Corruption: Main obstacle to progress

Published : Tuesday, 2 October, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Bangladesh, being a small country on the globe with huge population, has drawn the attention of the whole world with its prompt improvement in different development indices. Specifically during the last few years, this improvement got strong pace due to the current government’s praiseworthy focus on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) along with commitment towards accomplishing Vision 2021 and 2041 as well.

To attain those targets, several large development projects have been launched along with emphasizing on human indices. We have moved forward in all aspects which is very much visible in all evaluations but question remains if the people of this country is enjoying the outcome of these improvements. At the end, it is actually the people whose welfare is the main reason behind all the works of the government and hence, we need to answer this question.

Looking deep into the sufferings of our fellow countrymen, it is certainly evident that, the main reason behind that is widespread corruption in Bangladesh. This phenomenon called corruption has been acting like a virus which is eating us from inside and hence, we are not realizing the benefits of huge developments in our country. Whenever we go to attain a service especially public service, we have to become the victims of corruption.

It is almost impossible to receive any public service without becoming a part of the widespread corruption unless someone has strong political or administrative connections. That actually shows the main driving force behind corruption in our country — politicians and administrative officials. Corruption is singly able to hold us behind to attain any of our goals. There is no benefit to launch and complete a development project until and unless the corruption is eliminated from our system.

Corruption can be identified as pledging crime and disruption to the country as it causes great damage to the compatriots. None can actually escape from the destruction of corruption. It is a public malaise which ranges its avaricious grasps all over the country. Several motives lie behind this phenomenon like; greed for power and wealth driving towards self-enrichment which is one of the core sources of corruption. Materialism, deceitfulness, favouritism are also liable for corruption. Being a widespread phenomenon, it undermines good governance and erodes the rule of law while hampering economic growth and efforts to poverty reduction. Corruption is one of the most critical social problems that the developing countries of the world are confronting these days.

Though corruption is not a new phenomenon, its magnitude, spread and size has become a great source of our worries today. After the independence of Bangladesh, father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could feel this seriously inclining problem named corruption and he even declared fight against this issue. In his last public speech also he urged to fight corruption. But due to his brutal killing, he could not complete his mission of eliminating corruption from the Bangladeshi soil. After his death, no government actually took any drastic steps to address this problem and hence, it kept uprising. 

Sheikh Hasina, three-time Prime Minister of Bangladesh, has achieved everything in her illustrious political career. During last few years, she has taken herself to such a height that her fame and acceptance is not limited to the national boundaries anymore. She is now considered as a global leader as she is well regarded at any international forums. Her advices and insights are well applauded worldwide. We can expect that, she will declare a zero tolerance policy against corruption also without wasting much time. Being Bangabandhu’s daughter, it is her responsibility to accomplish her father’s incomplete mission to realize father of the nation’s dream of ‘Golden Bangla’.

With several social issues like; unemployment, poverty, low income, discrimination in wealth distribution etc. corruption has spread its arms to every domain of our national life and has become the biggest threats to our development. It can tear apart the society as we can already realize. Corruption profits the rich class of the society and brings greater harms to the poor, unprotected and underprivileged class of the same society.

Hence, it excavates their deprivation and unless it is checked, the government and people will have to pay a very heavy price through lower incomes, investments and developments which can result in impulsive economic smacks in the long term. Realizing its devastating effect, the subject of corruption has received substantial attention in recent years. Corruption is now being addressed by financial institutions, government agencies, bilateral donors, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and development professionals.

Corruption in Bangladesh has been an unending issue. According to all major ranking institutions, Bangladesh routinely finds itself among the most corrupt countries in the world. The public sectors piloted by the government are the most corrupted sector of the country. The private sector, especially banking sector, is also being a part of this corruption instigated by the public sector. 

Bribery, rent-seeking and inappropriate use of government funds, excessive lobbying, long time deferrals in service performance, negligent conduct from the government officials, bureaucratic overindulgence have made the public sector the most corrupt sector of Bangladesh. Public sectors in Bangladesh include police departments, fire departments, water supply, electricity, gas supply, education, waste disposal, health, transportation, administration etc. 

Corruption proliferates in our government offices. Many officials receive salaries without having any actual assigned work. Officials are recruited and promoted for reasons those are not tangibly perfect. Solicitation of bribes is common. Though Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) was created in 2004 but they usually works with few cases and cannot play an effective role to address the whole issue. They should be more concerned and active in creating mass awareness to reduce corruption.

Business firms were reported to be subjected to lavish and impractical license and permit requirements. In 2014-2015, business executives said corruption was the second largest hindrance to doing business in Bangladesh. Business people are often expected to bribe public officials, often in connection with annual taxes. Few research firms which suggest the foreign investors on different aspects of their investment in a particular country have clearly alarmed the investors about corruption in Bangladesh.

Despondently, three-time former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and chairperson of country’s largest opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Begum Khaleda Zia has been sentenced to five years of prison time in a graft case. The acting chairperson of the same party Tareque Zia is also sentenced to ten years of prison time on the same case but is living in exile for almost eleven years.

Former President and founder of the current opposition in the parliament Jatiya Party H M Ershad also had been in prison for several years on corruption charges. This depicts how far corruption is spread in Bangladesh. From top political leaders to field level political activists, law enforcers, judicial officials, administrative officials – all are involved in corruption. We also, even if unwillingly, are being corrupted by complying with their demands. This is seriously hampering our developments and not allowing us to enjoy the good efforts of the government.

The current government especially under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is performing a commendable role to take this country forward with an effort to make us competitive globally. Numerous good works can be cited but despite that, corruption is taking people away from the government when people are the key to democracy. The government in the last few years had declared zero tolerance against some critical problems like; terrorism and drugs. The law enforcing agencies have done a noteworthy job in eliminating or controlling those problems with strict actions. A message of obedience to the rule of law was well communicated. A similar zero tolerance declaration is required against corruption, the greatest problem in our country, very soon. Moreover, with upcoming 11th national election, all parties must include anti-corruption activities in their agenda.

Most importantly, we need to create awareness first among the citizens about the ill effects of corruption. The related ministry needs to run nationwide awareness campaign like it was done in the cases of anti-smoking and anti-drugs campaign, family planning campaign, anti-eve teasing campaign etc. People must realize how corruption is destroying our nation and the society. Personalities with people’s acceptance like; top politicians, intellectuals, cultural personalities, sports personalities, TV celebrities etc. can be part of this nationwide campaign. Along with throughout campaign, stricter laws should be initiated to stop corruption; not to harass anyone leading towards more corruption.

Our education system must incorporate curriculums depicting the negativities of corruption. From the very beginning of their educational life, the children must be made aware to avoid any sort of corruption. The parents and teachers must put extra focus on this area. We need to shape up the moral of our nation and to do so there is no alternative to related education. At the end of the day, if we, the people, are not ready to change, then the government or ACC cannot do much.

We hope the government, after so many achievements, will declare a strong campaign against corruption which will be really contributing to people’s welfare and such effort will be written in golden letters in the history of Bangladesh. We, as people, hope to live in a corruption free Bangladesh, a wish that seems like a tough dream today.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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