Act · Governance · Policy

Acts, no policies, please

Acts, no policies, please

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on March 01, 2013

Bangladesh is a least developed country (LDC) in South Asia. Economic development of the country is mainly driven by the inward flow of remittance and the export of ready-made garments (RMG). Both the areas attest to the contributions of the mass people, who are the blue-collar workers.

While the mass people are toiling relentlessly, the politicians are failing to ensure a country free from any instability that is needed much to spur economic growth.

Add to it the trend that admits of no negligence. All the governments frame few policies with so many good commitments and visions. A grand dissemination workshop is organised and the policy is launched. Then it seems they have done a great job and they have nothing to do any more about implementation of the policy or achievement of the targets under the policy. Thus the five-year tenure of a government is over. And there is the same old scenario of political bickering, street fights and tensions that push all development work to the backseat.

There is no denying the fact that the political parties suffer from an ego problem. They cannot reach any consensus with each other on many vital issues of national interest. For example, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and the Five-Year Plan are both the finest policies on poverty reduction and economic development with few targets. But with the assumption of power by every new government such policies are changed. Thus the implementation period flies by with all these good documents remaining unimplemented for years. Ultimately, the nation pays the price.

Now, what is a policy? A policy is a set of principles or rules guiding decisions intended to achieve rational outcomes. So any government policy should be complied by all ministries and government agencies. Otherwise, the rational result might not be achieved. For example, the Industrial Policy offers few duty-related advantages or tax benefits to a particular group or industry to boost that sector. It is the duty of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to ensure availability of the benefits to that particular group or sector. But in practice many policies are being ignored by several agencies, as those are not legally binding as an act. As a result one ministry or agency frame a policy which another ministry or agency does not comply with or implement. From this point of view, the mere framing of policies is not enough to achieve rational results. We need acts.

The SME Policy Strategies-2005 identified 11 sectors for promotion. As it is not an act, banks and other government or semi-government agencies are not paying due attention to those 11 sectors. So we do not need any SME Policy rather we are very much in need of an SME Act.

Secondly; any particular ministry or agency is unable to implement a policy, because, every ministry or agency does not have their presence at the grassroots level. The local administration is the appropriate authority to implement government polices at the grassroots level. For example, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) is the appropriate authority to implement a government policy at the district level. But how many DCs are aware about all government policies?

The concerned ministries or agencies should engage the DCs, even the Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNO), in implementation of a particular policy. They should meet at least once a year to learn about the status of the policy implementation at the district level. This will help increase the possibility of achieving the projected outcome and the government’s revenue income and also help ensure good governance.

There is a very dangerous trend of showing that Bangladesh is a super-fast developing country and has the potential to emerge a middle-income country by 2021. Obviously it will increase our white collar people’s prestige abroad. But if Bangladesh is declared a middle income country on its graduation from the list of LDC nations, immediately all LDC facilities including Generalised System of Preference (GSP) and duty-free and quota-free facility (DFQF) provided by developed countries will be withdrawn. Competitiveness of Bangladeshi products in major export destinations will fall. It is uncertain that Bangladeshi products will remain competitive in the global markets after withdrawal of the GSP or DFQF facility.

Experts say Bangladesh will overcome the initial shock of the withdrawals with passage of time as it did after withdrawal of the US quota facility. It may happen so or not. But all know there are countries that failed after graduating from the LDC status without proper preparations. Now there is the most pertinent question: Do we have that level of preparation to overcome the recession that may arise? 

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