BANGLADESH: Television Program Uses Foreign Aid Money

Bangladesh is in hot water once again. But perhaps it shouldn’t be. You try to decide!

The issue this time it the alleged misuse of millions of British pounds (1 pound = 1.5904 U.S. dollars) that Bangladesh received for financial aid. The Telegraph, a prestigious newspaper based in the United Kingdom, reports that 5 million pounds (about U.S. $7.6 million) of British aid to Bangladesh were spent on a television and radio program in which audience members and politicians discuss and debate current affairs. The show is watched by approximately 21 million people in Bangladesh, and is filmed at different locations around the country.

The issue appears to be not whether the news show is worth it but whether British aid for struggling Bangladesh was misdirected. Bangladesh receives approximately 250 million pounds a year from Britain’s annual aid budget, and its Department for International Development (DfID) oversees how the funds are allocated.

In London, a member of the British Parliament, Nick De Bois for Enfield North, visited Bangladeshi schools and charities seeking funding in September and said, “We went out there (Bangladesh) to find good projects that we thought the British taxpayer should be helping. We found many such schemes that are not getting that support…”.

In other words, argues the MP, the aid should go to schools and clinics, not TV and radio shows. Members of British Parliament are pushing for the DfID to be more transparent in revealing how and where it allocates the funds. The Telegraph reports that the questionable use of British aid funds is sure to “…fuel concerns among Conservative MPs (members of parliament) over the aid system and over the Government’s decision to increase the aid budget while cutting public spending at home”. Transparency of the DfID is a hopeful solution to such inadequate aid spending in foreign countries, such as Bangladesh.

One can only hope that projects that do need the foreign aid soon receive the aid they deserve. But without transparency and correct management, The DfID will be taking a risky stab at the aid that Bangladesh needs. At the same time, the public affairs TV and radio show, we hope, will not go off the air. It sounds like a good idea for an emerging democracy.

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