103: The PM entourage!

Manirul Islam

Manirul Islam

Photo Credit: The Independent.

Caption: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today demanded enhanced assistance for developing countries from developed nations, while she was addressing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit, reflecting Bangladesh’s centrality in the process.

The entourage of PM Sheikh Hasina on any state visit always turns fizzy with gossips, rumors and with a twist of controversy. At a glance, the huge size of the entourage will attract anyone’s attention with a bold question mark stuck on the face. What is the justification of this imperial luxury which can only be seen in vogue with Arabian Ameers and Maliks! Those rulers of Arabian fiefdom do not directly tax citizens, but thrive in luxury due to vast hydrocarbon resources. To the contrary, the vast majority of the tax payers of Bangladesh with skin clinging to the skeleton take the tab of these expenses. Always the entourage includes family members of the PM and there is a ritualistic clarification from PM office about the self-financed trip of these non-governmental private members of the delegation. But clarification has never been heard from the government about the high visibility of these members alongside the PM in formal and working meetings between the two head of the states. Does protocol permit that?

Almost all the heads of the states will parade the UN sponsored Millennium Development Goal (MDG) summit on this occasion. Perhaps except the Middle East, there will be no numeric match to our 103 members strong entourage that includes sixteen family members of the delegate head. And certainly our delegation is the lone example where the family members will have high profile presence in every meeting.

Five other countries received MDG award. Our neighbor Nepal is one of the recipients for significant contribution to improving maternal health. The permanent representative of Nepal to the UN has received the award on behalf of the Nepalese government. The new popular President of Philippines, Benigno Aquino III refused to stay in the pricey Waldrof Astoria hotel initially reserved for him. He rather chose to head a lean delegation and stay in a less luxurious Sofitel Hotel instead. Philippines’ envoy to the UN has pulled together all resources of the mission to accept the challenges of the President’s directive to make his first overseas trip frugal and efficient. The envoy openly lauded President’s austerity measures. The visit of Canadian PM to UN is doubly important – first, to play lead role in global poverty reduction program in MDG summit and second, to campaign to secure two-year seat in the UN Security Council. He is heading a modest but highly energetic 16 members delegation and living in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence.

One self-financed member of this team, living in Canada and having no known involvement with income mechanism raised question how he could afford to join this stately tour. Only twenty five of the delegate members will be allowed to enter into the MDG session where world leaders including our PM will deliver speeches. Already our UN office is frenzied by the absurd task of preparing the list of the participants. By downgrading and traveling in the economy class, the three national poets have not only saved taxpayers’ money; they established a praiseworthy paradigm unknown in the power circle of Bangladesh.

The democratic government should take into accounts few facts before designing any future entourage of the PM. The governance of the country is based on democracy and streak of dynasty might spoil the show again. Our politicians particularly those who have inherited politics should not forget the most popular message came out of 1/11 fiasco – politics should be declutched from family monopoly. The success in foreign policy of this government can be accurately measured in terms of how many killers of Bangabandhu could be repatriated from overseas countries to Bangladesh so far. If the answer is zero, so is the figure written on the foreign policy scorecard of this government. Therefore this huge eclectic formation of delegation of PM has little or no impact on our stale foreign policy. The delegation looks more like a family picnic party.

If our democratic government is still under obsolete delusion that big crowd makes a better party, then I would suggest government to find private sponsors of this kind of tour in future. It will not be difficult to find sponsors in Bangladesh where thousands of millionaires have sprouted almost overnight with ever increasing political cravings.

Against massive opposition and resistance internally and externally this government has taken up critical challenges and corrective imperatives for our nation building from the scratch once again. They must work with due diligence to stay above all controversies and indulgences to keep their main agenda up and running with the solid public support. Elitism and royalty has no place in democracy for the poor, rather it breeds mistrust and despair in public mind. Public always want stringent austerity measures in spending public money.

PM’s 103 members delegate to MDG summit is not only a gross misrepresentation of Bangladesh; it creates a massive burden on the nation. Unless source of earning is known to the public, no member of PM’s family or relation should be allowed to join a government delegation. And if at all PM has to include any individual in the government delegation on personal level, then they should discreetly stay behind the line of protocol, just as an observer at their own expenses. Public want this government to be the role model in every aspect of life. Though public does not have any lofty ambition, but they are pragmatic in assessing the cost the nation will have to incur if this government fails.

7 Responses to “103: The PM entourage!”

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    I understand what you are trying to say but the way you have written this sounds like gobbeldy gook and will only serve to excite anti- Hasina people and infuriate her supporters. It would have been helpful if you would:

    Who are these 103 members, may be some background.

    You seem to know more about Philipine President’s expenses than what you are complaining about the Bangladesh PM. Some examples would be helpful to make a comparitive analysis.

    You need to depersonalize your complaints – because as far as I can remember that all govts of Bangladesh have done this. This does not ofcourse make it acceptable but it might be more useful and may in fact lead to change if you can bring attention to patronage/reward aspects of these sort of trips. personalizing makes it lose effectiveness and diverts from what I assume your real intention is to stop such wastage and nepotism regardless of who is doing it.

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    Dr. Saha

    The focus of your writing on wasteful spending of tax payers’ money is very much relevant and straight forward. Howerver, this is the practice of all all of our govts who come to power. It should be stopped and our govt whoever it might be — whether mighty marshal law army party(most of them are millionnaires via misappropriation of our treasury) or democratically elected should be accountable to the people. Your message to arrest this irrational sumptuous spending by a poor country would be valuable without personalizing the perpetrator.

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    I just want to quote from Jack Nicholson “I hate advice unless I am giving it”.
    She doesn’t listen to advice.

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    Dr. M. Khalid

    Without a doubt every aspect of your article is valid, yet some how the People of Bangladesh accepts this type of behavior as the norm irrelevant of the Party running the nation. Historically, like most third World countries, Bangladeshi politicians in power treats the treasury as their own bank account not to mention their attitude of “owning the country” as their private domain. The reason is simple, there is no checks and balance in governance of Bangladesh. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of any citizen who demands transparency in spending of the treasury with the blessing of the Parliament’s opposition, then may be some of this wasteful and out right nepotism/corruption can at least be fully printed in a newspaper. Knowing the cost of hotel rooms and other accommodations in New York City, not to mention airfares, one can easily assume the cost of 103 member delegation will easily approach over a million dollars. It’s truly a shame that this expenditure can easily be cut by 90% without compromising the mission.

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    Initially, I was surprised too. The only entourage members at government expense are government employees from foreign ministry and PM’s secretariat nd her SSF security forces. The business delegates (30) are bearing their own expense. Hasina’s family members are at their personal expense. AL members are at their own expense. Three poets are financed privately and not by government.

    Yes, the number is high but do not hide the truth to look PM bad.

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    ” By downgrading and traveling in the economy class, the three national poets have not only saved taxpayers’ money; they established a praiseworthy paradigm unknown in the power circle of Bangladesh.” – They would have done the nation a favour and saved heaps if they refused the trip and stayed back home. I am not sure how the nation would benefit from their trip. Only thing I could figure out is that the trip may inspire them to write few poems on MDG!!

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    Khondkar A Saleque

    If PM’s family members are businessmen accompanied her to UN General Assembly meeting at their own expense the entourage group with tax payers money reduces to about 60.Admittedly that too is also a huge number.PM Hasina must cut down her team to international events in future.Let us not argue over that.But one must acknowledge the achievement of Bangladesh achievement in attaining MDG. Remember the achievement has been made despite suffering from chronic energy crisis. If national efforts can overcome energy crisis soon we will achieve higher GDP growth and Bangladesh will achieve greater glories.PM Hasina must drastically cut down unnecessry foreign trips of her cabinet colleagues, MPs and government officials wasting tax payers money.

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