These ideas came to me after I read an article of a friend of mine. One thing he said is, may be the time of the old way of doing business in Bangladesh is coming to an end, or will come to an end with a little inception. Well inception of dreams are there plenty in the market, what about inceptions of ideas! Some of the ideas I found incepted in me(!), I’m sure are already out there in application to some level, some of them might sound absurd, but they are ideas that I believe are doable to some extent or at least worth trying. May be I’m wrong, but it won’t hurt to hear what others have to share. May be the inception of feasible ideas will come from sharing ideas like this. Here are just some of the lunacies for you:
1. Abolish political wings in Government unions:
Government as in parliament should abolish the system of political wings in different government organizations. This creates more division among the people who are suppose to work as a representative as the FLAG of Bangladesh rather then a party supported worker. I appreciate the fact that AL declared that they have abolished their wings except couple of the wings including Jubo League. They should implement that by force to gain the confidence of general population. Recently I heard in the Central Bank third and forth class employee leaders assaulted a senior official and yet I haven’t heard of any action taken. One allegation is these ‘leaders’ of unions are backed by political parties and when their party comes to power they become powerful and abuse the system. Beating a senior official at their workplace in a government institution is unheard of in any part of the world, in a place where the only people who should be working are pure academic and policy makers are physically abused by unions! I think a citizens petition should be filed with the supreme court to challenge the need of allowing multiple banners of workers’ associations. That goes for all professions, so that professionals are not identified in their fields under political banner. This also releases pressure for the political parties to keep their record of integrity intact. I don’t believe a senior level official of the ruling political party can be blamed for all the instant strikes in hospitals and courtrooms and government offices all the time, but they can’t avoid the responsibility because they couldn’t separate themselves from these abusers. Having support in working unions is a common thing in politics but I don’t believe you have to have a namesake organization and keep a blind eye to their corruption for that.
2. Media invitation of regional grass root political leaders:
Media and other NGOs can take a joint initiative to invite local politicians from different constituencies to come and take part in debate on local issues, not what the two party chairs did, but what they are doing in their area. Rather then a mockery of two people shouting from two sides and the moderator seating in the middle with a smile, this can be moderated and questions can ask from anonymous sources by text msg or email from the local area. People would know who the people behind the “markas” are, and if media can start now it’s almost two years to next election so I don’t see why it’s impossible.Also in the age of internet they can post and publish the comments they make so that stays as permanent record.
3. Moch elections in universities:
Election commission should take initiative to organize moch elections on an ideal environment. They should organize moch debate by dummy candidates and election campaigning, so university level students learn what to see in a candidate when they go to vote. I think school level programs like this should be in second phase as the effect won’t have an immediate impact. Again, instead of organizing round table discussions and seminars if this can be successfully done with the help of political science and journalism departments of 5-6 major universities I think the result can be seen pretty quickly. Again the videos can be posted online and also televised so others can also see.
4. Separation of key agencies:
I think one problem is some key fundamental institutions should be out of government control. Election commission, tax commission, anti-corruption agencies should be made total autonomous and people should push for laws that reform and give these organizations more power. In the beginning parliamentary standing committees did show some activist role in governance, I think with practice this might become a good supporting role in check and balance of governance. If government want to appoint people of their own choice to certain positions then they should go through a public vetting system. I don’t see in a system where political parties want to appoint people of the same ideology, but if they are vetted and the appointment process gets open, then the system can ensure the person got the job for ideological and policy similarities, not just for being a loyal servant of the party.
5. Employment at some positions should be open:
The bureaucratic system is extremely back dated. I think for specific roles, like commission chairmans, institutional heads there should be open circulation of employment rather then government appointment. What we can get is effective people with proven track records either in the private sector or with expertise in the academic arena working in the projects rather then being advisers with a passive role and hoping the long bureaucratic system understood what they said. Also the BSC exam system should be more department oriented. A person who worked 15 years in sports ministry shouldn’t have the option to be transfered to ministry of health. After a basic screening exam, the candidates should take department based exams to see if they are fit for that department or not.
6. Incentive based pay structure for government employees:
Why many of our best and brightest are not joining the government sector has to be asked. One answer I get from my peers is the environment and first and foremost the pay structure. I think the pay structure is not realistic with the inflation in the economy and also it’s not possible for the government to take the pressure of increased payload. What they can do though is provide work benefits. Let’s look at the police force for example. If we have dedicated public schools for children of the police force until HSC then that takes a huge burden of their shoulders. Health center only for their families and relatives, special bank deposit programs for retirement are benefits that creates a social safety net. Without increasing the salary and burden of financing that in the long term if the Government can create these programs for other government employees under a certain income bracket, then it creates jobs and releases pressure from the employees themselves. And after all these if the corruption level still stays at the same level, then you know for sure it was never a financial issue, but I think this is worth giving a benefit of the doubt and try!!
7. Digitalization of government documents and tax filing:
If government tenders are filed online and the bidding company names are always shown on the sites at least media and watch dog organizations can keep track of transparency. If I’m a vendor to the government or I need to change registration for land or update ownership of property of orphans, one of the main problem is the slowness of paper trails. The room for corruption increases because the paper files can stop moving from one place to the other. The recent initiative by the government to start information centers at the grassroots is a very encouraging step to the right direction. These information centers can be used to help the rural communities to file complaint or apply for registration updates. The basic filing will be done in the local offices and only when the filing documents need to be vetted then the applicant will go to the district registry office or come to Dhaka. If that can be ensured at least at district town level then think about the workload that eases in central location. Mobility of paperwork will increase the pressure for efficiency of the workforce and digital document trail can proof how long it’s stuck at which level, so the applicant can contact and point out that person. For developing a database management program like this, government can encourage Bangladeshi companies to come up with ideas and independent third party quality management firms can ensure the standard of the product. “The best product wins”, should be the moto, not the lowest bidder. The company that would provide the most user friendly software, with the system backup support system and train the government officials to use it will get the job. Also filing taxed online should be encouraged, especially among urban middle class families and businesses by giving them tax incentive. There can be private public joint venture centers where people can go to file their taxes. Think about the number of seasonal work for students this can create.
8. Community work credit for students:
One initiative that’s extremely doable and should start right now is community service for children. I think in an ever growing pace of competition, it’s very important for students to become street smart and also learn responsibility at a very early age. I’m highly encouraged by the active lifestyle of many of the young people around me. But one thing I’ve noticed is most of the ideas are extremely self centered and don’t have a bigger picture behind it. None have an idea, how to make the projects sustainable and long term. I think that comes from the fact that the initiatives are coming through pressure of desperation to make a career. Community service for students will give them an idea of how to work, give them a sense of belonging and make them feel pride and ownership of their society. For that, when they’ll start their entrepreneurial ideas, they’ll have a better idea of how to include their community in the business, make it more honest, durable and sustainable projects. I plan to write about this in detail in future. But this is something that the schools can monitor and every student from 9 to SSC and 1st year of HSC will have to show 10 hours of community service in different fields. Let’s start with 10 hours a month. That’s a little over 1 hour a day, and one weekend will do, but the investment in the national level will help us make future leaders for sure.
8. Increasing NRB investment:
One thing I have seen is Bangladeshis are extremely resilient and fast learners, even in extreme conditions. Many of them come overseas, without prior knowledge of the language in some cases but still become successful entrepreneurs or wage earners. But there are also those who go to universities overseas and make a living in the academic and professional world with distinction. One problem I’ve seen of Bangladeshis in Bangladesh is lack of clear idea of how the expatriates live and for that, we don’t even know what to expect from them. We are very much eager to accept the cash that our hard working labors are sending from different countries; sometimes under abusive conditions and without any government or non government support. We always hear Government asking expatriates to invest in Bangladesh. But the environment has to be invest friendly for them too. It’s hard to be encouraged to invest in a country where they don’t have a source of information. It’s not possible for many to invest so much time and effort just to go through the bureaucratic process. Also investment doesn’t only come in monetary form. The expertise and knowledge of working in emerging fields will be more beneficial for Bangladesh to develop strong infrastructural network. Also for financial investments government can offer high yield bond only for expatriates to invest in specific government projects and raise capital instead of going to the donors. With online banking it’s easy for them to transfer funds now and this would encourage many to invest foreign currencies in Bangladesh. Also because the capital to raise funds was from public offerings rather complex dealing with donor countries, the level of transparency and public understanding will increase.
Most of you might think this is a fool talking, and believe me I know I’m a mediocre fool, but doesn’t hurt to share some ideas, does it? 🙂