Sustainable poverty reduction
Many poor families in Bangladesh climb out of poverty one year to slip back into extreme poverty conditions in the next. Natural calamities like floods, cyclones and river erosions increase the number of the poverty afflicted or push them back into poverty after they had achieved considerable success in getting rid of poverty from their lives.
What can the policies be to conquer poverty on a sustainable basis ? One way can be hedging the rural poor with insurance policies to cover risks like crop losses, damage to homesteads by floods, loss of poultries and cattle, etc. According to media reports, a crop insurance pilot project was about to be launched in a limited way. The project would be funded jointly by GOB, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan. This project’s outcome should be monitored and, if found effective, should be replicated all over the country. The small insurance policies can help poor people at the grass roots from getting some financial assistance directly at the time of their acute distresses.
Rural marketing systems may be improved so that rural producers can sell directly to buyers at good value, regularly, without having to sell to exploitative middlemen at a loss. The overall availability of micro credits to the poor must be increased with repayment of the loans at substantially lower rate of interests and on other easy terms.
Government will have to run special programmes to take care of the needs of the victims of river erosion, monga (periodic famine conditions in northern areas). It should provide food and housing supports and create planned employment for affected people under these special programmes and operate them with some regularity. Greater availability of energy and other means of production in the rural areas that have the highest concentration of poverty can also have a positive effect against poverty.
The fastest results against poverty at the national level can come from much increasing the rate of economic growth. Economic growth creates jobs, earnings and employment that have the most effect in reducing poverty. But the economic growth is vitally dependent on greater investment activities. The first requirement, thus, is to create an environment more conducive to investments.
The creation of an investment-friendly environment in the country is linked to a host of factors such as increasing the availability of power and other forms of energy, long term favourable and unchanging fiscal and monetary policies of the government that create confidence for the investors, improved law order conditions, upgradation and addition to infrastructures supportive of investments, prevention of smuggling, etc.
All conscious groups in the country must concentrate their pressures now on the political players, the political parties and the government, for forging consensuses in respect of certain guideline in politics to be observed by all . They must highlight these demands as the ones representing the entire civil society and press for their acceptance by all political parties. The business and civic groups will have to urge the government not to act out its term as an overseer of elections only. It must exercise a more innovative and visionary role by urging all and getting their agreement to abide by certain fundamentals of political behaviour in the future. The same should be as follows :
All political parties must express their commitment formally to be represented always in parliament and contain their grievances within the floors of the parliament. The two major parties — BNP and the Awami League — had continuously boycotted parliament’s sessions in the past under one pretext or the other when they formed the opposition . There should be no more such pretexts. They should commit themselves unequivocally in the public view about never to abstain from the parliament’s session. They should give a guarantee about the parliament’s effective functioning at all times with their representation in it and not to allow their differences inside the parliament to spill over in violent agitational form outside the parliament. In sum, they must be persuaded to take a vow for a new political beginning with parliament as the centre-stage of all their politics.
The government will have to try its best to get the parties’ agreement of no more engaging in hartals. This government during the rest of its tenure will have to spend its energies mainly in setting the stage for elections. But even while doing this, it should be calling meetings of the major political parties and trying its utmost to thrash out an agreement in which all political parties will agree to give up hartal as political strategy or tactic.
The political parties must nominate to the best of their abilities competent and respected persons as candidates for the parliamentary elections. This would be a very crucial expectation on the part of the voters and not accomplishing this would remain as the worst legacy of this government.
The government will have to secure the agreement of all major parties that they would faithfully accept the results of the elections and would not come up with fresh allegations that elections have not been fair in the post election period.
The business and civic groups will do very well indeed if they keep their sights very clear and go on pressuring everybody to work with redoubled enthusiasm to build up pressure on all to do whatever things are capable of being done for lasting political stability and good governance in the aftermath of the elections.