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The "People's Will" and the Five-Year Plan
By Alex

Although we speak of building a self-reliant Bangladesh, our economies dependence on foreign aid is increasing day by day. Even after the passing of three decades of independence, the people of our country still have to remain satisfied hearing how our governments are fighting poverty and leading to "self-reliance" following a path of capitalist development based on the largesse of the U.S.A. and plans of the World Bank.
The latest developments in this field confirm that the World Bank has decided to give 53 crore 60 lakh US Dollars worth aid to Bangladesh "free of interest".
Don't be deceived after reading the phrase "free of interest". On the other hand, let me introduce you to another well known term called "eyewash", because that is exactly what "free of interest" really is. Aid is not just simply given. There are "strings attached". This means that the donor imposes conditions upon the recipient country. Developing countries regard this form of bilateral aid as "economic colonialism" because the recipient country falls further into debt while the donor country or organization benefits by increasing its trade and extending its economic influence.
The "strings attached" between the World Bank and Bangladesh or in other words the imposed conditions Bangladesh has to meet in the next three years are as follows:
1) By July 2004, at least one of the nationalized banks of Bangladesh must be handed over to the private sector. This should eventually lead to the privatization of all our nationalized banks. 2) 30% employees of the nationalized sector of Bangladesh will be asked to leave.
3) A "Code of conduct" should be created for MPs (Members of the Parliament) and all officers and employees of the nationalized sector.
Leading economists of our country have given their opinions regarding this matter. They think that carrying out these "orders" of the World Bank word by word won't be the right thing to do especially when the common people have to suffer for it. The government has allowed the unlimited exchange of foreign currency due to the constant pressure from donors. Now, if the stock market becomes unstable as a result of this, the government of Bangladesh will be held responsible, not I.M.F. or the World Bank. This only causes the common people to suffer more.
To tell you the truth, what I've just said has already started happening. Governments of our country have remained completely blind towards this and begged for more and more financial aid. Let me fill you in with another fact. 51percent of our national budget of the fiscal years 2003-04 is dependant on foreign aid. Along with this lies the efficient and honest usage of the foreign aid. According to the research papers of the Bangladesh Economics Association, 1 lakh 80 thousand crore Takas of foreign aid has been given to Bangladesh in the last three decades. In this, 1 lakh 35 thousand crore Takas have been "wasted".
Around 47 countries of the world have lost their ability to repay their financial debts because of all out corruption and a deterioration of the law and order situation in their societies. Bangladesh happens to be one of those countries. Thus a "self-reliant" Bangladesh is not something my children or I will live to see.
I am not a leading economist. I am a young chap giving his A-levels. However, I recently finished a book called "The Stalin Era" by the renowned American journalist Anna Louis Strong. The book was basically about the building of the Soviet Union, the world's first socialist state under the leadership of Josef Stalin. The Western world has analyzed and reanalyzed Stalin and the Soviet Union. Stalin according to them was a brutal dictator while the Soviet Union was the "land of rats". What they don't know is that all human progress is bought most dearly, not only by deaths of heroes in battle but also by deaths of men unjustly. They don't know that all the evils endured through the socialist building led by Stalin, whether these came by necessity, error, or crime were far, far less than the evils they suffered by deliberate will of the Western world in the wars of intervention or the Hitler invasion in World War Two.

Josef Stalin quite clearly thought that the illiterate and technically backward peasant people of Russia could build a socialist economy unaided by any advanced country when the Bolshevik theorists were thinking otherwise. In August 1924, he formulated the idea of building socialism in Russia without any outside help.
Stalin had the "people's will" to back him up. The "people's will" was something far stronger than the choice people made when they gave their vote. The people would not die for the difference between the Republican and Democrat candidates.
They could make "their choice" between these but they would certainly not call it "their will". Some aims exist especially in times of crisis, for which men die willingly. They are aims identified with collective needs, with the nation's interests or with a better world for the children. Such aims deserve the name the "people's will", for the people will fight for them, die for them and suffer injustice for them. In one of his speeches Stalin said, "With us, individuals cannot decide…….Experience has shown us that individual decisions uncorrected by others have a large percentage of error." He added that the success of the USSR came because the best brains in all arenas - science, industry, farming, world affairs- were combined in the Central Committee through which decisions were made. It was by this type of consultation from the desires and brains of millions that Stalin organized the building of socialist Russia through a series of Five-Year Plans.
The world beyond the Soviet Union first heard of the Five-Year Plan that was a wildly extravagant scheme undertaken by Moscow. It was a plan to industrialize Russia and make it independent of foreign powers. The Tashkent paper ran a seven-column headline: You won't know Central Asia in Five Years. There followed a half-page map of the region, dotted with new constructions, railroads, factories, each with the date on which it was planned to begin and to complete.
The following year (1930) on May Day, the first of the giants of the Five-Year Plan was opened. It was the Turkestan Siberian Railway. The workers had built it in record time, a year and a half faster than the "plan" had calculated.
Thus they ran into a financial crisis. The workers had to be paid for finished work while the government budget gave funds only for the following year. But all that was past. Special trains came to the opening carrying delegates from hundreds of other factories and "champions" who were rewarded for their good work. The railroad not only joined Siberian wheat and timber with Central Asian cotton but was a world revolution marching down through Asia.
Magnitogorsk- meaning Magnet Mountain was bigger than Kuznetsk. It was a city of 180,000 thousand people that sprang full-grown in a year and a half on the slopes of the Ural Mountains, five hundred miles by rail from the nearest other city. It was the world's biggest construction camp with 60% of its workers under the age of 24. A city of 35 nationalities which had opened thirteen schools, a technical high school and two technical universities, one for metallurgy (the science of separating metals from their ores) and the other for building trades.
The Russians tried their best to maintain, "System, accounting and responsibility" demanded by Stalin- the hardest, most necessary thing for a not-so-mechanized land to learn. In factories and villages, people discussed what they wanted, what they could make and what they needed in order to make it. Their local plans were channeled to "the center", where they were correlated and sent back for local adoption. All across the land there were equally important enterprises waiting to be completed.
In January 1933, Stalin reported to the Central Committee that the Five-Year Plan had been completed in four and quarter years, from October 1928 to December 1932 and that Russia had become the second industrial nation in the world. The number of workers in industry had doubled from 11 million to 22 million. Output had also doubled. Russia now had industries based on iron, steel, automobile, engineering, aviation, farm machinery and chemicals. Stalin is remembered to have said, "We have achieved these- on a scale that makes the scale of European industry pale".
With the conclusion of the Five-Year Plan, the USSR plunged into a second of such plans, which proposed more industries, and the technical reconstruction of the whole economy.
The reason why I wrote this article today is because I think we Bengalis can do it too. If the Russian peasants could do it without any financial help, then so can we. Let's stop thinking individually for a change and have our ears to the ground. We mustn't lag behind the will and aspiration of the people because then we will be isolated. Neither must we rush too far ahead because then we will lose contact with the common people. I assure you, if you keep your ears to the ground long enough you will hear the chimes of the distant yet nearing bell of the "people's will".
References: 1) "The Stalin Era" by Anna Louis.
2) "The Daily Janakantha" Monday, 23 June
3) "Ramna" by the Biggan Chetona Parishad .

Goni Mia's story!

I'd like to tell you a story that I recently read from a supplement brought out by the "Biggan Chetona Parishad". Let's assume that there lived a man named Goni Mia who owned a lot of land. He was a very simple man like the ones you get in fairly tales. One day a visitor came to Goni Mia's land from a place far away. The visitor was a "generous" person. He said, "Why haven't you done anything with your land? You can't imagine the returns you'll get from your land if you use it properly. Let me work in your land. I'll provide all the things required for farming. You get to keep half of the harvest while I keep the other half. You won't have to do anything at all. Sounds like a good deal huh"?
Goni Mia was simply amazed at the visitor's generosity and charitable attitude. Cultivation soon began with "high-breed seeds" since the domestic seeds produced less and were hard to manage. A few days later the visitor said, "Since now is the tractor era, let's stop using ploughs and use tractors instead. If we use tractors, we will be able to produce more crops". Thus a tractor was bought from a foreign company that was owned by the visitor's friend. The price was paid in Dollars.
An expert was required to run the tractor. An expert was thus brought over from a foreign company owned by a friend of the visitor and paid in Dollars.
A few days later, the visitor said, "We'll need fertilizers for cultivation and only then will we achieve a big harvest". Thus fertilizers were bought from a foreign fertilizer company owned by the visitor's friend. The price was paid in Dollars. An expert who could properly apply the fertilizers was also brought over from a foreign company at the visitor's advice. His salary was also paid in Dollars.
A few days later, the visitor said, "We'll need insecticides for a better harvest". Insecticides were thus bought from a foreign company owned by a friend of the visitor. The price was paid in Dollars. An expert was needed to apply the fertilizers. He too was brought over from a foreign company and paid in Dollars.
Soon the visitor came up with another requirement. He said, "For a better harvest, we'll need cutting machines". Thus cutting machines were brought as well and as usual an expert came along. The price of the machines and the salary of the expert were paid in Dollars.
Now, assuming that the harvest was 400 tonnes and according to the deal proposed earlier, the visitor shall receive 200 tonnes while Goni Mia shall get the rest.
The money the generous visitor spent for cultivation: the price of high-breed seeds+ the price of tractors+ the salary of the tractor expert+ the price of the fertilizers+ the salary of the fertilizer expert+ the price of the insecticides+ the salary of the insecticide expert+ the price of the cutting machines+ the salary of the cutting machines expert= 3500 Dollars. The visitor then said, "I'm a foreigner. What will I do with your harvest? Why don't you buy my share of 200 tonnes and pay for my expenses as well? Since your currency is of no use to me, why don't you pay that amount in Dollars"? The visitor now didn't look very generous or charitable.
The price of the 200 tonnes was 1000 dollars. The amount Goni Mia now had to pay was thus 4500 Dollars (1000 +3500). He had a total of 2000 Dollars in his reserves and thus was forced to sell his 200 tonnes to his neighbors. 1000 Dollars was managed. He still had to give 1500 Dollars more. At this point, Goni Mia, left with only 200 tonnes harvest and zero reserves took a loan from the World Bank and eventually paid back the generous and charitable visitor. Our naïve Goni Mia thus lived happily ever after with the 200 tonnes he bought from the visitor and the burden of a "World Bank loan" over his head.
Readers, this is what has been going on for the last 30 years or so. -Alex


Note: The ideas expressed in this article are solely the writer's, if you have any observation or comments regarding his thought process, please do send your reply to dsrising@gononet.com.





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