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Foreign Aid to Bangladesh


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Foreign Aid to Bangladesh

With the population of 120 million and a GNP of US$170 (UNDP), Bangladesh remains heavily dependent on foreign aid for its development, socio-economic programmes and waging war in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHITTAGONG). Statistics indicate that military expenditure in Bangladesh is officially 15% of the budget. Bangladesh spends about US$400 million on defense annually. Official figures of military expenditure give a distorted picture. It is common knowledge that many military expenses, such as food, housing, infrastructure, are accounted for under other budgets and therefore are not marked as military expenses. According to unofficial sources, Bangladesh spends an extra $125 million on counter-insurgency in the CHITTAGONG annually. The USA, Great Britain and China continue to provide training to the Bangladesh armed forces. While Japan, USA, Middle Eastern and European countries continue to be the major aid donors to Bangladesh. The following table shows the amount of financial aid Bangladesh was receiving in 1988-91 when the regime was at the height of genocidal campaign in the CHITTAGONG, unfortunately the trend still continues.

Increasingly donor governments have made human rights an issue in the disbursement of development aid. Up to now, however, donor governments have not been willing to apply the human rights criterion at all strictly. In Bangladesh they have shied away from making aid conditional on the observance of human rights in the country, including the CHITTAGONG. Donor governments have continued to give huge amounts of aid to Bangladesh while they go no further than expressing 'concern' about the situation in the CHITTAGONG when they meet the Bangladesh government e.g. during the annual Bangladesh Aid Consortium meeting, held in Paris each April. None has considered taking more concrete action such as making continued aid to Bangladesh conditional on a speedy solution to the CHITTAGONG crisis, or applying cuts in the aid disbursed, despite questions raised in some of their national parliaments. Recently, the European Economic Community (EEC) has expressed its willingness to fund withdrawal programmes of the Bangladeshi settlers from the CHITTAGONG, but EEC is fully continuing its other aid programmes in Bangladesh. Such contradictory behaviour raises questions about the donors' real commitment to human rights in Bangladesh and elsewhere. The donor community continues to dodge its responsibility by ignoring or down-playing the fact that only thanks to their aid, the government of Bangladesh is able to maintain a huge military force in the CHITTAGONG. After years of serious allegations of human rights violations in the CHITTAGONG, the donors can no longer plead innocence, nor hide behind the argument that they are not funding development projects in the CHITTAGONG. Human rights violations are a national problem, and have to be addressed by means of national measures in Bangladesh. Those who fund development programmes in the CHITTAGONG have allowed themselves to become willing instruments in the hands of the Bangladesh government and army, and can be called direct accomplices to the violations. One of these is the Asian Development Bank, which has funded huge schemes in the CTG; others are those governments which give direct support or training to the Bangladesh military.

Apart from the national development programmes the Bangladesh Government often seeks foreign aid for the economic and social development of the indigenous people of the CHITTAGONG. After receiving the aid the military regime uses the money for the military and for the Bangladeshi settlers and not for the local people. For example,

• USAID (United States Agency for International Development Financed Kaptai Hydroelectric Dam benefited the outsider Bangladeshi settlers, while dispossessing thousands of Jummas of their arable prime land.

• SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency Funded Forest Development Project created job opportunities for the Bangladeshis only.

• UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) Aided Drinking water Supply Scheme benefited only the army camps, the Bangladeshi settler colonies, urban centers, and concentration camps.

• WHO (World Health Organization) Organized Malaria Eradication Project has been used to protect the armed forces and the Bangladeshi settlers.

• ADAB (Australian Development Assistance Bureau) Sponsored Chengi Valley Road Building Project has been used to facilitate military deployment in the remote parts of the CHITTAGONG and to open up the interior to the Bangladeshi immigration.

• ADB (Asian Development Bank) Assisted Livestock and Fisheries Programmes have benefited the Bangladeshi settlers only.Also Financed Joutha Khamer Projects or Joint Farming Projects are really concentration camps for the Jumma farmers who have been forced to leave their ancestral homes and farmlands to accommodate the Bangladeshi invaders.

The Jumma people and various Humam Rights Groups had appealed to donor countries to stop their aids to Bangladesh. Sweden responded to their appeal by stopping the Forest Development Project on the grounds that the Bangladesh Government refused to employ the Jumma people in the project. Australia, similarly, pulled out of the road building project because the road helped the military and the Bangladeshi settlers to move deep into the Jumma homeland.

All development programmes in the CHITTAGONG are controlled by the military and are part of the counter-insurgency programme. The CHITTAGONG Development Board, the only government development agency in the CHITTAGONG, is still chaired by the GOC (General Officer in Command), the highest army commander in the region. The Anti-Slavery Society 'recommends to the international funding agencies and national governments providing development aid for projects in the Chittagong Hill Tracts that they withdraw support where such projects are against the wishes and interests of the indigenous population and that all future projects are carried out only after consultation with indigenous people's representatives. So far donor governments and international donor organisations have chosen to sit on the fence. They have been unwilling to develop alternatives to the present aid policy or make a positive contribution to a solution of the CHITTAGONG conflict. One such possibility would be to fund the resettlement of Bangladeshi settlers outside the CHITTAGONG.

Bangladesh has made significant strides in its economic sector performance since independence in 1971. Although the economy has improved vastly in the 1990s, Bangladesh still suffers in the area of foreign trade in South Asian region. Despite major impediments to growth like the inefficiency of state-owned enterprises, a rapidly growing labor force that cannot be absorbed by agriculture, inadequate power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms, Bangladesh has made some headway improving the climate for foreign investors and liberalizing the capital markets; for example, it has negotiated with foreign firms for oil and gas exploration, better countrywide distribution of cooking gas, and the construction of natural gas pipelines and power stations. Progress on other economic reforms has been halting because of opposition from the bureaucracy, public sector unions, and other vested interest groups.
The especially severe floods of 1998 increased the flow of international aid. So far the global financial crisis has not had a major impact on the economy. The World Bank predicted economic growth of 6.5% for current year. Foreign aid has seen a decline of 10% over the last few months but economists see this as a good sign for self-reliance.There has been 18% growth in exports over the last 9 months and remittance inflow has increased at a remarkable 25% rate.
Fiscal Year Total Export Total Import Foreign Remittance Earnings
2007–2008 $14.11b $25.205b $8.9b
2008–2009 $15.56b $22.00b+ $9.68b
2009-2010 $16.7b ~$24b $10.87b
2010-2011 $22.93b $32b $11.65b


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