Media agencies of Bangladesh are publishing two sorts of news almost every day. Besides day to day general news items, newspapers abound with the country's list of development projects. At the same time news agencies are also presenting details about astonishing instances of plundering in the financial sector. We all know with ordinary understanding that development and plundering are two contradictory phenomena. Development is desirable while plundering is a totally negative thing which should be stopped. However, it is surprising to see that both development and plundering have been going on at a time in our country.
From reports of news sources it is clear that development and plundering are happening hand in hand in Bangladesh. It appears to be the fact that these two things are now dependent on one another. As a result questions are coming up what sort of development it is where plundering and financial mishandling are taking place together. Another question is whether it is really development where plundering happens indispensably. However, we need to judge the authenticity of such news items before making further comments about the reported monetary scams.
Everybody knows that most of the news items run by the mass media of our country follow the intentions of the ruling authority. Achievements of ruling parties in our country are always highlighted by media sources. Long lists of development works are often propagated by media agencies to flash immense light on the success stories of the government. We saw striking examples of such pro-government publicity during Ayub Khan's regime in Pakistan era. The same trend continued later on during the ruling periods of Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad. This kind of exposure of the government's successful breakthroughs has been still going on through the reign of Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.
The mass media of the country has been almost entirely handed over to private sector. Print media is now almost absolutely owned by private entrepreneurs. In case of electronic media television channels and FM radio stations are run by private owners too except BTV and Bangladesh Betar. Media agencies of the country have now come under the control of a handful of ultra rich plunderers. What sort of news would be published is decided according to the whims and fancies of the owners of media agencies.
The vested quarters who own these media houses find it safe to satisfy the ruling party with pro-government news. Since most of the media houses are owned by wealthy people, they find it necessary to safeguard their wealth by keeping the government happy with the news they expose. For this reason development projects of the country are often exaggerated by media agencies. Still some media agencies publish news about financial irregularities and corruption which are happening unabatedly in the country.
Development, democracy, socio-economic fairness-all these things are required for the country. The government prefers the idea that development should come first, then democracy. For this reason social discrimination and lack of democratic principles are remarkably noticed in our country. The scale of plundering and financial mishandling has been rising along with the expansion of development. Hall Mark scam, monetary scandals linked with Sonali Bank, Basic Bank and stock markets are some of the instances of ongoing financial anarchy around us.
Defaulted loans have been increasing continuously. Under-invoicing, over-invoicing, false mortgage papers and other forms of forgery have been going on without obstacles. Currently there are defaulted loans of 1 lakh 11 thousand crore taka. According to Finance Minister, the amount of black money might have exceeded 80% of the country's total GDP (16 lakh crore taka). What a terrible thing it is! But these things are being ruled out as "minor" issues.
The country's development projects have become lucrative sources of plundering. The construction cost of flyovers is an example of this. Per kilometer construction expenses for different flyovers in other countries are as follows: 48 crore taka for Park Circus flyover in Calcutta, 44 crore taka for Bata Nagar flyover, 57 crore taka for Malaysian flyovers and 48 crore taka for flyovers in China but 241 crore taka has been spent for Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover in Dhaka which is four to five times higher than the construction costs of flyovers in other countries. It goes without saying "commissions" are the main reason behind elevated expenditures for flyovers in Bangladesh.
The instances of financial irregularities are also vividly understood from the huge amounts of money laundering from Bangladesh to other countries. Washington-based organization Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has informed 6 lakh crore taka has been illegally transferred from Bangladesh to foreign countries from 2005 to 2014. Just in 2014 nearly 73, 000 crore taka has been laundered from Bangladesh to overseas destinations. A lot of people have consumed these massive sums of money for building up apartments in Malaysia, Europe and USA. Their children are pursuing higher studies in expensive universities and colleges abroad. Deposits by Bangladeshi clients in Swiss banks have increased in the same way.
The development strategies followed by the ruling authorities of Bangladesh for last four decades have deprived 99% middle class people of the country and have accumulated all assets of the country into the hands of just 1% people. As a result social discrimination has been rising alarmingly. Such instances of social injustice and corruption totally oppose the spirit of the glorious Liberation War. The Liberation War aimed to develop the country in a humanitarian and rapid manner with transparency. That was the dream of the Liberation War. We will have to restore our country on the right track by materializing the ideals of the Liberation War. It can happen if we can reawaken the deprived 99% people of our country.
The writer is President, Bangladesh Communist Party (CPB)
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