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The AEDSB Washington Seminar Series


Can Proportional Representation Help Stabilize Democracy in Bangladesh?

Speaker: Nazrul Islam, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

When: Thursday, October 29, 2009; 12.30 pm. to 2.00 pm

Where: Room MC 08-100, The World Bank, 1818 H Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20433

If you need a pass to attend the seminar, please contact one of the following:
SAhmed20@worldbank.org (202-473-6454), AAhsan@worldbank.org (202-473-1672),DColbert1@worldbank.org(.202-458-7156), or BSen@worldbank.org (202-473-9397).


This paper examines whether a switch from the current Winner Takes All (WTA) system to the Proportional Representation (PR) system can help Bangladesh stabilize her democracy. It begins by considering the underlying reasons for unstable democracy in Bangladesh and in developing countries in general and the ways in which this instability can be overcome. Next it surveys the international experience with the PR system and identifies different channels through which the system can exert its stabilizing influence on Bangladesh democracy. The paper also discusses certain potential problems of the PR system and the ways to overcome them in the context of Bangladesh. The paper ends by emphasizing the need for an open public discussion in order to generate popular support for a switch to the PR system.


About the Presenters

Nazrul Islam was both a student and teacher at the economics department of Dhaka University. He did his M.Sc. (Econ) from Moscow State University and his A.M. and Ph. D., both in economics, from Harvard University. His teaching career has spanned Dhaka University, Harvard University, Emory University, and Kyushu University, and is currently a Senior Economist at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs' Development Policy Analysis Division.

He has an extensive record of published research, including three books and numerous journal articles on Bangladesh development issues, and an influential 1995 Quarterly Journal of Economics article on the panel data approach to international growth empirics. Studying transition economies, he has also pioneered the use of the dual approach to growth accounting and the Lewis growth model to the study of China’s industrialization process. His recently edited book on China, Resurgent China: Issues for the Future, has emerged as an important work on contemporary economic issues of China. In more recent articles on Bangladesh, focusing mostly on governance issues, Dr. Islam has argued for salary reform as a way of improving the quality of civil administration, shortening the government term, and switching from the “Winner Takes All (WTA)” to the “Proportional Representation (PR)” system as a way of stabilizing and improving democracy.

Dr. Islam is also known for his work on environmental issues, taking the initiative to found the Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN) - an influential global network of non-resident Bangladeshis working to assist Bangladesh in solving her environmental problems and in confronting the climate change threat. He has published several articles on flood and river issues, the role of civil society in environmental protection, and the relationship between environmental quality and income level of a country.