Thursday, 23 March, 2023

From Charter of Change to Smart Bangladesh

Pranab Kumar Panday

From Charter of Change to Smart Bangladesh
Pranab Kumar Panday

Having a clear vision for the future is crucial for every political party. Before an election, every political party releases a manifesto outlining its policy priorities. It gives the public an idea of the country's trajectory over the following five years if that particular party is voted to power. The voters choose a political party based on how closely they adhere to the party's manifesto. Once in power, the party implements policies based on its election manifesto in an effort to realise its election pledges. In a democratic system, this is essentially the sole purpose of political parties.

In pursuance of this practice, the Bangladesh Awami League has presented a philosophy to the nation in three national elections since 2008. Every five years, they present voters with a clear vision of where they want the country to go. This political party has been able to take the country to the peak of development by implementing the guidelines presented to the voters.

In 2008, the Awami League presented "Vision 2021" under the title "Din Bodoler Sanad" (Charter of Change) to the people. The party's 2014 manifesto, dubbed "Bangladesh Marching Forward," included a commitment to digitising Bangladesh by 2021. In its 2018 manifesto titled "Bangladesh towards Prosperity," the Awami League promised to develop and prosper Bangladesh and bring down poverty rate to zero by 2041.

Most of the promises made by the Awami League in the run-up to the past three elections have been met. Bangladesh is now a digitally integrated country. The realization of Vision 2021 is complete. In the country, we've made all of the progress we desired. The successful completion of several megaprojects around the country indicates the robust economic foundation on which the country now rests. The poverty rate, however, is now below acceptable levels. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has continued for almost two years, it has somewhat increased. The per capita income of a citizen now exceeds $2,800, making it one of the wealthiest countries in South Asia.

GDP growth has been significantly more robust than in other countries. However, during the Corona pandemic, the economic growth of the world's developed countries, including almost all the countries of South Asia, was negative. Bangladesh has been established as a global success story in the fight against a pandemic like Corona. The government has been able to protect the people by lowering health risks and ensuring and providing an adequate supply of vaccines to keep the country's people safe from the deadly Corona infection. The face of the country's economy has changed with the implementation of projects like the Metro Rail, the Padma Bridge, and the tunnel under the Karnaphuli River.

Since Bangladesh has improved greatly over the past 14 years, everyone is wondering who will win the upcoming election. The present government must retain power to ensure progress can continue. Given the current political climate, it's safe to say that the Awami League, the present ruling party, has a significant advantage over its rivals in the next elections. The government has made some truly remarkable choices over the past 14 years, resulting in increased capability across the board and propelling Bangladesh to international prominence. The ruling party's ability to garner public interest in the run-up to each election has been aided by some outstanding planning. Simultaneously, the government has achieved the targets indicated in the election manifestos, bringing joy to the people owing to the visionary leadership of the Hon'ble Prime Minister.

For this reason, the Awami League completed its party council session on December 24 of last year, before the impending elections. In the council session, the party aimed to develop "Smart Bangladesh" by the year 2041. They plan to create a nation that is economically viable, environmentally friendly, technologically advanced, and knowledge-based. The party in power claims to have fulfilled its promise to create a "Digital Bangladesh," and its latest proclamation is an attempt to make the country more technologically advanced. Since this is the party's ultimate objective, they dub it the "golden master plan to make Bangladesh smart."

Now the question is whether the government under the leadership of Awami League can build a smart Bangladesh. From the experience of the last 14 years, it can be said with certainty that building a smart Bangladesh will not be difficult for the Awami League because Digital Bangladesh has already been established to build Smart Bangladesh. Building Smart Bangladesh is not a difficult task depending on Digital Bangladesh.

The honourable Prime Minister has proven to the people of the country that the impossible can be achieved by a political party led by a person of integrity and vision. If we take the World Bank's decision not to fund the Padma Bridge as an example, no one in Bangladesh would have thought that the bridge would be constructed using just domestic resources. The honourable Prime Minister, however, has made it doable. Therefore, her popularity has been on the rise all the time.

Despite the election-centred uncertainty in Bangladesh's politics, the government has continuously garnered the backing of the citizens in fulfilling its development goals. The public will be drawn to them because of their development expertise as a ruling party, and they will be far ahead of their opponents in terms of political strategy. The BNP has been in opposition for the last 14 years, and that prolonged period of inactivity has severely undermined the party's organisation. Due to their history of making contentious decisions, the public no longer has faith in this party. They hope to gain power without support from the people of the country by depending on foreign powers. However, due to Bangladesh's current political climate, this is just not feasible. People generally expect the ruling Awami League to retain power in the upcoming election and push through with plans to establish Smart Bangladesh.


The author is a Professor in the

Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi