QAZI KHOLIQUZZAMAN AHMAD*
Aid, Influence and Development in Bangladesh
THAT Bangladesh is heavily dependent oti foreign aid is a widely known fact. But how heavy is that dependence is not perhaps so well-known. And much less awareness exists even among the informed public about its implications and consequences.
The Way the Aid Regime Set In
There was a tremendous sympathetic response from the world community to help in the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation ofthewar-ravaged economy. Ip fact, an aid commitment of about US $ two billioirt was made to that end in the first three years of independence.l In those days there was in fact a hesitancy on the part of the Government of Bangladesh about adopting a policy of foreign aid-based development. However, the leadership of the United Nations for coordinating aid flow for reconsowtion and rehabilitation was accepted, which set up UN Relief Operation in Dhaka (UNROD), later renamed UN Special, Relief Office in Bangladesh (UNROB). Nonetheless, the bilateral and other, multilateral aid donors naturally operated within that structure and, as might be suspected, gained a foothold and influenced the unfolding policy scenario in respect of development strategy and the role of foreign aid in that process.
There were of course foreign aid lobbies within and outside the government in Bangladesh, who, along with the donors, put up a formidable front dangling the foreign aid option before the decision makers who had a very difficult choice before them. There was a war-ravaged economy to be repaired and put back on course for development as soon as possible in the face of formidable problems of savings gap, foreign exchange gap and food shortage compounded by the impact on the economy of the oil price hike and world-wide inflation. In this backdrop, a courage of conviction of the highest order was needed for choosing a path of self-reliant development which would call for shared sacrifices and total mobilization of both human
Research Dim lor, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Dhaka, met President. BangaUesh Unnavan Parishad, Dhaka.
* * This paper is based on a lecture delivered bv the author as an invited speaker at the German Cultural Institute, Dhaka, on 4 December 1984.