Polls must ensure stability: World Bank tells Dhaka

June 25th, 2008 - 1:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 25 (IANS) The World Bank (WB) has cautioned Bangladesh’s army-backed caretaker government that the country’s economy would be affected unless a smooth political transition takes place through election. “If the political transition does not happen as predicted, any uncertainty is going to affect the economy, private sector and investor confidence,” Praful Patel, WB vice-president for South Asia, said at the end of his two-day visit here.

During his visit, Patel met Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed and other advisers to discuss the government’s wide-ranging governance and economic policy reform agendas including holding of a general election.

The WB official also met Bangladesh’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed.

“A smooth political transition would be good for all,” he was quoted as saying by The Daily Star Wednesday.

“Everybody would prefer not to go back to the pre-1/11 situation,” he added, referring to the political turmoil that hit the economy towards end-2006, leading to general elections being called off and a national emergency being imposed.

Referring to his talks with the “key players” of the caretaker government, Patel said the electoral roadmap is on track as voter registration and reforms in election rules by the Election Commission have been put in place for a better democratic process.

The interim government has promised elections for December, but has also begun the process for civic elections for August and upazilla (sub district) body elections in October that are being opposed by major political parties.

“We are in the business of continuing our support to the developmental agenda of Bangladesh. We did it before. We did it during the transition period with the caretaker government. We will continue to do so,” Patel said, adding that the WB worked with the country, not with any particular government.

Patel said Bangladesh needs to address some critical issues such as keeping the reform agenda forward, increasing investment in human resource, developing infrastructure, improving agriculture productivity and tackling the impact of climate change.

Asked why he met the army chief, Patel said the WB did not get involved in politics and he met the army chief to discuss climate change and regional integration.

“Without endorsement and support from all of the key players these two agendas will not move forward. On advice of locals, we met on the agenda, for example, regional integration. It was suggested that it will be good to brief the General about what regional integration means,” Patel said.

He said South Asia was the least integrated region in the world. But a better integration of trade would benefit the countries in the region.

Patel is retiring next month after spending 35 years with the WB. He said the visit, 15th in five years, was his last.

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