Md. Joynal Abdin
The Independent on September 6, 2016
The current Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took power in January 2009. This government started its journey with massive support of people as well as their expectations. The government used to attract the attention of the new generation of people with its ‘Vision 2021’ and ‘Digital Bangladesh’ slogans at that time. Its achievements in increasing per capita income, power generation, educational expansion, infrastructural development, poverty alleviation are remarkable.
To analyse Bangladesh’s progress during 2009-2016, we could review the following statistics: for example, Per-capita Gross National Income (GNI) was UDS 599 in 2007-08 Fiscal Year (FY), which has risen to Per-capita GNI USD 1466 in 2015-16 FY. The absolute poverty rate was 40.4 percent in 2005 which is reduced to 26.4 percent in 2013. GDP growth rate was 6.21 percent in 2007-08 FY; it increased to 7.05% in 2015-16 FY. The total GDP at current price was BDT 5,419.2 billion in 2007-08 FY, it stood at BDT 17,295.7 billion in 2015-16 FY. The maximum electricity generation was 4130.0 MW in 01 September 2008 which increased to 9036 MW in 01 September 2016.
This achievement of economic development cannot be meaningful to the general people due to absence of good governance and hassle-free citizen services as well as for bold presence of corruption in the public administration. A recent research report shows that passport issuing authority i.e. Department of Immigration and Passports under the Ministry of Home Affairs achieved the highest rank in corruption. The reality is that, getting a passport or renewing your existing passport is the toughest task I have experienced ever. I collected my first passport in 2008 during the Caretaker Government period and got it within one single hour (on an emergency basis) without any hassle/recommendation/reference. I have praised the passport office for their devoted service provided to me in June 2008. But in 2013 during the last tenure of current government I went for renewal of my passport and failed to submit the application for four consecutive days (though all prescribed documents were supplied by me duly). The first desk refused three times to accept my application by showing one or other ambiguous causes. Later on the situation made me bound to get a reference in passport office and renew my passport with the same documents. Being a 1st class service holder I had to suffer in renewing my passport for almost 15 days. Now I could easily understand what the measurable situation a non-educated village dueler faces to get a passport when he would like to go to Middle East as a non-skilled worker.
Remittance is the second highest contributory sector to our GDP. These uneducated, non-skilled workers who suffered a lot to collect their passports used to send USD 15.31 billion in remittance during 2015-16 FY. In real sense it is the highest contribution to the GDP. Because the Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector used to import raw materials, pay labours and other factors of production and earned USD 28.09 billion but what is the absolute value addition? It is not more than 25%, that means, Bangladesh gets USD 7.02 billion only from the RMG export.
In other words, our migrant workers are contributing double than that of the RMG sector without consuming food grown in the country’s land. Therefore, for the sake of this majority people government should take effective measures to make the passport office free from corruption again like June 2008. Effective digitization of the total system could be a way forward in this regard. For example, passport office used to blame police (the second most corrupted organ of the government) for delay in passport delivery as they took a long time to send verification report. Today, all voters have provided primary information including the finger print to the government in the voter list. Mobile companies are verifying their identity to issue a mobile seam. BRTA is doing the same thing for car registration.
A comprehensive list of criminals is available to the police. Therefore this police verification could be waived for mass people if his fingerprint available in the voter list could be verified to issue the passport. Renewal of passport can be easier than the passport issuance. The whole system should be digitized so that anyone can easily renew his passport without visiting passport office. Applicant could pay online from his bank account, verify his national identity by providing fingerprint from any scanner/touch screen of his mobile phone and submit a complete application. After a certain period he could collect his passport from nearest delivery point.
Not only the passport office, other organizations such as law enforcing agencies, land administration, electricity, judicial services, gas, trade license issuing authority, BRTA, tax and duty collectors, etc., especially the organizations responsible for direct citizen services, should be taken special care of directly by the prime minister’s office. Making all these system digital and keeping the system functional could be a way forward in this regard. This drive will lead us one step ahead to creating a Digital Bangladesh.
Our leaders, specially the ministers, should be more aware about the digitization and keeping the whole system of government functional. Special attention of the prime minister and other responsible authorities is required for digitization as well as keeping the system functional to ensure hassle-free citizen services to the general people. Otherwise the current economic development of the country will be meaningless to the general people. If something is meaningless to the general people it will not be remembered over time.