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The current parliament constituted following the much-talked-about January 5, 2014 national election hardly sees any lively debate and discussion as the both sides of the coin — members of the treasury and opposition benches — by and large bear the same impression. Even then we heard voices on June 6 suggesting that everybody cannot be written off.
While taking part in budget discussion on June 6, some MPs of both the ruling and opposition parties told Parliament that there is a lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the government in implementation of the national budget apart from scams in the banking sector.
They said 38 ministries have already overspent money without taking permission from Parliament, and called for referring the issue to the respective parliamentary committees for discussions before approving the supplementary budget. A day after the harsh debate, Parliament passed the supplementary budget of Tk 19,803. 62 crore for the outgoing fiscal (2015-16) to meet the additional expenditures of different ministries and divisions.
The MPs’ attempt was good as they tried to change the mood of the otherwise lackluster Parliament. They perhaps wanted to caution the government that the spending spree by the ministries needs to be checked in the interest of the country’s sustainable economic growth. Their intention is that Bangladesh, as an emerging economy, should not fall in trouble because of overenthusiasm over its magical march forward. The country needs to build the growth that will sustain for many years to come, no matter what the world does.
When the world is facing troubles on economic fronts with the developed nations having their economies on the downslide, Bangladesh’s economic growth has surprised many, thanks to the country’s progress heroes — farmers, wage earners and entrepreneurs. This is not a cooked up story written by political leaders. This is the reality which is frequently recognised by global leaders. At this point of time, the people of Bangladesh cannot afford to see their beloved country becoming an unstable one for financial mismanagement.
Though the common man does hardly understand what really the budget and supplementary budgets are, it is their representatives to parliament who will raise the issues of national interests and guide the government to the right direction. Unfortunately, the opposition lawmakers are far away from playing their due role in this regard. We have got an opposition leader who hardy attends parliament sessions.
More interesting is that Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah was forced on June 8 to adjourn the Parliament session at 12:15pm for lack of speakers on the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2016-17. On the very first day of the general discussion on the proposed budget, the session concluded just two hours after the day’s business.
Adjourning the session for the day, the Deputy Speaker told the House, “I’m informing with a great sorrow that no name from the opposition MPs was submitted for joining the budget discussion today. Many ruling party MPs are present in the House, but not willing to deliver any speech as well. So, I’m compelled to adjourn the session at 12:15pm.”
Our question is: Are the country’s people have sent their representatives to see this dismal situation? Given the current situation and also keeping the basics of parliamentary democracy in mind, it can be said the present parliament in Bangladesh is not as vibrant as expected by people.
Bangladesh is undergoing changes fast but without showing the sign of maturity and sophistication. The much-sought change in our political culture remains a far cry. Public representatives are becoming flatterers because they are not properly mandated by people. The people of Bangladesh are election-enjoying ones but those festive elections are hardly seen these days. A vibrant election can produce a vibrant Parliament. A vibrant Parliament is what where debates and discussions are held in a warm atmosphere, demonstrating the sign of wisdom. Equipped with their due homework, opposition MPs are expected to throw challenges to the government to force it scrutinise its policies and actions.
Unfortunately, the country has got an opposition party that frequently forgets to make statements even on important or sensitive national issues, neither in Parliament nor outside of it, let alone making any effort to be a party of people. Parliament is not a place where you will hire people and bus them into it. People send their representatives after picking them through elections that costs the public coffer a whole lot of money. The country’s people also spend huge money every day in operating their national assembly.
Another exception we saw on June 7 when Muhith admitted in Parliament that there were some irregularities in the banking sector and it was massive at times. “There were some faults, sometimes there were looting. I want to say the irregularities were massive at times,” a worried octogenarian Finance Minister told the House.
The plain admission of Muhith about the banking sector irregularities sends out an alarming message on one hand and raises his personal credential on the other. This is the country where no one is ready to admit one’s mistake as everyone treats oneself as perfect. Though we claim ourselves democratic, we are undemocratic in practice and impatient in behaviour. Political leaders, particularly those who are in power, need to be patient and be able to endure criticism. Or else, the young generation will not find their role model.
An ideal Parliament is receptive to its own needs as it deals with its own affairs. But, the Bangladesh Parliament is far away from this practice as it cannot outweigh the influence of the executive. Our legislative needs to enjoy greater independence. Even though our leaders always promise to institutionalise democracy, they ultimately end up strengthening their own party position, both in Parliament and outside of it. To restore people’s confidence in the so-called politics and redraw their attention to the lackluster national assembly, our political parties will have to work hard to rid it of its largely ritualistic programmes as it needs to duly entertain the issues of national interest.