Change for the better

Posted: ফেব্রুয়ারি 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

MY fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed.”

The new US President Barak Hussein Obama articulated so eloquently during his inaugural address.

Like the rest of the world, our country is also bracing for change. Our new regime has returned to power after seven long years with a new vision of change as pledged by its leader. Her Charter for Change has captured the hearts and minds of the people, particularly the young generation, and has consequently received strong endorsement from the electorate.

After the historic landslide victory by her party, she was quite prompt in taking quite a few bold and commendable steps.

The very first test was the selection for the cabinet. The newly formed 31-member cabinet is refreshingly devoid of political big-wigs and is mostly comprised of people with excellent educational and professional backgrounds. She took the brave decision to put competence over prejudice. Her decision not to allocate ministries to only party loyalists and instead award it to deserving candidates is quite unprecedented in this country’s political history. She initiated the process quite early by skillfully eliminating some corrupt but important people from consideration.

The prime minister has also categorically warned her cabinet colleagues that she will not hesitate to remove them from office if they fail to fulfill her party’s election pledges to the people, or if allegations of corruption are brought against them.

In a bid to make the civil bureaucracy work better, she has decided to break with tradition and spend most of her office hours in Bangladesh Secretariat in order to improve efficiency, which is also quite a welcome move indeed.

In the very first cabinet meeting, the new government decided to reduce diesel price and increase subsidy on fertiliser, which will surely have a positive impact on boosting boro production in the coming season.

More significantly, the prime minister has also asked top civil bureaucrats that she will not accept legal barriers as an excuse for delay in implementation of development and welfare activities. She made it a point that laws should be changed or modernised in order to better cater to the needs of the changing times. This approach is very praiseworthy indeed as we have seen that in the past, this is the very obstacle that has hindered the execution of government initiatives.

“We’re the lawmakers. Laws can be amended and new laws can be enacted to pave the way for public development. Many times it was seen that development projects couldn’t be implemented due to legal obstacles. I don’t want to hear that a development project has been stalling because of a certain law or rule or a regulation,”were her inspiring words.

It is heartening to see that the government has identified their priorities with great precision — adequate and timely supply of agricultural inputs to farmers, improvement of road net-work and transportation system, augmenting of power generation and gas supply, creation of job opportunities, improvement and amendment of the legal system and most importantly the eradication of corruption.

During the election campaign, some accused the present prime minister of choosing the fashionable slogan of change as a potent campaign tool. After all, according to Time Magazine “change” has been the top buzzword for 2008!

However, the steps taken so far by our new government has given us the courage to hope, it has given us a taste of what this country can become. So long have we been oppressed by the evils of corruption. It is unfortunate but true that we had grown to expect our government to devote itself not to our welfare but to persecuting its rivals and looting the public purse.

Decades of misrule and criminalisation of the government machinery has debased the very foundation of our political reality. The past years have been nothing but a Punch-and-Judy show of non-co-operation and vindictive retaliation between the ruling and opposition parties.

This historical victory has not happened by chance, nor is it a mere continuation of the five-yearly anti-incumbency cycle that we have grown used to. It is a call from the people, a cry for change. It is the collective hope of the people which has brought about such a momentous result to the election.

The Economist has in a recent article stated: “With such hopes invested in her, she is almost bound to disappoint.” We don’t want to give any coin to such cynicism. So far, we have observed, some change got to happen, we will change the way we have been running the government, disbursing public amenities, using public funds, implementing public projects, attracting foreign investment, marketing Bangladesh outside, handling calamities, ensuring public-private partnership, treating the neighbours, and driving the country towards further growth.

In the spirit of true change let us, like Barak Obama pledge: “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

In other words, as my Harvard professor taught, only “change” simply will not do. It has to be “change for the better.” Change without rocking the boat too much and with clear visibility about the landing pad. It’s a tough job, but united we stand.

Mamun Rashid is a banker and economic analyst. He can be reached at

The daily star 08.02.2009



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