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     Volume 12 |Issue 02| January 11, 2013 |


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Promising Desperation

Shah Husain Imam

RMG – one of the biggest contributors to growth. Photo: Amran Hossain

Recently an opinion piece in the Saudi Gazette and a couple of news stories published in prominent Bangla dailies portrayed Bangladesh in contrasting lights. The image see-saws between reaching the high water mark and being down to the dregs; sublime and abyss; desperate and pushing new frontiers. Our collective image is dawning as positive and promising on the watchful international media, in spite of individual scandals that throw us on the mat occasionally.

An excellent, informative and insightful opinion piece Bangladesh on the move by Tariq A Al-Maeena (updated version on December 26, 2012) says it all. The Saudi journalist writing for the Saudi Gazette regretted that their media "chooses to focus on the misdeeds of a few Bangladeshi nationals caught in a web of criminal activity, thereby collectively tarnishing a whole group of hardworking expatriates who are performing vital and much needed services across the Kingdom."

Tariq adds, “Today Bangladesh is a country on the move. A visit to the country will dispel most of our misconception that this land of 150 million people is fully inhabited by the poor or destitute looking for a handout and going nowhere.”

The Saudi press has added to the prevailing positive impression of Bangladesh in the Western media, let alone Noble laureate Amartya Sen's consistent appraisal of Bangladesh leaving India behind in some vital socio-economic indicators of progress. All this finds corroboration through the exhaustive and complimentary coverage of Bangladesh in British newspaper The Guardian and weekly magazine The Economist.

This is contrasted by the pathetic saga of gullible Bangladeshis panting and weeping on the streets of Turkey like some wretched wrecks. Even one who had a secure job in Oman was enticed away with the allure of fat salary, a couple of lakh in taka, in Greece and Italy. His kind usually land up at the borders and being detained, waiting their turn for deportation. Their misery is compounded not just by being fleeced to their last farthing but manpower brokers collecting money from their relatives at home on a false promise of getting them off the hook. They grab the money and disappear in the invisible dens of international rackets.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have persons like Mushtaq Ahmed, 37, an impeccable highly successful IT entrepreneur who has made Africa his home. It all started in Swaziland when finance minister Sitle Majouri was facing a breakdown of his country's tax system in the backdrop of a worldwide recession. The minister asked Mushtaq to wrap up his project being aided by European Union (EU) as he could not cope with the hard times. Mushtaq directly met the finance minister promising that he would arrange to get him out of the crisis. His recipe: Computerise the tax system and have separate desks set up at every entry and exit point of the airports. That was his way of ensuring that every citizen arriving and departing from places in the country would come under the tax net. The finance minister bought this idea and entrusted the collection responsibility jointly to Mushtaq's company Data Net and Swaziland government. The revenue earnings quadrupled and the Bangladeshi entrepreneur became a celebrity in Africa.

Mushtaq says that through him Bangladesh is earning foreign currency worth Tk 30 million out of outsourcing contacts. The possibilities are enormous.

Then you have Salman Khan, the keynote speaker in Harvard for his path-breaking teaching methods through IT applications.

A new genre of apolitical leadership is coming right up.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.


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