After all, it’s more fun to watch the cricket
Since earlier this month, the country has been holding its breath in anticipation. It was anticipation for an event of significant implications.
There was apprehension. There was hope. There were discussions and debates. There was a buzz in the air about what would happen in the future. There was the notion that, based on how things pan out, there could be significant changes being put into practice.
This momentous event that gripped Bangladesh and its citizens and caused excitement, hope, worry, fear, apprehension, etc was naturally not the national budget that was put into place last week by the government.
Of course not.
No, this momentous and all-important event that would determine the future of Bangladesh was the Bangladesh Cricket Team competing in the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Now, on the surface, my claim may seem preposterous. How could I even dare compare the two?
How could I begin to draw a parallel between a silly exercise -- an exercise where grown men persevered in knocking around a specially designed spherical object with a specially designed wooden object while other grown men in the opposition attempted to thwart their endeavours -- and one of the most important decisions any government in any nation or economy undertakes during its time in power?
The answer, however, is quite simple: Nobody cares about the latter. Everyone cares about the former.
Don’t take my word for it. Ask yourself -- yes you, reading these words right now -- what you have more interest in.
Can you genuinely, hand to heart, admit that you care more about Bangladesh’s national budget more than you care about the cricket team’s performance in this World Cup?
Chances are that unless you have professional reasons -- such as being a journalist or economist or you happen to be a businessperson -- you will not be putting in the hours to know about the details of this year’s budget. Or next year’s. Or the year after that.
You know it. I know it. But what’s more important is that the ones responsible for formulating the budget also know it.
It has been said that this year’s budget favour the wealthy and favour businesses rather than looking after the needs of the average Bangladeshi.
Every year’s budget is more than likely to tell the same story. It’s because the wealthy have a vested interest in the budget. The average Bangladeshi? Not so much.
Sure, everyone has some minute interest in the budget. A scroll through Facebook -- certainly the most important platform in Bangladesh today to get a “feel” for any particularly important phenomenon -- revealed to me that there was to be an increase in the price of milk powder and sugar. This naturally meant that drinking tea was about to become more expensive.
Bangladeshis care about their tea. And given the lack of posts on most other issues, I am compelled to conclude that they care about their tea far more than other “measly” concerns such as the country’s infrastructure, economic stability, employment, liveability, human rights for the minority, the environment.
While the country’s economy continues to be crippled by the burden of non-performing loans and shoddy governance steeped in nepotism and a culture of impunity, we the average citizens bicker about whether “khelbe tiger jitbe tiger” is the most annoying advertisement ever aired on television.
And the powers above laugh at us and laugh all the way to the bank. Multiple banks, home and abroad.
There’s obviously no easy solution to this predicament. Attempts at protests, at bringing change have been struck down multiple times and the system has always favoured those already favoured. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to Bangladesh -- look around the world and you will find this to be the reality everywhere.
However, having a defeatist mentality will never solve any problems. Nor will ignorance and apathy. Though this brings another dilemma because ignorance and apathy are comforting.
It is much easier to be ignorant of how messed up our country truly is. It is much easier to rant about problems than wanting to change our thinking to devising solutions. It is much easier to turn a blind eye, to be apathetic, to the troubles that plague this country and its citizens, especially the less fortunate, every single waking moment of their lives.
But it’s time we asked ourselves -- what is the price of our ignorance and apathy? There will always be a good reason to support and cheer for the Tigers. But is it not equally important, if not more, to become informed citizens?
So you may not care about the budget. But it’s time you should.
AHM Mustafizur Rahman is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.