December 21, 2023
DHAKA – In a climate where corruption has been effectively institutionalised, it is hardly surprising that some of the candidates allied with the ruling party would not only undervalue assets in their affidavits but also get away with it, in the absence of any scrutiny or punishment whatsoever from the relevant authorities. An analysis by The Daily Star highlights how alarming the trend has been. These affidavits—meant to provide a proper insight into a candidate’s assets so that voters can make informed choices—have instead become a study in valuations that simply border on the absurd, raising concerns that extend far beyond economic outcomes.
There are instances where prime properties were quoted at a fraction of their actual market values. For example, in the affidavit of one candidate, 20 bighas of land was valued at only Tk 2,000, which cannot even buy two kilograms of mutton in today’s market. In another affidavit, a flat in Baridhara DOHS was valued at only Tk 1.3 lakh, even though one month’s rent in this upscale neighbourhood may exceed the entire flat price. One candidate took this even further, showing the value of a five-katha plot to be only Tk 400, which cannot even buy 3 litres of cooking oil. Another showed the value of 148 bhoris of gold as Tk 40,000, when one bhori alone costs over Tk 100,000 in the current market.
When a candidate declares ownership of significant assets like gold, land, and properties but appraises them at laughably low prices, it’s an affront not just to voters but also to the very integrity of the electoral process. Such undervaluation, presumably to evade taxes or cover up illicit accumulation of wealth, amounts to false declarations, which is a punishable offence both in the criminal and election laws. And the fact that the relevant authorities are refusing to take action against them shows how farcical the whole exercise surrounding the upcoming election has become. The question is, what can we expect from such candidates once they are elected?
Any scrutiny of the financial backgrounds of candidates at a time when the election is orchestrated to be held without credible opposition may seem irrelevant. But it has ramifications for the future of Bangladesh as corrupt leaders will only enable corruption. We, therefore, urge the Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, and National Board of Revenue to investigate these discrepancies thoroughly and take necessary action. Lack of response will only further erode public trust in these institutions.