– Anu Mohammad*
I wrote an article (cover story) in the then Weekly Bichitra enquiring about the movement channel of the newly rich people of Bangladesh towards the first part of the 1980’s; headline was ‘Multimillionaire: Made in Bangladesh’. Perhaps during this time or preceding it an investigation series report by Matiur Rahman, present editor, Prothom Alo, was being published in the then Weekly Ekata. Its headline was ‘The story of plunder by the rich groups.’ Afterwards this was published in the book form. The book is not available in the market, but it may be considered as an important authoritative document in understanding the rising phase of the rich class people and its pattern in Bangladesh.
In my investigation I have seen an important role of banks and nationalized institutions in the second phase of the formation of newly rich class in Bangladesh. In the first phase there were license, permit, smuggling, hoarding, misappropriation of state owned mill-factories, properties. In the second phase bank loan facilities enhancement led to the increase of loan default. A new order of communication and agreement between business and government power took place. As the presence of newly rich class gets ostensive, so the proportion of entrance in the ownership of state owned properties increases; and through this transfer process the assets of rich group enhances more. At the beginning of 80’s the journey to the privately owned banks started and in many cases it is noticed that the loan defaulters of the state-owned banks became the owner of the private banks. It is seen that a loan defaulter can easily open a private bank with a slice of the amount of defaulted loan. For receiving loans from state-owned banks in own name or different name necessary political communication, give and take system turned to be an effective way for amassing the wealth. In more than one article of Professor Rehman Sobhan there is an analysis of this period of time.
In my investigation of the new rich class in Bangladesh for the type that I found, I used the term ‘Lumpen Multimillionaire’ from then on to mean them. In labeling the Lumpen millionaire I had first used this term right then. What I have tried to mean by Lumpen millionaire is such a class who for their own riches is more eager to follow other easy and illegal channels for earning process rather than the productive activities. Among these ways smuggling, narcotic drug business, bank loan plundering, forceful occupation, forgery, cheating etc are worth-mentioning. For this purpose, they follow any avenue of crimes without hesitation.
By now the ‘Lumpen Bourgeois’ concept in social science studies has assumed acquaintance internationally. Lumpen Bourgeois are two words from two languages. The term Lumpen is a German word. Bourgeois is a French word which was used at the time of the emergence of capitalism to mean the then middle class and afterward to identify the rich section of people. In 1926 an Austrian writher first used these two words to mean the plundering production-detached nature of the capitalist class. Its first use in English language was made by US economist Paul Baran in his famous book Political Economy of Growth published in 1957. Subsequently this pair of words assumed special identity through a book of German-US social scientist Andre Gunder Frank (1972) – Lmpen Bourgeois and Lupen Development; Dependency, Clash and Politics in Latin America. In this book while discussing the grooming of capitalism in the marginal countries under imperial global system, he particularly noticed the rising of such a class who remains inclined towards the imperialists, follows the path for earning riches by any means instead of the production development of their own economy; for own interest remains active to keep the predominance of the multinational capital.
However, in Bangladesh the 80’s was golden decade for the newly rich class people. In one hand there was the autocratic rule under the leadership of an internationally accepted corrupt person, and on the other hand a pressure through the policies in the reform programs of World Bank, IMF, ADB for transferring wealth to the hands of individuals and groups a favorable environment was created for the new rich class. Persons expert in give and take with the people in power turned to be the owner of vast riches overnight. For this purpose they were also extended bank loan liberally. It was possible because of a partnership agreement successfully reached with the power. Such a package agreement of state-business-religion plundering did not take place before in Bangladesh.
The ground that was then prepared for corruption, plunder, centralization of power got more stronger day by day. It was because the subsequent governments moved along the channels of rule-corruption then ordered. So, in one hand extension of hands and feet of corruption went on, and on the other hand the centralization of wealth and power – both these enhanced gradually. Upon this consideration, the corrupt autocratic ruler of the 80’s may boast of his role of a pioneer in the process. Rulers of the subsequent period followed him in several ways.
Through a proper investigation, it is noticed that we have entered the third phase of wealth accumulation when the plundering of riches is not limited in bank-loan. Desire and opportunity both are now very high. So in Bangladesh eating away the entire bank, even all the properties of everybody is now the target of this class. Big commission in big contracts, forcible occupation of land-river-canal-forest, embezzlement of mega projects – the entire country including the above things is now a consumer product.
In different phases of corruption the support or participation of state power was always a determinant. So the extension of the system of co-operation or participation of the ministers took place. Amongst them the flourishing of Lumpen politicians and Lumpen buoreaucrats has taken place who through big commission and bribe of large size earned riches that helped them change into a new class. Here another group connected with them should be marked; they are Lumpen experts or consultants who sell their identity to extend legal moorings to these deeds; they declare the projects of destruction as projects of welfare; in exchange they become the owner of money-riches quickly. All the parts of the Lumpen class carry an identical feature:, : misappropriation of wealth in this country and creation of future in another country. So they have no hesitation to put this country into an extreme fragile situation by overturning the issues like education, medicare, security, river, air, environment, etc.
The way in which this class has been consolidated during the last few decades, certain type of politics is connected. For the people who make endeavor to become multimillionaire in an illegal way of democratic system, free mass media, independent judiciary, transparency in the monetary allotment in the public projects, accountability, independent election system, independent academic and cultural exercise are dangerous. So, what is necessary for this group is to keep the power, from different organizations to state, centralized in the hands of a few persons with whom an understanding, partnership, contracts etc. can be reached easily. By making them partners it is easy to climb the ladders very quickly. As the decision process would be non-transparent and undemocratic, so their advantage would enhance. So, for them simultaneously would be necessary an oppressive ruling system, autocratic environment where there shall be different arrangements to jump upon the practice of different opinion and independent exercise, when no resort to mass media or judicial system would be possible.
I wrote in that article three decades back, “…..Lumpen development creates Lumpen bourgeois, flourishes such a class who has the attire and grandeur of bourgeois, thinking of a Talukder and the role of a thief or dacoit.” The wealth of the country has increased thousand times by sweat of the crores of people in home and abroad but the character of the persons in power continues to be the same with dominance.E
* Economist & Professor of Economics,
** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.