IT IS a breeze through the Bangladesh economy. And, it tells a part of the economy.
A report in Dainik Ittefaq, a leading Bangla national daily from Dhaka, said: The number of persons addicted to Yaba, a sort of drug, is about 7.7 million in Bangladesh. They consume, on an average, two tablets a day. Each tablet is sold at Tk 300 ($1=approximately Tk 80). Thus, the total amount of the taka consumed daily in the form of Yaba is Tk 4.62 billion. (‘Dainik char sha bashatti koti takar yaba khachchhe ashaktara’ (Yaba-addicts are consuming Tk 4.62 billion daily), June 5, 2018, p 1) However, the report claims the actual number is higher than what is cited in the report.
Thus the total monthly and yearly amount of money on that account — Yaba consumption — stand as Tk ‘Something’ or a huge amount of money in terms of Bangladesh economy. The information tells a few aspects of the Bangladesh economy, society and politics although the political aspect tainted by class interests goes unidentified.
The drug money moves further as another report in the same daily newspaper said: About 50,000 drug addicts in Rupganj, now a suburb of the capital city of Dhaka, annually spend about Tk 1 billion on account of drug. The number of wholesale drug dealers is about 400 in the area; and their trade is operated by about 1,200 retailers. Drug trading is being done in 112 of the total 128 villages under the Roopganj upazila, an administrative unit. A part of younger generation is getting involved with the trade to have a huge quick money. (Should it be named huqumo? (‘Roopganje madak byabasayi panchash hajar, bachhare byay shata koti taka’, May 25, 2018, p 5)
On the next day, May 26, 2018, a report in the same daily newspaper said: Two ambulances with the public-owned Sadar Hospital of Rajbari were not operating for the past 15 days. The reason: the filling station supplying fuel to the medical vehicles has stopped the supply as the hospital authority owes about Tk 3.4 million to the station on account of fuel. The amount of the unpaid fuel bill has accrued over three years, from mid-2015 to mid-2018. Consequently, it is the public that suffer. Members of the public are to take service of privately operated ambulances, which charge higher than those public-owned ambulances. According to a driver of the ambulance, rate for each kilometre charged by the public-owned ambulance is Tk 10, and that stands as Tk 660 and Tk 4,400 for a service up to Faridpur Medical College Hospital and up to Dhaka Medical College Hospital respectively while the privately owned ambulances charge Tk 2,000 for the Faridpur and Tk 8,000 for Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Moreover, the privately owned ambulances are not equipped to carry patients with serious condition while the public-owned are better equipped. (‘Rajbari Sadar Haspatale ambulence seba bandha’, ‘Ambulance service is not available with the Rajbari Sadar Hospital’, p 13)
There are many similar stories. A random pick from or a purposive scanning of newspapers/media reports presents similar info related to money — money (mis)spent or money needed or ‘something else’. These range from rural roads, bridges and culverts to health care to educational institutions — all are spheres of public, the tax payers in the common category, which is the largest segment among the tax payers.
These — the infrastructures and institutions — are required by the ordinary persons — the people. Educational institutions catering to the rich face no problem. Those are problem-free. The usual movement pattern of the rich produces no problem for the wealthy segment of society.
Money dearth problem is usually linked to the areas linked to the lives of the poor. It is a clear bias of the problems — inclined to the poor as if the problems ‘love’ the poor. Even, the poor can be cursed as they ‘invite’ or ‘create’ the problems. These ‘sustain’ as long as money, to use the term in a loose fashion, accumulation process is not affected. Any wealthy person can claim: problems love the poor as the poor are themselves a problem. The wealthy person’s claim will be accepted as fact as that is the powerful voice.
But, serious issues are there even someone likes to ignore these ‘silly’ aspects — ‘problems’ poor partiality’ or the ‘poor’s problem partiality’. The issues are serious: from where the money or the problems come?
Drug luxury is one of the cases cited above; and the question is: who is creating the huge amount of money consumed in the form of drug? Is it a win-win situation — the consumer wins as wins the drug capital? Or, is the situation such that many within the rank and file of the parties related to the drug luxury — drug trading and consumption — are victims of predation? An affirmative answer to the latter question shall stand against the drug capital, part of the capital that dominates the economy.
Ultimately it is the owner of the capital invested in drug magic — huge, quick profit by trading types of substances. The payment — a huge amount of cash — is, ultimately, made by the entire society; and the money paid as price of drug is part of the surplus labour appropriated from labour in society. A part of this drug payment also comes from the money that the Bengali labourers send back home; and the money that the labourers send back home is part of necessary labour time — an essential for the labour’s survival. Thus the drug trading turns into a crueller character in capital’s ‘drama’ with drug and drudgery. It not only harms individuals and families, it also turns into a super-exploiter. (Other aspects of the trading like the money’s different roles, its contributions, etc are omitted in this lightly composed article.)
The rate of profit made by the part of the commercial capital invested in the drug trading is higher than the profit it could make in other areas of commerce and in manufacturing. This allures the part to the trade. Its power is perceptible as its pawns fall — a ‘supreme sacrifice’ for profit — while the aristocrat owners of the capital behind scene stay safe — a magic!
Therefore, on the basis of the three news reports, a breeze through a part of the Bangladesh economy, it appears as:
— The reports are not representative; but a part. Moreover, there is space to thrust questions into the info cited in the reports, which include source of the info.
— The info cited in the reports tell a part of the economy if these are not totally falsified; and the Bangladesh media or any other source has not yet questioned the info.
— It is a part of a market, where drug and healthcare services are traded, or of a number of markets, where private capital operates in drug market and in healthcare market, and the market is free — free market.
— These markets bring profit; a part of the profit from ambulance service and a part from drug-peddling; alluring parts of capital to these markets, which is an efficient performance of free market.
— It is safe for the part of the capital to operate in these markets as long as captains of the capital remain safe and pawns pay for the mishandling of the trade.
— An allocation of capital is there: a part of capital to the privately owned healthcare service and a part to the drug trading.
— It is a free market scene: move capital where the profit is higher; it does not matter whether or not society, especially the poor tax payers, suffers.
— Two spaces appear: one, the space owned by the public, the public-owned health care service; and the other, the private capital’s free ‘loitering’ – to anywhere to any trade to higher profit without taking into consideration the cost the entire society pays for greedy capital’s higher profit.
Now, the questions:
— Is it an efficient and rational allocation of capital in an economy, within which millions of working people are putting their labour power to have a better life?
— Is the way capital allocates parts of it safe for society and beneficial for the poor tax payers — the majority?
— How much public-owned space is there in comparison with private capital; and should the public accept it?
The questions deserve answers; and the public, in a bold political move, shall search for answers to the questions tomorrow.
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.
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