MORE OVERSEAS MISSIONS ARE NEEDED
For instance, South America is prospective for Bangladesh as a whole. But this vast region, it seems, is served very thinly with the lone Bangladeshi embassy in Brazil. Undeniably, Brazil is South America’s biggest country and the Bangladesh mission in that country can keep watch over the rest of the continent. But would it not be better to have full fledged missions in several other resourceful countries of that continent such as Peru, Chile and Bolivia?
It is expertly sensed that considerable commercial contacts– beneficial for Bangladesh– could be developed if Bangladesh had missions in those countries directly. There would be no need for such missions to have lavish appearances or large staff strength and other embellishments. Even a skeleton staff concentrating mainly on commercial activities and housed in modest premises at such locations could yield notable economic dividends for the country perhaps.
The logic for similar expansion of missions to cover important countries and regions exist in the case of the CIS countries which are mainly the Muslims dominated Asian republic of the former Soviet Union, important east European countries, New Zealand, Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark and Norway) and Africa. Except in Uzbekistan, Bangladesh maintains no other missions in the CIS countries though all of them in varying degrees are prospective from the perspective of Bangladesh’s economic interests. Apart from the Bangladeshi embassies in Egypt and South Africa, there are no other full fledged Bangladeshi missions in the rest of the African continent though this is regrettable because Bangladesh has much prospects to develop fruitful trade and other forms of gainful economic relationships with African countries such as Madagascar, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Mozambique.
Already, Bangladeshi missions abroad are limited in number. What creates more concern is that the commercial wings in the real sense of the term exist in only 20 of them and even these limited number of commercial wings have been suffering badly from not having adequate staff at their disposal. Reportedly, the commercial wings at these 20 stations have been functioning with insufficient staff strength for a long time.
Clearly, the imperative is to fill these positions at the understaffed commercial wings of the missions at the fastest. But the staffing must not follow the tradition of dispensing favours to loyal bureaucrats. The posts must go to really dynamic and resourceful persons . Traditionally, civil servants from the ministry of commerce are sent to these posts. But most of them seem to look at their posts as sinecures. This will have to change. There is no reason why tradition should not be broken to put the right man in the right place.
Government may go for recruitment of suitable persons with the background and talent for these posts from outside the civil services. They should then be given renewable contractual appointment for, say, about a year with fixed annual targets set before them for preparing reports on trade openings, actual establishment of contacts between Bangladeshi exporters and importers of the host countries, holding of exhibitions of Bangladeshi products, etc. The appointments and contracts may be continued on fulfilment of the set target but rescinded for non fulfilment of targets. Rewards may be given for surpassing the targets. In other words, there should be clear policies to appoint truly capable persons in these posts in the first place.
They must be obliged to work under a framework in which they will realise that their jobs are not for passing time luxuriously abroad or spending fruitlessly the entertainment part of the budgets of embassies. They should be at their toes knowing that retaining their jobs and the perks depend on meeting clearly set targets. Only such a well laid structure of accountability, goals, penalties and rewards for the ones to hold key commercial posts abroad in the missions will promote the country’s economic interests.
FEBRUARY 14, 2013