THE growing dominance of the business elite in the country’s politics and the influence of the business bodies over state organs and policy-making are what have worryingly weakened the democratic institutions and the state organs. Transparency International, Bangladesh, in a video conference on Sunday, pointed to the fact that the state organs are held hostages by business interests which have come to be the de facto driving force in politics, society and governance. Involvement and influence of the moneyed clout in politics have cumulatively led to the situation where all policies and decisions are made to incorporate the corporate interests marginalising people’s rights. The business elite has, as experts say, gradually seeped into politics and is now the most powerful section in politics. According to historical records, businessmen constituted about 17.5 per cent of the members of parliament in the first parliament in 1973–1975, and the figure has increased to a whopping 62 per cent in the eleventh parliament suggesting a dangerous takeover of politics by the business elite. As a result, as the TIB officials say, loan defaulters and frauds are now devising guidelines for the banking and financial sector and owners of industries are drafting policies on labour rights.
While the first parliament of the country had a participation of about 59 per cent professionals from different professions such as lawyers, doctors, teachers and farmers, the current parliament has a complete monopoly of businessmen-cum-politicians. The monopoly, however, of the business elite has begun to take over politics since the late 1980s when political parties began to give nominations to large number of businessmen as they were considered capable of covering various election expenses and wining seats for the parties. The business elite also leapt forward to avail the opportunity seeing politics as a major business venture where money-making is easier. Through this monopoly, the business bodies have eventually come to manipulate the state organs turning the state to what experts term a corporate state that is dictated by the dictums of the capital. A parliament represented largely by the business elite, as experts say, designs the state structures and develops policies in ways that represent and promote the business interests. What is worrying is that when business interests get an upper hand, democracy faces a slow but certain death as the state turns virtually indifferent to people’s rights.
Successive governments in the past three decades have given in to the business elite and have created a Frankenstein that appears to have devoured pro-people politics. All political parties must, under the circumstances, make a course correction and must not let the business elite establish a monopoly in the parties, in politics, society and governance. The government must also not let the state organs be held hostage by business bodies and must prioritise people’s rights.
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