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2023: Hopes and Challenges

  • Dr. Kazi S. M. Khasrul Alam Quddusi
  • 3rd January, 2023 04:43:58 PM
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2023: Hopes and Challenges

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Another year in the Gregorian calendar, 2023, has just started with new hopes and aspirations. It also reminds us of great and gloomy memories of 2022. Yes, the eventful year 2022 witnessed great milestones in the communication sector of Bangladesh with opening of epoch-making Padma Bridge as well as Metro Rail. That year also heralded the news of magnificent Bangabandhu Tunnel, which is to be inaugurated soon. On 28 December 2022, the country’s another dream came true with the inaugural operation of the much-awaited project, metro rail.

The metro rail is billed to end or reduce significantly the capital’s distressing traffic jams which eat away valuable working hours and a huge amount of fuel. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the first 11.73-kilomtere portion of the Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Line 6) stretching from Diabari to Agargaon at Diabari depot in Uttara. The 22-kilometre Diabari-Kamalapur metro rail is a Tk 33,472 crore priority project of the government, which is to be accomplished by 2025.

It is another tale of Sheikh Hasina’s tenacity in turning dreams into reality for millions of the country. Some more mega projects, including Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Padma Rail Link, Matarbari Coal-fired Power Plant and Payra Deep Sea Port are expected to be opened soon. Experts truly believe that the metro rail service will reduce traffic congestions and save working hours and help improving the traffic speed that has been going down alarmingly and rapidly.

Accident Research Centre of Bangladesh of BUET in its recent report said that traffic congestions in Dhaka gobble up around five million working hour a day and the average speed of vehicles during rush hours has come down to five kilometres per hour. The report also mentioned that the congestion causes an annual loss of between Tk 20,000 crore and Tk 55,000 crore. A World Bank report, published in 2017, mentioned that in the previous 10 years, average traffic speed in Dhaka dropped from 21kmph to 7kmph, which was slightly above the average walking speed.

The same report duly warned that the speed may drop to 4kmph by 2035, slower than the walking speed if incessant and chronic current traffic jam continues. It is indeed a riddle as to how inhabitants of the capital have become used to such magnitude of traffic jam which is always threatening to go out of proportions. Thus, with inauguration of the metro rail, the capital is expected to see a change for the better in terms of loss of working hours and a large sum of money. In fact, the jam has to come down for maintaining habitability of the capital.

Meanwhile, the year 2022, also saw reduction of COVID-19 causalities to a degree. Though its rampage continues at many places of the globe with news of new outbreaks in China and elsewhere, the situation in Bangladesh is still stable. By the grace of Almighty, things are expected to remain so or not worse in Bangladesh in 2023. Hope, the experience of 2022 would be utilised by the government in this regard. Notably, Bangladesh recently landed in the phase of 4th dose of COVID-19 vaccination which continues with no hassles in the centres.

Price spiral caused real problems for people in 2022 with rise of fuels and food items exorbitantly. In terms of price spiral, thus, the year would be a forgettable one. Though prices of commodities increased round the globe, things were really onerous for low-income group of Bangladesh. In some cases, business syndicates fleeced the general people. Prices of edible oils also saw record rise in that year, making lives miserable for people. In fact, prices of various items increased almost doubly with chain effect across the market.

As a sequel to the fuel crisis, electricity problem also irked the people immeasurably. Despite all-out efforts of the government, there were crises in supplying power for a couple of months. Following coming of winter, however, that crisis came down significantly. Next summer in 2023 might post another challenge for which there would have to be precautions and planning well in advance. In fact, the Awami League government brought about sufficiency in the power sector. However, the worldwide fuel crisis dented that to a degree.

The Russia-Ukraine war was another setback for the world which did not end in 2022 though there were expectations that two countries and other super powers in the world would ultimately be able to reach a consensus in ending the war or at least signing a ceasefire. Much to the disappointment of the peace-loving people, however, the war escalated on a number of occasions instead, causing great sufferings for the people of Ukraine and for the soldiers of Russia. Like COVID-19, too, it had all-embracing effects on the world.

Dollar crisis was another of the war’s too many ill effects which jolted the world, especially the developing ones. And, Bangladesh was one of the worst victims of dollar crisis which still looms large. Despite some efforts from Bangladesh Bank, the dollar issue has not brought about any good news as yet. Moreover, the loan default crisis has made things worse against which stern state inventions brook no delay. In fact, this issue must be high on the agenda for protecting the economy from the clutch of the culprits who, as per High Court, deserve capital punishment.

In the backdrop of crisis-torn 2022, the New Year comes to us with mixed bag of expectations and challenges. It is, however, already clear that the challenges in 2023 would not be easy to handle. Political issues are very likely to be added with renewed heat in the atmosphere. The prelude to next general elections has already started and it would come to its head during 2023. People of the country, however, expect positive politics and polices from all the political parties. And, political parties would be well-advised to prioritise people’s rights and interests for which the latter would remain cheerful and grateful.

(The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Chittagong. Email: [email protected])

Source: Sun Editorial