Vol. 5 Num 271 Wed. March 02, 2005  
Front Page

Govt takes over helm of BDF meet from WB
Apparently to duck donors' pointed queries

In an apparent bid to mute the most vocal donors in the annual Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) meetings typically arranged and led by the World Bank (WB), the government has decided to take the lead itself.

Sources in the donor community and the Economic Relations Division (ERD) said the government will fund and organise the meeting to take over the helm from the WB.

In addition, it has decided that the meeting will be held once every two years instead of annually.

The government last month in a letter to the WB wrote that from now on the finance minister of Bangladesh will chair the BDF meeting. All these years, the WB vice president for South Asian and the Bangladesh finance minister have been co-chairing the BDF meetings.

The BDF brings in about 40 leading donors of the world including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Union (EU), Germany, Japan, USA and UK.

In the recent BDF meetings, Bangladesh has been facing sharp questions about poor governance, corruption, deteriorating law and order and political issues.

"Especially the Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and some other European donors are very concerned about governance issues and raise their voices at BDF meetings," said a source. "The government does not feel comfortable replying to their queries on these issues."

These countries could raise these points because the WB has been setting the agenda of the BDF meetings in consultation with the donors. But, now, as the government takes charge, it can dominate the agenda-setting meets.

"It does not mean that the donors will be completely silent. But there is no doubt the government will dominate in setting the tone of the meetings," said a donor representative.

The donor source further said, with the elections round the corner, "The newspapers will be running big headlines if donors raise their concerns on governance issues. Issues like deaths in crossfire, political killings or fundamentalism would definitely come up at the BDF meeting. Keeping these in mind, the government is trying to subdue the scopes for the donors to speak up at an appropriate platform."

Another source expressed his doubts on whether the next BDF meeting will be held at all: "The next BDF meeting should be held around April or May 2006. The government will hand over power to the caretaker government in October 2006. So, there is a scope for the government to observe the suitability of the situation for holding the BDF meeting. If the situation is hostile, it may not take place."

However, Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman on Monday explained his reasons for going for biennial BDF meets: In the last meeting, we made innumerable promises that need time for implementation. This is why it's wise to hold the meeting every two years instead of annually.