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United Nations Public Service Day: Honouring public servants who are leading Bangladesh’s COVID-19 response efforts

Posted: 23 June 2021

Bangladesh, Alumni, COVID-19, Impact,

Bangladesh, like many other countries, has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts extend beyond health and loss of life. Businesses, livelihoods and delivery of education services in Bangladesh have all been strained by the pandemic—and continue to experience pressure—just like the country’s healthcare systems.

Public servants have been playing a crucial role in ensuring that regular government services continue to be delivered while also responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Bangladesh, Australia Awards alumni are in key positions in the public sector. Alumni occupy high-ranking and leadership positions, and play crucial technical roles in ministries and departments.

To mark United Nations Public Service Day, we acknowledge the contributions of Australia Awards alumni from the public sector who are in the frontline of Bangladesh’s response to COVID-19.

Mirza Ashik Rana

Joint Commissioner of Taxes Mirza Ashik Rana (pictured above) is contributing towards maintaining social balance by reducing income inequality and extending assistance to industries and commerce by ensuring proper application of the income tax law.

Mirza completed a Master of Public Policy from the University of Sydney in 2017 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. Since completing his studies in Australia, he has prioritised reducing the degree of non-compliance with taxation rules and guidelines. He has held several tax awareness fairs in Rajshahi to ensure that taxpayers know what benefits are available to them and comply with tax rules.

Mirza also implements best practices for revenue growth management through coordination with Customs, the Central Intelligence Cell, Revenue Intelligence, and other relevant departments and units to collect information about taxpayers, analyse records of income taxpayers and identify tax evasion. He designed and led a taxpayer relief initiative to support taxpayers and citizens facing financial challenges due to the pandemic by extending the due date for affected taxpayers to resolve their tax liabilities.

Australia Awards alumnus Mirza Ashik Rana (right) with President of the Japanese Grant Aid Alumni Association Shahriar Siddiqui

“Tax revenue is a key factor to the country’s economic growth, which is one of the main revenue sources for government to allocate funds for social services such as education, healthcare and social security,” he says.

“The Master of Public Policy has equipped me to analyse the effects of government’s taxation and budgetary policies on the economy more effectively. I am dedicated to bringing more people under the tax net by ensuring good governance in the whole taxation system.”

As the President of the Australia Alumni Association Bangladesh, Mirza works as a social change maker by strengthening the ties between Australian alumni, the community and partner organisations to benefit the alumni community.

Dr Anindita Shabnam Quarishi

Dr Anindita Shabnam Quarishi is a public health specialist providing support and leadership in responding to health emergencies and infectious disease prevention and control. She is an Assistant Director of Communicable Disease Control at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

Anindita completed a Master of Health Policy from the University of Sydney in 2011 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. She is applying her skills and knowledge to ensure equitable healthcare delivery and strengthen the overall health system.

Australia Awards alumna Dr Anindita Shabnam Quarishi during her graduation at the University of Sydney in 2011

In the early phases of the COVID-19 outbreak, Anindita was involved in COVID-19 case management. She worked with a multi-stakeholder management team at the Ashkona Hajj camp, a quarantine centre for Bangladeshi citizens arriving from high-risk countries. She also contributed to establishing and managing the Integrated Control Room for COVID-19 at DGHS, which was crucial for monitoring and managing the pandemic response.

Anindita has not limited herself to responding to COVID-19. She warns that “we should also be aware of other infectious diseases” during the pandemic, and has maintained a focus on monitoring the re-emergence of such diseases prevalent in Bangladesh and controlling their spread.

“A severe diarrhea outbreak amid the COVID-19 situation could create a massive problem,” she says. “As a public health specialist, I am coordinating the DGHS’s response activity by monitoring the recent outbreak of diarrhea disease in the Barishal district, assessing the need and sending emergency supplies to the affected districts.”

Md Ziaur Rahman

To overcome the trade challenges that lockdowns have caused for Bangladesh, Md Ziaur Rahman is helping strengthen the country’s supply chain to ensure unimpeded movement of goods and services.

Ziaur completed a Master of International Business from Macquarie University in 2018 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. Currently, he is a Trade Consultant and in charge of the Price Monitoring and Forecasting Cell at the Ministry of Commerce. As part of his role, he contributes to policy decision-making to maintain and ensure price stability and a working supply chain.

Australia Awards alumnus Md Ziaur Rahman (right) with former Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Her Excellency Ms Julia Niblett

“As the Chief of the Cell, it is my responsibility to respond to the economic threats of COVID-19 and ensure market stability of essential food commodities. I am devoted to controlling the surge in prices in the local market and monitoring the local and international markets,” he says.

Ziaur observes and monitors the whole supply chain of essential foods from different corners of the globe. COVID-19 challenges to all segments of food supply chains can require rapid strategic decisions to switch sources. In this scenario, Ziaur communicates with all the different parties involved and alerts local businesspeople to any changes to maintain a smooth supply chain and a stable market.

Simultaneously, he is also working as a Deputy Director of the ministry’s World Trade Organization Cell. In this capacity, he negotiates and consults with different countries regarding trade issues on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh.

Currently, Ziaur and his team at the Ministry of Commerce, together with representatives of other Least Developed Countries, are negotiating with the World Trade Organization to access medical technology for the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. He believes that if the negotiation on waiving the intellectual property obligation and technology transfer from developed countries is successful, Bangladesh will be able to produce its own COVID-19 vaccine to overcome the situation.

Shajia Taher

Shajia Taher is the Upazila Nirbahi Officer, the highest-ranking government official in the Chhagalnaiya Upazila of Feni District. Upazilas are administrative regions in Bangladesh that function as sub-units of districts. Shajia coordinates development activities at the upazila level and acts as the link between the central government and the people of the upazila. She completed a Master of Public Administration from the University of Melbourne in 2019 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Australia Awards alumnus Shajia Taher

Amongst the many projects Shajia is responsible for, she has recently been assigned to the Government of Bangladesh’s development project, Ashrayan 2, where she is supporting efforts to provide homes on a large scale to people who are landless and homeless. This project is a remarkable endeavour inaugurated by the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in commemoration of Mujib Year, which marks the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“My degree in public administration has boosted my confidence to lead from the front and expanded my administrative capacity to provide services to the people by implementing the national government projects at the upazila level,” Shajia says.

“I am proud to be part of the Ashrayan 2 project to expedite the construction of the houses, coordinating with all the local elected representatives.”

Rahat Gowhary

Additional Superintendent of Police Rahat Gowhary maintains peace and order and is working as a frontline officer of the law during the pandemic.

Rahat completed a Master of International Relations with a specialisation in political violence and counter-terrorism from Monash University in 2018 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. After returning from Australia, Rahat was entrusted to maintain law and order in the Gaibandha district. During his tenure, he established a ‘Women and Children’s Desk’ in every police station in Gaibandha. The desks are managed exclusively by female police officers to ensure a woman- and child-friendly environment for their clients.

Australia Awards alumnus Rahat Gowhary

As the head of the District Police Committee responding to the pandemic, he led his team to increase people’s awareness of COVID-19 and healthy practices. The team urged people to stay at home, wear masks, maintain physical distance and complete the required quarantine period. Furthermore, Rahat oversaw the management of food donation programs for those living in extreme poverty, and funerals of people who died of COVID-19.

“I believe that through Australia Awards, I learnt not only to enrich my academic and leadership skills to counter violence but also to encourage the future generations to work for a peaceful and just society,” Rahat says.

Image on top: Australia Awards alumnus Mirza Ashik Rana