Just as Bangladesh’s political leadership cannot reach a consensus on any domestic issue, they are equally obdurate when it comes to foreign policy issues too. BNP leaders say that the border with Myanmar is troubled and insecure due to the government’s subservient foreign policy. Awami League leaders, on the other hand, are unwilling to pay heed to what BNP says. They forget that violence on the border can spill over and impact the entire country.
Myanmar is in a state of war at the moment and there is no telling when this will end. Security experts do not foresee the fall of the military junta there anytime soon. The large neighbor which has been supporting the military in Myanmar for so long, will not let that happen. The problem for Bangladesh is that, no matter what optimistic rhetoric the leaders may spew out, the repatriation of the over 1.15 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has become even more uncertain and difficult.
The Awami League general secretary spoke of economic challenges. This includes the disaster in the banking sector. It includes millions of taka being siphoned out of the country, the prices of essentials spiraling beyond the reach of the common people. Just a couple of days after the election, the price of rice leaped up by 6 to 10 taka. Onion prices are out of control. There is no response to these issues.
When the prices of any commodity shoots up, the ministers and secretaries hold a meeting, directives are issued from above, but there is no monitoring to ensure that the directives are implemented. In the past many minister had blamed the price hikes on unscrupulous traders, syndicates, etc. The new state minister for commerce Ahsanul Islam alias Tito is unwilling to use the term ‘syndicate’. He refers to them as ‘big fish’. Just as the big fish gobble up the smaller fish in a pond, a handful of individuals are slashing the pockets of the people in the name of trade and commerce. The state minister says these big fish are devouring everything in the water, on land, and in the skies. When they sense the government is about to lower the duty on any item, they hike up the prices in advance. It is a lot like the discount sales in shopping malls.
The daily Banik Barta on 7 February reported that the price of soybean oil in the international market is lowest in three years. Yet even last month the traders here pushed up the price of bottled soybean oil by four taka a litre, without consulting the government.