Who’s the best?

Posted in AL, army, BNP, development, economics, history, macro by jrahman on March 11, 2012

Notice (12 March, 0610 BDT): charts have gone funny, and will be updated in the next 48 hours.

Updated (13 March, 1001 BDT): charts have been fixed.

With yet another confrontation looming between Bangladesh’s two major political parties, I thought it would be interesting to see how they compare against each other.  There are, of course, many ways of doing this.  I am going to do this by looking at four indicators: GDP per capita growth, manufacturing output growth, inflation, and foreign aid-to-GDP ratio.

Why these indicators?  Simply because I have good data handy for these metrics.  But they still tell us a good deal.  Growth in GDP per capita is a standard measure of welfare.  Manufacturing growth is associated with strong employment in the ‘modern’ sectors of the economy – by and large a good thing.  Inflation is self-evidently important.  Reliance on foreign aid is clearly something we can do without.  And improvements in these economic indicators, over time and across countries, are highly correlated with decline in poverty and rise in living standards.

Nonetheless, they miss out a lot.  For example, I don’t have up-to-date data on inequality.  Further, these economic indicators don’t tell us anything about governance or civil liberties.  A government might preside over fast growth and rapid fall in infant mortality, but could also gag the media, and be extremely corrupt.  Nor do I have any time series on crime statistics – arguably, maintaining law and order is a government’s first priority.  And I am not even sure how one could quantify foreign policy success or failure.

Therefore, the rankings presented below should be taken with a grain of salt.

I am also going to ignore the governments of the first decade.  While a good old fashioned Mujib-Zia food fight is enjoyed by all, given the impacts of the Liberation War, I don’t think the 1970s is comparable with the subsequent decades.

So the comparison is between six governments – Ershad, first Khaleda, first Hasina, second Khaleda, 1/11 regime, and second Hasina – over the four categories.  In each category, the best performing government gets five points, while the worst one gets zero.  Add all up, and we get the final tally.

The worst government of the past three decades turns out to be, with zero points, the Ershad regime.  This shouldn’t come as surprise to anyone who knows anything about economic history of Bangladesh.  But evidently, few people know anything about economic history, because if I had a cent for everytime I hear ‘things were great under Ershad’, I’d be in the 1%.

And the winners?  Read on.


Back to the future

Posted in politics by jrahman on January 12, 2012

I could also have named this post ‘An anniversary not noted’, but decided not to because I haven’t checked every newspaper headline or every talk show to air in the past day.  I can, however, reasonably confidently say that the two largest newspapers, the largest news site and a few major talk shows had nothing on the fifth anniversary of 1/11.  Nor was there any message on facebook or major blogs.  Everyone has been talking about Ghulam Azam (hell, even UV has a post on that!).  Maybe it is a big deal — though I don’t see exactly why it is.  And maybe I am one of those guys obsessed with the last crisis and therefore miss the next big thing.  But I do find it strange that no one has anything to say about 1/11 even though we seem to be on course to repeat the crisis that preceded it.

Ah well, instead of asking ‘why no one is talking about 1/11’, over the fold I am going to note my thoughts (as they stand currently — incomplete, tentative, open to revisison) on what led to 1/11, and what might still happen.


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Calling the big brother

Posted in politics by jrahman on March 15, 2011

Facebook status of an Awami League supporter friend reads: ‘Is Bangladesh a US colony?  Why should we justify to them how we are dealing with Yunus?’ — and that’s one of the more polite versions of this sentiment I’ve seen in Facebook / twitter / pro-AL Bangla blogs.  The message is simple: how dare US interferes in our internal affairs, and isn’t it a shame that Yunus and his allies are crying to the foreigners about our domestic dispute.

Meanwhile, in CNN and Al Jazeera I see (and I read in the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune) people debating the need for western intervention in Libya.  The argument made is this: we cannot sit idly by while Qaddafi and his sons brutally suppress a popular uprising, the rebels are outgunned but they are on the right side of history, and we must help them — ‘we’ here is a very elastic term of course.

What do almost all the AL-ers and many of the pundits calling for a no-fly zone in Libya have in common?


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Crazy and not-so-crazy theories about l’affaire Yunus

Posted in people, politics by jrahman on March 6, 2011

It’s hard to get away from the Yunus Affair.  The Awami League’s actions have angered a lot of its long term allies — see UV.  And the way this has been executed could well have implications for the economy — I plan to write on these more formally. And I’ll do at least one more post on the political consequences of this (I know I’ve been promising a lot of posts — what can I say, talk is cheap). This post covers possible explanations behind the government’s actions that is making the Prime Minister and her government look petty and vindictive.

Over the fold is a bunch of theories that I’ve heard floating around.  I am yet to form a view on which is the most sensible.  And I do not subscribe to many of the views presented.


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