Tuesday, August 4, 2009

But what if politics is corruption?

Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Vice President for South Asian Affairs, is visiting Bangladesh and has met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Finance Minister AMA Muhith. On the issue of corruption we are only offered the statement: "government wants to establish a corruption-free, democratic society." But how? Without any clear plan, PM Hasina's words are nothing more than sugar for Ms. Guerrero's tea.

In stark contrast to this, PM Hasina matches her objectives to clear plans and programs. Rural healthcare needs are being met with the reactivation of community clinics. Higher educational attainment through free primary and secondary (presumably) education. Poverty reduction through multi-lateral regional cooperation with other SAARC (South Asian Assciation for Regional Cooperation) members.

Her only remark on the subject of corruption was 'we will not turn the anti-corruption drive into anti-politics drive like the previous government.' A barely veiled reference to her detention during the Caretaker Government (note that Zia and Nizami, BNP and Jamaat supremos, were also detained) (New Nation).

Given the current global economic climate, it is unsurprising that the World Bank is unwilling to provide funding for road development due to corruption. Like PM Hasina, Minister Muhith is ignoring the issue by simply denying the World Bank's impression that "provisions have been made to award deals to ruling party loyals" (Daily Star).

The Awami government must get serious with fighting corruption, not only will this allow the government to secure promised funding from the World Bank, it will also lead to additional aid once donors recover. Reducing corruption would reduce the costs and improve the impact of PM Hasina's various programs.

The World Bank should continue to withhold non-critical funding until corruption is reined in. The Bangladeshi government should make a concerted attempt to deal quickly with cases of corruption, sparing none regardless of position or "party loyalty." Preventing corruption will generate a number of benefits not only for the exchequer but local residents and politicians. Without corruption, politicians will find that their constituents will require their thoughtful attention. Constituents will realize that only respectable, "clean" politicians will bring PM Hasina's programs to their districts.

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