In a latest article on loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Bloomberg said, “Government leaders across the world have often balked at implementing reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund for fear of being penalized at the ballot box. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina isn’t one of them.
“Her quick execution of IMF mandates have stood out in South Asia where Pakistan is still fiddling with fuel subsidies just as it inches closer to reviving a bailout. Sri Lanka has delayed local municipal polls as it raised taxes and interest rates to clinch IMF funds last week.
“Bangladesh, which in July became the last of the three countries to ask for IMF support, was the first to get loans approved after swiftly raising energy prices. Hasina, 75, made no apologies for the move”.
Commenting on the next general election in Bangladesh, Bloomberg said: “[Sheikh] Hasina is widely expected to win a fourth straight term in national polls expected by January 2024 — not least because many of her opponents are behind bars or ensnared in legal cases”.
While main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and opposition in the parliament Jatiya Party are talking about Bangladeshis becoming increasingly annoyed at the ruling Awami League, Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute told Bloomberg: “If the ruling party manages to maintain economic stability, that could preempt anger or public sentiment that works against the government. Hasina certainly has the credibility to pull this off”.
Still there is conspiracy against Sheikh Hasina and her government both inside and outside the country, where in some cases, Biden administration as well as the US ambassador in Dhaka are seen talking in such a tone that certainly go against the sovereignty of any country. In the recent days, Americans are repeatedly talking about free and fair election in Bangladesh. Of course, we also want free and fair election in our country. But we need to remind members of Biden administration that in their own country free and fair election is already under serious controversy, where 2020 presidential election is alleged to be rigged. Whenever American ambassador in Dhaka speaks about human rights, freedom of expression or corruption, he should be reminded, his president and members of the Biden family are facing series of allegations of crimes and corruption, while US government has already been caught red-handed by Twitter owner Elon Musk proving how federal agencies had nakedly intervened into public opinion and suppressed information related to corruption and crimes of Hunter Biden and other members of Biden family – simply with the nefarious agenda of helping Biden in winning 2020 election.
Back to titled topic. According to Bloomberg, Sheikh Hasina is banking on her government’s move to go to the IMF to show to markets and voters that she has prevented the US$460 billion Bangladeshi economy from going the way Sri Lanka has with a default. Pakistan is also facing the prospect of a default. Bangladesh went to the IMF as it grappled with an energy crisis with commodity prices soaring last year due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, while the rising costs of imports widened the trade deficit. The local currency depreciated by a fifth and reserves fell to the lowest in three years.
It may be mentioned here that, following economic catastrophe in Sri Lanka, almost all the opposition political parties in Bangladesh – including Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jatiya Party were repeatedly forecasting a similar fate for Bangladesh “within weeks”. But that has never happened – because of effective decision and efforts of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. But it is important to note, while Bangladesh has witnessed annual economic growth of more than 6 percent for the past 14 years this may face some obstacles in the coming years mostly because of Ukraine war and sanctions imposed on Russia. At this stage, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina needs to focus on cutting-off subsidies from most of the sectors immediately. Bangladesh government needs to issue red warning to Bangladesh Biman, Bangladesh Railway, Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and all those entities which have been incurring heavy financial loss for years. At the same time, massive subsidies to private power generation projects, including so-called ‘Quick Rental Power’ projects should be stopped and the government needs to find alternative ways – for example establish coal-based power plant in Boro Pukuria, establish at least two more nuclear power stations and put emphasis on solar power especially in the rural areas.
Most importantly – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina needs to declare war against corruption and take stern action against those who are already accused of smuggling-out hundreds of millions of dollars from Bangladesh to various countries. For Sheikh Hasina, an all-out battle against corruption and massive action against corrupt individuals – as we had witnessed immediately after military-backed interim government came to power in January 2007 – is extremely essential and it should take place forthwith.
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