A citizen dialogue titled SDG 16 in the Bangladesh Context: Peace and Security, Human Rights and Governance was organised by the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh at BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium on Thursday 18 July 2016. The Platform is an initiative of more than thirty civil society organisations to contribute to the delivery of the SDGs adopted by the United Nations under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) is acting as the Secretariat of the Platform.
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Published in The Daily Star on Friday, 29 July 2016
Governance, anti-graft efforts key to success
Experts tell dialogue on sustainable development goals, organised by Citizen’s Platform for SDGs
It would be a challenge for Bangladesh to implement the sustainable development goals (SDGs) without strengthening governance, local government institutions and anti-corruption efforts, say a number of representatives from the civil society and the private sector.
They were speaking at a dialogue on the SDG 16 (Sustainable Development Goals) in the Bangladesh Context: Peace and Security, Human Rights and Governance held at the capital’s Brac Centre Inn yesterday.
The dialogue was organised by the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs Bangladesh, an initiative of more than 30 civil society organisations committed to contributing to the accomplishment of the SDGs adopted by the UN under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Centre for Policy Dialogue is acting as the secretariat of the platform.
Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal spoke as the chief guest at the programme chaired by eminent educationist Prof Anisuzzaman. The platform’s Convener Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya moderated it.
Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre, said, “Institutionalisation of corruption is a matter of concern.”
A member of parliament gets half of the allocation for social protection programmes, but there is hardly any accountability in spending the money, which ultimately institutionalises corruption, said Zillur, also former adviser to a caretaker government.
Apex Group Chairman Syed Manzur Elahi said, “Cost of doing business is very high in Bangladesh because of corruption.”
Manzur, also ex-adviser to a caretaker government, stressed the need for job creation, which he said is not possible without boosting private investments.
Land, labour and capital are prerequisite for attracting investments, but the country lags behind in these areas, he noted.
The Apex Group Chairman also said the government is yet to get any special economic zone ready for the investors.
Banks’ lending rates are not declining to the expected level because of high volume of non-performing loans. Moreover, poor accountability and leniency for scamsters are pushing up the amount of defaulted loans, added Manzur.
Khushi Kabir, coordinator of non-governmental organisation Nijera Kori, said justice and accountability have to be there to make Bangladesh an inclusive society.
Former finance minister M Syeduzzaman reminded the Awami League-led government about its election pledges such as implementation of the CHT peace accord and creation of the post of an ombudsman.
Taking part in the discussion, Kamrul Hasan, deputy director of the Governance Innovation Unit at the Prime Minister’s Office, said the government is going to formulate a National Governance Assessment Framework to encourage good governance in the public sector.
The framework would be prepared in consultation with government officials, civil society members and academicians.
Shamsul Alam, member of the planning commission, informed the audience of the government steps to implement the SDGs.
“On Wednesday, we have finalised which ministry will do what.” They are now preparing action plans on the responsibilities of ministries and financing needed to implement projects linked to SDGs, Alam said.
Responding to Hossain Zillur Rahman’s comment on allocation for MPs, AHM Mustafa Kamal said half of the allocation for Test Relief and Food for Work goes to installation work of solar panels.
Kamal said corruption would reduce by half if the government decisions are implemented. He made mentions of the decisions to have only one project director for each project and not to approve any project on disputed land.
The minister also talked about the government’s initiatives to create jobs and develop skills of manpower.
He said there are 29 million unemployed people who have to be brought to the mainstream economy. Some 100 SEZs, which are being built, will absorb this unemployed manpower in three years.
Presently, there are 6,500 technical institutes that educate 10 percent of the students. It would reach 20 percent by 2020, he added.
Prof Anisuzzaman said joint initiatives of the government, the civil society and the private sector are crucial for proper implementation of the SDGs.
Published in Dhaka Tribune on Friday, 29 July 2016
Corruption a big challenge to SDGs
Tribune Business Desk
A group of prominent citizens said corruption is the main bottleneck to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and economic progress.
They said the corruption also discourages investment.
They expressed the views at a dialogue on “SDG 16 in the Bangladesh Context: Peace and Security, Human Rights and Governance,” organised by the Citizens’ Platform in Dhaka yesterday.
Under SDGs, goal 16 seeks substantially reducing corruption and bribery in all their forms, developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels, and ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.
“Corruption has become institutionalised in the country,” said Hossain Zillur Rahman, former advisor to the Caretaker Government and executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre.
Public expenditure is plugged with corruption as expenditure of some irrational development projects lacks accountability, he said. “This weakens people’s spirit to do good thing.”
A prominent businessman and adviser to the Platform Syed Manzur Elahi said cost of doing business is going up, up and up. “Only reason of this is corruption. SDGs will not be achieved unless corruption is checked.”
Coordinator of Nijera Kori Khushi Kabir said new law is being formulated, so the people cannot criticise the member of the parliament. “This is very much damaging for achieving SDGS.”
Convener of the Platform Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said goal number 16 is the most important as its components are relevant to other goals.
He identified that lacks of awareness, capacity and political are the main obstacles for implementing SDGs.
Eminent citizen Professor and Adviser to the Platform Anisuzzaman, who also chaired the dialogue, said: “Our combined efforts will be ended in some unless we stamp out corruption from the country.”
For inclusive development, which is one of the comportment of SDGs, joint effort among the citizen and the people is imperative.
Defending all the concerns, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, however, hoped that Bangladesh will achieve SDGs much before 2030.
He, however, admitted the fact that the corruption exists in the country. Reformation is necessary for removing corruption, he said.
To remove unemployment, the government has taken initiative to set up 100 economic zones, which will be visible within two and a half years.
About the involvement of young people in terrorism, the minister laid emphasis on quality education and technical education. Member, GED, Planning Commission Professor Dr Shamsul Alam said eliminating corruption and good governance are in progress but not in expected level. To achieve goal 16, he put emphasis on wiping out poverty, hunger and inequality.
CPD Research Fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan has made a presentation to initiate the discussion.
According to the discussants, though Bangladesh has improved a lot in reducing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and maternal and child mortality, the big question is whether Bangladesh will be able to achieve SDGs at a time when Bangladesh has continuously been suffering from politics of vendetta, poor governance, corruption and widening inequality.
2016 marks the beginning of the SDGs and developing countries like Bangladesh are grappling with how to implement them.
Published in The Financial Express on Friday, 29 July 2016
RMG workers’ concern over terror attacks
Confederation of readymade garment (RMG) workers — a group of 20 labour organisations — expressed concern on Wednesday over the recent terror attacks, saying recurrence of such incidents might have an adverse impact on the country’s RMG industry.
They also urged the government and factory owners for taking necessary measures to restore confidence by ensuring security among all concerned, especially the foreign buyers and retailers involved in the RMG trade.
Quoting some factory owners, convener of the confederation Sirajul Islam Rony said: “Buyers are asking the factory management in a third country for business negotiation on security grounds following the recent attacks here.”
He was speaking at a press conference held in the city. Labour leaders Abul Hossain, Tapan Saha, Bahrain e Sultan Bahar, Shahidullah Badal, Md Rafique, Roksana Akter, among others, were present at the conference.
The Gulshan café attack would severely tarnish the image of the country as majority of the foreigners killed in the Gulshan attack were involved in RMG trade, he added.
“Such incidents will create panic and insecurity among the foreign buyers which will affect the country’s RMG industry and its 4.0 million workers,” he said.
The leaders also requested the workers not to pay heed to any rumour.
The confederation will observe anti-militancy workers’ gathering in different garment industrial zones throughout the next month and a rally on August 05 in front of National Press Club.