The year 2016 is lost in the layers of time. It was comprised of 12 months, 52 weeks and 366 days just like any other year in the Gregorian calendar. Yet it was different in contents, meaning the events that took place within its space shaped individual, national and global futures.
If we look at how 2016 shaped lives in Bangladesh, it was full of constant changes that however didn’t significantly change the constant. Politically, Awami League consolidated its position further, its leader and prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s personal image enhanced at home and abroad. The fate of the second largest political party, BNP, took a further beating as it failed to reorganize itself and recover its strength frittered away by the political frictions of the previous years.
Jamaat-e-Islami was marginalized after its key leaders were hanged for war crimes and younger leaders and workers were thrown behind bars. Jatiya Party maintained its absurd position as a domesticated opposition party in the parliament, failing to punch above its weight. The left-leaning parties had a subliminal existence, having barely enough momentum not to be utterly forgotten.
Altogether, the political landscape of Bangladesh did not improve much as the prospects of democracy looked further removed than before. The nation still remains divided and peaceful transfer of power does not seem to have a chance anytime soon short of a miracle. The leadership crisis looks acute as the nation gropes in the dark for qualified people to lead them in the coming days.
Economically, the country has been a mixed bag of good and bad news. The country was recognized as a lower-middle-income country in 2015, But it was in 2016 that it attained the highest per capita income since its independence in 1971. But foreign direct investment did not sufficiently pick up. The export volume slightly slumped and the import volume surged. But job creation has not been satisfactory. The stock market stuttered, while lack of borrowing held the banking sector in a state of near paralysis.
It has happened despite undertaking of large projects such as the Padma Bridge construction. The housing sector is nervous because people seem less interested in buying new land and apartments for a number of reasons. The global economic factors have interplayed to slow down economies across the world, thus taking a bite out of inward remittances sent by expatriate Bangladeshi workers.
2016 can be marked as the deadliest year so far for a terrorist attack on the soil of Bangladesh that was also linked to an international terror network. On July 1, homegrown terrorists, supposedly foreign trained, entered the Holy Artisan Bakery in Gulshan and brutally killed 20 hostages, 18 of whom were foreign nationals. This one atrocious event reverberated fear and grief through the country like never before. It also for the first time put Bangladesh on the terror map of the world.
Overall, Bangladesh passed an important year in 2016 in terms of achieving certain economic milestones, but political inertia and terrorist threats to a large extent undermined its jubilation. The country is still worried about its political future as no end to confrontation between the two largest camps is in sight. Neither is it comfortable to think that one of the two parties might eventually wither away, leaving an undesirable vacuum.
This one anxiety along with the lingering fear of terrorism are two main carryovers from 2016 that are likely to stay with this nation in 2017 and beyond. Effectively, both of these factors stem from the same source. The political instability is a direct outcome of that shortcoming, whereas terrorism is brewing as its byproduct. A divided nation not only becomes week, but also invites outsiders to meddle in its affairs.
We wish our readers, contributors, patrons and well-wishers a very happy New Year.