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The monkey, Finance minister and equitable rights of children

Written By: HarunurRashid
05/08/2013 16:44

Stories come in handy in bringing home certain unpleasant truths about the society you live in. There are some advantages of telling stories. The narrator can make use of the fiction that reflects on the fact which otherwise is unpalatable. So the story serves as a convenient cover for the narrator to bring home the moral behind the fiction. Today I have a story to tell. It is a monkey story.

Once there was a wine merchant who used to travel with his pet monkey. He used to mix the wine with water half and half and sold it at the price of wine. The monkey signed to him – ‘don’t do that.’ Enraged the merchant beat the monkey. When he had finished selling wine in this way, he wanted to go back to his country. He took the boat having the monkey with him and his saddle-bags containing his clothes and the purse he had collected from the price of the wine. When he was well at sea, the monkey pulled the purse from the bag and climbed the mast. 

The merchant shouted behind him, but the monkey did not stop until he reached the top. He made himself at home there and started to throw the dirhams below. But he threw one dirham into ship and one into the sea. This continued to be his practice till he had divided the dirhams into two 

I was reminded of this story when I read about the Finance Minister talking about the equitable rights of children. He has exhausted his innovative ideas in the last five budgets he has presented and is now talking about a sixth in which he is going to ensure, hopefully, the equitable rights of children. It looks as though he has already ensured equitable rights of the grown-ups. He has presided over a share scam just like his predecessor in 1996 and he has not as yet been able to either punish the culprits or restore confidence in the bearish market.

Meanwhile, the cries of the bankrupts rend the skies. He seems to be unhappy with Dr Yunus and wants to restore order in what he thinks is a ‘chaotic’ Grameen Bank. Well, he would do well if he tried to restore order in the state banks directly under his ministry. In a civilised country one Hall Mark scam would have been enough to warrant the resignation of the finance minister. And yet he thinks Tk 4000 cr is not a big amount and there is nothing to worry about it. He had better not think about taking over Grameen Bank – the money there belongs to 80 million women customers who own the bank.

He as the head of his ministry has allocated funds for small, medium and large development projects. It was in his presence that the JS approved a bill that sanctioned the participation of bids up to 3 crore without prequalification. Over the years, the result of this has been catastrophic. Young party members without any experience forced their way into the tender scene. The projects have suffered in such a way that some of the culverts or bridges have developed cracks before they were declared open for public use. No use blaming the engineers – they value their lives more than their jobs. 

From the share market scam to Hall Mark to tender bazi – it all points to a predatory capitalism where the term equitable is irrelevant. It is not even straight forward capitalism, for capitalism flourishes in trade. What is happening is not trade but outright robbery in broad daylight. Business is all adulteration, not half and half like the merchant in the story, but outright dispensation of death in the food items they sell. 

In this rat race for profit making, the common man is the victim. What equitable distribution of wealth can the common man expect from governance that patronises the corrupt? One Rana or Rony or Henry does not make up the whole story of corruption – they are just tip of the ice-berg and they sure belong to the ‘patriotic group!’ 

The finance minister must be in the know that when Malaysian government invited applications for seekers of second home in Malaysia, they say there were some 2000 applicants from Bangladesh. How would these fortunate few transfer funds without resorting to money laundering? While the poor earn sweat money abroad and send it home, the rich buy homes and businesses abroad. How can they evade the eyes of the men in authority? 

We are not even as good as the monkey in the story whose sense of equitable rights of individuals prompted it to halve the coins of the wine merchant earned by dishonest means. So, why talk about the equitable rights of children when their parents have their rights snatched away by privileged members of the society?

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Bangladesh finance ministry Abul Mal muhith Finance Minister 


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About HarunurRashid

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  • Name: Professor M Harunur Rashid
  • From: Dhaka
  • Nationality: Bangladesh
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    Professor Harunur Rashid is a Cambridge Gradute, former professor of North South University, now Teaching English at International Islamic University Chittagong(IIUC), Dhaka Campus. Contributing as an Associate Editor of The Independent and former DG of Bangla Academy.


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