corporate grabbing in association with racist communal right wing politics in different parts of the world. Moreover, governments in different countries have taken the mantra as a justification to curtail democratic rights in extremist way, usurp political power, give free hand authority to public resource grabbers and corporate lords. The present regimes in countries like Bangladesh, India are taking full advantage of this global fascist environment for strengthening their authoritarian rule.
It is a common concern in the country that how can we create space to make a difference, to create a condition for people, youth in particular, to become a strong force to fight extremism in any form? In this context, one question remains crucial that how can it be done when the State itself becomes extremist, when the law enforcement agencies become unregulated instrument of coercion, when the judicial process becomes redundant, when people are deprived of free expression of opinion? If this scenario remains then other extremism will surely flourish.
Only breathing space can be created by the people specially youth who, despite repression and fear, continue questioning the hegemonic power, continue thinking in open mind and remain active to fight injustice and discrimination, remain active and creative in favour of public rights and resources and environment. I know ruling classes at home and abroad, despite their rhetoric, would be happy to embrace religious extremists and drug addicts to destroy the new youth of hope.  At the present moment, nevertheless, I find hope with them who stands to demand justice for Twaki, Tonu, Afsana, Dipon, Avijit, Sagor-Runi...; who stands to save Sundarban against a disastrous mad project; who stands against repressive laws and coercive actions by law enforcing agencies; who stand with workers for their rights and security; who stands against ethnic religious gender violence and discrimination; and who stands against extremist attacks on public by the different visible-invisible groups as well as by the state and who still are capable of dreaming a country of free people, a society without discrimination and oppression.

(Anu Muhammad: Professor of Economics, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has been teaching Economics since 1982, also taught in Anthropology from 1991 to 2005. His research interests include: Globalization, Social Justice and transformation, Gender, NGO and Energy. He had been visiting scholar in Columbia University, USA (1993) and Manitoba University, Canada (2001). He also visited Germany, Norway, Venezuela, Cuba, India, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar to attend seminars and conferences.
Professor Muhammad is the Member Secretary of 'National Committee to protect oil gas mineral resources, port and power, Bangladesh' a national alliance for protecting natural resources and public interest. He is the editor of Sarbojonkotha (public voice) a Bangla journal on socio economoic issues, published quarterly since November 2014. He has more than 30 published Books. -Email: anu@juniv.edu)

Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Editorial »

Rape incidents increasing when all preventive measures failed

A total of 59 women were raped and sexually harassed on public transport across the country in 2019. There were 52 incidents of women repression on public modes of transportation -- 44 on the roads and four each on rail and river ways, the media reported quoting the survey report ...

Entertainment »

Darshana’s new film Protighat

Model-actress, Darshana Banik, who has acted in some critically acclaimed films, both in the South industry and in Tollywood, is on cloud nine now. She will soon be seen in Rajiv Biswas’ upcoming film Protighat which also stars Soham and Priyanka Sarkar in lead roles. The film is a passionate ...

Business & Economy »

Abu Hena Mohammad Razi Hasan, Head of Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), speaking at money laundering prevention conference at local resort in Habiganj recently. Bangladesh Bank Executive Directors Kazi Enayet and Iskander Mia, among others, were present.


Cricket »

New Zealand beat India by 10 wickets in series-opening Test

AP, Wellington :New Zealand beat top-ranked India by 10 wickets in the series-opening match, posting its 100th win in Tests and inflicting India's first loss in eight matches in the ICC Test Championship.India started play Monday at 144-4, 39 runs behind New Zealand after trailing by 183 on the first ...

Football »

New Zealand fraud probe into ex-Oceania Football chief

AFP, Wellington :New Zealand's Serious Fraud Office said Monday it is investigating former Oceania Football Confederation employees - including ex-president David Chung - after a complaint from FIFA.Authorities will probe whether any criminal activity had taken place, but declined to provide further details of an active investigation."An investigation relating to ...

City »

Former Adviser to the Caretaker Government M Hafiz Uddin Ahmed speaking at a prèss conference on 'Presentation of Information of the Winners of DSCC and DNCC Elections-2020 and Election Evaluation' organised by SUJAN in DRU auditorium on Monday.

Football »

Ronaldo marks 1,000th game with record-equalling goal

AFP, Rome :Cristiano Ronaldo scored for a record-equalling 11th consecutive Serie A game in his 1,000th professional match as Juventus extended their league lead on Saturday with a 2-1 win over basement club SPAL.The 35-year-old tapped in six minutes before the break to equal the mark held by Gabriel Batistuta ...

Editorial »

We don't need experts to tell us banking sector is ruined

 AS Bangladesh Bank has miserably failed to function properly, the country's banking sector is heading towards a total collapse and is being held hostage by a few individuals and entities. This remark comes from the local think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue on Saturday marking the government's move for appointing a ...

Entertainment »

Kirti Kulhari skips cab and takes auto-rickshaw

Mission Mangal actor Kirti Kulhari was spotted taking a rickshaw ride in the city. The actor who prefers to take auto to travel for short distances was quite happy as she posted on Instagram “When all the ubers and the olas of the world leave u stranded, it's the Rickshaws ...

International »

UN chief urges new transit point for aid to Syria

AFP, United Nations :UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to authorize a new passage point on the Turkish border to allow humanitarian aid to reach the embattled population of northeast Syria, where medical supplies are running short.The recommendation came in a report issued Friday to Council ...

Editorial »

Govt incapable of deciding how to deal with Rohingya crises

NEWSPAPERS reported that the government is shifting its previous stance on sheltering one lakh Rohingyas to remote Bhashan Char due to constant objections from the international community, especially the aid agencies. Bhashan Char is only 25 kilometres from Sandwip Island and it has a fast siltation rate. There is also ...

Football »

Lewandowski double edge Bayern past bottom side Paderborn

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich squeezed past bottom side Paderborn 3-2 on Friday as Robert Lewandowski netted twice to spare goalkeeper Manuel Neuer's blushes in their final game before facing Chelsea in the Champions League.Lewandowski now has a league-leading tally of 26 goals in the top flight, illustrating his importance to ...

Entertainment »

Priyanka wishes Sophie a happy birthday

Priyanka Chopra has shared a sweet birthday wish for sister-in-law and Game of Thrones actor Sophie Turner on her 24th birthday. She shared a picture from the 2017 MET Gala where she not just made her first appearance with now husband Nick Jonas but also met Sophie. Sharing the picture ...

Sports »

Venezuela's Rojas sets new indoor women's triple jump world record

Venezuela's Yulimar Rojas on Friday set a new indoor women's triple jump world record of 15.43m at a meeting in Madrid.The 24-year-old world champion bettered the previous world record of 15.36m set by Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva in Budapest in March 2004.Rojas's new mark also left her just seven centimetres short ...

International »

Sanders condemns Russian interference in 2020 elections

Agencies :Bernie Sanders on Friday condemned Russian interference in the 2020 election, telling Russia President Vladimir Putin that "if elected president, trust me, you are not going to be interfering in American elections."Sanders issued a statement in response to The Washington Post's report that the Vermont senator was briefed by ...

Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Write a comment to this news