Monday, January 07, 2008

A Purple Future

This Article of mine appeared in the January 2008 issue of the Purple magazine.

As I board the Commuter Shuttle Train at the Gulshan station, I look at my communication device. It should take me about 20 minutes to reach downtown Dhaka’s Bhaluka station. Just in time for me to receive the guests from Ireland who are arriving at Gazipur International Airport to attend the Economist Magazine’s conference titled “Learning from Bangladesh’s Economic Transformation.” They have a lot of learning to do over the next two days.

The year is 2040. Bangladesh is in the heart of the South Asia’s booming economic zone. Dhaka mega-city itself is a huge metropolis that houses a population of 50 million. The last 30 years have been a wonderful journey for a nation one time called “a bottomless basket” by Henry Kissinger. The transforming few years of early 2000s laid a foundation to an exponential growth curve. Today Bangladesh’s economy is a gateway for all economic activity for the Indo-Chinese world.

We had played our cards just right. After realising in 2007 that confrontational politics was tearing our nation into pieces we set ourselves a goal for going through a transformation that would surpass that of post WWII Japan or that of the erstwhile Asian Tigers. Our leaders at that time very rightly decided that a quantum change required new thinking and a new mindset. Wisely they brought in a cadre of capable and professional young Bangladeshi’s to infuse life into the roadmap of growth.

Known as Gen71, this group of enthusiastic young minds set about the transformation process with a passion not seen in Bangladesh since the War of Independence. They focused their energy into three areas – Reform, Education and Industrialisation.

It was self evident that the first hurdle that needed to be crossed was the bureaucratic misalignment that defeated almost all of the positive changes that were being taken. Rapid movement towards e-governance and dissemination of information brought transparency and honesty to the functioning of the government, judiciary and other branches of authority. At the same time it ensured that businesses followed the regulatory framework that were laid out to protect consumers and workers.

The other pillar of the Bangladesh miracle was the huge investments that were made in Education. It was a no-brainer that the 150 million population of that era needed to be made employable. Massive IT, mathematics and multi-language education centres were set up. Education curriculum and methodology was completely overhauled. Emphasis was given to ensure that the young population had enough skill sets to play an aggressive role in the rapid industrialisation that was on the drawing boards.

On the economic side Bangladesh was astute to stop listening to the socialist economists that were still married to their Stalinist pasts. Yes Bangladesh was once an agrarian society, but being the world’s most densely populated country the only way to ensure economic growth was through unprecedented industrialisation. Basic industries like steel and electronics were encouraged. Ancillary businesses grew up to support these. The RMG sector, which was even then, the powerhouse of the economy continued to grow strongly. Businesses in that sector consolidated and became some of the leading players in the world market. However the raw talent of our youth meant that ICT now rivalled RMG as the export earner for the nation. Utilization of huge coal reserves and discovery of both on and off shore Oil and Gas deposit turned Bangladesh into a net exporter of these commodities and of Power. A robust stock market and a liberal financial and foreign exchange policy ensured that Bangladeshi companies could take advantage of this energy. Run-away remittance earnings and FDI fuelled on the economy. Many of our entrepreneurs and corporations bought up companies big and small around the world. Bangladesh had arrived.

As did Bangladesh Biman’s non-stop supersonic flight from Dublin. I rapidly closed the active channels of the all-enveloping Net coverage that was beaming the world into my comdevice. I wondered if the Irish guests would be able to tell if the bottle of Guinness they had on board actually came from the industrial area of Rajshahi.


Anonymous said...

2040--------------U forgot to mention my qulkhani!!!

Rezwan said...

I wish your vision comes true.

Anonymous said...

Now that the army with their civilian facade have been in power for nearly a year, do you really think that we're on track for your 2040 dream? And who are Gen71, the people who so short-sightedly thought that the current bunch in power were going to transform Bangladesh?

Anonymous said...

Ek second-er nai bhorosha,
bondho hoibo rong tamasha..

what do you say about the resignation of your mother? do u still have such high hopes as you had yesterday?

Anonymous said...

I would now request you to please vacate the house of the expat professor at the soonest. remember what happened to former adviser fazul haque (or whatever his name is, i forgot..)?

Anonymous said...

shame.... shame.... shame....

Give the property of our brother back.

Pay back all the money taken from our banks.

Bring back millions of dollars illegally transferred abroad by You, your mom, dad and all your family members.

It is a great shame that you lost to moin, mahfuz, moti, debo, barakat, kamal gang. hahaha, Continue licking their ass although they have whipped your ass sooooooooooo baaaaaaaaaaaaad.

Fahima said...

Anonymous: it is a shame that you hide behind such an "identity" and have no courage to come forward and say who you are. At least people like Farhan are brave and have the belief in their country folks and possess unbelievable love and passion for their country. They are people who inspire us through their words and writings that we can make our Bangladesh a truly admired nation in the global community. People like him encourage us to give back selflessly and work for the betterment of our people. I just pray that you can take a lesson from him and spend your energies being a better man (woman) and find in Bangladesh the potential that Farhan can so clearly see!

Anonymous said...

Writing dreamy essays is one thing and showing some judgement which would hint towards the ability to do something positive for the country is another. NF has been supporting the CTG blindly for the last year although this may now change. If he had taken a more unbiased stance and called a spade a spade and at least acknowledged some of the potential dangers that lay ahead after the 11th of Jan it would've been more interesting, and useful, than essays such as these. Maybe it's too early for the shades NF. I'd also like to say that I do not support the personal attacks made here by other bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Poeaple can have such good dreams only when they grow up in a secured environment, live in a posh area, go to the best school, become a director of a company (established by parents) at a very young age, get the blessings of a powerful family.. etc etc. Dreams of a bright future suit those who can afford them, lad!

For us, the rest of the countrymen, there is no such dreams. We live in despair, die in despair, without any dream or hope. The moment when we are awake and the moments we are asleep- if ever we can go to sleep- we have nightmares only. We do not know if we can buy basic foods tomorrow, we don't know if my sister can go to school, brother can get a job after completion of his studies, father can get his pension after retirement, mother can be admitted into a hospital... and so on. We do not know if we, or our next generation, will ever have our basic rights - food, shelter, treatment, or civil rights- rights to vote, right to choose the men and women who would rule us, make rules for us. You are, the children of the powerful gods and goddesses, we, the fakirs of all fakirs, children of destitues and hopelessness!

You and I, we are but from different worlds. I will not understand your dreams. You will also not understand my nightmares.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it pathetic that 2020 vision is turning into a 2040 vision? Is our country already 20 years back due to an ineffecitive and inefficient one year rule by elites?

I have no respect for traitors, betrayers and ass kissers of kamal, moeen, mahfuz, moti, debo and Barakat.

Farhan, his mother, father and all his relatives in CTG have been used like a toilet paper by kamal, mahfuz, moti, debo and Barakat.

A shameful exit of his mother must set a good example for him and rest of his relatives still remaining in the CTG.

This should be a wake up call for them. They must leave the daily star-prothom alo gang to save themselves ang the country from futher gang bang.

They still have time to teach dailystar-prothom alo gang a lesson. If he really mean that he wants to do something good for the country, he should expose the goons and neo-rajakars like kamal, moeen, mahfuz, moti, debo and Barakat.

Musa said...

Excellent stuff from Anon at 09:45,

part of the problem would come in some expected replies from the elite,

"people are poor because they choose to be poor", "Bangladesh has really progressed, I saw so many BMW's and Lexuses on the streets", "how can you not get a job in a city where a 20 year old can become the director of a company? you must be really lazy"

Anonymous said...

Hi Farhan bhaia,
simply it's really appriciating. Hope it will come true soon. All i can pray and wish for the best :)

Good luck..
Samiha Esha :)

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

Anon 9:45 : yes, maybe I'll never understand "your" nightmares. But does that mean Bangladeshis can't dream of a better future? Is it not time for us to break out of a circle of despair and dejection? Would it hurt you to see the possibilities of what our Bangladesh can become. Or is it that we are poor and damn well we shall remain poor.

People are not poor because they choose to be Musa. They are poor because you don't want them to rise. To you it is an easy excuse to say "look Farhan is rich and hence I am poor." I am rich. I don't make qualms about it. Our businesses ensure that atleast 500 families have food on their table and children in schools. It might also mean it gives me the opportunity to drive a Lexus and go to Bangkok on holidays. But you see the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. That my friends is what I hoped you understood would have been the driving force of my argument all along. We look at government too often and use them as an excuse for our failures. But through smaller government and more private enterprise many of our issues will be resolved.

Don't let anyone fool you. Bangladesh is going to be rich one day. We have a very bright future. You just have to believe in it!

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

On the other strand of argument / discussion is about the CTG. Well I hope to put up a post about the 1st year today. That should explain my stand.

But incase I can't. (Us rich people have to holiday as well you see!!) - I still support the CTG whole-heartedly. Like I have done so before, I might not agree with all their policy and action but I believe it is the only solution we have now to dig ourselves out of the mess we are currently in.

Democratically elected government would have been the best solution if we had viable leadership in place. But we don't. So some realities need to be faced.

Two things must be done:
1. Give power to the people through UP elections & devolution of authority.
2. National Unity Government with participation of majority of the stakeholders being represented.
[you might want to read an earlier post I had in this regard]

PS Who is Barakat and Kamal?

Anonymous said...

Boro boro kothar niche this is what you people actually are:

Geeteara, husband charged with illegal occupation
Fri, Jan 11th, 2008 2:55 pm BdST

Dhaka, Jan 11 ( – Three cases were filed Thursday against three firms owned by former caretaker adviser Geeteara Safiya Choudhury and husband Nazim Kamran Choudhury and a security firm on charges of illegal occupation.

The cases alleged that the three other firms owned by the couple and Group 4 Securities refused to vacate rented premises even though the rental agreement had expired.

House owner Dr Mahbubul Islam and wife Farhana Islam filed the cases with the Dhaka District and Sessions Judge's Court.

District judge AKM Ishtiaq Hossain took the cases into cognisance and summoned the accused persons to court.

One case has been filed against Adcomm Ltd owned by Geeteara and Group 4 Securities owned by Salim Choudhury. The second case names Megavision and Signage, both owned by Nazim Kamran, and Group 4 Securities. The third case names Group 4 Securities alone.

The complainants said the owners of Adcomm, Megavision and Signage rented premises at house no 7/A, on road no. 41 in Gulshan-2 on Oct 1, 2002, but they did not vacate the house even though the rental agreement ended on Sep 30, 2007.

They alleged Geeteara misused her power as an adviser to aid her husband to continue to occupy the premises in flagrant violation of the agreement. Group 4 Securities also had been abetting in the illegal act.

The complainants alleged when they moved to get the accused persons out of the premises, they had physically harassed them.

They mentioned that a criminal case involving that incident was pending with a court.

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

Anon 6:28: there is a dispute over the rented premises that houses our offices. There are multiple cases intitiated by both parties pending in the courts. We hope that justice will be served & the courts will absolve our name. We will abide by the verdicts of the court.

Regardless of the outcome of the case. Future of Bangladesh is bright and nay-sayers like you cannot rob the nation of its dreams!

Anonymous said...

PS Who is Barakat and Kamal?

You do not know kamal, the proposer of your national unity government? Man, who intentionally got arrested (to look innocent) after buying time for paki soldiers to arrive in BD to attack innocent ppl? Man, the elite leader who lost election after election thinking that his "internationally acclaimed lawyer" would earn him vote although he negotiated the release of war criminals? How many times in his life time, he sat with UP members.

You don't know Barakat? The man who helped you in making wild allegations by calculating that BNP took out 2 lakh 50 thousand crore taka just by raising prices of essentials in 5 years. although the rate of inflation was around 6%

How much have you made so far in this one year? Atleast 5 of your relatives including your mother was in the CTG. With this inflation rate of 12%, how much have you made? Give us our money back.

In the last one year, you and your cohorts have made policy decisions. You guys in and around CTG have failed miserably. Proof: 5 advisors including your mother had to resign under pressure. I know, you do not have any courage to say anything against CTG in order not to put your mother in further trouble and your uncle MR. Fokoruddin, the man being a worldbank country rep in various countries could not help raise the living standards of population in those countries.

Empowering UP. This is what you elites want and have been doing at various stages in the history of Bangladesh. British did it by creating hindu Zaminders and muslim Nababs to help them divide people. So it is easy to govern. Divide and rule.

Ayub did it by empowering UP. He created electoral college. 44000 Ups in each side of Pakistan. Lost the popular vote by a big margin to Fatema Jinnah. Then, Ayub went on to win the presidential election through electoral college consisting of UP members wgo were bribed, forces and were intimidated into vote for him. Divide and rule.

Ershad did it too. Had the UP election before parliament election. His chosen men were elected in those local govt. elections. Consolidated his power. Divided and Ruled.

Now, You, your Kamal uncle. Your Fokor uncle and you moin and masud uncle, your debo uncle trying to do the same?

You love poor so much? very good. Why did your family property CTG demolished bostis? Why did your family property CTG eveicted hawkers? Why did your family property CTG destroyed century old hat-bazars?

Why have you destroyed our stupid economy. You are claiming to provide food for 500 families. But, you and only you and your elite ideas and your family property CTG and its cohorts have taken away food from millions and made lakhs jobless and thousands of families go through nightmares.

You know it, don't you? Now, you are talking about 2040, not 2021. Take your ideas somewhere else. Let us go back to pre 1/11 economy. and, less us dream about 2021 not your 2040. You called for civil war in 1996 but nothing happened ( ask your mom if you can't remember anything from 1996). You called for civil war in 2007 and you took control. Donot jump to 68000. First give it to 300. Prove that you are capable to do so. So far you have failed us everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...
"""""there is a dispute over the rented premises that houses our offices. There are multiple cases intitiated by both parties pending in the courts. We hope that justice will be served & the courts will absolve our name. We will abide by the verdicts of the court.

Regardless of the outcome of the case. Future of Bangladesh is bright and nay-sayers like you cannot rob the nation of its dreams!""""




Anonymous said...

Firstly, let me tell the readers that there are many 'anonymous' people sending comments at this site. This is the fakir anonymous (ref. my comments at 9:45 PM :)

Farhan, thanks for your comments trying to clarify your dreams, CTC & your illegal occupation of someone else's house.

I wish i could answer all the points you have raised. But I am not as educated as you are, and I didn't have an opportunity to go to an english medium school. So I won't be able to articulately express myself here. Thats why I would leave that to other readers who can write better than me (some people have already did). I would just try to say something about a few things in my rustic English.

You wrote: "Anon 9:45 : yes, maybe I'll never understand "your" nightmares. But does that mean Bangladeshis can't dream of a better future?"

Farhan, thats exactly is my point. If you cannot understand the nightmares of 140 million people of your country, you have no right so say that you are dreaming on behalf of the 'Bangladeshis'. There is no harm in dreaming, but that dream is yours, not ours. That dream is of a few elite families in Bangladesh that rule my country.

Dreaming on behalf of the poor is no crime but if you have dreamt on our behalf, you would have dreamt of people having enough food, you'd have dreamt of sending children to school, providing safe water to all, medical facilities to all, and most importantly, you would have dreamt of 2010, not 2040! Its no harm dreaming my dear, great world-leaders also had dreams and visions about their people, but they didn't dream of space shuttle when their countrymen were dying of hunger. Admit it, your dream is the dream of the rich. Your dream about the commuter shuttle train at the Gulshan station, looking at your communication device, reaching Bhaluka station in 20 minutes etc. is just a slap on the poor people's misery and helplessness, and their everyday strives for mere survival!

You wrote (please read again what you wrote, you would blush now):
"We had played our cards just right. After realising in 2007 that confrontational politics was tearing our nation into pieces we set ourselves a goal for going through a transformation that would surpass that of post WWII Japan or that of the erstwhile Asian Tigers. Our leaders at that time very rightly decided that a quantum change required new thinking and a new mindset." Your dream, Mr. Chowdhury Junior, is an insult to the common people of Bangladesh, to reality! Its a slap on democracy, a slap on people's rights and future!!

But why am a writing all this to you? You will not understand our situation. If you would, you wouldn't have bragged about your wealth in reply to my comments in which i wrote about my poverty and helplessness. How boastfully (and arrogantly) you wrote about your 'holidaying in Bangkok' and 'driving of a Lexus' in reply to my commnets about poverty! You also wrote 'Us rich people have to holiday as well you see'!!

Yes, I see. You reach people can drive a lexus and go to Bangkok for holiday! (You boasted about Bangkok in your earlier posts also). Wish you knew how hollow and pathetic it sounds when you brag about something you did not earn through you own quality and hard work, but someone else-- be it your own parents-- paved the way of success for you!

I do not know if you were born in a lower middle class family, went to a govt. primary school, studied in a govt. college, you'd have still become what you are now.. through open competition! However, this much I know that if I were you, I would've never boasted about money in reply to a fakir's lament. I wish you realised that your words sounded like the words of a former adviser who once famously said about the misery of the families of jobless jutemill workers: 'I don't care about human rights, all i am concerned about is my own rights'. How cruel, how cruel!

Lastly, Farhan, my parents were poor in terms of money and power, but they never taught us to believe that grabbing others' properties were not crime.

Anonymous said...

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...
"We look at government too often and use them as an excuse for our failures.""

Did you forget this before you elites planned 9/11.

Look back. You are the elites who have occupied the media all along (The so called voice of the ppl). You exagerated the situation. you encouraged ppl to become descructive as they were through the media like daily star, channel i, protom alo and gang. You misinformed ppl. You gave ppl the false promise that you will take the growth rate to 8% which was already 6.7% after years of hard work. You are the elites who taught ppl to disrespect constitution through media thuggery because it served your purpose best.

You elites are the biggest nightmares this country has ever had. Your parents were out of the country during liberation war and now pretend to be liberators. You call 1/11 the 2nd victory day. Yes, it is a victory day for you elites but not for us.
We only have one victory day. That is dec 16. 1971.

You were saying in the media after 1/11, we did not achieve anything in last 36 years. Now you are saying we achieved.

No, wonder, you are the part of a dirty, turncoat, skimming, mirjafar elite class.

Reminder: Can you return the 2 crore taka, you took from bank? Eversince, you have become a defaulter. Atleast, give back this 2 crore taka, you have been caught trying to steal red handedly.

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

Anon 10:49: You got to be kidding me. You're putting me in the same boat as Abul Barkat??? Dude we are absolute opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to our economics. He is very left wing and I am a die hard "private-sector-is-the-answer" kind of a guy.

Anon "Fakir": you should never be embarrassed of your education. And more importantly you should not think I am embarrassed about mine. I might not have been "born in a lower middle class family" or gone to a " govt. primary school" etc. So does exclude me from wanting to make a change in the society? I have had the privilege of education and exposure. So if I want to say that I have a point of view on how we should see Bangladesh develop is that not welcome?

And what in this essay on the economic changes did you find repulsive? The fact that Bangladesh is an economic powerhouse? That our youth will lead? That poverty will be eradicated through private enterprise? My friend having a commuter train system will benefit the middle class more than me. Having the ability communicate through cheap devices have a greater impact on the poor than on me. Already we see that these benefits from increases in our tele-density and better road systems having. What are you so angry about? Can you not for one time say. Hey Farhan's dream might be far fetched (or not) but it is good to see what our country can become. And it all doesn't have to happen in 2040. It has to happen from TODAY.

Anon 3:55pm; where do you want to go back to? Oct 2006? Yeah sure. Let us just lock down Chittagong port, burn our RMG factories, don't let people go to work, kill each other on the streets, and rob everyone blind! And you're calling me a traitor. I hold you to be a traitor. You don't want progress. You don't want anything better for the country.

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

My apologies to readers. I've had to change the comment posting rules. Mostly because I've had some people using vulgarity. And because most of the Anon comments seem to be coming from the same series of IP addresses.

So from now on only registered users are allowed post comments. Also I will be "moderating" comments. (I hope not though!)

Freedom of speech and thought needs to be paramount.

By being vicious and full of rage we often fail to see different thoughts and idea different people bring to the table. We must celebrate this divergence of viewpoints not be so narrow focused!

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Hi Farhan! Good to see an update on your blog, and hopefully you will now be doing it more regularly.

I read this post with interest. Knowing you personally, I know that you hold these visions true and close to your heart, and this is not a wildly thought about piece of writing on demand. That, in my mind, makes it special - your ability to dream consistently. I am sure we can go back to your posts back in 2005, and the essential theme will be the same.

I must comment on the comments posted here too. It seems there is one person, who thinks it is important to divert attention from the essential optimism you show here. I am not sure for what gain. However, I am sure you will take this as a kind of reverse endorsement. I also admire your commitment to 'free speech' in keeping these comments undeleted, though these comments, being anonymous, do not deserve the privileges.

abuusa said...

Farhan, great wonder, you don't know Kamal whom I call TMCCC [the most coward constitutional clerk].