Myanmar in the
map are not members of SAARC)
Gives Afghanistan Mixed Economic Review
International Monetary Fund, on February 20, gave Afghanistan a mixed
economic report card, saying the country's overall reforms are on track
but corruption and a dramatic rise in opium production pose significant
problems. VOA's Barry Wood has more.
IMF says opium production has risen by 4,000 percent since 2001 and
earns Afghan farmers about $1 billion a year. An estimated 93 percent of
the world's heroin, made from opium, comes from Afghanistan. Analysts
say the Taliban insurgency derives much of its revenue from the illegal
IMF says a mounting anti-government insurgency, instability in
neighboring Pakistan and rampant corruption have slowed the inflow of
foreign direct investment.
growth, the IMF reports, slowed to six percent in 2007, mainly due to
drought, but is expected to more than double to over 13 percent this
year. The political environment is described as increasingly complex
with the government confronted by multiple and competing demands. Jobs
remain scarce and living standards have been slow to rise.
IMF says foreign aid accounts for a whopping two-thirds of Afghanistan's
gross domestic product.
has been rebuilding an economy that was shattered during six years of
rule by the fundamentalist Taliban, that was overthrown in 2001_ Since
then an estimated four million refugees have returned while NATO-led
peacekeepers maintain security in the mountainous territory.
Afghanistan mission chief Mohammed Elhage says trade ties with Pakistan
remain strong despite problems.
has been some disruption in trade. The trade links between Pakistan and
Afghanistan are very strong," he said.
says Afghan wheat exports to Pakistan have slowed significantly.
is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt countries by Transparency
International, a Berlin-based monitoring agency. Because of graft, many
aid agencies channel their assistance through non-government
organizations, a practice opposed by the central bank. Elhage agrees
that an increasing flow of aid should be disbursed through the central
do support the authorities' objective to have more aid channeled through
the central government budget. But again, we need to take into account
the institutional capacity and the absorbtive capacity of the central
government," he said.
says privatization of state enterprises is lagging behind and he called
attention to alleged corruption in the electricity company, saying no
further funds should be disbursed to the company until an audit has been
widespread problems, Afghanistan has achieved macroeconomic stability
and a stable currency. Its overall economy has doubled in size in the
past five years.
do not need high profile seminars or World Bank prescription or a series
of articles to perceive the hard reality that Bangladesh needs honest,
smart, intelligent, educated and energetic leadership to elevate itself
to the ranks of the other developed countries of Southeast Asia. Such
leaders with vision and drive in some of those countries have worked
round the clock to pull their own people from abysmal poverty and
disease to build a new country altogether. As a result, they now
dominate the markets in Asia, as well as many in the West, as leaders in
the global scene.
But where do we stand today? Do we have wonderful stories to tell about
our economy, education, research or health care? Whatever the private
sector has achieved was possible because of its tenacity and resolve to
overcome various obstacles that came in the way. Local administration
and hostile international politics were always out there to scare them
Despite all that, our private sector flourished over the years.
Nevertheless, it needs to be said that holistic growth of a country
cannot happen unless the government of the day plays the role of a
facilitator, carrying out negotiations at the national and international
For this reason we need politicians who will be able to foresee the
future of the country fifty years from today, negotiate effectively at
international forums, take pragmatic decisions regarding the burgeoning
population and increasing poverty, and take measures to diversify the
country's export items. They would never hesitate to control corruption,
and would allow all the institutions like the EC, ACC and Public Service
Commission to work independently and effectively.
But what do we have in reality? We have politicians who sleep late in
the morning or always remain surrounded by packs of hungry wolves. Talk
to them and you will find out soon that they have no idea about what
potential Bangladesh has with regard to developing the IT sector, which
might bring billions of dollars to the country.
Ironic indeed that our politicians cannot think beyond five years. They
have no plan with regard to controlling population or alleviating
poverty. All they would do is quote from the PRSP. These people have
nothing new to say once they run out of script. And if they try to
innovate they pathetically end up sounding nonsensical.
Right now our very own Brig. Gen (Retd) Hannan Shah is back in business
again. He has picked up that chonga of his and begun to canvass
with renewed vigour. He is asking the runaway leaders of BNP to say tawba
and accept Begum Zia's leadership and recognise Delwar Hossain as the
legal Secretary General, nothing more, nothing less.
He has been saying this in between his frequent visits to jail, and he
has started to say this again after coming out of jail. He now thinks
that the Chief Election Commissioner has committed a kabira guna
(unforgivable sin) by inviting Major Hafiz to a dialogue on the coming
election ignoring Khandaker Delwar. But, alas, no one seems to be
interested to listen to him.
No doubt, by doing so, Hannan Shah is trying to create the image of a
diehard person, possibly inspired by the movie named Diehard. We
understand he has his eye on the coveted seat nearer to madam's throne
in the Windy Castle. Frankly speaking, he should be considered for a BNP
brand "Knighthood." Remember, he used to go knee-deep in
flood-water and let the people hear the voice of his netri. But that did
not fill their hungry stomachs. They needed food.
It is the same for ZA Khan, Major Hafiz, Saifur Rahman, Delwar or, for
that matter, Dr. Badruddoza or HM Ershad. All of them are serving old
things wrapped in new wrappers. There is no flash of brilliance in their
talk or in their analysis of things. We haven't heard anything to make
us want to hear more.
Our politicians react to something rather than act. They cannot preempt
things or be proactive. If you do not have the guts to say something, or
protest in loud voice a wrong-doing, then you better not be in politics.
Very lackluster politics that.
What about those "veteran" politicians in the other camps? Are
we all impressed by their wisdom, skill and acumen at a time when
politics is passing through such rough waters? If you listen carefully,
you will notice that Tofael Ahmad, Abdur Razzak and Zillur Rahman are
also saying the same thing in a prefixed frequency over and over again.
If you have heard one, you have heard them all. They either repeat what
the "leader" has already said, or they say something
incomprehensible and then disown it. Come to think of it! Disowning a
statement is an old yet pathetic ploy of our politicians. But by doing
so don't they expose the poverty of courage to face one's own self!
So, it would be an understatement if we say that our politicians really
sound cacophonous, like old gramophone records that are full of cuts and
scratches. Do we have much to expect from them? You have the answer.
And more ...
Aman has been transferred from Dhaka Central Jail to a jail in
Narayanganj. It came as a reward for his arrogance, or what is popularly
called here -- "damn-care attitude" (whatever it means). In
mid-February, he was taken to PG hospital for a checkup, but after some
minor tests he along with about fifty of his local sengats (hoodlums)
walked about the hospital as if he owned the place, and then went to a
canteen to have lunch. They ate, they gossiped and they guffawed in
presence of some "loyal" security personnel. Aman went back to
the prison van when he felt like going.
According to law, by meeting political people, talking to unknown
persons on a cell phone and taking food outside, Aman has violated
prison law. Don't forget he was a lawmaker himself and had sent many,
many people to the same jail for little or no reason at all. There is
every possibility of him coming back as a lawmaker (?) in future.
But how safe will laws be in their hands? The manner in which he took
law in his own hands speaks volumes about how this new species of
haughty politicians disrespect rules and regulations. They are veritably
an indisciplined lot that needs to be kept in chains.
The answer to all the problems mentioned above lies in finding honest,
dedicated, patriotic, educated and highly intelligent people who would
sit in parliament to formulate pro-people policies and guide them on the
road to progress.
Wahid is Senior Assistant Editor of The Daily Star.
The Daily Star]
Politics of Violence
will create 100,000 jobs in the 10th Plan.
it safe to visit Bhutan? Bhutanese people were never asked this question
before. In the aftermath of a number of bomb blasts in January and
February, visitors are now concerned about their safety when they plan to
visit Bhutan. And this may be something to worry about.
People living outside Bhutan hear words like explosions and Maoists and
immediately conjure up images of the violence and bloodshed in the region.
The Maoists in Nepal have practically halted governance and crippled the
tourism industry. Maoists in India have kept their movement alive over the
impact of the bombs themselves, five blasts within two weeks, were more
psychological than physical. In the context of global experience, they
were more wild militancy than hard core terrorism.
we have the discomfort of knowing that the trend is trying to take roots
here. If we look at the history of war-torn regions in the world, many
began with a single blast. We do not need to lose lives before we start
is a movement based outside the kingdom. Our region has a population
fraught with numerous political, religious, and socio economic tensions.
Today, the media has named at least nine groups that claim to be
initiating armed activities against the Bhutanese government. We do not
know their credibility and assume that they are currently more of nuisance
value than serious threats.
we do know that they are trying to disrupt the most viable resettlement
programme that has been initiated for the reported 100,000 or so refugees
in Nepal. They are also training and sending in armed men to try and
disturb peace in Bhutan. And they have obviously made contact with
individuals in the kingdom.
this comes at a time when Bhutan is going through a transformation that is
widely seen as a unique political experience. It is an act of desperation
as these groups see an opportunity to take advantage of the global
attention on the kingdom as well as possible tensions within the country
have always known that the geopolitics of the region will not change.
There is little that we can do to influence a region that is home to
two-fifths of mankind. Bhutan has been, and will always be, surrounded by
dissatisfied groups and militants that are a result of India’s
solution lies within the country. The first step is to make the democratic
process work. A stable political system is the best response to any form
of turbulence, within or outside the country. And we have no excuse for
failure in an environment that is the most safe and secure in the region.
keep in mind that Bhutan’s transformation is not accidental. It is a
part of a larger vision.
man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.
Democracy In The Maldives
Gayoom is today, without doubt, the most hated individual in the Maldives.
politics, one may possibly surmise that public popularity and the
people’s confidence in the President to do a reasonable job would
suffice to get him elected.
when a man is as detested as Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, irrespective of the
millions of dollars he’s prepared to spend on buying the goodwill of the
voting population, would they vote for that man?
they vote for that man being well aware that the money with which their
votes may be bought originally belonged to them before it was stolen? Or
would they take his money; cast him out of office? Or is it possible that
they would forget the vast array of injustices and the cruelties inflicted
upon them in the hell-holes called jails in the Maldives? Would money
simply prove to be the century’s equaliser?
the last two years or so, to an extent, Maldivians had begun to overcome
the traditional fear wielded by the Island Chiefs, the Atoll Chiefs, and
the President, backed by his tanks, fast attack crafts and troops carrying
the recent introduction of the multi-party democracy President Gayoom was
forced to introduce sweeping democratic reforms, thus indoctrinating
changes into an autocratic system, gradually weakening the power structure
of a 28 year-old-autocracy.
the beginning of the campaign to introduce political reforms, the
opposition, led by the Maldivan Democratic Party, shortly after the party
registration, vowed to launch a civil disobedience campaign. The kick-off,
with the dramatic arrest of the party chairperson Nasheed, from the centre
of the Republican Square, could not have been executed more brilliantly.
three nights – Aug. 12, 13, and 14th of 2005, the public and the police
engaged in sporadic clashes all over the capital. According to political
analysts, had the demonstrations proceeded for just one more night, with
the government tottering on the brink of failure and Gayyoom was about
ready to be discarded into the dustbin of history.
was the opposition MDP leadership led by Male’ member of Parliament
Ibrahim Ismail and the member for the Addu constituency, Shareef, who
foiled the fast gathering momentum of the excited masses because some
street thugs assumed to be paid by pro-government figures had warned them
of personal repercussions. Thus ended the mini-revolution in 2005 when
Gayoom could have been brought down.
Goliath was needed, the Maldivans produced a lesser man the pro-democracy
movement began its descent into its present form: sporadic clashes between
the police and a disgruntled public, serving no particular foreseen
Maldivian Democratic Party led in membership with President Gayoom’s DRP
party following behind. Membership differences between these two parties
were wide enough to make a marked difference. The poor and the have-nots
– MDP – were backed by a few rich philanthropists’ whereas the
moneyed class backed Gayoom. The numbers, however, favour the MDP.
prior to the formation and official recognition of the MDP, the richest
man in the Maldives, Qasim Ibrahim, the owner of the Villa Group, chose to
side with the democrats but Gayoom had him cut down to size by showing him
the inside of the notorious Dhoonidhoo Detention Center.
he showed Qasim how he could be broken financially. The government placed
a ban on vessels filling his fuel tanks, a large number of rooms in some
of his resorts were ordered to remain closed by the Tourism Ministry for
no valid reason and Qasim, unable to take the punches, did an about turn
and joined Gayyoom’s cabinet as the Finance Minister.
two other political parties in existence are of minor consequence.
a year had passed since the official registration of political parties in
the Maldives without an election being held as yet. The excuse by the
ruling Gayoom administration: the existing Constitution lacks the legal
requirements to facilitate the running of the country in a democratic
environment. Hence the formation of a body to re-write the Constitution
– filled with elected Gayyoom members in addition to a number of
President Gayoom’s personal appointees ensuring the right of way in any
direction he chooses.
Gayoom, who has the second largest defense budget in terms of the
percentage of the GDP (according to the CIA Israel spends 7.5%; Maldives
5.5%) flexed his military muscles and the DRP became the rich-man’s
ruling political party overnight without the benefit of an election.
new Constitution remains in its infancy and since the last Constitution
took 17 years to write, the people are disheartened enough to believe the
present Constitution currently in the process of being written may consume
the next 17 years.
MDP in an effort to find a solution called upon its members to come to the
capital Male’ on the 10th of November 2006 (November 11th is the
Republic Day) to exert pressure on the government to complete writing the
government decided that this was a disguised attempt at a revolution and
publicly banned gatherings on November 10.
the evening of November 9, Gayoom dropped his bombshell. No one is fully
certain how he cajoled, intimidated or whatever, into getting a majority
of the members of the MDP Parliamentary Wing to agree that mass gatherings
were illegal. Gayyoom even got the MDP Parliamentary Wing’s
Vice-Chairperson, Addu Atoll member Shareef ( it is rumored that he is
heavily into debt with the Bank of Maldives PLC) to appear on national TV
to denounce the planned 10th November gathering.
people power been given a chance to work, it’s highly possible that
General Gayoom would have been made Private Gayoom in ten seconds flat.
the future may hold:-
MDP had been channelling their requests mostly through the Commonwealth,
the UN, the EU, Amnesty International and other international
organisations to push for democratic reforms.
the failure of Nov. 10, the MDP had gained a major media victory. However,
the world had long been aware of Gayoom as Asia’s longest serving
dictator and the methods he used on political opponents and the
confirmation wasn’t exactly imperative.
had taken almost a year and a half to remove the fear psyche from
Maldivian thinking. It was done through newspapers, magazines and
websites. Several journalists were jailed and almost the entire staff of
‘Minivan’ daily and MinivanNews.com are under threat of pending court
cases. Besides journalists, the MDP administrative staff was kept under
arrest for several month, some of them even serving jail sentences today.
The MDP Parliamentary Group who were supposed to provide the back-up
needed to get members out of trouble, had in fact, done the opposite. They
did absolutely nothing.
it not been for the Party Chairperson Nasheed (Anni) the MDP would today
be history. As the grass-roots members hold him in high esteem and are a
hundred percent certain that he isn’t the type to be blackmailed or
bought-off, the MDP hasn’t disintegrated to pieces. However, the longer
it takes to force Gayoom into an election, the faster the party is likely
to disintegrate. If the party is to survive, a complete turn-around in
thinking and newer and bolder strategies are required. It is too much to
hope for a Boris Yeltsin to climb on the top of a tank and reverse MDP’s
DRP is having its own quota of troubles too. Nobody still dares to oppose
Gayoom, but the DRP camp is divided into two power units. One led by the
Finance Minister Qasim and the other headed by the President’s
half-brother Yameen, the Minister of Higher Education.
current Presidential term expires in November 2008. The man is no longer
healthy so even if he decides not to run for office. The next two likely
candidates, Yameen or Qasim or maybe even Ilyas, the President’s brother
in law to whom Qasim owes his wealth and good fortune, will ensure
President Gayyoom’s legacy is protected.
aside the issues of corruption, there are far too many skeletons in
Gayoom’s cabinet for him to earn an honourable place in history, and
there is even the possibility he will end up getting lynched by a public
if MDP can recover their former status, all the DRP’s billions, the guns
and fast attack craft at Gayoom’s disposal, being invested to ensure a
win in the 2008 Presidential campaign can be defeated. Good judgment of
character and the right strategy can work wonders.