Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ekkerey Dekhaya Disey (They've Shown Us)

Strange coincidence. In the last two weeks, I ran into two completely unrelated people - both highly qualified, PhD economist types working at responsible jobs - who told me the same thing.

The essence of what they said: Look at our farmers and what happened in the last few months. It only goes to show that if they get enough support, our farmers can really perform beyond expectations. The government assured them enough fertilizer and electricity for irrigation (I know, because even in the nicest neighborhoods of Dhaka loadshedding was brutal this summer). And they showed what they can do. Ekkerey dekhaya disey.

True, the Boro harvest was amazing. But the potato harvest before that was pretty large too. Knock on wood - let's hope it keeps going this way.

In my mind, more than anyone else, one person is responsible for the reinvigorated Bangladeshi farmer: Shykh Shiraj.

How about a ticket next election of Shykh Shiraj and Magistrate Rokon-ud-Dowla, huh?
That would be interesting...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Complain Complain Complain

I hate to complain on this blog - something about there being enough negativity out there about Bd without my piling on more. But this Washington Post article caught my eye and I must speak up.

While I agree that the poor of Bangladesh must be spoken for, this article is full of mistakes and negative stereotyping.

a) The reason BDR patrols those rice shops is because they are run by BDR. Hello? You might argue whether this is right for the market economy, but those shops were very popular during the high rice prices. Lines at the shops have gotten shorter recently indicating the near-famine situation is alleviating.

b) Rice prices have dropped from Tk 40/kg at their peak to less than Tk 30 now, thanks to the bumper Boro harvest. Did the writer even bother to check? This is really big news in Bangladesh.

c) Because of higher energy prices and misguided policies about biofuel, food prices have risen all over the world. Why pick on Bangladesh, huh?

d) Beggars are not really a good indicator of what is going on with the poor. That is because begging is a mafia-style profession in Bangladesh, with very well-developed structures (you can rent a baby or a handicapped person, for instance.) A better data point might be to check in the urban poor neighborhoods or some villages.

e) Speaking of beggars, I have never heard of any woman in Bangladesh being called "Bib Norjaham". Say what? Probably was Bibi Nurjahan and the author was thinking of blueberry jam?

f) Compare death toll from SIDR to other calamities such as Nargis

g) On the average, Bd produces 95% of the food it needs. Last year was exceptionally bad: two floods and a Sidr.

h) Garment workers have struck sporadically ever since the garment industry started in the 80s. Hello? Is anyone paying attention? If you don't believe me, come and live here for a few years. Yes, garment owners underpay. Too bad they get away with it. But there are very few value propositions out there as compelling as "cheap labor".

i) Climate refugees - there was another misleading article in the NYT some months ago on this - even in my childhood, after a flood, people migrated to cities, and then went back when it was time to cut the rice. Can someone prove to me that there are actually refugees in Bangladesh who have moved out from their home villages because their homes were sunk as a direct result of global warming?

i) The term "Rice Revolution" is new to me. Maybe it has been in the papers, but I read the DS regularly and I have not seen it. Has a nice ring to it - catchy, isn't it?

When will Bangladesh start to be defined by Bangladeshis and not by some fly-by-night foreign journalists who write without doing their homework.