While addressing the 113th,114th and 115th Law and Administration Courses at the Bangladesh Civil Service Administration Academy, Prime Sheikh Hasina asked all government officials to stay alert against bribery and corruption because the vice spoils the country's development. Economists and development partners have often reiterated that the country loses 2.0 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) each year on account of corruption. The Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based research firm, claims that around US $6.0 billion was laundered out of Bangladesh through trade manipulation in 2015 alone. Referring to money laundering in his budget speech in 2014, Hussain Muhammad Ershad said money was smuggled into Malaysia and Canada. They have second homes and Begum Para there. He then posed the question, "where did they get so much money?"
The foreign minister in a press briefing once was on record saying in connection with Toronto's Begum Para, "Our general idea is that politicians live there. However it is found that most of them are the government officials. Retired or still employed, they bought a house." Those who are still in service can be asked to submit their bank accounts and sources of income. The fact is that not all ---not even the majority--- in the bureaucratic services have rushed in to Malaysia, Canada or any other country because they had to depend on the known sources of their income and such incomes hardly permit anyone to build a second home in Malaysia or a luxurious house in Toronto's Begum Para.
Pay and perks for officials in government service are quite decent now, and if one is willing to lead an honest life, it is possible. But money for some is a great temptress and they give into its temptation. It is a salacious legacy because without a nexus corruption cannot be committed. Once a certain percentage of commission from big projects for high-ups was an open secret. If this is the downside of development projects, bribery involving small and large sums eats into the very vitals of administration. When an officer drawing a salary of, say, Tk50,000 takes bribe from a low-grade employee earning Tk 2,000, human soul simply gets mired. There are allegations that teachers have to part with some of their benefits they are entitled to, or else the process becomes cumbersome and even beyond solution. This is exactly how the builders of human character have to compromise and lose their souls.
Integrity is the greatest asset human can possess and nurture. This country's founding fathers wanted to establish an exploitation-free nation with equal opportunities open to all. But today, it has seen the rise of the highest percentage of super rich in a year. But they are not pioneers of technologies or electronic devices such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook or e-commerce giants. In fact, two such leading online trade outfits have exposed their manipulative income and are now on the verge of disintegration. Then who these super riches are? They are thriving even in time of the pandemic.
Proliferation of ill-gotten money looks for avenues out of the country. The latest Bangladesh Bank's directive for banks to submit a report on daily transactions can be cited as an attempt to plug holes in the illicit money flow. PK Halder who swindled Tk 36 billion (3,600 crore) from banks and financial institutions is not the only one of his kind. There are others who have committed similar fraudulence and they had associates and facilitators both in banking and bureaucratic services. These are people who do not love this land and its people and the irony is that they have got educated to commit crimes of this order. Less-educated and common people stay away from such vices. In contrast, the youths who opt for illegal routes to land in a foreign country in the hope of striking a paying job perish in seas or forests if not put behind bars. Shame on education and social environment that teach one to be sly and defraud public money at the expense of their own souls!