Back to Bangladesh after five years- Part 1

I went to visit Bangladesh from early April to mid-May after more than five years. For five years I have written about Bangladesh from secondary sources and secondary experiences. At long last I can write about my fist-hand experience.

I stayed most of the time in the capital city Dhaka. In recent years South Asian megalopolises like Dhaka, Delhi, Karachi, Mumbai have earned reputations as the cities with worst air pollutions in the world. Living in Dhaka’s unbearable pre-Monsoon heat, humidity, dust and particles thick air, I can well understand what do those pollution measures mean for the people. For the bulk of masses who are not fortunate to live in air-conditioned houses, work in air-conditioned offices and commute in air-conditioned cars, buses, Dhaka is truly an urban hell-scape. There is a popular saying among Dhaka’s suffering commuters stuck for hours in oven hot roads; citizens of Dhaka will be forgiven the dreaded ‘Adhab-al qabr’ or punishment of the grave that is supposed to be fate of all persons from death till Qyiamat, the day of judgement. Dhakaites suffer so much that the Adhab pales in comparison.

Although air pollution has become much worse, city roads and walkways have become cleaner and more well maintained. Parts of the massive revenue collection by both city corporation and government are really being used to maintain the infrastructure. Trash collection has become more organized . Piles of rotting garbage and constant stench are no longer ubiquitous.

Mercifully powercuts in electricity, so common in Bangladesh until 8-10 years ago, seem to be very rare now. Diesel generators reverberating throughout the city, a very common sight and sound of yesteryears, are rarely seen and heard now.  In fact, a recent news report said that Bangladesh installed so much power generation capacity in the recent years that capacity has outstripped demand substantially. Experts are recommending that no new power plants be initiated in the next few years. Uninterrupted power supply has made the industries, particularly Garments industries, very happy.

However, the top 10% Dhakaites are living very differently than the rest. Fantastic high-rise apartments and office buildings have sprouted all over the cities. Glass and steel clad apartments and offices remind people more of the spotless splendor of Singapore than traditional dirt of South Asia. New BMWs, Lexus, Toyota cars and SUVs clog the city streets. However, apart from home, office, cars and eateries, there is very little things to do socially in Dhaka for the upper class. That’s why they escape to foreign spots like Bangkok, Bali, Malayasia, Singapore, Dubai, Sri Lanka, India etc several times a year. Bangladesh is the supplier of highest number of tourists in India. Bangladeshi shoppers are significant boosters of Kolkata economy. Several Bangladeshi tourists were among the dead and wounded in the recent Sri Lanka terrorist attack.

The top businesspeople, professionals and government employees are doing great in Bangladesh. Their income has soared in the last decade. Signs of their affluence is everywhere in the cities. People working in banks and finance, telecommunication sectors are doing OK. The middle class is not doing so great. Shockingly, I found that private sector salaries have barely changed in the last ten years but house rent, essential prices have increased at least 100% in the last ten years. Economists say that a living wage in Dhaka, minimum wage for a two person family to keep their body and soul together under a roof, is 17000 Taka or about 200 dollars per month. Starting salaries for college, university graduates not working in choice sectors like banks or telecom are still below the living wage. Garments workers earn 80 to 150 dollars, from starting to experienced. It’s hard to imagine the life of the lower-middle and working class in Dhaka.

In the second part, I will discuss my very startling experience of change and prosperity in the rural areas. In the third part, I will talk about my impression of the state of economy and politics.

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India Election 2019 Thread

Lately, we have been talking a lot of things about South Asia but not much on what is supposed to be the biggest event in the calendar for 2019, India General Elections 2019 scheduled to start 11th April and continue till May. Looking at the Opinion Polls it seems that BJP’s election fortune has become much brighter since the dustup with Pakistan. Although foreign issues do not dominate Indian elections that much. Domestically, general Indian people still seem to regard Modi as a better steward for the Indian economy than Rahul or any other alternatives. I have no opinion on the probable results as I have little knowledge and expertise. Let those who are more informed opine here freely on the elections. Not just probable outcomes but also about social, economic and political directions that this elections may bring about.

 

19th March : ” Times Now and VMR survey is back with yet another batch of poll-related data and analysis. In the current survey, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is predicted to grab 283 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats, UPA – 135 and Others – 125.

In the last survey, the Times Now-VMR poll had shown that the NDA would have been 21 seats short of the half-way mark had 2019 Lok Sabha Elections been held in January.”

https://www.timesnownews.com/elections/article/opinion-poll-for-lok-sabha-election-2019-live-times-now-vmr-survey-for-bjp-congress-narendra-modi-rahul-gandhi/384850

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Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (b)

This is the next article in the series “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”, “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white” (a)”, and Razib’s  Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action.

I think the world of Asian Capitalists and would advise everyone to watch their other posts. Is there an interest in inviting them on Brown Cast? They and many other Asians say that Asians will not bend the knee to the post modernist cultural marxist. Within a decade half the world’s billionaires are likely to be Asians or people of Asian ancestry who live elsewhere in the world  and the full power of the post modernist cultural marxist will be brought to bear against Asians. What will happen then?

The Chinese have a term for post modernist cultural marxist caucasian intelligentsia. The word is baizuo. Should the Brown Pundits start using the term in solidarity with our Chine bhai bhai (Chinese brothers)? Can everyone vote below?

For a long time the rest of the world laughed at and made fun of the baizuo. But now the baizuo are becoming a major global threat that is significantly hurting poor, lower middle class, middle class and upper middle class people all over the world. Including by:

  • lowering ceteris paribus global income and total factor productivity.
  • colonizing the minds of non caucasians with inferiority complex to damage their self confidence and keep them down. This is also sometimes called the hard bigotry of low expectations.
  • frequently demonizing any non caucasians who slightly disagrees with them of being racist, bigoted, prejudiced, nazi, fascist, sectarian, islamaphobic, hegemonic, oppressive, exploitative, imperialist, colonialist, a collaborator, an uncle tom.

This is turning the entire non caucasian world against the baizuo. It is perhaps the largest single cause of anti European and anti American sentiment among people who are not European or American. Europe and America will pay a very heavy price for this. I for one don’t think it is worth paying this heavy price of global anti European and anti American sentiment. Europeans and American need to bring the baizuo under control. No European or American who travels internationally should have to endure large numbers of people looking at caucasians with suspicion.

One of the smartest, most perceptive and wisest global thought leaders John McWhorter described the baizuo phenomenon far better than I could. I would read his whole article on “The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World.” And many of his other articles too.

Sadly the baizuo control much of the global establishment and they demonize any darkie who has the courage to stand up to them. For example our very own co founder Razib Khan. And John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Coleman Hughes, Desi-Rae, Narendra Modi, .  Most darkies are too afraid of the baizuo to speak openly. But one day this dam of fear and baizuo politically correct mind control will break; and I fear the consequences for the world.

How to bring the baizuo under control and stop them from greatly harming the world? Through loving and respecting them with all our hearts (devotion), all our souls (wisdom), all our minds (the royal road of yoga) and all our strength (service). By melting their hearts with the power of love. By awakening their own intrinsic deep intelligence. I am reminded of this baizuo video:

When a Jewish person tells Queers for Palestine baizuo about West Bank and Gazan policies towards LBGTQ, it is like their hearts falls out and they want to cry. It causes baizuo so much personal anguish and pain to hear painful facts that it is incredibly tempting to patronize them by not talking honestly with them. I know I am contradicting myself. What should we do?

Please share your thoughts below.

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Bangladesh, economy and politics in imbalance

[During the month of December I wrote several articles in Bangladeshi newspaper about the runup to the election in 30th December. I am going to post some of these here so that BP readers may get a native perspective on what’s going on.]

As Bangladesh heads to parliamentary elections to be held on 30th December, only a risk-loving gambler would bet against the governing party returning to power. In its latest country report, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) expressed the conventional assessment that the Sheikh Hasina’s government will retain power easily. The analysis powerhouse based this expectation mostly on the strong economic performance of Bangladesh in the last decade under the current regime. Over the last ten years, GDP growth in Bangladesh averaged well over six percent and is projected to be even higher in the next few years. Foreign exchange reserve has increased more than fourfold, and the currency has remained steadfast against hard currencies. During the last ten years the Bangladeshi currency has lost only twenty percent of its value against US Dollar while the Indian Rupee lost thirty-one percent and Pakistani Rupee forty-one percent.

Not just in economy, Bangladesh has made great strides in social development. By World Bank estimates, national poverty rate dropped from forty percent to twenty-four percent in the ten years preceding 2017. By Bangladesh government estimates, by 2015 the country has already achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals, for example in nutrition, primary education, child mortality, maternal health etc., far ahead of most of the LDCs. These growth and developments were not urban-centric either, rural household income increased by forty percent from 2010 to 2016.

However, the ongoing pre-election period may baffle an outside observer because, despite strong economic growth and widespread expectations of a win, the regime is carrying out an unprecedented campaign of repression of political opponents. Not only the ruling party is visibly controlling every facet of the administration, including the election commission, but the party is using these state organs to directly thwart, attack, arrest, harass opposing candidates countrywide. This would not surprise regular observers of Bangladesh affairs because, along with the remarkable economic growth, the last ten years were also marked by clear democratic backsliding and authoritarianism. German research group Bertelsmann have been keeping tabs on democratic development in the world since 2005. Its indexes show that status of democracy in Bangladesh has been rapidly deteriorating since the non-competitive election of 2014 and in 2018 Bangladesh was downgraded from a highly defective democracy to a moderate autocracy.

The level of repression before the election suggests that the rosy economic and development numbers may not be providing a faithful representation of the economic well-being of the general people. A recent report by International Labor Organization (ILO) said that youth unemployment in Bangladesh grew by seven percent from 2010 to 2017, one of the worst unemployment growths in developing countries. In a pre-election assessment of the economy of last ten years, CPD, the venerable Bangladeshi thinktank, put forward the calculation that one-third of the educated youth are unemployed. In the recent years, the country has been rocked by several urban youth movements demanding more access to government jobs, for many the only avenue for upward mobility.

At the same time, several estimates from Bangladeshi sources say that as many as half million foreign nationals, mostly Indians, work in Bangladesh in skilled/white collar jobs. This lack of Bangladeshi educated and skilled workers is greatly explained by the dismal state of higher education in the country. Times Higher Education produces annual world university rankings with one of the largest coverage of universities. In the latest 2017 rankings, there are more than thirty Indian universities and five Pakistani universities among the top one thousand universities of the world. Bangladesh has zero. World Bank data shows that during the last ten years, Bangladesh annually spent only about two percent of its GDP in education while Pakistan spent near about three percent and India three and half percent.

Economists studying development argue that a country’s long-term economic growth comes mainly from two sources, investing in human capital and investing in physical capital.  From previous discussion, we have seen that human capital development in Bangladesh has been significantly below par to its neighbors. In investment, the picture is not much better either. The previously mentioned CPD report showed that in the last ten years both private investment and foreign direct investment growth in Bangladesh were anemic. Rather than investments, much of the ‘miraculous’ economic growth of Bangladesh have come from exports, consumption and government spending.

Export growth, in particular, has been spectacular; more than doubling from seventeen billion USD in 2009 to thirty-seven billion in 2017. For comparison purposes, Pakistan’s total export in 2017 was less than twenty-five billion USD. However, if we look at the composition of export, a stark imbalance appears like the elephant in the room. More than eighty-five percent of the total exports of Bangladesh is just from one product category, ready-made garments (RMG) and textiles. Any development economist would say that such high level export dependence on just one product is alarming for any country and any product. RMG may be an especially bad basket to put in all the eggs.

Garments is a low-technology, labor intensive industry that mostly depends on ready-to-export, turn-key factory units. Although the industry employs a great number of factory workers, lack of learning and upgrading in jobs mean that workers have short shelf-life and are unceremoniously terminated after the end of productive years. The mature technology of RMG means there is little effort for innovation, R&D in the export industry. Thus, there is a lack of need for skilled and technology workers, which means that the industry provides little demand for development of human capital and technological capabilities in the country.

A particular feature of garments industry is that, unlike chemicals, machinery, IT services etc., it has very little input-output relations with other major export industries. This means that development of garments industry does not spill over to development of other more value-adding industries. Despite frequent boastful proclamations from regimes and entrepreneurs, industries like pharmaceuticals, electronics, IT services, chemicals etc., are prominent in the Bangladeshi export basket by their insignificance and absence.

Some economists argue that “countries become what they make”. The RMG industry, by dominating Bangladeshi economy for long time, has not only dramatically shaped the society but also the politics. This is a strikingly unequal industry with a few dominating large firms and many small firms servicing those large firms; there is a conspicuous lack of mid-sized and diverse firms. The industry creates a narrow business elite that can easily collude with the government for preferential treatment. The regime, in return from this privileged treatment of the industry, obtains assurance of steady and increasing revenue which it invests in building up the bureaucracy and infrastructure. This growing public investment not only help boost the GDP but also provide the political regime with means to buy off loyalty of bureaucracy and civic society. Regimes then use the RMG-fueled state and civic power to suppress political opposition and stage ‘managed’ elections. We have witnessed these intimately related events again and again in recent years, most notably in Cambodia, another RMG-dominated country, where the ruling regime just staged an election in 2018 where it ‘won’ hundred percent of the seats.

Many technology, economics analysts have argued recently recently that Bangladeshi garments industry is a prime candidate for severe incoming disruption from automation. Development of new automation technology, changes that are now within realistic realm, can wipe away advantages of cheap labor at a stroke and render millions of garments workers jobless worldwide. The spectacular growth of garments industry in Bangladesh explains source of the dominating power the ruling regime has over political opponents. At the same time, the uneven economic and social development from this industry and the very precariousness of the industry’s future, help us understand why there is simmering discontent among aspiring citizens. The puzzle of repression during times of plenty, is not so baffling after all.

 

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Structural Conflicts between Bharat and India

The Indian Republic has a problem. It is deep and structural and vexing. The wheels of industrialization have brought half the country in conflict with the other.

The country is seemingly convulsed with agrarian distress and farmer unrest. Some have located these issues in climate change, others in the prominence of neo-liberal reform. But the issue is far more structural. Half of India knows only to make a living from farming, and they are seemingly getting better at it every year.

India’s farmers have been outperforming the world in terms of growth quite comfortably.

So if we are having year after year of record agrarian yields and remain a next agro-exporter, whats the problem ? The problem is that the other half wants food at the cheapest prices possible. This other half lacks the decisive political numbers that the rural group does, but lives in the more vocal and wealthier urban areas. Farmers obviously  want better prices for their work, but urbanites are understandably wary of overpaying for food when they know they can spend their hard earned monies on modern goods and services.

But the conflicts dont end there. They extend into the realm of international trade relationships. India’s urbanites want to interact with the industrial world for personal growth and opportunity. India’s IT, pharmaceutical exports and remittances provide valuable foreign exchange for its fuel imports, and investment needed for modernizing its economy. But the industrial world is also super efficient at growing food and sees food as an important export. One American farmer can still produce what 50 Indian farmers can.

The Indian farmer thus requires protection from foreign competition, which is far more advanced technologically and is not constrained to small land holdings like he is. But such protection is not in congruence with the freer trade that its urbanites want and need for industrial growth.

Food inflation and international trade are thus two critical parameters on which rural and urban India face a structural conundrum. It is not that other cultures have not faced this crossroads before. Every country that has industrialized (Germany, Russia and China) has dealt with the question of its unproductive agrarian class. Authoritarian political structures meant that the ‘solution’ pursued by these countries brutalized the rural populace.

India’s democracy is deep and will prevent the urban elites from executing such brutality, despite their cultural and historical obsessions. Gaon tatva might seriously blunt Hindutva.

 

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Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (a)

This is the next article in the series “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white.” Please also read Razib’s  Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action.

This panel brought up the issue of affirmative action benefiting caucasians at the expense of people of Asian heritage. According to a 2004 analysis of 1990s data Asians on average needed 140 points more on the SAT (out of 1600) than caucasians all else being equal to have the same probability of admission to elite universities.

Do any readers support race base affirmative action that benefits caucasians at the expense of people of Asian ancestry? If so, can you please share why? I have rarely met Asians who give a strong intellectual case for race based  affirmative action that benefits caucasians at the expense of people of Asian ancestry other than the following arguments:

  • We don’t want to be personally called fascist, nazi, a supporter of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressor, hegemonic, exploiter, white supremacist (not joking, Asians are frequently called white supremacist . . . I don’t understand why) etc.
  • We don’t want Asians as a group being called fascist, nazi, supporter of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressor, hegemonic, exploiter, white supremacist etc.
  • We want to reduce the “evil eye” or jealousy towards Asians
  • We are guilty because of Asian privilege and Asian oppression of blacks and poor people (never met Asians over 22 who say this, but many K-12 rich Asians children believe this now)
  • This is our punishment because Asians are very fascist, nazi, supportive of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressive, hegemonic, exploitative, white supremacist etc. (never met Asians over 22 who say this, but many K-12 rich Asians children believe this now)
  • Xenophobic caucasians might attack us if we don’t support affirmative action.
  • Blacks might attack us if we don’t support affirmative action.

 

In the above discussion Asian Americans seemed afraid to share their actual views. Why are Asian Americans so scared?

To repeat, please share any other reasons you might have for supporting race based affirmative action that discriminates against Asians.

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India Still Rising (a)

This is the second article in this series after India Still Rising.

India’s ministry of external affairs has little understanding of China, America, India or the world. The ministry of external affairs has little institutional understanding of economics, how global commons works, how global collaboration works; or the importance of:

  • execution
  • transparency
  • honesty

Part of the issue is that the ministry of external affairs lacks internal think tanks and doesn’t extensively use external think thanks. Another part of the problem is post modernist colonization of the mind, virtue signaling, risk averse careerist mindset. The ministry of external affairs needs to hire older experienced private sector Indians, ex-patriot Indians or Indians who have extensively interfaced with foreigners. They also need to learn to better use external resources such as external experts, academics, religious institutions and think thanks. Including foreign ones. [For example consulting wise friends of India such as Zachary Latif.] However to use or collaborate with foreign resources requires the ministry of external affairs to get its own house in order first . . . or it risks being played by various interest groups without a deep understanding of what these interest groups are.

India Still Rising

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East Bengal/Pakistan catches up to West Bengal/Pakistan


Today I was looking on the internet to get some more information on the Pakistan election. Honestly, I don’t have a strong opinion….

But by chance, I ended up stumbling on articles like this, When East overtakes West:

…a recent article, “East overtakes West,” in The Economist has thrown a spanner in the works. The east is the erstwhile East Pakistan and the west is today’s Pakistan. It shows that the GDP per capita of Bangladesh is $1,538 and that of Pakistan lags behind at $1,470. This is the result of a GDP growth rate of over six per cent per annum in the past 12 years. One-third of the GDP is contributed by industry and the value-added garments exports are larger than India and Pakistan put together.

The truth is that Bangladesh’s better statistics in some measures are due to demographics. Per capita values will change in opposite directions if nation underestimated its population (as Bangladesh did), and another nation overestimated its population (as Pakistan did). Using PPP corrections and such Pakistan is still a more prosperous land per person. But it’s getting close. The trendline is definitely pointing in one direction. A piece at Brookings asks “Why is Bangladesh booming?” The author notes:

Once one of the poorest regions of Pakistan, Bangladesh remained an economic basket case—wracked by poverty and famine—for many years after independence in 1971. In fact, by 2006, conditions seemed so hopeless that when Bangladesh registered faster growth than Pakistan, it was dismissed as a fluke.

But I’ve always thought that the infant mortality and life expectancy statistics in Bangladesh were things that were more important to be proud of (and on this score Bangladesh does indisputably better than Pakistan). And curiously, on this measure, Bangladesh does even better than India! But to a great extent, that’s not a fair comparison, as India is a coalition of regions, while Bangladesh would just be a very populous Indian state.

More comparable is West Bengal. Bangladesh and West Bengal look to be at parity in terms of life expectancy and per capita GDP. And metropolitan Dhaka and Kolkotta now have about the same population, at ~15,000,000.

We live in interesting times.

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Post Modernism (b)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9Tg2QtpP7A

Please watch this short Joe Rogan [Intellectual Dark Web extraordinaire] interview clip. Only about 29% of US High School graduates meet the minimum academic, physical health and IQ requirements to join the US military. Note that if high school dropouts were added the percentage would drop markedly. Less than 10% of US High School graduates are qualified for many branches of the US military. Note that the physical fitness requirements to join the US military are a joke, to put it very politely. Is America in the words of Charles Murray “Coming Apart” across class lines? Physical health and exercise are strongly correlated with academic performance, career and business outcomes:

Figure 1.18a: Adult Obesity Rates by Age and Education Level, 2008

The interview discusses how health outcomes, exercise, sports (including formal JV and Varsity High School Sports) are declining rapidly among American children. Sadly this deterioration of physical health might be leading to an increasing percentage of people around the working in “Bullshit Jobs” that don’t add value to society:

What is worse they are forced to pretend to add value and lie, which contributes to growing depression and mental health challenges (an article series on this is planned):

Global workers in “Bullshit Jobs” are not allowed to take psychedelics either. [Eastern philosophy has discussed how psychedelics can deepen meditation to achieve deeper states of consciousness.]

In eastern philosophy for thousands of years it has been believed that physical health (Sharira Siddhi), mental health (Chitta Shuddhi), and intelligence (Buddhi) can be increased by exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation (which I believe simulates the effect of modern brain therapy), sound brain therapy (Naad or Mantra Yoga), and serving others. [My hope is that researchers vigorously test all these hypothesis with data:]

Intellectual Dark Web

This is why PM Modi of India is trying to offer Yoga classes in every school student in India:

Why is America not similarly pushing for sports, martial arts, dance, gymnastics, exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation (brain therapy),  sound brain therapy and better nutrition among poor children and the children of the lower middle class? Is it because of fear of the post modernist mostly caucasion intelligentsia? Is it for fear of being accused of victim blaming, racism, bigotry, sectarianism, prejudice, Nazism, Fascism, hegemony, exploitation, oppression, imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy, male misogyny, hate? Does anyone have any ideas on how to encourage character and good behavior among children without being accused of peddling an oppressive meta narrative and universalist norm? There is incredible fear to discuss culture in America:

Is American culture sharply increasing crime?

 

It is possible that I am misunderstanding the zeitgeist and that there are other larger factors preventing American K-12 kids from eating healthy, exercising, meditating and listening to transcendent music?

If so, please let me know through your comments. This article, the fifth in the Post Modernist article series, is a plea for understanding rather than arguing a specific causation. Thanking all readers in advance for your insights and wisdom 🙂

Post Modernism (a)

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