8th International Conference
I shall be brief about introducing our country Bangladesh, because in the earlier international conferences I made relatively longer report on socio-economic features and political history of Bangladesh. I shall not repeat the same, but say a few words as there are some new participants in this conference.
Bangladesh, as a part of British India was a colony of British imperialism for about 190 years. Then for about a quarter of a century, from 1947 to 1971, Bangladesh was almost like a colony of the Pakistani ruling class. In 1971, people of Bangladesh rose up with arms against the Pakistani ruling military junta and there was a war of independence for nine months. At one point, India intervened and defeated Pakistan. Thus, Bangladesh appeared as an independent country on the world map in 1971. However, India while came as a liberator, installed bourgeois party namely Awami League in the state power of the newly independent country.
Since independence in spite of many changes in the government, the state power remains in the hand of the comprador-bourgeois, a newly developed capitalist class, dependant on foreign finance capital, particularly that of US imperialism. Bangladesh can be called as a dependant country whose economy and also politics are dictated by US imperialism. Also India plays an important role both in the economy and politics of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh as you know, is one of the poorest countries of the world with a relatively large population of 140 million. Per capita income is 310 US $ per annum. It is basically an agrarian country where semi-feudal relations exist. At the time of independence, three decades ago there was a small but concentrated industrial area around three major cities of the country including the capital. Major industries were jute and cotton textile which were in the public sector. Gradually in the decade of the 80s and 90s under the Structural Adjustment Program, dictated by Wold Bank, the major public sector, particularly industry was privatized or forced to close down. For example Adamjee jute mill, the largest jute factory in the world, employing 30,000 regular workers and another 20,000 irregular or casual workers, was closed down in 2002 under the direct dictation of the World Bank. Factories privatized, at a very cheap price, were also closed. Practically the old industrial base collapsed. However, side by side a new small and medium size industry developed, particularly in the ready made garment sector which employ 1.3 million workers. There has been an increase of members of workers, particularly women workers, if we include informal sector.
However, in the last three decades of independence, the share of industrial sector in the GDP remains same which is about 10 %. That of agriculture is now 25 % which was 60% to 80 % at the time of independence 30 years ago. 50 % of our population is dependant on agriculture or other activities related to agriculture where there is slow penetration of capitalism. At present the largest sector of our economy is service sector, i.e. transport, real estate etc. which contributes 50 % of the GDP. The figures I have given are only approximate and are based on the calculations of economists of our country.
Our development budget depends on foreign loan. Every year our finance minister appears before a meeting of so-called donors (known as consortium) headed by World Bank, held in Paris, begging for loan. I can not give you the exact figure of our foreign loan but I can give you an approximate idea. One of the study says that in the last 30 years we got 30 billion US $ as foreign loan. Foreign loan per head was 6.6 dollars in 1973/74 and was 116 US$ in 1998-99. It is increasing every year. The loans are highly tied with economic and political conditionalities. In 1972-73 our loan to be repaid was 65 million dollars and in 1998-99 it was 6.18 billion dollars (64% as part of loan repayment and 36% as interest). In 1998-99, the amount of debt service was 770 million US$ which was 14.5% of the merchandise export, 10% of the total foreign currency income including manpower export and 2.1 %of GDP.
General Secretary of the Bangladesh Economic Association and the Professor of Dhaka University Dr Abul Barkat made a study on foreign loan and came to the conclusion that so-called donor countries take back 25% of the so-called aid in the name of consultants and in the form of supplying machines etc. Local agents, suppliers, contractors, businessmen and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats manage to plunder 30%. A thin layer of urban and rural upper class gets 20% of it. Only 25% of the loan or the benefit out of the loan trickles down to the poor. The foreign loan forms the basis of comprador-class who rules the country.
Since independence three decades ago (33 years), there have been not only several governments, but also several experiments on system of government. There was parliamentary system, presidential system, one party system, military rule etc. Two times presidents were killed. There had been soldiers mutiny against officers, leading to a change of government in 1975. There was people's insurrection in 1990 which overthrew the military dictatorship. Since then, constitutional parliamentary system is being practiced and three elections had already taken place. Two bourgeois parties, both loyal to US administration, came to power in turn. However, bourgeois democracy is in constant crisis. It is a common practice that the bourgeois party whoever it be, will boycott parliament, try to apply anarchic policy in order to dislodge the government. That means, bourgeois democratic culture has not yet been developed. And there is little possibility that political stability or bourgeois democratic values will be ensured in near future.
In our country Muslim fundamentalist forces have recently gained much strength. They have 8% of the votes and are now in the government as the junior partner of one of the ruling parties. This major Muslim fundamentalist party sharing power does not oppose USA. They even remained silent on the issue of Iraq war. There are however some small groups of Taleban type, who practice terrorist tactics. But they do not have mass base. Anti-American sentiment is very high which was observed during and after Iraq war. However it does not mean that people is conscious of imperialist exploitation in Bangladesh.
Our people had a long heritage of struggle against foreign rule and against military autocratic regimes. Our working class too had a glorious history of struggle. But since 1990 there was declining trend of workers struggle and peoples struggle. There was growing opportunist ideological trend among the left circle, which we had to fight. However, there were also unorganized spontaneous workers militant movements, strikes or clashes with police etc. In the last November in an industrial town near to the capital we witnessed a workers spontaneous uprise who seized the city for three days. These are the symptoms of future developments. Our party, though very old party, now is very small in size. The main task of the party is to fight against the opportunist trend, petty bourgeois mode of thinking, to organize a sizable section of newly developed working class, and some pockets of peasant bases, and last but not least to develop closer international relation with the working class and their parties of all other countries of the world, to actively take part in the worldwide anti-imperialist struggle.