Vol. 5 Num 440 Sun. August 21, 2005  

World Bank projects fail to cut poverty
Speakers tell roundtable

The projects, funded by the World Bank and other multinational donor agencies, have failed to achieve significant success in poverty reduction in the last 30 years in Bangladesh, speakers at roundtable observed yesterday.

Terming all the World Bank projects in Bangladesh as 'mass destructive', they also said the bank should take the responsibility of the projects.

They were speaking at the roundtable on 'World Bank in Bangladesh' held at the Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka. NGO Unnayan Onneshan organised the roundtable, moderated by Rashed Masud Titumir, chief of the NGO.

The speakers also protested WB President Paul Wolfowitz's visit to Bangladesh. Wolfowitz is due in Dhaka today.

They said the WB president would put pressure on the government to pass the immunity bill for WB-supported projects in the Jatiya Sansad.

In 1972, the speakers explained, about 30 million people lived under poverty line. Despite aid projects of the donor agencies, about 60 million people live under poverty in 2005.

Economist Anu Mohammad said the WB took a project of Tk 1,500 crore in 1994 to reform the jute sector of Bangladesh. In the name of reforms, the WB prescribed the government to close down jute mills, including the country's largest Adamji Jute Mills, he added.

But 30,000 workers lost their jobs at a time and their family members, estimated two lakhs, fell into an uncertain situation following the lay-off in 2002, said the professor of Economics of Jahangirnagar University.

The WB prescriptions suggest privatising the public sector industries and restructuring the financial sector, Anu observed adding the bank's aim is to take hold of total national economy.

The donor agencies also influenced the government to appoint foreign companies to explore natural resources in Bangladesh, he said.

"But following the WB strategy, we lost gas worth about Tk 20,000 crore in two incidents at Magurchhara gas field in 1997 and at Tengratila gas field this year. Now, the donors are also pressurising the government to export gas, Anu went on.

"Unfortunately, following the disasters, the WB or other donors have not raised any demand to close down the projects or take compensations from the responsible multinational companies. Neither did they ask for a revised proposals for those projects," Anu said.

Pointing to the recent government decision to reduce taxation on some import-oriented products, he said, "We don't need the finance ministry as it acts in accordance with the WB directives."

However, the WB is not the main problem in development, observed M M Akash, professor of Economics Department of Dhaka University.

"Basically, we create problems by extending our hands to the WB's activities," he added.

With the same WB-aided projects, which made Bangladesh to close down jute mills, the government of India established three jute mills in West Bengal, Akash cited an example.

"It will be impossible as well to attain millenium development goals (MDGs) if we follow projects of the donors."

Those projects are neither homegrown nor prepared assessing people's needs, he said.

"However, we can avoid the donors' aids if we can stop making black money," said Abul Barakat, general secretary of Bangladesh Economic Association.

In this country, some people are making around Tk 70,000 crore black money every year, he said.

Prof MM Akash speaks at a roundtable on 'World Bank in Bangladesh' yesterday in Dhaka. Economist Anu Mohammad, and Abul Barakat, general secretary of Bangladesh Economic Association, are also seen. PHOTO: STAR