By Nur E Emroz Alam “Tonoy”; As a former Bangladesh Chhatra League member, I had the privilege of knowing all six of the sitting parliamentarians of my district both personally and politically, five of whom have one feature in common – they never had a “real life job” prior to attaining the current political position.
Just imagine it, 5 out of 6 MPs of a district have no significant management skill, but suddenly, thanks to our political culture, they find themselves responsible for devising and implementing substantial development initiatives of the district, let alone the law making responsibility for the entire nation.
Parliamentarism and the role of a parliamentarian are not the same as it was few decades ago when the bureaucrats were in charge of development initiatives watching the politicians came and went around them.
Because of the authority over the entire process of development, argument and implementation an MP today is a one-man institution, requiring the skills of a lawyer, diplomat, manager, economist and an agent of change simultaneously.
Being a parliamentarian is not just a question of pointing at opposition’s failure, or rubber stamping the government’s decisions any more. This is executive management, about finding the best policy formulation, getting the job done and delivering the outcome.
The readers must already know, that only except a handful few, none of our sitting MPs had a senior executive role in the corporate sector, then how would they be able to realize the complexity of issues, needs and drives of a modern market orientated economy which requires sophisticated knowledge and real life experience as the preconditions of delivering adequate and effective policy to compete in this highly challenging world of interconnected global economies?
This was a major concern for the British people in the last parliamentary election about the Labor party leader Edward Miliband despite all his charm and ideological correctness. The then British Prime Minister David Cameron once pointed at him in the chamber, saying, “ I advise any young person who wants to go into politics today, go and spend some time out of politics. Go and work for a community organization, a business, start your own business; do anything that isn’t politics for several years. And then, when you come back into politics, you will find you are so much better able to see the world and how it functions properly.”
Realizing this deficit of intelligence from her first term of the government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was wise enough to appoint highly accomplished bureaucrats into advisory roles in the key policy sectors like energy and foreign affairs from her second term, which was viewed and criticized as controversial by many political commentators, but apparently, the action has paid off for the both Awami League and Bangladesh.
Thanks to the advisors, Bangladesh is not only progressing economically and attracting huge amount of foreign investment, their skills have also helped Sheikh Hasina to emerge as a major player in regional diplomacy.
But the problem is, we’re a cabinet government and the highly powerful advisors are often a threat for the cabinet. And in fact, this is not a proper solution either.
Then what should we do considering that suggesting a qualification for an elected representative role is directly contradictory to one of the basic principles of democracy, namely, “Government of the people and for the people?”
We can of course learn from the successful West Ministerial system democracies.
In the most West Ministerial system of democracies, once a legislation quickly passes the House of Representatives, the legislation then introduced into the upper house, and it is in the upper house where the legislation is scrutinized and examined in details by the brightest of the all politicians.
An upper house of the parliament is the highest national forum of debate where complex political questions are discussed and the actions of the government are scrutinized to ensure that they further the national interest by the highly qualified house members of expertise, capable of presenting extensive opinion.
Bangladeshi people also needs an upper house which assembles the best and the brightest political brains of the nation, is not controlled by the party line or the Article 70, and which can genuinely see the world clearly past the fingertips to lead us out of this political wilderness.
Democracy is an ongoing conversation and a work in progress. Perhaps, this is high time for us to put this radical reform agenda forward in the public sphere for a serious debate.