Mukti

What to expect if you are expecting?

Posted in economics, elections, institutions, politics by jrahman on December 23, 2018

In just a few days, Bangladeshis might have a chance to vote.  I have no idea whether the election will be free and fair.  Nor can I venture a guess about the winner.  For all we know, the government will follow the path of Pakistan over India — that is, it will rig the election following ZA Bhutto’s 1977 example, and not accept defeat in a free and fair election like Indira Gandhi did the same summer.  However, one can always hope, and expect.  If you were to expect a Jatiya Oikya Front victory on 30 December, what should you expect for the economy for the next five years?

As with anything to do with economy, the answer is mixed.

On the one hand, even if Mrs Hasina Wajed allows a free and fair election, accepts defeat, and peacefully hands over power, there is a significant risk that she will still have left the new government with a Pakistan-like situation.

Pakistan too had an election earlier this year.  The previous government claimed, with some justification, to have tackled the country’s electricity and other infrastructure problems.  Pakistan economy seemed to have turned a corner.  However, the government’s books were a mess, and there was a risk that the country couldn’t meet its external liabilities.  The incoming government had won the election promising good governance on a whole raft of fronts.  But the new prime minister Imran Khan and his finance minister have spent most of their time travelling the Washington DC, Beijing and Riyadh with a begging bowl.  And all the grand promises seem to be melting into thin air.  If you are expecting a triumph of democracy on 30 December, you would do well prepare for a Pakistan-style crisis in 2019.

On the other hand, if they can avoid a crisis that would be Mrs Wajed’s parting gift, there is much to look forward to a Oikya Front government for.  And a crisis is not a fait accompli.  A train wreck can be avoided if you see the locomotive rushing towards you.  The thing about expectations is, if you know what to expect, you could adjust your actions to avoid the worst possible outcome, and temper your expectations to face the situation in a stoic manner.  I suspect the would be econocrats of the Oikya Front are well aware of the mess they might inherit.  They will need to take a few steps to diffuse any looming disaster before launching their longer term tasks.  And if they can get to it, judging by its manifesto, and BNP’s Vision 2030, a new government will attempt an ambitious but realistic programme.

Let’s unpack these step by step.

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Leaders

Posted in democracy, governance, institutions, politics by jrahman on August 30, 2015

If only we had the right leader….

If only Bangabandhu (or Zia) had lived….  

If only we had a Mahathir….  

I am sure you can finish the sentence with all sorts of claims about how Bangladesh would have been, or could still be, a much better place with better leadership.  Never mind the fact that all things considered, Bangladesh might actually have done more-than-okay.  To many of our chattering classes, we’re doomed because we haven’t been blessed with the right leader.

How much does leadership matter?

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Des(h)i progressives’ nightmare

Posted in democracy, politics by jrahman on June 1, 2014

But see, I don’t want to vote for AL. I do not think AL should return to power. We need checks and balances. BNP should come. But how can I vote for BNP when they are in an alliance with JI.

That’s what a friend told me in December.  I have the deepest respect for this person’s sincerity.  She is a genuine progressive.  She wants a democratic Bangladesh — of this I have no doubt.  And I understand her reasons for aversion to Jamaat — never mind 1971, Jamaat categorically rejects some liberal-progressive tenets such as equal citizenship rights.  Had she said “I will not vote for Jamaat”, I would have accepted it.

But that’s not what she said.  She implicitly rejected BNP for its electoral alliance with Jamaat.

I didn’t engage in a prolonged conversation with her.  She is hardly the only person I know who made that leap about conflating Jamaat and BNP.  Bangladesh is full of self-proclaimed progressives who choose to reject democracy, never mind the facts.  I just don’t have the mental energy to engage in fruitless debates these days.  At least my friend had the decency to not engage in that kind of sophistry.

I didn’t engage in a political discussion with her, but was reminded of her comment after the Indian election.  You see, I had heard similar stuff from my Indian progressive friends.  Way back in the early 2000s, I heard people say “don’t want to vote for Congress, don’t like the sycophancy/dynasty, and the Vajpayee government isn’t so bad, but you know, how can BJP be supported when they have someone like Modi”.

And now Modi is the prime minister.

My Indian friends could have supported Vajpayee or other moderates in BJP/NDA government.  They could have provided the left flank of a genuinely centrist alternative to Congress.  But their self-inflicted intellectual blind spot meant that they couldn’t even contemplate such a course — never mind that such an alternative would have served India well.

A lot of things contributed to Mr Modi’s rise to power.  The progressives’ blind spot is just one factor, and probably not even an important one.  But to the extent that he represents a lot of things progressives loath, they have no one but themselves to blame.

I fear whether someday my Bangladeshi progressive friend will wake up to her political nightmare.  Jamaat’s importance in Bangladesh is constantly over-rated, and BNP’s strength under-rated, by everyone.  Of course, Jamaat benefits from the inflated power projection.  And the Jamaat bogey suits the Awamis fine.  The thing is, as the centrist opposition is systematically denied any political space, and as the ruling party degenerates into an orgy of violence (google Narayanganj / Feni murders), Islamists (Jamaat or otherwise) may well emerge as the only alternative.

My friend is genuine progressive, not a closet Awami fascist.  Will people like her act to prevent their own worst nightmare?

 

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সাতকাহন

Posted in action, comedy, communalism, history, Islamists, macro, movies, Muslim world, politics, Rights, science, society, thriller, TV by jrahman on January 25, 2013

Seven trashes collected by the senses.

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সাতকাহন

Posted in action, comedy, development, economic history, economics, India, movies, politics, science, society, thriller by jrahman on November 16, 2012

Seven trashes collected by the senses.

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সাতকাহন

Posted in communalism, Dhallywood, economics, foreign policy, India, macro, movies, music, Muslim world, politics, West Asia by jrahman on October 12, 2012

Seven trashes collected by the senses.

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