For an accountable, prosperous, and equitable Bangladesh: Some proposed governance reform agendas for Awami League's manifestos

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Published on October 11, 2023
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Pranab Kumar Panday:

As Bangladesh gears up for the highly anticipated national election scheduled for January 2024, the political landscape is abuzz with activity. In a strategic move, the Awami League has taken a pro-active stance by forming a dedicated Election Manifesto Preparation Committee.

This committee's role is pivotal, as it signifies the party's commitment to outlining a comprehensive and well-thought-out vision for the future of the nation. It is a testament to Awami League's determination to address the evolving needs and aspirations of the Bangladeshi people, and it underscores the party's desire to prioritize governance reform as a central theme in their election campaign.

As the election season unfolds, all eyes will be on the manifesto shaping process, as it will provide valuable insights into the party's vision for the nation.

Governance serves as the cornerstone of a robust democracy, and Bangladesh is no exception to this rule. Over the years, the present government, guided by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has achieved significant development milestones in the country.

However, it's crucial to acknowledge that certain governance-related issues demand focused attention in the foreseeable future, particularly if the party intends to secure victory in the upcoming election.

There exists a compelling imperative for the ruling party's Election Manifesto Preparation Committee to prioritize the inclusion of governance-related concerns in its electoral agenda -- a significance that has already been underscored by the central party leadership.

The Awami League's recognition of this imperative signifies its responsiveness to the aspirations of the people and the necessity to adapt to an ever-evolving global landscape.

The primary objective of this article is to put forward a series of governance related recommendations for the election manifesto preparation committee's consideration. By concentrating on these critical governance areas, the party not only has the chance to outline an innovative agenda but also to emphasize its commitment to ushering in a fresh era marked by accountability, prosperity, and equitable governance in Bangladesh.

The party should place a strong emphasis on its unwavering commitment to transparency, underpinned by the implementation of robust mechanisms that ensure public access to crucial government information, detailed budgetary allocations, and transparent decision-making processes.

In addition, the party should not only underline its dedication to transparency but also make concrete commitments to reinforce anti-corruption efforts. This should include the introduction of comprehensive measures aimed at holding public officials accountable for their actions, thus ensuring the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct in government.

The party should make a resolute pledge to devolve substantial administrative and financial powers to local governments, thereby ensuring that these entities possess the autonomy required to make decisions that directly cater to the unique needs of their respective communities.

This commitment should go hand-in-hand with a dedication to fostering local democracy. By empowering local governments and nurturing grassroots democracy, the party can usher in a new era of governance that truly reflects the diverse needs and aspirations of the people across the nation.

They should firmly commit to championing the development of a robust e-governance infrastructure aimed at streamlining government services and enhancing transparency. This comprehensive commitment encompasses the implementation of cutting-edge online platforms designed for citizen engagement, the establishment of digital record-keeping systems, and the facilitation of secure and efficient digital payment systems.

Embracing these technological advancements will not only modernize government operations but also ensure greater accessibility and accountability in serving the needs of the citizenry.

The election manifesto should contain a robust commitment to fortify anti-corruption agencies and rigorously enforce anti-corruption legislation. It is imperative to foster an environment that encourages whistleblowing, safeguarding whistleblowers from any form of retaliation.

These measures will send a clear message that the party is unwavering in its determination to combat corruption, ensuring that wrongdoings are met with accountability and that those who speak out against corruption are shielded from harm.

The ruling party should make a firm commitment to conduct a comprehensive review of the civil service, with the aim of eradicating inefficiencies. This review should prioritize the selection, training, and evaluation of public servants who possess the requisite expertise to confront the challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the evolving needs of our society.

By doing so, the party will not only modernize the civil service but also ensure that it remains adept and responsive in a rapidly changing world.

The manifesto should prominently feature a commitment to guarantee that citizens have an active role in decision-making processes through the regular organization of public consultations and forums.

In addition, the party should pledge to establish effective feedback mechanisms aimed at systematically gauging public opinion on critical policy matters. This commitment underscores a dedication to inclusive governance and a genuine desire to listen to and act upon the concerns and aspirations of the people.

They should demonstrate a resolute commitment to enforcing a stringent code of ethics for public officials and elected representatives, aimed at upholding elevated standards of integrity and conduct within the government.

The party should firmly pledge to ensure equitable access to justice for every citizen by extending legal aid to those in need, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations.

Furthermore, it should commit to the development of initiatives aimed at raising awareness of citizens' legal rights, thereby empowering individuals to understand and assert their rights within the legal system. This commitment reflects a dedication to justice that transcends socio-economic disparities, ensuring that all members of society have the means to seek legal recourse when necessary.

While the current government has made significant strides in women's empowerment over the past 15 years, there remains a substantial agenda to further advance the status of women in Bangladesh. Hence, it is imperative that the manifesto incorporates a firm commitment to policies that actively promote gender equality and social inclusion.

These policies should prioritize addressing existing disparities and ensuring equal opportunities not only for women but also for marginalized groups. By doing so, the party underscores its unwavering dedication to fostering a more inclusive and equitable society where gender-based discrimination becomes a thing of the past.

If integrated into the Awami League's election manifesto, these governance-related commitments can serve as the bedrock for envisioning a government in Bangladesh that is more accountable, transparent, and responsive to the needs of its citizens.

However, it is crucial that these promises are not merely rhetorical but are substantiated by concrete action plans and a resolute commitment to their effective implementation. Meaningful change in the governance of the country hinges on translating these pledges into tangible actions that tangibly enhance the lives and well-being of the Bangladeshi people.

Writer: Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi