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BANGLADESH


  
  



Key Economic Data 
 
  2004 2003 2002 Ranking(2004)
GDP
Millions of US $ 56,844 51,900 45,500 54
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 440 400 390 175
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Bangladesh


Update No: 012 - (20/12/06)

Whatever Happened to Bangladesh's Democracy? 
Given the background of ongoing political violence, the American envoy in Bangladesh has urged its bickering political parties to stop meddling in the electoral process and called on the interim government to play an impartial role in the vote. A 14-party alliance has been staging a series of often violent street protests and has threatened to boycott the January polls, demanding the removal of two election commissioners and postponement of the vote. The alliance has accused the interim government of bias toward former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's coalition. US Ambassador Patricia Butenis called upon the political parties to "stop trying to manipulate the caretaker government", and urged the government to "actively resist such interference, whether the pressure comes from the streets or from behind the scenes." 
Butenis said the future of Bangladesh's democracy, economic growth, and its fight against poverty, extremism and corruption would depend on a successful election. "Just about every issue that we care about that involves Bangladesh hinges on a successful election," she said at a seminar on democracy and the upcoming election, organized by the Bangladesh Association of American Studies at the American Center in the capital, Dhaka. 
According to Butenis, the coming election would be acceptable to all if it all political parties participated in it and cast their votes according to their own choice without any fear. 
The Ambassador reiterated her country's disapproval of unconstitutional means such as military intervention in Bangladesh politics. Asking all the political parties to work with the Caretaker government in the run up to the January elections, she, however, said the interim government has failed to act neutrally. "Unfortunately, the Caretaker government has not always conducted itself neutrally, and the nation has suffered as a result," she said adding, "We hope that is behind us now." What comes across clearly from Butenis's statement is that the United States has significant interest in Bangladesh's upcoming election because crafting any future policy with Bangladesh depends on the outcome of its elections. The US interest is focused on the electoral process that meets international standards of fair play and that is consistent with Bangladesh's own laws and constitution. Butenis observed that election means an election in which all parties participate, whose outcome is broadly accepted as legitimate and accurate, an election where violence and intimidation did not keep people from voting or expressing their opinions, an election where the playing field was more or less even. America wants the creation of political parties that are genuinely democratic in practice and outlook and parties that focus on issues and national interest instead of personalities and perceptions. 
It is quite a shaming contrast that while Bangladesh recently produced a Nobel laureate, its entire democratic edifice is in question. If a benign third party needs to come into the picture and tell you what to exactly do and how to do it, then essentially your democracy is in trouble and Bangladesh sooner or later needs to wake up to this fact. It isn't as though the politicians are not very well aware that the world can see that they put private gain and party power - amounting to the same thing - before the public interest. The problem is that the ordinary citizens either are so wretched as to be unable to find better leaders, or are of a type that themselves look for personal advantage, by linking to one or another of the power cliques. Any country deserves better than this but lasting change has to come from within the country itself. One can only hope that a new generation of genuinely selfless leaders, may one day emerge.

ECONOMY

Political Instability and Its Effect on Growth 
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) had produced a report saying that political uncertainty in Bangladesh ahead of next year's election is continuing to strain the country's economy and poses a risk to sound macroeconomic management. In its Bangladesh Quarterly Economic Update September 2006 released a few days ago, the bank cited disturbances in the run-up to the January 2007 election as added constraints to the development of infrastructure. At least 41 people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes between rival political activists over the past month and security analysts have warned of more violence unless major political parties settle their differences, allowing free and fair voting. "Infrastructure constraints, including power and transportation, are critical impediments for moving on to a higher growth path." Bangladesh's economy grew 6.7 percent in the year ended June 2006 and the ADB forecast 6 percent growth in fiscal 2006/07. The ADB report said Bangladesh's economy has also been affected by external factors. "... volatility in oil prices and stiff competition following the multifiber arrangement (MFA) phase-out pose significant risks." During July-September, the first quarter of 2006/07 fiscal year, the manufacturing sector continued to maintain steady growth as indicated by robust growth in manufacturing exports led by the garment sector, the import of industrial raw materials, and private sector credit, it said. 

What Yunus Thinks of Globalisation 
Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus, who invented the practice of making small, unsecured loans to the poor, has cautioned that the globalised economy was becoming a dangerous ''free-for-all highway.'' At the gathering of Nobel Peace Prize winners, Yunus argued that it is necessary to cultivate organizations at the grass-root level or else, there will be no room for these local entrepreneurs in a globalised world. Challenging economic theories that he learned as a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee in the 1970s, Yunus, 66, said glorification of the entrepreneurial spirit has led to ''one-dimensional human beings'' motivated only by profit. Yunus also criticized the United States for its war on terror. He told about 1,000 dignitaries at Oslo's City Hall that recent American military adventures have diverted global resources and attention from a more pressing project: halving worldwide poverty by 2015, as envisaged by the United Nations six years ago. He called the Grameen Bank, the Dhaka-based micro-credit institution he started 30 years ago, the new corporation that was neither non-profit nor profit motivated. He talked about it as a form of "social business." The bank has lent nearly $6 billion to help some of the poorest people on Earth to start businesses, build shelters and go to school. Yunus argued that similar structured institutions such as the Grameen Bank could bring health care, information technology, education and energy to the poor without requiring infusions of aid. Therefore, his definition of entrepreneur is very broad which inevitably changes the way we look at capitalist societies. Yunus, gives the grassroots entrepreneur new hope and vision in a globalised world filled with imperfections. If only the nation could find leadership like that which he has given to the Grameen bank!

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