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Social Security System of Bangladesh

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Non-Traditional Security in Bangladesh:
Issues and Outlooks
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS)

Following is an attempt to analyze the challenges in the field of non-traditional security issues and explore relevant outlooks dealing with these challenges in the context of Bangladesh.

1. Threats to Societal Security

Inflow of Small Arms and Drug: This is an external or trans-national source. Estimates differ and perhaps will be less than what is happening in the context of India or Pakistan. But it is causing security threats to the state and the society, for at least two reasons: first, the rate is increasing at an alarming pace; second, Bangladesh is a soft state and a soft society, the impact is easily felt.[i] Use of small arms, use of drugs are gaining autonomous proportion in the sense the administration and law enforcing agencies have practically little control over the trafficking and use.

Law and Order and Social Violence: The south western districts are again becoming restless following increase in the number of incidences of killings and overrunning of police posts by the outlawed and extremists who seem to be reemerging from the banned parties like Purba Banglar Communist Party and Biplobi Communist Party in the southwestern districts.[ii]

The northern districts in recent months have been subjected to terrorist attack.[iii] One of the horrendous crimes in recent times was the slaughtering of six persons in a village of Atrai in Naogaon. More than 100 outlaws invaded the village at night and raised party slogans.[iv] The spate of crimes and severe breakdown of law and order follows the local body elections that also witnessed significant amount of violence in the country before that cinema and mela bombings in Mymensigh and Tangail respectively.[v] Another vulnerable area is the north-eastern haor and southeastern char areas where the pirates and dacoits hold the local people hostage.[vi]

Transit of Arms, Drugs across Bangladeshi Lands – Coastal areas, Cox’s Bazaar in particular, are used in arms transit; ports reportedly used as transit routes for drugs from the so-called golden triangle.

Use of Bangladesh Territories by Insurgents and Outlaws: This includes the NE insurgents, outlaws like Rohingya refugees who reportedly undergo arms training in the jungles of Cox’s Bazar, Ramu, Ukhiya. The borders are very porous and resource crunch does not allow Bangladesh to patrol the borders rigorously. A bewildering array of coalitions and conflicts take place in the north east sub-region and Bangladesh’s security will be jeopardised if it is sucked into the vortex of north east insurgency.

Human Security issues: Several sources of threats to human security may be identified. These are: repression by state apparatus, death in custody; Law and Order problem and rise of social violence – rising extortions and rent seeking activities at all levels and layers - social, political and administrative; gender violence, women and child trafficking; land related violence; disaster, drought and river erosion resulting in destitution and rural-urban migration; plight of the border and enclave population plight of the minorities and settlers in CHT, and other tribal population

2. Threats to Economic Security of Bangladesh

Threats to economic security in the context of Bangladesh emanate from both internal and external sources. The internal insecurity in the economic domain comes mainly from massive poverty and while the external ones emanate mainly from the process of globalization, more specifically, from WTO related issues. But substantial dependence on external assistance and smuggling are two other important sources of economic insecurity.

2.1 Mass Poverty and Marginalization as Source of Insecurity

Poverty in Bangladesh has been historically overwhelming. Poverty is measured both in income and human terms. In what follows, trends in income and human poverty are depicted on the basis of available data.

Trends in Income Poverty

Income poverty trends based on Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2000 of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) show a declining trend in the 1990s. Between 1983-84 and 2000, the incidence of national poverty, measured in terms of threshold income adequate for 2122 kcal declined from 62.6% to 44.3% indicating a modest reduction of one percentage point per annum. Looking at where Bangladesh stands in terms of international poverty line of US $ 1 per day per, it may be seen that for the period 1983-2000, the percentage of population below the international poverty line was 29.1 whereas the comparable figure for poverty at US$2 per day stood at 77.8% during the same period.

Trends in Human Poverty

The BIDS conducted a pioneering study to prepare national human development index of Bangladesh.[vii] Their findings reveal that there has been considerable improvement in poverty measured in human development terms. The human poverty index which stood at 61% in the early 1980s declined to 35% in the late 1990s. It is also significant that the index of human poverty declined by 2.54% per year compared to a reduction at 1.45% per annum in national head-count ratio for income poverty. If we look at the UNDP Human Development Report 2002, it says that Bangladesh ranked 145th among 173 countries and the value of human poverty index stood at 42.4%.[viii]

A disaggregated picture of human poverty in terms of health, education and nutrition, may be presented. Infant mortality rate stood at 153 per 1000 live births in the mid-1970s but recent estimates suggest that the rate has gone down to 62 in 2000. There exists significant socio-economic differential in child mortality. Infant mortality is about 70% higher for the poorest quintile than for the richer group. Situation of maternal mortality is disconcerting, as indicated by the fact that during 1997-2001, maternal mortality was 320 per 100,000 live births and the poorer families suffered more than the richer ones. Although life expectancy has gone up from 47 years in the mid-1970s to 59.7 years in 2000, there is still a high degree of morbidity in the country with unfavourable gender and socio-economic situation. The female folks and poor are more prone to illness and disease than the male folks and non-poor.

Food security and nutrition are important determinants of human poverty. Available data suggest that there has been improvement in nutritional situation of children both in urban and rural areas but rich-poor gap is quite pronounced. Moreover, female disadvantage in malnutrition is reported to have increased in recent years. In particular, maternal malnutrition is a matter of concern. It is estimated that about 80% of the children under five years, 74% of adult females, 40% of the adult males suffer from iron deficiency anaemia. Furthermore, iodine deficiency disorders affect half the population and every year, some 30,000 children become blind due to vitamin A deficiency.

To sum up the discussion on trends of poverty, it may be said that overall poverty reduction has been rather slow. This is a matter of concern because one has to remember that poverty is being continually reproduced in the country through population growth, social dynamics of landlessness and other forms of deprivations, and the physical processes of environmental degradation. Therefore, more precise understanding of poverty as a process is needed to stem the tide of poverty.

2.2 WTO Related Issues

The other major economic insecurity originates from Bangladesh’s participation in the WTO process. Bangladesh is at the receiving end of the WTO legal system. Withdrawal of agricultural subsidies will increase costs of agriculture, countervailing duties on Bangladesh’s exports of clothing and leather goods in near future, use of hybrid seeds will make agriculture sector highly dependent on imported seeds.[ix]

3. Environmental Security of Bangladesh

3.1 Global Climate Change and Bangladesh

The production of greenhouse gases in individual countries has a truly global impact. Layers of these gases accumulating in the upper atmosphere contribute to global warming. Bangladesh’s contribution to global warming is negligible, while its ability to prevent the trend is virtually non-existent. The developed industrialised countries produce most of the greenhouse gases. In 1989, the United States and the former Soviet Union were the largest producers of such gases respectively responsible for 18 percent and 14 percent of total global emissions. Possible devastating impact of greenhouse effect on Bangladesh has already been discussed. Suffice it to mention that Bangladesh which produces only 0.3 percent of global emissions could see its land area shrink by 17 percent in case of one metre rise in sea level due to global warming.[x] While Bangladesh is not responsible for the situation, it is also absolutely powerless to reverse the trend. The country had to rely on the increasing consciousness at the global level with regard to the consequences of greenhouse effect and resultant international efforts aimed at curbing the emissions of greenhouse gases.

3.2 Climate Change and Natural Disasters

Bangladesh ranks one of the most disaster-prone countries of the world. Environmental disasters like tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods, norwesters, tornadoes and droughts ravage the country almost every year, even several times a year. During the last 38 years, the country was visited by 38 cyclones of varying intensities. Flooding from upstream rivers is another natural disaster that cause havoc in the country.[xi] The geophysical condition of the country is said to be highly disadvantageous. Rivers in Bangladesh numbering more than 50 originate in upstream countries, pass through India before draining in the Bay of Bengal. So Bangladesh is at the receiving end. Fortunately, there has been an accord with India with regard to sharing the waters of the main river, namely, the Ganges. But similar agreements are needed with regard to other rivers. More importantly, there is the need for multi-pronged cooperation for harnessing the waters of the common rivers, not only for agriculture and sustenance but also for early warnings and mitigating natural disasters. Unduly prolonged floods in 2000 particularly in the northern and southwestern parts of Bangladesh demonstrated that cross-border cooperation was vital in developing mutual coping capability. Secondly, the shape of the Bangladesh coasts is concave making Bangladesh most vulnerable to tidal cyclones and surge. Here also the need for early warning and sharing of meteorological information was crucial.

3.3 Arsenic Crisis

Bangladesh has been exposed to arsenic poisoning of its ground water on an ever increasing scale . A report suggests that Bangladesh is confronted with the risks of poisoning of 85 million of its 130 million population.[xii] People in the rural areas have been affected with various skin diseases, lungs cancer, liver dysfunction, vascular disturbances leading to gangrene.[xiii] The problem is already alarming and is likely to aggravate further because of privatization of the ground-water based irrigation system in the country.[xiv]

3.4 Forestry related Environmental Degradation

Another crucial issue is that of an intensified process of deforestation around Bangladesh and its impact on the country. Forests play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance. These stabilise soil, conserve soil nutrients and facilitate moderate water supply. The loss of tree covers lead to the uneven distribution of rainfall over the year, loss of fertile topsoil and soil nutrients, excessive soil erosion, landslide, river clogging and so on. One of the worst outcomes of such processes is recurring and highly devastating floods and also the reverse, droughts.

The deforestation is widespread in all areas of the Himalayas stretching from Pakistan through India to Nepal and Tibet. As a result of deforestation, the Himalayas are increasingly loosing their capability to buffer the powerful monsoon, as the sponge effect of soil to absorb certain amount of water is gradually declining. Due to unprecedented siltation, the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems are to carry over 2.2 billion tons of sediments each year.[xv] This results in the rise of riverbed in between 6 and 12 inches a year, thus, making it impossible for the rivers to mange the water.[xvi] The ultimate consequence of it is recurring devastating floods the last of which took place in Bangladesh in July-September 1998.

4. Management of Non-traditional Security in the Context of Bangladesh

On the basis of the discussion in the paper, a number of policy suggestions may be made in order to address the non-traditional security issues. Firstly, while the issues fall into so many sectoral areas, there should be a set of comprehensive policy framework providing guidelines as to how to address them. In the like manner, there should be efforts to create institutional mechanisms to implement those policies. Certain specific mechanisms may be suggested here. One, much of the problems of NTS could be addressed through civil society initiatives. Society’s capacity to deal with the issues may be enhanced through making different checks and balances as well as watch dogs effective. Where the issue areas pertain to inter-state dimensions, Track II diplomacy rather than formal diplomatic means may be pursued.

Secondly, security discourse should be humanised and state centricity should be de-emphasized. It has been shown that focus on state-centric military-based security may lead to double insecurity: more state insecurity and jeopardising human security.

Thirdly, choice between coercion/counter-force, on the one hand, pacification and cooperation, on the other, depends not only situation but also on the nature of measures. Inadequately and hurriedly designed peace making may worsen the situation, as may be seen in the context of the Assam situation in North East India. A diversionary tactic of coaxing second tier or third tier or faction leadership keeping the mainstream leadership in tact may also not pay off, as has been evident in the case of LTTE-led insurgency in Sri Lanka.

Fourthly, an important consideration of dealing with incipient insurgency which eventually snowballs into full-fledged insurgency is the inter-temporal cost of mitigating the root causes of insurgency. It is possible to head off an incipient insurgency at a lower costs than if allowed to linger and harden. Often it is characteristically convenient to pass an incipient insurgency as a law and order issue and in the process rub the wound in the wrong way.

Fifthly, borders in the post-Cold War era has become porous and with flow of information and easy access to technology, cross-border movements of insurgencies, arms and drugs, even trafficking of women and children makes a prima facie ground for cooperative security. The current trend in South Asia is quite the opposite. On the one hand, one is talking about cooperation and interaction. On the other hand, polities are turning out to be increasingly security states with heightened degree of security paranoid. Visa restrictions are stringently applied, costly physical barriers are placed to stop movement across borders. Construction of barbed wire fencing along the Bangladesh-India borders is a case in point. It is submitted that openness and free flow of information, rather than closing the doors is the best remedy for intrusion of unwanted elements.

Sixthly, environmental security, especially issues like flooding, natural disaster, presents another logical basis for thinking in terms of cooperative security among the neighbours.

Seventhly, further institutionalization of democracy, even if slow and painful, should continue to sort out vulnerabilities the non-traditional security areas, and a policy suggestion will be to resist temptation of any short cut and allow the political process to continue even if the process turns out to be traumatic. If there is a choice between the so-called good governance and democratic governance, the choice should be for the latter because the former is state centric and does not allow popular participation. A vibrant local government system should be in place to allow democratic participation and in the process, dissent and grievances may be ventilated.

And finally, in order to check against violation of human rights, independence of judiciary, judicial activism and a strong civil society are needed.

5. Conclusions

Non-traditional security is a very nascent and under-researched area. Further research is needed in a number of issue areas. One area could be impact of non-traditional security on the role and relevance of instruments and institutions of traditional security, like the state itself, armed forces, R & D, role of private institutions and civil society in managing the security apparatus. A second area of suggested research area will be sourcing and locating indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms available in South Asian societies and profiling them in a comparative framework. A third area will be to evolve early warning and capacity building to deal with the conflicts

[i] For more details, see, Neila Husain, “Proliferation of Small Arms and Violence in Bangladesh : Societal Insecurity?” in ibid: 163-180.
[ii] The Daily Star, 29 April 2003
[iii] The Daily Star, 22 January 2003
[iv] The Daily Star, 29 April 2003
[v] ds january 19, 2003
[vi] See, Jugantor [vernacular daily], 7 May 2003: 13.
[vii] Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies(BIDS), Fighting Human Poverty : Bangladesh Human Development Report 2000, Dhaka: BIDS, 2001

[viii] United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2002.
[ix] See, Muinul Islam, “WTO and Bangladesh’s External Trade: A Scenario of Opportunities, Perils and Pitfalls” in Kabir, op. cit..: 108-27.
[x] Human Development Report 1994 (Oxford University Press, New Delhi,1994), p.36.
[xi] See, A.M. Chowdhury, “Natural Disasters and National Security” in ibid.: 46.
[xii] See, The Independent[UK], October 2000. See, also, Dr. Jamal Anwar, “Arsenic Mitigaion: A Costly Delay”, The Independent[Dhaka]. January 8, 2001.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] There is an element of resentment in the civil society that the donor agencies and the Government did not make the people adequately aware about the danger. See, Afsan Chowdhury, “Arsenic Crisis, Security Concerns, the State and the People” in Humayun Kabir (ed.), op. cit. : 247-58.
[xv] A. H. Shibusawa, “Co-operation in Water Resources Development in South Asia”, South Asia Journal, (Vol.1, No.3), p.319.
[xvi] M. G. Kabir, op. cit., p.101.

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...------------------------------------------------- Financial System of Bangladesh The Financial System is a set of institutional arrangement through which surplus units transfer their fund to deficit units. At present the financial system in Bangladesh is mainly composed of two types of institutions like banks and non-bank financial institution (NBFIs). The formal financial sector in Bangladesh includes: (a) Bangladesh Bank as the central bank, (b) 48 commercial banks, including 4 Government owned commercial banks, 30 domestic private banks (PCBs) (of which 6 banks are operating under Islamic Shariah), 9 foreign banks (FCBs) (of which 1 bank is operating as Islamic bank); and 5 government-owned specialized banks (DFIs); (c) 28 non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) – licensed by the Bangladesh Bank); (d) 2 large government- owned insurance companies (life and general) and 60 private owned (17 life and 43 general) insurance companies; (e) 2 stock exchanges and, (f) some co-operative banks. Besides, a good number of semi-formal micro finance institutions (MFIs) also are operating in Bangladesh. Structure of Financial System: The main constituents of financial system are : i) Financial Institutions ii) Financial Instruments, and iii) Financial Markets. Financial Institutions The modern name of Financial Institution is Financial Intermediary (FI), because it mediates or stand between ultimate borrowers and ultimate lenders and helps transfer funds from one to......

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