A new government has come to power with the resolve to initiate deep and driving changes or reforms in different spheres in Bangladesh. In this attempt none can reasonably deny that one area where the country can gain a very great deal is by stopping waste of resources and saving resources. Some such areas where stopping waste of precious resources is quite feasible are as follows. Our policy makers can consider them to good effect immediately.
For example, several small ministries can be amalgamated into one and such a step will save substantial resources. There are government departments the existence of which contribute little or nothing to services delivery to members of the public. It should be sensible to identify them and close them down. The employees in them can be said good-bye after paying their terminal benefits but the one time payment will prove more worthwhile with the ending of the longer term drain of resources on paying their salaries and other benefits regularly or indefinitely , plus resources squandered on running the rather useless departments. There are also departments rendering similar services but located physically at different places. Such departments can be merged physically under one roof and the services of the excess employees in them should be terminated after the settlement of their dues.
The government’s transportation wings or the vehicles pools can be sources of great waste. Vehicles from the government’s transport pools are sometimes found in use by members of the family of the civil servants for shopping and running errands. Exaggerated fuel bills, huge maintenance costs and unearned overtime by drivers are different forms of misuse of resources which have become the integral part of the government’s transportation wings. Substantial saving of resources can be achieved by properly running the transport pools.
Unnecessary public works like building again and again road dividers, footpaths, road markers, etc., cause waste of resources running into billions of taka every year. The holding of the endless seminars and the like — the positive results of which in most cases are little or none at all– is another example of the irrationality in government expenditures.
A great deal of resources are also wasted on the foreign travels of government officials. The travels are, of course, shown to be in the public interest. But careful scrutiny could prove that most of the time the travels contribute little or nothing towards promoting the country’s interests. The above and many other areas where cuts in spending would be justified should be attempted by the government– promptly and unsparingly– to attain efficiency in the utilization of resources. The donors are also rightly pressing the government to go for such cost cutting measures.
According to an estimate, an amount of nearly 65 million US Dollars or over 300 crore Taka on average is being spent annually by Bangladeshi patients for treatment abroad in neighbouring India. If the entire amount of resources spent for foreign treatment by Bangladeshis in other countries are also taken into account, the same would obviously show a much bigger amount. It must be admitted though that a decrease in this expenditure is noted during the last couple of years as some international standard hospitals started their activities in Dhaka supported by helpful governmental policies. The major publicly run hospitals have also significantly added to their capacities and improved their services delivery during this period under the watchful vigilance of the relevant government ministry. Nonetheless, the expenditures on foreign medical treatment by Bangladeshis can be slashed down further .What should be considered is whether a drain of the country’s limited resources on medical or health care is justified when the country is required to carry out its imports of industrial raw materials, capital equipments and indispensable consumption items with its limited foreign currency earnings or reserve. The answer must be in the negative and this should create the compulsion on the policy makers to set in motion policies designed to check this drain even more.
The first thing in order would be the taking of immediate steps to improve the existing state of medical and health care in the country. The general public health care system has no doubt improved under the present government but can be improved further. If it is improved substantially, then this will check some sections of people from wanting foreign treatment. Much greater positive results can come from regulating and bringing up to standard the private clinics, hospitals, diagnostic centres, etc., which are operating below the standard.
Furthermore, government should make its own investments for the establishment of general hospitals and specialized hospitals. The private sector should also come forward to set up such hospitals and facilities for specialized medical care considering these to be investments with prospects of good returns because there exists a huge demand for such high class specialized medical care in the country.
Only from pursing the above strategies, the phenomenon of the drain of resources on foreign treatment can decline verysubstantially on a sustainable basis and the country can save much resources from going out of the country.
Even in the mid nineties, the importing of milk powder was a reasonable one. But the fast climbing rate of import of milk powder in recent years underline insufficient local production of milk to meet its growing demand. But it is not only a matter of demand for a product fast outpacing the locally available means to supply the same. The higher import points to gross neglect in building up a sector with which is vitally connected the nation’s health, nutrition and other vital issues. Our country has turned into a paradise for overseas milk powder suppliers. They have established a big and impressive network to market their milk in powder form in this country when there is every reason to think that consumers are in no way amply nourished by milk powder as they would be if they could drink locally produced liquid and wholesome milk.
If the dairy industry here develops fast and properly, then several useful ends can be served. First of all, it would mean import substitution and substantial saving of resources. The saved amount would help the balance of payments. The nutrition picture of the country could change positively with significantly increased consumption of fresher milk in liquid form.
An improved and enlarged dairy industry will also create employment opportunities in various ways where it matters the greatest— at grassroots level. From greater availability of cows, different sorts of industries will be facilitated. For example, more cow hides will be available for the tanneries and leather industries. The import of cows from India for sacrificial purposes will drastically decline or cease which also would help the country’s balance of payments. The availability of locally produced meat would rise helping greater protein consumption by the population. No part of the cow is wasted. Even its horns and bones are used by cottage industries to make button, combs and related products. There can be also other spin-offs such as cow dung to be used as fuel or as raw material to increase production of bio-gas to help lighting, heating and cooking in the rural areas.
But for all of these activities to be boosted, the first step needs to be encouraging specially the rural people to rear cows. It appears that institutional credits specifically for the purpose is scanty or difficult to access. Government can adopt a policy in this regard and have it implemented very extensively and efficiently through the Krishi Bank and other mediums to provide credits to persons willing to rear cows in the rural areas on easy terms. This would surely be a big stimulus for cow rearing as rural people will be encouraged to go for a good source of earning on the side.
Government should also help out in the development and sustaining of a growing dairy industry through research activities and breeding of healthier species of cows. Side by side, the government conducted veterinary services throughout the country will have to be expanded and much revamped as supportive of the growing dairy enterprises. The state of veterinary services presentlyis very shocking.