14.9.07

BRAC Loan collector killed in Afghanistan

Though the New Age Newspaper headline was 'Bangladeshi Aid Worker killed in Afghanistan'. Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun. Abdul Alim (Lebu) hailed from the district of Tangail. I wonder if he will recieve greater posthumous respect than the construction workers who die in malaysia, the restaurant workers who get stabbed in London and the cleaners who dont get paid in west asia.

I wonder who will support his family and dependants now.

The term 'Aid worker' accords an primordial agency that the Bangladeshi 'modern' third sector does not have. It is unnessesary flattery. BRAC would be the middle man, operating under someone elses incentive network and patronage. 'Hired-hand' is another word for it. We rarely 'give' anything (think sink, not source), our ngo sector is varied but on super cynical inspection fall into two categories, the beggars and the plunderers.

There are 2 ways of supporting ones activities in the absence of decent internal fundraising networks and slow grown organisational technique. The first is to play the Development game and suck up to donors and their policy cycles. The second is to look into raising money from operating as a bank to poorer sections of society.

A brutal truth is that in the anarchy, the circumstance has come about where in a given locality it is possible for a poor person to have taken loans from 4 or 5 different micro banks and be caught in a trap. NGO field workers several years down stream scratch their heads with a humility that their institutions should have had well before over stretching operations into an action scenario that they had no hope in hell of comprehending.

Microfinance Institutions try to make money and increase the horse power of individual people. Contrary to the beleif that is widely spread, microfinance institutions do not really work with the ultra poor, who are never a profitable investment. They work with the less poor, who are needy and agree to the terms and conditions of the loans.

Those who suffer from public revulsion with respect to high interest rates, stupid weekly instalments and bailiff practices are not the policy people sitting in the offices of corporate NGOdom, it is the field workers who are stigmatise and in this case tragically victimised.

I dont trust the Afghanistan police to properly investigate this matter, and wonder whether anybody else will bother.

I hope there is some deep reflection going on in BRAC about its limits and validity. BRACs Health and Education work could have been jeapordised by this. When you work with the poor and desperately submissive and beleive that it is you who are saving them, it is very easy to get deluded and enjoy your God complex.

As an organisation they arent exactly accountable to anybody other than themselves. Smaller NGOs and other developing world NGOs thing of them as hegemons, though that could be envy. I know that Bangladeshi organisations with much more funky capabilities restrained themselves from getting involved in pseudo occupied Afghanistan due to their non pragmatic interpretation of Principles.

Interestingly BRAC have opened office in the UK... should be interesting. I wonder if the 'poor' here will answer back?

3 comments:

Saif said...

http://addafication.com/2007/09/18/brac-afghanistan-abduction-and-killing-a-response-to-fugstar/

Fugstar said...

Salaam,

Ramadan has controversy, like figuring out where the moon is and what on earth is going to happen at vitr. We just need to try to be more god conscious and akhlaqi about them.

I'm not sure why above post was beyond the pale. Beyond the paling is a strange phrase and practice, and the diagnosis of an early onset murderous reasoning syndrome may be going a *little* over the top.

First i think the use of the term 'aid worker' is a misnomer, second i describe the 2 means of fund generation in the bangladeshi NGO sector, then i explain why people in desh get narked at the MF field workers and at the end I wonder what the london regeneration racket has in store for said organisation.

I'm extrapolating and interweaving Bangladesh experiences to fill in the gap. I don't rely on support in reports that would never be remotely inclined to answer my not-very-original doubts.

Are our people in the stan seen as soft and easy targets by criminals, as anti-sovereign forces, or do people fear not meeting up with their repayments, or seen as operating and legitimising the occupation there?

Marhum Abdul Ali was not working in the health or education sector. Wasn't he singled out because of the work he did for his living? whats irresponsible about asking that? Why is MF such a holy cow, even after Hasina's shudkhor statement?

The post was based on the new age report of the murder i had no knowledge at the time of this kidnap business, and im not sure how the new information changes things.

Hopefully now that the issue has been flagged by the foreign advisor we might understand more and BRAC policy and practice refined if found to be overbearing on borrowers and misleading to society.

On the MFI jive there has been a little work, check 'NGO Field Workers in Bangladesh by Mokbul Morshed Ahmad (Ashgate), partially summarised on
http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/summary_0199-2678828_ITM.

Alternatively one could speak and actually listen to the plethora of ex MFI collectors in Bangladesh and the poor who refuse MFI, the development activists who refuse to let their agencies turn into banks..there sure are lots of them. But i guess its hard to pretend than Nobel awards dont ring louder and clearer.

Saif said...

Salaam,

A fair response. I see where you are coming from. I still think I disagree quite fundamentally with the juxtaposition (or indeed, the instrumentalization) of the murder of Marhum Abdul Ali with (and for) your critique of MF. While I know you were not justifying the death in any way - it was the rhetoric of "the poor answering back" that truly bothered me.