GM Quader | Daily Star | Mon Apr 29, 2024 08:00 AM

Stability is necessary for the development of a country; there should not be any doubt about that. But some incumbent regimes are seen reiterating this statement now and then, mostly out of context. Interestingly, it is found that they do it to serve their own purpose, and they tend to distort reality to suit that purpose.

They want people to accept that the continuation of the incumbent regime will ensure stability. With that, they tend to justify remaining in power by any means. They argue that it would ensure stability resulting in development, which would ultimately enhance people’s well-being. In this way, the abovementioned statement is used to justify the continuation of the existing regime, even if by using irregular means.

In a society, people desire to have “good governance” from the political system and the persons involved in running the system. By and large, good governance means the rule of law and a society based on natural justice. The “rule of law” has two distinctive features: law is equally applicable for all (irrespective of caste, creed, social stature, etc); and reward and punishment are ensured for good and bad doers. A society based on social justice means there will not be any deprivation, discrimination, suppression, etc among people, and no refusal of social justice to the citizens in any way.

The root of stability lies in socio-economic situations. An undisturbed environment for economic prosperity and social harmony can be labelled stability. It is seen that a country having good governance provides that stability. Government leadership with firm conviction and desire is needed to achieve that goal.

In most cases, the necessary political will is generated within a government when it is accountable to the people. That accountability can only be achieved by practising democracy. A good election is a necessity and is considered the gateway to the practice of democracy. A properly elected government is under a compulsion to reflect the people’s will in their actions, or else they bear the risk of being out of power. This pressure ultimately leads to the pursuit of good governance.

It is very unlikely that a government which likes to continue to stay in power by any means—even by avoiding accountability through a proper election—will have the intention to provide good governance. On the contrary, this sort of government generally takes measures to weaken the overall accountable system of the state and favours cronyism with an ulterior motive of fulfilling selfish interests by indulging in corrupt practices.

When the government continues for a long period without proper accountability, its leadership tends to centralise all authorities to become authoritarian. All state institutions lose their respective independent authority, and become subordinate to the head of government. The entire governing system becomes dependent on one, single central point, i.e. the head of government. This makes the system vulnerable. It resembles a big structure supported by a single pillar instead of many. In case of any tilt of that pillar, the structure is greatly disturbed, and if that pillar collapses for any reason, the structure, however strong it may seem, falls apart. This makes that type of government not only quite unstable and vulnerable, but also susceptible to serious and violent consequences of change.

As such, the continuation of the same regime does not necessarily ensure political or socio-economic stability. Stability ensured by improper means can at best be termed artificial and/or superficial. This stability may end up heading for a big and/or violent disruption in case of a change of power.

The test of a country’s stability is to what extent it can remain insensitive to any sort of change of government or leadership. When a country shows signs that it will remain stable in all respects with the change of a regime, only then should the term “stable” be attributed to that country.

Government systems are sometimes designed to prohibit the continuation of the same head of government for a prolonged period. No supreme leader is allowed to continue beyond a fixed time limit. This is done to avoid allowing too much time for a head of government to become an authoritarian ruler. History shows that there always is a possibility of that happening.

Coming back to the statement “Stability is necessary for the development of a country,” it is found that not only the word “stability” but also the word “development” is misinterpreted. Development is referred to as infrastructural development only. This is also done for a purpose, which is to glorify the performance of government leadership and, ultimately, to justify staying in power, even through an improper way. In addition, they use this type of “development” to extract extra financial benefits from common citizens.

But infrastructural development is just a part of the overall development process or a means to support development. Development refers to the improvement of the day-to-day livelihood of the average citizen of a country.

Generally, infrastructures are required for the development of a country. But if it cannot bring any positive change in the livelihood of people directly or indirectly, infrastructural development is in no way supportive of development. The development of infrastructures should not be considered even a part of development. Sometimes, infrastructural developments can become a financial burden and counterproductive to real development.

Many infrastructural development projects are taken in the name of development. Feasibilities are often allegedly not done properly. Big money is invested either from the public exchequer or by taking loans locally and/or from foreign sources. Allegations of irregularities and corruption come up during implementation. Many times, the budget is exceeded. Ultimately, the cost of the infrastructure surpasses the benefit. Common citizens are left with a heavy burden of debt against a disproportional or no enhancement of their quality of life.

Continuation of power for a government or an individual for a long time does not necessarily ensure stability. Instead, it poses the risk of authoritarian rule. The development of infrastructures does not always guarantee real development. Development of the country, in the true sense, is the improvement of the quality of life of common citizens.

GM Quader is a member of parliament and the chairman of Jatiya Party.