Development Administration

Development Administration formulation of development plans and their correct and timely implementation for desirable socio-economic changes. It calls for innovation in creating and sustaining new administrative structures, organisations and institutions, and revitalizing the existing machinery for socio-economic uplift of the disadvantaged sections of people living under the poverty line. Development administration also highlights the decentralisation of administration through strengthening the institutions of local government and ensuring people's participation. It is also concerned with increasing the capabilities of administrators who remain largely responsible for the formulation of policies and their execution. Finally, development administration in Bangladesh, for politico-economic reasons, involves the management of the public sector, which needs continuous updating through reforms in order to meet (a) the stresses and strains preventing administration from becoming action and goal oriented and (b) the global compulsions from international agencies and donor countries.

Development plan and implementation The First Five Year Plan in Bangladesh was launched in July 1973 which was followed by a Two Year Plan (1978-1980). In July 1980 the Five Year Plan was reintroduced (1980-85) and since then two Five Year Plans were implemented in succession. The Fourth Five Year Plan ended in 1995, but it could not be immediately followed by another Five Year Plan. For the next two years (1995-97) development administration proceeded on an ad hoc basis. Then came the next Five Year Development Plan from July 1997.

All the plans except the first two plans had more or less similar sets of objectives. The First Plan stressed on relief and rehabilitation of the war-ravaged economy. The second two-year plan concentrated on the completion of incomplete projects carried over from the previous plan and dropping of those projects considered not very useful from a development perspective. The thrust of the Second Five Year Plan was rural development, and the agenda of poverty alleviation and economic growth have constituted the central foci of the third, fourth and fifth Five Year Plans.

Every Plan targeted for an average annual growth rate of above 5 percent. Despite a large flow of foreign assistance, the planned effort has not been able to get away from the low growth trap as half the population of Bangladesh still continues to live below poverty line.

The summarised version of planned development effort is given below:

Plan Plan size (million taka) Actual Expenditure GDP growth rate%
First Five Year Plan (1973-78) 44,550 20,740 5.5 4.00
Two Year Plan (1978-80) 38,610 33,590 5.6 3.50
Second Five Year Plan (1980-85) 172,000 152,970 5.4 3.80
Third Five Year Plan (1985-90) 386,000 270,110 5.4 4.15
Fourth Five Year Plan (1990-95) 620,000 ... 5.0 ...
Fifth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) 1959,521 ... 7.0 ...

Source Government of Bangladesh, The Fifth Five Year Plan (1997-2002), p. 45.

Size of the government and reorganisation efforts The size of the government is ever expanding. As of 1996 the government sector included 35 ministries, 50 divisions, 221 departments, 139 directorates and 153 State Owned Enterprises which employ a total of one million people.

Para-state corporations and state owned enterprises occupy a critical place in the economy of Bangladesh. This set-up was started during the Pakistan period on a limited scale, and since 1971 the concept reached its climax. These corporations were running at a loss from 1972. At present, these enterprises incur an annual loss of Tk 25,000 million and have incurred a total loss of 4,50,000 million since independence. The annual loss constitutes 2% of the GDP. Though the government is pursuing a policy of disinvestment since the 1980s, the private sector is not responding adequately. In order to accelerate this process the government created the Privatisation Board in 1993, but privatisation was slow and fell much short of the earmarked target. Reviewing this, the government has decided to take action in certain areas.

The administration at the lower, middle and upper tiers is characterised by excessive manpower, leading to not only a financial burden on the public exchequer but also administrative inefficiency and non-performance. In order to get rid of this problem, the government introduced the policy of 'golden handshake' but it did not bring in positive results.

Decentralization and people's participation The government of Bangladesh made attempts for decentralising the administration in 1983 at the upazila level on the recommendations of the committee for administrative reform/ reorganisation. This process culminated into the creation and strengthening of the upazila administration. The upazila administration provided for an elected chairman. The national bureaucracy was made subordinate to the chairman. The upazila system was abandoned in the wake of the fall of the Hussain M Ershad regime in 1991.

Rural development In the early years of the Second Five Year Plan and even before launching the Plan a variety of experiments were made for rural development. These included Food for work, Swanirvar Bangladesh with diverse models, Swanirvar credit programme, Canal digging and two-tier cooperatives under IRDP (later transformed into BRDB). Some of the programmes disappeared and others could not make any mark in reducing rural poverty. The Bangladesh Rural Development Board, the largest agency in the public sector for the alleviation of rural poverty, has adopted many development programmes. But the pace of development generated by the Board seems extremely limited compared to its capital expenditure.

Local government and popular participation Though administration was decentralised at the upazila level, it could not unfortunately increase people's participation. Further, the lowest tier of local government, i.e the union parishad (UP) was made subservient to the upazila parishad for resource allocation. Reduced sources of revenue crippled the drive and initiative of the UP. The two democratically elected parliamentary governments of the 1990s showed their enthusiasm in fulfilling the constitutional obligations pertaining to local government.

In 1992, the BNP government appointed a commission on local government known as the Huda Commission, which recommended a two-tier local government, though formally four tiers were mentioned. In its recommendations there were structural anomalies, some of which were removed through cabinet decision. Before the implementation of the accepted recommendations, the BNP government was replaced by the awami league in June 1996. The new government immediately appointed another commission on local government known as the Rahmat Ali Commission, which recommended a 4-tier local government. Of these, the UP is already functioning under laws earlier framed by the Jatiya Sangsad. The other tiers are yet to be put into practice.

Public sector reform and governance Since 1972, the government appointed 19 committees for reforming administration: 3 committees in the 1970s, 10 committees in the 1980s and 6 committees in the 1990s. Of these committees four were to review the pay structure and the rest were related to rationalization of services and administrative structure. In 1997, another committee known as the Public Administration Reform Committee was formed. Two chairmen, both ex-civil servants, resigned on grounds of lack of financial and administrative support.

Administrative development For effective utilisation of resources and administration of sectoral programmes from micro levels in every sphere of development, the enhancement of the capability of the bureaucracy has become an urgent need. In order to meet challenge of human resource development, the government has been giving attention to the training of members of various cadre, ex-cadre and technical services. Under the Fourth Five-Year Plan, projects were taken up for strengthening the institutional base of existing institutions like the bangladesh civil service administration academy, and new institutions like the Statistical Training Institute, Bangladesh Institute of Administration and Management and Electoral Training Institute were also created to cater to training needs. [M Shamsur Rahman]