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Dialogue with political parties soon: CA PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 January 2008

UNB . Dhaka

The chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed, on Saturday announced that his government would soon open dialogue with political parties for transition to democracy through holding free, fair and neutral elections.

In an address to the nation over state-owned radio and television, marking the completion of one year of the military-controlled interim government, he also said lifting restrictions on indoor politics outside Dhaka throughout the country was under consideration.

In a further disclosure, Fakhruddin said relaxing or lifting the state of emergency would be considered in accordance with the necessity and the given situation.

The head of the interim government, which was installed in an unusual situation amid political upheaval, termed 2008 most important year in the nation's history 'because, we will stage transition to a genuine democracy following the set roadmap in fulfillment of the aspirations of the people and the government'.

The chief adviser said, 'In the world history such spontaneous transition is rare, but we are going to do it. Because, we believe that democracy has no alternative.'

In categorical terms, he said the government was committed to holding parliamentary polls by December 2008 according to the Election Commission roadmap — if possible, ahead of it.

'And there is no room for confusion about it,' he said reaffirming his government's position.

Fakhruddin, who assumed office on January 12 last year under the state of emergency, said since assuming power, the government had been striving to create a 'level playing field' to hold free, fair and neutral elections acceptable to all.

About government-political party dialogue, the chief adviser said the council of advisers had taken decision on holding dialogue with the parties on Thursday (January 10). 'We will soon take steps in this regard.'

He urged political parties to take the advantage of this situation and build themselves as democratic and corruption-free. And 'the sooner, the better.'

'We hope mutual discussions among the government, election commission and political parties will prepare an expanded boulevard to switch over to democracy.'

The chief adviser made it clear that no political party or force is an opponent of this government. 'It is our firm belief towards the end of this year that we will be able to build such a pluralistic system in the country as would reflect the hopes and aspirations of the 14.5 crore people.

'It would be such a system that would sustain on the strength of public opinion,' he said, dropping a broad hint at basic changes in the polity through the sweeping reforms that have been carried out.

Fakhruddin said the new institutions, that were set up or strengthened for protecting real democratic values, would play a catalytic role in this regard.

'Let's come forward to establish honest, competent and efficient leadership in all spheres through joint efforts of all people and political parties.'

The chief adviser said, 'We must arrange elections acceptable to all this year, which will be free from terrorism, muscle power, black money and influence of weapons in reflection of your expectations.'

About the resignation of five advisers, Fakhruddin said he reshuffled the council of advisers last week by appointing five new ones. Alongside this reshuffle, some special assistants were also appointed. He feels such changes would bring overall dynamism and efficiency in running government.

The chief adviser admitted that overall prices of rice, cooking oils, wheat and some essential commodities rose to such a level that created a miserable situation for the citizens, particularly for the limited-income group.

He noted that two big floods and devastating cyclone Sidr in the same year hit hard the food production-and-supply system alongside various losses and damages.

As a result, 15 lakh tonnes of food deficit would take place, he told the nation saying that the government had taken all-out steps to face this unprecedented situation.

Unfortunately prices of rice along with different commodities have shot up on the international market, he said. Price of wheat doubled in a year, the chief adviser mentioned.

Listing various steps taken by the government to stabilise the domestic market, including Open Market Sale (OMS) of rice at fair price, freshly introduced VGF cards, Test Relief and Food for Work programmes, the chief adviser said the government had decided to import 10 lakh tonnes of rice on urgent basis. Of the quantity, an agreement had already been signed to import 3.5 lakh tones, he added.

Mentioning some future plans to increase food production, he said an all-out effort was being launched to ensure the highest production of rice in next Boro season. And steps had also been taken to import bulk amounts of fertilizer, including supply of 28 lakh tonnes of fertilizer.

In any of the last three years not more than 25 lakh tonnes of urea fertilizer was used.

He said the government had to spend Tk 31 for importing one kilogram of fertilizer while one-kg fertilizer was being sold at Tk 5.30 only.

The government was giving a huge subsidy to farmers on fertiliser despite pressure on budge, the chief adviser noted.

He said farmers could buy fertilizer from 14,00 centres this year, triple the number of corresponding year, to get those timely at fair prices.

Fakhruddin also mentioned some other steps under the agricultural recovery plan for increasing farm production, like 12.50-lakh-hectare land targeted this season for preparing high-yielding seedbeds compared to 3.75 lakh hectares of land last year and plan to increase electricity connections for irrigation.

The government was pledge-bound to supply adequate electricity for farmers in irrigation season.

He mentioned successfully tackling the aftermath of the powerful cyclone 'Sidr' with cooperation of all, including people, civil and military administrations, NGOs, foreign countries and development partners.

In a flashback on the circumstance that brought him in the office of Chief Adviser, the former governor of Bangladesh Bank said he was offered to run the country at a crisis period of the State where he has nothing more to aspire or achieve. "I try to discharge my responsibilities selflessly.'

He wanted to take the opportunity to present some of his personal aspirations as an ordinary citizen.

'Like you, I don't want the country to revert to anarchy as before January 11. I want to see accountability and democratic trend established in all spheres of the state through reforms. I want to see the reputation of Bangladesh in the world forum as a shining example of anthropo-religious harmony.''—— we want to see this day next year a service-oriented government elected through democratic process,' said the head of the interim government.

In his 26-minute speech, the chief adviser touched upon a number of issues and areas—prices of essentials, economic development, trade and commerce, anti-corruption drive, good governance, election commission, institutional reforms, electricity, facing the aftermath of cyclone 'Sidr' and so.

On the ongoing purge against corruption, the Fakhruddin said the present government at the outset had taken tough stand against irregularities and corruption, and all-out efforts to bring the corrupt, irrespective of position, to justice.

'None was spared in this matter whatever high position they hold,' he told the countrymen, adding that the corrupt are being tried under the exiting laws and judicial system. Perhaps none could have imagined it only a year before, he observed.

Steps have been taken to strengthen institutional structure of the Anti-corruption Commission after its reconstitution to take effective steps for curbing corruption in the country. Trial of the accused corrupt and delivering verdict under the existing laws has already started.

On the role of the military, he said the cooperation that has been given by the armed forces in governing the country and facing disaster in aid of civil administration deserves a special mention. "Currently, they are specially extending significant cooperation to the caretaker government in curbing grievous offenses, terrorism, and corruption as well as in relief and rehabilitation activities for flood-and cyclone-hit people.

The armed forces are very sincere to establish true democracy through providing all-out cooperation in holding a free, fair and neutral general election, he said.

Turning to activities of the Election Commission, he said the government had recast the Election Commission as completely neutral and acceptable to people which has made draft of election-related amended laws and rules and regulations, which would be finalised soon. He also mentioned that preparation of voters' list with photograph is progressing fast.

On the economic front, the chief adviser said despite political unrest and soaring prices of fuel and imported essential commodities, economic growth rose to 6.5 per cent in the last fiscal due to remarkable growth in industry and service sectors. The rate of increase of export was 16 per cent, despite various adversities.

He further said foreign investment in the country's EPZs has more than doubled in six months from July to December in 2007. And the disbursement of agri-loan increased 61 percent in that six months, which is "very significant".

About manpower export, he said recently opportunities to export manpower to the Middle East and various southeastern countries have been increasing gradually following bilateral and multilateral initiatives of the government.

The number of outbound workers' clearance certificates rose over 8 lakh in the year 2007 compared to that of 3.81 lakh in 2006.

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