Economy may face grave crisis unless elected govt takes over soon


Dr Akbar Ali Khan tells citizens’ meeting
Former caretaker government adviser Dr Akbar Ali Khan speaks at a discussion styled “State of Economy and the Way Forward” at Hotel Sonargaon in the city yesterday. Photo: STAR

Former caretaker government adviser Dr Akbar Ali Khan yesterday said an “economic emergency” also exists in the country along with the political state of emergency and the country’s economy may face a grave crisis unless an elected government takes over soon.

“One cannot run the country of a population of 150 million without the mandate of the people. We need an elected government and we must move towards that direction as soon as possible,” said Akbar, Regulatory Reforms Commission (RRC) chairman.

“It will be foolish to deny sitting in the air-conditioned room that there is no economic emergency,” Akbar said while addressing a discussion organised by Bangladesh First, Bangladesh 2025, an initiative undertaken by a group of citizens for exchanging views with cross-sections of people in order to prepare a national roadmap to progress.

Eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain chaired the discussion styled “State of Economy and the Way Forward”.

Akbar said he had anticipated the present economic situation one year ago when he realised that along with the declaration of the state of emergency an economic emergency also emerged and that this would have a bad impact on the country’s economy.

The former finance adviser, however, said the state of emergency came as a “breath of fresh air” at a time when the country was being driven towards destruction.

“It is very difficult for a non-elected government to address so many difficult economic issues. Therefore, I said last year that an elected government should come to office before the new budget [for 2008-09] is prepared,” Akbar said.

He said a non-elected government may address various issues but it has to face certain difficulties in running the country that a political government does not have to.

Akbar said the government could have implemented the budgetary measures to control inflation and food crisis. The measures are being implemented very slowly despite the forecast in the budget that the country may need 2.3 million tonnes of food grain.

The budget also warned that the government would have to feed 50 lakh people in the current fiscal year.

These forecasts had been made before the floods and the cyclone hit the country, but government steps do not correspond to them, he said.

Recalling his experience with political governments as a bureaucrat for 16 years, the former finance secretary said, “I can tell you there was never any such rise in food prices during the rules of political governments.

“The political leaders may be corrupt, they may be inefficient and bad, but they were very careful at least about this issue,” he said.

On political reforms, he said negotiation is the only way to reach a consensus with the political parties on this. “Obviously political reform is needed but there is no permanent solution to fully reforming the political situation,” Akbar said, adding that no country has a perfect political system.

Political reforms should be done with the consensus from every part of the society. “If you do not have a consensus, you have to pay high in future,” he said.

Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmed, president of Bangladesh Economic Association, Yussuf Abdullah Harun, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Anwar-Ul-Alam Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, presented the keynote papers at the discussion on economic problems and how to overcome them.

Former caretaker government adviser Sultana Kamal said, “Punishment to bad people and reward for good people should be ensured otherwise no reform can help change the country.”

Dr Kamal Hossain said, “We want democracy. But it should not come through just holding an election. We must have appropriate representatives who must be self-sufficient and responsible to the country.”

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