The story of Robin Hood states a protagonist who essentially redistributes income in his society, when the oppressive king and the responsible authority fail to do so, in lieu of inclusive political institutions and therefore, economic institutions.
While the mass population had cheered for Robin Hood for centuries, and subsequently, for rebels using alternate routes towards achieving social justice, the pitfall of such stories eludes our eyesight. Therefore, we applaud the story of kidnappers getting beaten to death by mob.
We raise our voice, applauding the idea of rapists being killed in extrajudicial process and so on.
However, if the system does not allow the wrongdoer to get punished in the due process, how can anyone be blind enough to believe that extrajudicial process will ensure justice?
Even if some alleged wrongdoers get punished by such efforts, nobody can guarantee that innocent people will not be subjected to mob lynching. Thus, there is no shortcut to achieving the long-term national goals, such as more equitable society, higher standard of living for all, and on top of all, sustainable development.
As the country enters a new year and a new decade, with hopes and ambitions as large as the SDGs, the critical conversation about stronger and inclusive institutions – and their role as a necessary condition to realise such goals – cannot be overstated. The institutions consist of rules and regulations that govern the state and the society.
According to American economist Douglass North, institutions are the humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic and social interaction.
While the picture painted above might not be true for all the countries or societies, importance of inclusive institutions to instigate sustainable development has been reiterated by existing literatures. The logical inference is, without inclusive economic and political institutions, no nation can achieve sustainable growth and development, regardless of the periodic spurs of growth.
In other words, in the absence of inclusive institutions, the growth and development will not be inclusive enough. Therefore, inequality will not be resolved and social cohesion will always be tense.
Moreover, such a society incentivises illegal and immoral activities by not punishing them. Eventually, the general mass loses trust in the system, and the system breaks down.
Why is trust in institutions important? What matters most while on the verge of any national emergency is the ability to plan and execute that plan. When people do not trust or adhere to the rules and regulations, the aftermath of such an event can be less than desired.
Here, the inference that how different stakeholders of a certain society behave is intrinsically determined by some other innate quality might not be the case.
Moreover, these discussions often get diverted while facing tough questions, which results in resorting to short-term and superficial solutions. For instance, while the nation cannot stop discussing the probable gains from various regional and international conflicts, the tough conversation of whether we have that capacity to achieve such gains escapes our discussion.
While the discussions regarding challenges and opportunities of the nation do not exclude "demographic dividend", the prerequisite for realising such dividends – such as expanding budgetary allocation in social sectors, including health, education and social protection programmes – eludes realisation.
On that note, the recent event of the coronavirus outbreak may reiterate the importance of sufficient healthcare professionals, and the dire necessity of expanding public spending in health sector.
However, the possibilities of a nation such as ours that had the audacity to fight for a language, freedom, and inclusive economic and political institutions cannot be predicted, at least as long as we are willing to uphold them.
Eshrat Sharmin, is a research associate at SANEM. She has a master's degree in Economics from Jahangirnagar University.