Frequent foreign trips by government officials – to learn how to make 'khichuri' for schoolchildren or to learn how to build houses for freedom fighters – have come under increasing scrutiny thanks to recent media reports in The Business Standard and other newspapers. Recently, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed officials to reduce foreign trip expenses from development projects.
So are such foreign trips at all necessary? Are we using or misusing these opportunities? The Business Standard has reached out to eminent citizens for their reaction.
"We should start using technology to train our people"
Badiul Alam Majumdar, Country Director, Hunger Project
Education and training are both important to enhance our experience and knowledge. There is no alternative to training as it helps us to grow throughout our lives. Therefore, foreign trips for government officials are important in many cases.
However, unfortunately, in the name of such foreign trips we are creating an opportunity for government officials to travel to different countries. It has become more like spending holidays using the government's money. Foreign trips have become a way to patronise government officials. In some cases, such trips are also a source of earning for officials as the budget for these are usually huge.
Sadly, we have come to accept this, as it is being practised for years. Such trips are planned irresponsibly and there is lack of good governance in the entire process. No assessment is carried out on whether a foreign trip will bring fruitful results or not.
Due to this, a huge amount of money is wasted because we are using the money in the wrong way. But foreign trips could actually beneficial to us of properly planned.
We should start using technology to train our people. There is advanced technology like Zoom that offers live telecast. And using such platforms, we can train a huge number of people at the same time. We can use YouTube too, as it is a good source for different modules.
We need to be alert to stop wasting money and corruption in the name of such foreign trips. I did not understand why do we need to go on a foreign trip to learn how to cook khichuri.
Later, the government said, this was for management purpose. Yet, I did not understand this. However, if it is essential, then we can invite a trainer and learn from him or her. Different doors are open for us at we just need to learn how to reach and knock at those.
I find it completely redundant and a waste of money. Even, in some local training, such things happen, and they earn money through this. We must stop all these.
"Trips can be beneficial if we use our manpower tactfully"
Ali Imam Majumder , Former cabinet secretary
As we do not have enough technological knowledge, we need foreign trips in different areas to enhance our knowledge. This way, we learn from others with first-hand experience.
If we can use the experience properly, then it brings a positive result for us, and if we cannot use it, then it is just a waste of money.
There are numerous kinds of foreign trips. Government officials in development sector get technical assistance foreign trips. On the other hand, in contract-based foreign trips, government officials visit foreign countries as per an agreement.
Both trips can be beneficial if we are diligent and use our manpower tactfully. We see news that says government officials are going on a trip for expanding the cultivation of grass. This sounds odd, but this is important in different cases too.
A few years ago, people in Bangladesh did not even know about Napier grass, but now we are dependent on it and using it regularly for livestock.
When years ago, foreign trips for improvising the varieties of paddy were undertaken, we received adverse reactions then as well. However, now we are self-sufficient in rice.
Today we know, how to grow crops in the shortest time and in huge numbers. These are a result of those foreign trips. Eventually, it has served its purpose successfully.
Hence, I think such foreign trips are useful for us. But we need to be careful about a few things. We should choose officials wisely who need training and can help us to grow with the gathered knowledge in specific areas.
After doing enough background check, we should analyse the trip's benefits, choose eligible candidates who can learn and add input later, for how many days the trips are taking place and its necessity too. In this way, we can assure the money is invested sensibly.