Md. Joynal Abdin
The Financial Express on January 01, 2014
Bangladesh is a moderate Muslim country. It has emerged as a role model for many least developed countries in peaceful co-existence of diverse religious, cultural and ethnic groups. Inter-religious ties and amity are strong and peaceful in Bangladesh. The independence of Bangladesh in 1971 is more significant than that of many other countries of South Asia. We did not achieve our independence through table talks. We had to shed huge blood to achieve our victory in the battlefield to gain independence.
All sections of people including farmers, fishermen, businessmen, government service holders, students, teachers, military personnel, civil servants, political leaders, many other professionals and common men, irrespective of gender, fought against the Pakistani junta and finally achieved victory. Everybody had stakes in the 1971 liberation war. Political leaders were in the political field, civil servants and diplomats were engaged in policy-making and diplomacy to get foreign support. The military was in the battlefield to train the freedom fighters and fight the alien forces. Therefore, the whole nation is respectful to freedom fighters and recall every moment of the liberation war from 26th March to 16th December every year.
Our freedom struggle was not to achieve political independence only but also to build poverty and discrimination-free and prosperous Bangladesh where everybody will find no religious, cultural, racial and ethnic discrimination.
But after 42 years of independence what are we observing today? Politicisation of the liberation war, personal greediness to remain or to be in power, misinterpretation and misuse of law, rigid stance of political parties in the absence of compromising tendency, mutual respect and respect to opposition parties’ non-conformist views have led us to a horrible socio-economic situation. Sufferings of general people reached a terrible stage where security of life and livelihood of general people is terribly ignored.
During the last few months, especially last one month, farmers have been crying helplessly with vegetable crops in the fields. Exporters are missing shipment with ready products, shop-keepers are unable to open their shops regularly to earn their livelihood, students are failing to attend classes or appear in examinations, professionals are unable to do their duties, day labourers cannot go out for searching vocations for livelihood, patients are unable to visit hospitals/doctors’ chambers to get healthcare and fishermen are in a sorry plight as fishes perish on the decks of their boats. Passengers are being burnt in vehicles and dying in the burn unit of a hospital/clinic.
The government/ruling party is changing the Constitution as it wishes and gets elected unopposed. It says it is working for better tomorrows. On the other hand, the opposition parties are calling strikes, hartals and blockades to ensure our voting rights/institutionalisation of democracy/ upholding of human rights so on and so forth. But we are getting burned on the roads and losing our lives. Crops are perishing in the fields. We are not getting employment and leading a terrible life. We are not enjoying our minimum constitutional rights due to clashes between the two rival major political groups.
Let’s try to calculate economic cost of our losses during the last few months. According to the 2013 CIA World Fact Book and other sources, total size of Bangladesh’s GDP (gross domestic poroduct) in 2013 was US$ 305.5 billion securing the 44th position in global terms. If the GDP growth rate is 6.5 per year per year, then the amount will be US$ 18.33 billion equal to BDT 1,466.4 billion. Contribution of agriculture to our GDP is 19.41 per cent equal to BDT 286.62 billion. If we cover production into three crop-producing seasons (though there are many lands producing one crop or two a year), then the cost of crop in one season is about BDT 94.87 billion. This means during current political instability, Bangladeshi farmers are losing about BDT 94.87 billion after investing labour, money and other resources. The country is losing about BDT 94.87 billion only from agriculture sector.
Let try to figure out the losses in export sector. Last year Bangladesh earned US$ 22.84 billion. If we assume that export figure will remain the same, then we get US$ 5.71 billion in three months. Let assume that 50 per cent of export shipment reached the destinations on time during this period either by sea or by air. So export-related loss in the current political clash could be put at US$ 2.85 billion equal to BDT 228.4 billion.
Contribution of industry to Bangladesh’s GDP is 31.98 per cent. This means annual industrial production is equal to BDT 468.95 billion. Three months’ production is equal to BDT 117.23 billion. If local industry loss is equal to 25 per cent of its total production due to the ongoing political unrest, then the loss would stand at about BDT 29.30 billion.
Contribution of services sector to GDP is 48.61 per cent valued at BDT 712.81 billion. If 25 per cent of services is interrupted due to political turmoil, then the amount of loss will be about BDT 178.20 billion.
All together, the current political unrest will cost about BDT 530.77 billion. It is near about Bangladesh’s official GDP in 1971-72 fiscal. It is about 36.19 per cent of our annual GDP growth rate.
The most serious loss in this year’s political violence is the death of over 250 people. Two hundred and fifty families lost their earning sources, dreams and future prospects.
Why this enormous loss? Who are responsible for this? These are the billion-dollar questions. We urge our political leaders to stop this violence at this moment. We want to live, earn our livelihood and have sound sleep at night in a safe and secure environment.