The Dominance of Business Elites in Law & Politics -Ahmad Bhuiyan
In democracy, the door of politics is open for everyone. It is not predetermined for any profession. However, some professions predominate. For example, most of the presidents of the United States were lawyers or professional politicians. According to the Congressional Research Service, 39.55 percent of the current members of the two chambers of the US Congress are businessmen. And British election statistics from 1979 to 2010 show that the number of businessmen in Parliament never exceeded 25%.
The situation in Bangladesh is quite unusual from that. According to a report in Daily Bangladesh Pratidin on 25 December 2017, the rate of businessmen among MPs in the first parliamentary elections of independent Bangladesh in 1973 was 15%, but it has now surpassed all previous records and stood at 69% in 2014 election. Meanwhile, only political mischief has increased. The same trend continued even after the re-introduction of the democratic system. According to Transparency International Bangladesh-TIB, 162 of the MPs sworn in in the 11th general election in 2016 are businessmen. Of the total MPs, which is 72 percent. The businessmen are also in charge of several important ministries of the present government. Presumbly, business and profit will dominate them in the decision-making process.
It should not be difficult to understand why businessmen get nominations easily before elections. The power of traders is their money. As the cost of the election has increased day by day, so has the price of businessmen as candidates in the election. For these reasons, the culture of nomination-trade has also started in the parties. Businessmen have come to do politics and have seen that doing politics matches business benefits & everything comes in handy.
A real politician knows the people. He has a connection with the people and nature of his constituency. But when politicians are replaced by bureaucrats or businessmen, their distance from the general public naturally increase and it becomes an obstacle to the creation of future leaders too.
His Excellency Abdul Hamid is currently serving as the President after a lifetime of politics. A couple of years ago, he rebuked people come to politics overnight from another profession. He said, “politics has now gone into the pockets of businessmen. This is very sad. ”(Prothom Alo, 13 October)
Furthermore, being elected as MP means opening the way to own banks, malls and private universities. From getting a license for a container ship to getting all the business and trade routes easier. Some are also seen to invest crores of money in business within 5 years.
These are the reasons why our rates differ so much from the rate of participation of businessmen in the politics of America, England or India. In fact, politics has now become a big field of investment. Not only are businessmen coming into politics or taking over politics, professional politicians are also involved in business along with politics.
Such a situation has been created that our state has become a hostage in the hands of businessmen or business organizations. Be it banking or financial sector or any financial sector, be it readymade garment industry sector, or road transport sector.
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, said, “The central bank no longer decides what rules or decisions will be made in the banking sector.” It is determined by those who are involved in debt default, fraud, money laundering, part of them. Their decision is the government’s decision.The garment industry is controlled by the owners of the garment industry. Similarly, the Vehicle Owners Association and its leaders decide when, where, how the road transport law will be implemented or not. ’
Every year during Ramadan, business leaders hold meetings with the Ministry of Commerce before the eve of Ramadan. He announces that the price of any product will not increase as there is stockpile of surplus products. The Minister of Commerce also give a message of reassurance to the people. But when consumers go to the market, they are left to be baffled. The same screenplay is being staged year after year like a festival of oppression. “
It is not like that the government is not doing anything to free the people from this oppression. They do their least. The Department of Consumer Protection monitors the market with a magistrate to fine the dishonest businessman. The district administration also shows some activities from time to time. But are retailers simply responsible for raising prices? Ever heard of a campaign against big importers, industrial groups, who control the food market? The government does not feel the need to look into how the supply chain is controlling and raising prices in the market, as the higher the level of syndicate, the greater the power of this high-level syndicate of traders.
Every year right before the budget, traders start lobbying for tax benefits. Who gets how much benefit depends on how strong the syndicate is. The garment sector, which is the source of more than eighty percent of export earnings, is the most motivated sector According to the ordinance of the National Board of Revenue, 1 percent tax has to be paid at source against export but for the last few years, it has been kept at 6 percent with special benefits for this sector.
The syndicate of ready-made garment factory owners is so strong that no action has been taken against the factory owners even after hundreds of workers were burnt in Tazreen Fashions or thousands died in the Rana Plaza collapse. However, when workers took to the streets to protest, they were shot, arrested and harassed in an unknown case. The government and the factory owners’ syndicate should be united there
Thousands of crores of money have been squandered by the people. The government is yet to recover that money. The syndicate of these defaulters is so strong that taking action against them is a far cry from giving concessions to Bangladesh Bank. Even that money is not going to be recovered, the money of defaulting loans cannot be recovered from them, while the liquidity crisis of the bank is being met with the people’s tax money from the budget year after year.
A couple of years ago, the government held a meeting with bank owners to reduce interest rates. The owners’ syndicate cut corporate tax rates by 2.5 per cent and private banks’ cash deposits by 1 per cent, promising to reduce interest rates on loans. According to them, the limit for depositing government money in private banks has also been increased by 25 to 50% to increase deposits. Despite all these benefits, the owners did not promise to bring down the interest rate below 10%.
The government has to yield to the traders’ syndicate again and again. After Nimtali tragedy of 2010, the city corporation started removing chemical warehouses from old Dhaka. But it was not possible due to pressure from the FBCCI, the apex body of traders. After the Chawkbazar tragedy this year, the issue came to the fore again. The Prime Minister also announced to remove the chemical warehouse from there. The same thing happened again After a few days of publicity, he withdrew from the campaign The government indulged in the profits of the traders rather than the security of human life.
The question is why is the government so kneeling before the business syndicate? The answer is, Political parties run on the money or patronage of businessmen. They are directly involved in politics and are making laws, fixing state policy, running the government.
Thinking about the society and the country, politics has to be returned to the politicians. Since the politicians have created this situation themselves, the politicians have to come forward to get rid of this situation. Hence, it will benefit the country and society just as politicians will regain their position in politics.
The writer is freelance contributor to business & international issues.