(A personal message to readers. If you are privileged so you can have dinner with any of the Mr. Importants of today’s Bangladesh, please make a printout of this article and make them read it over dinner, 🙂 We mean it!)
It is very straight forward. What is expected of the elected posts and from the politicians are extremely demanding jobs and it needs extremely efficient and competent people to deliver. You have create an environment where people in the individual level are motivated to contest in the election. Once you have a good number of interested people, an enabling environment from the government might accelerate the process. But before that, you have start the process by creating incentives for those who are capable. The best way to ensure that is to make what these posts are – make them professional in the sense that they are very highly paid.
Allow us to end this rather lengthy article with a concrete proposal. The salary structure and its administration of the elected officials (starting from councilors of union porishod to the elected MPs) should be part of the budget of Election Commission. It should be their duty to elect this official as they are empowered to hold election by the constitution. It is also their responsibility to make sure that competent citizens gets elected and these people can perform their job professionally. So they should be paid for full time jobs. Now how do you determine the salary. Our proposal is EC should set a benchmark amount (say 500 taka per voter or any lower amount that makes sense) for the salaries of all the elected officials of the republic. They should also set a general formula about how these central fund will be distributed among the elected official as a monthly salary. Next thing that they should address is to find out a way to finance this budget. Its not huge budget if you compare the horiloot that happens in the public accounts (Read the news item below, Just let the ad-hoc public accounts committee to work, you will see. But you have to remove the incumbent secretaries from this ad-hoc committee).
Currently, EC is supposed to get its budget from govt. ex checker. In addition, EC should seek alternate way to finance itself. That does not mean they have to ask for money to foreign governments (We strongly disagree that our EC’s decision to bring in transparent boxes from outside help. It is not to say that Bangladesh is already ready to deny foreign help. But the basic governance structure should be built with local resource. Let them help the national ex-checker where those foreign governments are hurting us, but not the election commission or ACC. We should take care of them ourselves, otherwise you will never go there).
Rather EC should sit down with Mr. Chairman of the NBR. In the tax forms, the citizens pay the govt. ex checker the budget to run the country, to provide basic services. Add a separate section in those forms. Let the citizens pay the 300 taka (or more if anyone wants) every year as a salary of their representatives. You can make it voluntary for those who are below the minimum bracket of income tax level. However, let even those who are below the minimum bracket of income to make this yearly payment if they want to. Make this donation tax-free. Government ex checker can compensate any lagging that might be there. For the election commission, it would also be a good feedback mechanism – to understand the support they are getting from the voters. We think this fluctuation of yearly donations will be a better benchmark to judge EC’s overall performance – much more effective feedback than the one they are currently considering. Giving the voters none-of-the-above option may be a way to measure the pulse of democracy – but you have to think twice why none of the major democracies has adopted that. Asking the voters to support the EC voluntarily is a better mechanism, we think. Or you can have both and see which one works better.