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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Staff Correspondent

Politicians and civil society members at a seminar on Sunday called on economic policymakers to revert to the five-year plan for development and suspend the process of formulating the second version of the lender-driven poverty reduction strategy because of its failure.

They stressed that stakeholders should be consulted in formulating development strategies and that the political parties must mention their development programmes in their election manifestoes before the next parliamentary polls.

'We ourselves have to formulate our development planning and undertake home-grown programmes for welfare of the people,' Hasan Mahmud, environment secretary of Bangladesh Awami League, said in unison with Bangladesh Nationalist Party's Rizvi Ahmed.

Jatiya Party leader GM Qader called for massive reforms in the process of development planning and in power structures to come out of evil practices. 'I do not know how it will happen. One should not think that the situation will improve automatically after an elected government assumes office,' he said.

Speakers at the seminar on 'Outcomes of PRSP and Sovereignty over Development Planning' criticised the interim government for trying to formulate the second strategy paper without consultation with any segment of the society.

They also recommended that the role of the state should be redefined in order to establish national sovereignty over development planning by rejecting the prescriptions of the multilateral lending agencies that undermined public welfare and national self-reliance.

The seminar was organised by Equity and Justice Working Group at the National Press Club. 'It is unfair to make a policy document with a hide-and-seek attitude. The government is embarking on PRSP at a time when other countries are throwing it away,' the group's Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said.

The working group, a rights-based non-government organisation, in its report suggested revitalisation of the state-run Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies so that the role of the state could be consolidated in development planning.

Moderator of the seminar Professor Tofael Ahmed said the practice of making bureaucrats the project directors must come to an end. 'They are more interested in foreign tours than in national development,' he added. Rashed Mahmud said it was feasible that an apolitical government could make good development planning.

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