Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chief Adviser addressed the nation

Four former student leaders Zahiruddin Shapan, Fazlur Rahman, Shirin Akhter and Mahmudur Rahman Manna are talking about the caretaker government and future of national politics in Bangladesh. Watch this interesting hour long discussion at Tritio Matra moderated by Zillur Rahman at Channel I.

Daily Star reports,
Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed yesterday said the government is considering lifting restrictions on indoor politics countrywide and gradually relaxing the state of emergency depending on 'needs and circumstances'.

Addressing the nation on the first anniversary of the caretaker government in office, he said his administration would soon move to open dialogue with political parties in line with the decision taken by the advisory council Thursday.

"I hope the political parties will capitalise on this situation to be democratic and free of corruption. The sooner it happens, the better," said Fakhruddin.

In his speech, he outlined various steps and achievements of the government since taking over on January 12 last year.

"We hope the government, Election Commission and the political parties will hold discussions between themselves to pave the way for an ascent to democracy," he added.

"I reaffirm our commitment to holding the national election by December 2008 and if possible even earlier," said the chief adviser, who in his maiden address to the nation on January 21 last year pledged to have the stalled ninth parliamentary election held as early as possible.

"The government has been trying to create a level playing field for everyone so the election is free, fair and acceptable," he observed.

He said he hopes to see a democratically elected government by this time next year and that government would be dedicated to meeting the basic needs of the people.

Calling on everyone including the political parties to establish honest and competent leadership at all levels, Fakhruddin said, "In accordance with your wishes, we will surely hold an election acceptable to all, free from terrorism and influence of black money and muscle power."

"Such a spontaneous transition is rare in the world history. But we are going to do that because we believe democracy has no alternative," he noted.

Amid growing political violence and public displeasure, President Iajuddin Ahmed stepped down as the chief adviser along with 10 other advisers on January 11 last year.

The same day he declared the state of emergency and cancelled the election scheduled for January 22.

The next day former Bangladesh Bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed was sworn in as chief adviser.

The new caretaker government slapped a ban on indoor politics on March 7. The curbs were lifted on September 10 but only for the capital.

Political parties have long been calling for a complete withdrawal of restrictions on politics. Besides, they have been asking the government to open dialogues with them to clear doubts over the conduct of polls.

In his address last night, the chief adviser repeatedly said the election would be held within the time envisaged in the Election Commission's electoral roadmap.

He said he hopes 2008 would be a watershed year marking a transition to a true democracy fulfilling public aspirations.

Turning to last week's cabinet shake-up, he said the replacements for five advisers and appointment of special assistants would revitalise the advisory council.

Assuring the people that his government is not interfering in the EC's work, Fakhruddin said electoral rules would be reformed once the commission is over and done with its dialogue with the political parties.

He said the government has set up Regulatory Reform Commission, separated the judiciary from the executive and reconstituted the Anti-Corruption Commission, Public Service Commission and University Grants Commission to promote good governance.

He added that the government's anti-corruption drives have been a signal that no-one would be spared if found guilty.

The former World Bank official said despite political turmoil and spiked prices of oil and other commodities on the global market in last fiscal year, the country clocked a GDP growth of 6.5 percent thanks to significant growth of industry and service sectors.

Citing formation of the Better Business Forum among other initiatives to improve the business climate, he said exports and investment are going up after a lull in the first three quarters of 2007.

He acknowledged that low- and fixed-income groups have been hit hard by soaring prices of essentials that, he said, were the result of international price hike, a 15 lakh tonnes shortfall in food grains and havoc caused by back-to-back floods and Cyclone Sidr.

Hoping that rice prices would come down further, Fakhruddin said the government has imported rice, launched open market sales and Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programmes to tackle the crisis.

There's no alternative to prioritising agriculture if the prices of commodities are to be kept within the people's reach, he said adding that the government will do everything necessary to ensure a bumper Boro yield.

It has already taken steps to import fertiliser and give greater farm subsidy. Besides, it has allocated Tk 350 crore for agriculture research, added Fakhruddin.

He also said the administration has received accolades for taking precautionary measures that kept casualties and damage in the November 15 cyclone low.

He said power generation, development in communications sector and manpower export figure high on the government's priority list.

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