BESIDES the confrontational politics that often tended to tell upon law and order affecting development, three others things that drastically impeded economic development in this country relate to infrastructure. These are inadequate power generation, inefficient seaports and underdeveloped communications, both physical and electronic. But all these were and are within the nation's and its leaders' capacity to improve. Who then are to blame if the country is still least developed?
A little magnanimous mutual accommodation of the political parties in the national interest and for their places of distinction in history could have removed the political tension to enable the nation to pursue economic development with a greater intensity of purpose, undeterred by periodic chaos and convulsions. If some individual sacrifices are needed of the political parties to make for this mutual accommodation, they should do so for the sake of the nation. If they do it, the three other factors that impede economic progress in this country can be addressed with unalloyed national attention.
At its current level of economic development, the country suffers badly for a shortfall of about 1500 megawatt electricity or even more daily. The resultant load-shedding impairs productivity in fields and factories, making many of them, less profitable at best, if not outright losing concerns. In other words, even if the country could manage to have many more industries established with the participation of more local and foreign investors, the existing chronic power shortage would have become more acute to cripple many of the existing and new industries. Since entrepreneurs-whether local or foreign, invest in industries for profit, the less performing power sector should be unfailingly identified as a damper on industrialisation. The government should immediately make a long-term projection of power need keeping a certain growth rate in view and take up a work plan to expand power generation and distribution according to that projection. If they suspect that scarcity of resources will constrain the implementation of such a plan, they may involve the private sector in power generation and area-wise distribution. Efforts should be also simultaneously made for reducing system loss in the power sector and attaining greater efficiency in revenue collection to enable the Power Development Board to create its own funds for investment in power generation.
A realistic projection of future economic growth rate on the basis of felt need should be also used for assessing the level to which the seaports and communications -- railway, roads and aviation -- need to be developed. The cost of doing business in this country is still high owing, among others, to underdeveloped seaports and communications facilities. Ships have to wait at the Chittagong port for days together-- almost for months, for berthing, loading and unloading of cargoes. How will it handle the country's import-export, say in 2015 or 2020 or 2025, if foreign trade grows at the rate 20 per cent annually, the minimum needed growth of foreign trade for dismantling poverty? How the cargoes to and from the seaport will be carried to and from different locations within the country in the subsequent years should also be kept in mind. Will the existing highways and railway facilities suffice? What will be our responses if higher oil prices threaten to render transportation by road economically unviable? Some thing should be also urgently done about Biman, whose performance so far has frustrated the nation. It should be either privatised or work with a strategic partner. The authorities must appreciate that the vision of a vibrant future cannot be realised without reliable aviation facilities in a world where speed largely determines the pace of development.
The current unhappy positions of the afore-mentioned sectors invariably pinpoint that successive governments in this country so far failed to take up and intensely pursue a perspective plan for the over-all development. If time is wasted similarly without being decidedly proactive now, the nation is certain to be stuck up in a graver dilemma. Who then will they blame?