Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Monday, April 20, 2015, Baishakh 7, 1422 BS, Jamadius Sani 29, 1436 Hijr

No Rise In Power Tariff Now
The people, the Prime Minister and the bureaucracy
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published : Monday, 20 April, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 24

Politics is the art of doing the greatest good to the greatest number.  And it rests on the smoothness of governance, that necessary vehicle which carries politics through to an attainment of its overall objective. It is from such a perspective that we feel reassured when the government informs the nation that there will be no rise in energy prices, that indeed there are no plans at present of such a move being taken. The Prime Minister has been on record with her assertion that citizens will not need to cough up additional amounts of money for the use of such resources as electricity. We welcome the sentiments of the Prime Minister, seeing that they do not only satisfy the people but are also a strong hint of the underlying principle of governance, which is that the aim of government, any government, is to ensure, despite the odds, that normal life goes on for citizens.
We note too the feelings of the Prime Minister's Advisor on Energy on the issue. Despite certain reservations earlier on his part about the energy price issue, he now agrees with the Prime Minister that enhancing the rates for electricity will not sit well with a population which already is overburdened by the many other pressures brought on by the struggle for bare, decent existence. We realize, of course, the temptation in a number of quarters for an advocacy of a rise in power tariff. Of late there have been all those people who have been quite vocal in their view that subsidies in significant development areas, such as agriculture, should be done away with. These demands certainly resonate with those made by donors, but they do not have to be and cannot be entertained for a simple reason: in agriculture and in other areas, subsidies have kept the process of economic activity going. Doing away with them will lead, simply, to chaos not only in the lives of farmers but also in the overall framework of the national economy. Agricultural subsidies have ensured self-sufficiency in food production through acting as a powerful engine for farmers to cater to national needs. You take them away and what you are left with is an economy which is about to take a bad battering.
Besides, in a society where lawmakers are free to purchase duty free vehicles, government officials enjoy facilities that others can only dream of and garment industry owners are saved from calamity by infusions of funds by the government, it makes poor sense to argue that subsidies for the poorer yet hard-working sections of the population of the country should be abolished. In the name of structural reforms, prescribed by international financial institutions, a number of countries have simply had a nosedive, to a point where their leaders have had to put up a mighty struggle to ward off political as well as social unrest. We certainly do not wish to experience similar circumstances here in Bangladesh, especially in the energy sector. Indeed, it is only fair to expect that at a time when oil prices have been falling around the world, a similar situation will develop here. It remains rather intriguing that no effort has so far been put into the need for a lowering of prices of oil by the authorities here. Perhaps the Prime Minister and her Energy Advisor will look at the issue?
And while they do that, it also remains our expectation that the decision not to go for a hike in electricity tariff will hold, that no bureaucratic action will end up reversing the reassurance of the Prime Minister on the issue. All too often in this country, measures aimed at promoting the public weal have been defeated by sheer indifference or deliberate undermining by vested interests. The public interest has thus been compelled to give way to class or group interest. Let that sort of situation not emerge in the present instance.
Politics is all about development. It is about making life easier for all. Let this truism remain uppermost in the making of all decisions which have a bearing on citizens' lives.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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