Dhaka Courier

In Search of a Transition from the Virus-Driven Great Disaster to a Decent Bangladesh: On the Larger Canvas of Society-Economy-State

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Proposals on ‘Nature-oriented Economy’ towards Decent Life System Author: Abul Barkat, ISBN: 978-984-34-8364-5, Publisher: Bangladesh Economic Association & Muktobuddhi, Prokashona, Price: 1500 Taka

Capitalism invites respiratory pandemic, citing this entire truth, Peoples Economist Prof. Dr. Abul Barkat has been published a fundamental manuscript on society-economy-state in November 2020. This book is entitled “In Search of a Transition from the Virus-Driven Great Disaster to a Decent Bangladesh: on the Larger Canvas of Society-Economy-State”.

Referring to the book of Jareo Diamond (1997), ‘Guns, Germs and Steel: the fates of human society’ author mentions, apart from the overuse of fossil fuel there are four causes for mass extinction of this earth, 1. Artificial intelligence, self-programmed robot, chemical arms; 2. Poverty, disparity, inequality; 3. Climate change; 4. War, bioterrorism, biopiracy. Impacts of covid-19 has been added a new critical dimension. Existing global economic system intensifies the process of co- modification of nature, co-modification of society.

Author proposes general theory of decent society. In general, it is probably new concept of socio-economic science. There are three foundational component of this concept. Social foundational component owns knowledge rich, free thinking and creativity promoting; solidarity rich; secular; free from all forms of superstitions; rational humans; human wel-farist science. Economic foundational component includes people’s ownership on natural resources; social ownership on production; filthy rich less; share and market less system. Political foundational component includes democracy, lord less state system, social justice, community administration and people’s responsibility to protect motherland. The fundamental objectives of the theory of decent society are accelerating the process of human enlightenment; creativity promoting knowledge system; instilling high sense of solidarity; process of making human rationality up; making people free from all forms of inequality; free from rent-seeker; making a state for 100% peoples ownership and master less civic governance.

Author explains 11 principles to renovate decent Bangladesh from covid-19 impacts.1. We want development-welfare-progression, but the development would be nature-environment oriented; 2. We need economic growth. We don’t need environmentally harmful, socially unjustified, human resources destructive growth; 3. Growth should be inequality reduced; 4. Growth must be employment-creation oriented; 5. Per capita income or growth domestic product is not development. It must be ensure healthy life of women-children-old-marginal-poor-deprived-isolated people; 6. We want to transform the power of youth to real resources; 7. We want positive social impact; 8. People’s ownership on natural resources (land, water body, forest, space resources, coal, gas and mineral) on behalf of nature; 9. We want to uphold human security and equal opportunity for state-society-economy’ development; 10. Promote inequality reduced home grown development philosophy; 11. We want to extract the taste global economic opportunities.

Barkat clarifies Fundamentalism is an obstacle to erect decent Bangladesh. He mentions ‘Fundamentalism’ is a term that is coined by western mass-media. It means aggressive religious fair – belief to prepare anyone for war. Context implies – of course, there is a nexus between fundamentalism (external and internal facts) and imperialism as American hegemony is prevailing everywhere. Everyone needs ‘GOD’ mentioning it, writer elucidates there are 10,000 thousands religion in this world even at ancient period it’s just a natural belief towards − sun, drought, flood, storm, forest, wild animals or hills. Barkat explains – in this world there are 130 cores Muslims, out of it only 7% are extremist Muslim that means only 9 cores.

In this manuscript, author discusses on economic and social development philosophy of Bangabandhu. While Bangabandhu chose to expand industrial sector through nationalization at the beginning, his medium to long-term plan was to create enabling environment for the private sector. These are visible in the first five-year plan and budget proposals of the government of the newly independent country. Writer analyses the possibility if Bangabondhu alive, where Bangladesh would go financially and socially. The average GDP could be 9% from 1973 to 2011. Had father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman been alive and his development philosophy implemented, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) size would have reached US$421.58 billion before 2011 with a growth rate of 9 per cent or above. Barkat said Bangabandhu’s public welfare-oriented development philosophy was wiped out through his assassination. “As a result, we incurred a loss of a total of US$ 333.03 billion GDP in Bangladesh without Bangabandhu compared to Bangladesh with Bangabandhu,” he said.

Author informs us – people cannot be an equivalent member of society due to lack of three resources, 1. Material resources: income, nutrient food, proper education, health care, rights in khas land, forest, water bodies and employment; 2. Spiritual resources: thoughts on life, model of ideal person, mutual respect, aspiration, completeness of life; 3. Emotional resources: love, belief, justice, inclusion. Whatever mentioning covid-19 needs to analysis psychology, neurology, criminology, anthropology, sociology, political science and history; he adds denial syndrome and complacency syndrome in Nigeria, Somalia, Sub-saharan Africa and Sweden. International Labor Organization (ILO) explains globally 50% people lose their jobs. Due to covid-19, globally possible impacts is 8.8 trillion $ or 77, 11, 33,600 crore taka or 9.7% of global GDP.

Abul Barkat said the Covid-19 pandemic is nature’s wakeup call for a complacent civilization. He alleged the pandemic has its good and bad sides; Covid-19's good side is that “we are learning what coronavirus is for us and everybody in the world. I do not want to get into the politics of coronavirus, but this is truly nature's wakeup call for a complacent civilization.” In Bangladesh, before lockdown the total household income of middle class was 58.07% but after lockdown 47.79%; household income of rich was 38.09% but after lockdown 46.09%; before lockdown the household income of super-duper rich was 27.82% but it is 38.80%. Due to covid-19 impacts, out of 6 crore 82 lacs 8 thousands people, 3 crore 59 lacs 73 thousands 271 people lose their jobs in Bangladesh. Consequently, wealth inequality, health inequality and education inequality rises day by day. After lockdown the Poor has become 40%(absolute poor-25% and hardcore poor 15%); Middle class has become 50%(higher middle class-13%, middle-middle class 14% and lower middle class-23%) and Rich has become 10%(rich-5% and super rich-5%). Apart from that, informal sectors has become fall in trap- hawker economy, vendor economy, tokai economy, tea-stall economy, hotel-restaurant economy, driver economy, china town economy, Bongobazar economy, super-market economy, Sim economy and bag economy etc.

Writer explains recovery model from covid-19 to decent Bangladesh. To indulgence covid-19 pandemic 6 diseases can be treated. 1. Class structure depression induced diseases; 2. Food shortage induced diseases; 3. Scaling up inequality induced diseases; 4. Mental depression, fear, dishearten induced diseases; 5. Violence induced diseases; and 6. Unemployment induced diseases.

Author mentions there are 3 methods (L-system, U-system and V-system) to recover from covid-19 to decent Bangladesh. L-system: It means no treatment. When this system prevails in a society, death is the ultimate fact. Then collective impacts of 6 diseases would be rise. U-system: It implies mid-level treatment. In this treatment, the social health will access the opportunities- employment opportunities, social safety net program, legal support, food supply, budget for sanitation, and education for all program. V-system: it means better treatment. It is also called victory system. This system is free from all forms of diseases. It needs collective actions to renovate social health. But the primary necessary precondition to facilitate these L-U-V system, there are 3 factors working here, 1. Expert doctor for public health, in economy it is called labor force; 2. Medicine, machine, bed, hospital, health concerns, in economy it is called capital; and 3. Financial support (credit line or loan). Abul Barkat mentions, if these systems are collapsed then the consequences would be bailed-failed-jailed. We have to carefully handle deflationary cycle, currency crisis and inflationary cycle. However, combination of deflationary and inflationary cycle can be a sustainable strategy for good economy.

In this book, author analyses deeply the health sector. The relationship between social and environmental health sometimes affect our physical (Cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive and nervous system) and mental health (feelings, behavior, psychological challenge of life). The broad suggestions emerging from the analysis are -- Public health must be seen as real public goods, and accordingly, shall be addressed by the State.  This is an issue of compliance with the Constitutional rights. The Government must see investing in people’s health as not just a social sector investment but an investment towards accelerated economic development and poverty eradication.  This is an issue of respecting people’s life and dignity with fully informed concern and commitment. The people – especially the poor and marginalized people – must know about their health rights and must be adequately empowered to exercise and assert those rights.  This is an issue of people’s conscientization.

Writer also proposed alternative budget to make Bangladesh decent. He said the ways to eliminate income inequality and wealth inequality should be included in the upcoming budget for the fiscal year 2020-21. He placed a Tk13.96 lakh crore alternative budget for FY21 to fight Covid-19 and check growing inequality. The proposed budget can be done without foreign and bank loans. Barkat also proposed the revenue could be Tk12,61,600 crore and deficit Tk1,35,000 crore. He suggests forming a 'Health Protection Department' and to allocate as much as Tk 40,000 crore for it.

The theory of a "Decent life system" is based on a democratic state system, which puts loyalty to nature at the front position; all socio-economic and political foundations should be built on the basis of the influence of nature. Researcher presents four steps to decent life system from the impacts of covid-19 pandemic. 1. Cut spending; 2. Debt restricting; 3. Redistribute wealth from rich to poor; and 4. Print money if necessary.

We want to mention this reader friendly book is a treasure of knowledge and represents inclusive thoughts' to change the fortune of our state and people. Through the proposals of Abul Barkat’s “Nature-oriented Economy and Rent-seeker free Economy” it is possible to make our society, state, economy and life decent.

Shishir Reza, Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association. Matiur Rahman Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre (HDRC)

  • Abul Barkat
  • Bangladesh Economic Association & Muktobuddhi Prokashona
  • 'Nature-oriented Economy’ towards Decent Life System

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