Sheikh Hasina’s Vision Signifies Hope for Nation and Sovereignty

Shoeb Chowdhury, AA

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been elected for the fifth time as Bangladesh’s Premier through the 12th parliamentary election which was held on 7 January 2024. Perhaps I am the only person who has written the highest number of articles on the Prime Minister. My article titled “Sheikh Hasina and Raoul Wallenberg in History” was applauded in a Cabinet meeting which appeared in The Asian Age on 16 October 2017. Sheikh Hasina has precisely exercised modern diplomacy to transform Bangladesh into a rising economy which was once upon a time known as a “bottomless basket”.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received a lot of global recognition for her extensive and beneficial roles in women empowerment. She appointed women in higher posts like Parliament’s Speaker, Foreign Minister, Home Minister, Education Minister etcetera but the concerned ministries could not properly capitalize on this success story to create a global buzz. In particular, trade diplomacy needs to be effectively exercised to strengthen Bangladesh’s commercial ties with foreign countries. The trade wings of Bangladeshi embassies and high commissions across the world should work more vigorously.

Strong steps taken by the Health Ministry and the advancement in health infrastructure broadly mitigated the impact of Covid 19 on the people of Bangladesh. The countrywide vaccination drive comprehensively curtailed the contagion of Covid 19 in the country. We were much less affected by Covid 19 than many prosperous countries. Both me and my wife were affected with Covid 19 too when the Prime Minister’s Security Affairs Adviser Major General (Retd) Tarique Ahmed Siddique greatly assisted us in getting us admitted in good hospitals and ensuring our medical treatment.

At present supply chain disruption has hit the economic system of the whole world due to the Russia-Ukraine War. Finance Ministry and Bangladesh Bank have been able to safeguard Bangladesh from the detrimental impact of the Russia-Ukraine War and Covid 19 pandemic by means of their time-befitting policies. Bangladesh Bank’s Policy Adviser, who was earlier Deputy Governor, Abu Farah Mohammad Naser has worked without fears or favours to formulate beneficial policies to sustain Bangladesh’s economic foothold. But Bangladesh Bank’s previous Governor Fazle Kabir’s dysfunctional role devastated the country’s banking sector from 2016 to 2022.

Some western countries adversely reacted over the 12th parliamentary election though leaders of many countries have congratulated Sheikh Hasina on her party’s victory. No election is held in China. Elections are not even held in some countries with monarchy but the western diplomats do not make any comment on these things whereas they keep on finding faults with Bangladesh’s electoral system. The recent election in Pakistan is another example of this type. The attack on Capitol Hill, USA carried out by the supporters of former US President Donald Trump on 6 January 2021 was a disgraceful occurrence in American history because the timeless definition of democracy came from another former US President Abraham Lincoln who said democracy is “of the people, by the people, for the people”.

We have already reaped the benefits of Sheikh Hasina’s Vision 2021 while Bangladesh is moving faster towards the implementation of Vision 2041 to become a prosperous and smart country. We need honest and efficient leadership in all sectors for the right execution of the plans the government has been working on to drive Bangladesh forward. A tech-savvy generation has emerged in Bangladesh who will contribute to further socio-economic development of the country. Sheikh Hasina always lays high emphasis on connectivity, networking and empowerment.

However, an evil nexus of some bureaucrats, dishonest businessmen and immoral politicians have made a parallel government which threatens Bangladesh’s advancement and tarnishes the government’s image. Some corrupt bureaucrats who hold sensitive posts have amassed huge magnitude of money and assets at home and in foreign countries who have become much wealthier than business tycoons. A group of unscrupulous readymade garments (RMG) owners, importers, bank owners, power producers and politicians have packed hands with these culprits. Strong steps must be taken right now to cut their wings and to stop their vicious game.

I have frequently written about the scams and frauds going on in the banking and financial sectors of Bangladesh and have tried my best to wake up the authorities concerned to halt corruption, irregularities, nepotism and mismanagement in banks and financial institutions. I have also faced many challenges after writing about banking corruption from influential quarters. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced in her party’s election manifesto that bold steps would be taken to establish good governance, transparency and accountability in the financial sector. This is the epicenter of all other points in Awami League’s election manifesto because true development does not come about if financial and banking sectors are in disarray.

An article of mine titled “Hasinacare: Strategy for Effective Health Services” appeared in The Asian Age on 24 November 2016 in which I proposed the government to launch a universal healthcare program for all people of Bangladesh naming it after Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman or his capable daughter Sheikh Hasina. I also wrote about land digitization. A former minister opposed my proposal but ex Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed and immediate past Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury supported my idea. Marriage registration for both Muslims and Hindus should be digitized too so that forgery or fraudulence don’t happen in Marriage Registry Offices (Kazi Offices).Hajj management has become much smoother under the present government with the help of sophisticated technologies. Bangladesh now has a new identity. The country has become a development role model on the global stage. Nevertheless, rifts between administrative officials and teachers of public universities should be dissolved. A full-fledged professor of a public university is no less in status than a Secretary.

Some bureaucrats get service extension though their contribution to the country’s betterment is not at all remarkable. New faces with competence, far-sight, honest and patriotism should be brought forward and appointed in vital posts.

Under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, women empowerment has gained a great deal of momentum in Bangladesh though it should be further expanded at the grassroots level. There should be one-third women candidates in local government elections like upazila and union parishad polls. The small and medium enterprises (SME) sector needs to be further strengthened by Finance Ministry and the central bank of Bangladesh.

A gazette notification issued on 5 July 2007 shows that Bangladesh Bank’s Deputy Governors have the same length of tenure like the central bank’s Governor. Allegations show that competent and transparent bankers are being cornered while inefficient and corrupt functionaries are being given undue privileges. Late Deputy Governor Allah Malik Kazmi was well-known for his dedication and honesty. A Governors’ Council needs to be introduced with the inclusion of former central bank governors to combat financial and banking woes.

The new Bangladesh Bank team under the supervision of Governor Abdur Rouf Talukder is a good one. Domain experts should be assigned with special tasks to upgrade the quality of banking system and to eliminate anomalies. Banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and stock market should be kept away from political influence and bureaucratic pressure. Bangladesh Bank’s latest initiative on merger of banks is a good drive to streamline the banking sector. The merger policy should be implemented in the right way without intervention from vested quarters. Most of the banks have distributed more loans than their deposits. Such scenario should not be allowed to prevail. People’s confidence on banks and financial institutions must be restored. I believe Abdur Rouf Talukder has the acumen to do this job.

The Senior Management Team (SMT) of Bangladesh Bank consists of Governor, Deputy Governors, chief economist and advisers who hold meetings every week. Their right actions can bring about a wide range of reforms and discipline in the banking administration.

A Bengali proverb says “Kazir goru kitabe achhey, goaley nai” which means there are certain things which exist in papers only but not found in reality. This proverb matches the dissimilarities between the financial statements of most of the scheduled banks which is far different from these banks’ real scenario.

The third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport has been a spectacular addition to Bangladesh’s aviation sector. Nevertheless, over-expensive mega projects are harmful for the country’s economy. The Prime Minister has terminated some of the projects which were over-valued.

The measures taken by the Commerce Ministry have played a big role in keeping up sufficient supply of daily necessary commodities during this Ramadan. However, some syndicators and monopolists are still active who are responsible for price hike and artificial crisis of goods. Uncompromising and tough actions must be implemented against them. New importers and exporters should be enabled to conduct foreign trade through open sourcing so that they are not obstructed by monopolists.

Indian poet Annada Shankar Roy once wrote in a poem “As long as Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, Gouri flows on, your name will be remembered forever Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman worked hard all his life to put smiles on the faces of ordinary people. Sheikh Hasina has been doing the same thing for last fifteen years. A proverb says “fish and rice define Bengalis”. Bangladesh has gained food autarky under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership thanks to huge progress in the agriculture sector. The country holds the second position in the world in fish production. The Prime Minister has urged everyone to cultivate every inch of arable land across Bangladesh.

Recently a gang of cross-border terrorists are trying to destabilize Chittagong Hill Tracts and endanger Bangladesh’s territorial integrity. Severe actions must be taken against them by the law and order forces to safeguard Bangladesh’s sovereignty.

While concluding, I would like to offer my best wishes for Sheikh Hasina’s long, healthy and successful life decorated with more and more achievements. At the same time we look forward to a progressive, non-communal, creduility-free and vibrant Bangladesh. Eid Mubarak to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Shoeb Chowdhury is a business analyst, author, poet, sports organizer and Chairman, Editorial Board of The Asian Age.

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