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Press Releases written by Voice
[VOICE, Dhaka, 14 July 2009] Speakers at a sharing meeting held today in Dhaka stressed the need for water access rights to be guaranteed by supply management systems across all municipalities in Bangladesh. The group concurred that this could only be achieved through greater transparency and accountability.
Organized by VOICE, a research and activist group, the roundtable was held in the city’s SUPRO’s meeting room. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE presented the meeting with the findings of research conducted by VOICE on water sector transparency and accountability in the Mymensingh municipality.
“The municipality only supplies four hours of water per day, which causes serious problems for consumers.” Said Ahmed Swapan. “Twenty-five percent of our research participants said that they have been victims of fake billing, while ninety percent complained that they did not receive a regular water supply.”
The research reveals that consumers suffer due to consistent impurities with the water supply, as seventy-six percent of users are dissatisfied about the cleanliness of their municipal water. The findings also show that only twenty-two percent of residents are covered by the municipality's water supply, while other seventy-eight percent are forced to collect water from different sources.
[Dhaka, 5 July 2009] Speakers in a seminar spoke about how neoliberal policy doctrines have failed to reduce poverty or ensure social protection for the poor. Neoliberalism has not only had devastating consequences in developing countries like Bangladesh, it has also shaken the northern economy.
The seminar titled `Neoliberalism, Poverty and Social Protection Policies’ was held in the city’s national press club today. It was organized by VOICE, a research and public education organization and moderated by its executive director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud. The panel included Monower Mustafa, a researcher and development activist; Mohsin Ali, Coordinator of Governance Advocacy Forum; and Saiful Haq, Genral Secretary of Biplobi Workers Party. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud also presented Voice’s keynote paper at the seminar.
“Neoliberal policies have been proved ineffective and have failed to offer any better solution for society.” said Ahmed Swapan Mahmud. “Rather, they create marginalization, deprivation, economic injustice, insecurity and poverty at large.” Mentioning existing Social Safety Net Programms (SSNPs) he told the seminar that these ad-hoc measures are merely neoliberal tools, while the programmes do not play any real role reducing poverty.
Civil society members at a roundtable on Thursday criticised the government for imposing surveillance and censorship on Internet access and for the move for re-registration of mobile SIMs by taking details of individual subscribers.
They also feared that details of individuals, which were stored for the preparing the national identity cards and which were given for re-registration of mobile SIMs, could be abused by the government or any other agencies to undermine democratic values.
‘For free flow of information and peoples right to know, no government should impose surveillance and censorship on Internet access and block any websites,’ said former chairman of Bangladesh Telecommu-nication Regulatory Commission, Syed Margub Morshed, at the roundtable held at National Press Club.
VOICE, a right-based activist group, organised the roundtable on ‘Access to Information: Internet Surveillance and Censorship vs People’s Rights Protection’.
Margub said that it would be a futile exercise if anybody wants to block any website to censor or hide any information.
22 May 2009
A consortium of civil society representatives met to discuss access to information at the World Bank in Bangladesh on May 20th.
Article 19-Bangladesh, the Bank Information Center and VOICE, an IFI research and advocacy organization, convened a meeting of various civil society groups to solicit feedback on their collective experiences with the World Bank’s information disclosure practices in the context of World Bank country projects. About 90 civil society representatives attended the May 20th meeting in Dhaka which included political activists, representatives from a variety of NGOs, trade unions, human rights and women groups as well as journalists and communications organizations. Prominent academics and experts were in attendance, including Justice (retd) Mohammad Golam Rabbani who presided over the meeting. Proposals and concerns with regard to the information disclosure policy as well as suggestions for an improved policy will be conveyed to the World Bank.
Civil society suggestions and observations
The World Bank does not provide any information on its projects in Bangladesh, obstructing stakeholders’ access to information in areas such as project agreement, implementation and monitoring, said participants in a consultation meeting.
They demanded public disclosure of all information related to WB projects as well as its funding procedures.
The meeting, held at the Dhaka Reporter’s Unity on Wednesday, was organised by research and advocacy organisation Voice and the Bank Information Centre. Former Appellate Division Judge Golam Rabbani presided over the meeting.
In his keynote speech, the Voice executive director, Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, said according to the WB’s Inspection Panel Annual Report, there were allegations of lack of transparency, even violations, of its disclosure policy, he added.
He cited violations of the disclosure policy in a significant number of cases.
BRAC University professor Dr Piash Karim said the World Bank was losing its legitimacy worldwide because of imposition of neo-liberal conditions on the states.
Accusing the World Bank of taking advantage of the global financial crisis, he said it was eager to expand its lending base. He demanded that the World Bank’s lending policy and the project agreements should be made public so that people could voice their opinions on the project documents.
May 20, Dhaka [The participants of the consultation allegedly said that the Bank didn’t provide any information on the project they undertook in the country and categorically it impedes the access to information at all levels including project agreement, implementation and monitoring levels. The consultation was held at the Dhaka Reporters Unity today jointly organized by VOICE, a research and advocacy organization and Bank Information Centre. The consultation was presided over by Justice (Retd) Mohammad Golam Rabbani.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of Voice read out the key note paper while he citing the example from the World Bank's Inspection Panel Annual Report, said that Bank suffers with the problem of access to information within several World Bank-financed projects. There are allegations of lack of transparency, and even violations of its own disclosure policy according to recently published Inspection Panel Report, he told. Ahmed Swapan also said that alleged violation of the Bank’s disclosure policy was raised in 22 of the 52 cases, which equates to 42 percent of all cases brought to the panel since its 1993 inception.
Deep concerns about high risk offshore private equity portfolio
4 May 2009, Bali - The largest Asian NGO network monitoring the ADB today slammed the bank's response to the financial crisis, calling it "a dangerous plan to unleash massive infrastructure funding while reducing environmental and social oversight."
According to Red Constantino of the NGO Forum on the ADB, "the bank is proposing a blinkered, business-as-usual program that will not prevent developing countries from sliding back into poverty but instead is likely to cause environmental destruction and social dislocation."
The NGO Forum on the ADB also released a scathing report detailing the ADB's high-risk low-return foray into private equity funds and pointed to the potential large-scale misuse of the 200 percent capital increase the ADB recently secured.
"The ADB's handling of its private equity funds is scandalous and presents a material risk not only to the ADB but to project affected communities and the environment," said Stephanie Fried of Environmental Defense Fund.
28 April, Bali – The NGO Forum on ADB officially opened its Forum annual meeting (FAM) today at the Palm Beach Hotel & Resort in Bali, Indonesia.
Over 70 participants representing different organizations from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, the United States, Australia, and the Netherlands attended the first day.
The first session dealt with big picture issues. Pieter Jansen of BothENDS talked about the ongoing financial crisis from the European perspective. He compared the situation before the financial crisis and after the crash. He further said that the removal of controls over the financial sector has made the financial institutions masters of economy instead as its servants.
Stephanie Fried of the Environmental Defense Fund delved on private equity funds (PEF) which promotes secrecy in the middle of the global financial crisis. Though there is an international push for the re-regulation of financial architecture and an increase in transparency measures due to the global financial crisis, she said the ADB has proposed the further deregulation of risky investments and weakening of its Safeguards Policy. She said that PEFs are a key component of the ADB’s private sector development strategy.
Speakers at a discussion yesterday said that international capitalist mode of productions, speculative capital, unjust and ndemocratic role of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and multinational corporations are the major causes of recent financial crisis. The discussion titled `IFIs are the Major Barriers to Development Effectiveness: Linking Financial Crisis to Food, Debt and Climate Change' has been held at the Cirdap auditorium, Dhaka on 16 October. The discussion was moderated by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE while eminent economist and also a teacher of Dhaka University Prof. Abu Ahmed, eminent leader of Workers Party of Bangladesh Haider Akber Khan Rono, economist, leading economist Dr. Piash Karim, renowned leader general secretary of Biplabi Workers Party Saiful Haq spoke as panel discussants.
Bangladesh is passing through multi-faceted challenges in the recent past propagated by its economic depression due to deregulation of the state machinery dictated from International Financial Institutions. Commoner's life and livelihood is highly suppressed from inflation, unemployment and unprecedented risks. Triple attack of food, fuel and financial crisis on the global economy is also affecting peoples' daily life as the country is a net food importing LDC and its remittance mostly comes from by exporting garments and frozen foods along with low skilled manpower. Bangladesh needs increased investment in food, griculture, employment generation along with spending in basic services. But the govt. can not invest more as they have
to pay back more than USD 1500 million for debt servicing per annum to World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank and to other bi-lateral donors, which is more than 15% of it's national budget. Besides new loan programs in the name of Multi Donor Trust Fund proposed to be managed by World Bank will trap its citizens to new debt burden. Massive awareness needs to be created to
challenge this undemocratic venture of the Bank.