In October 2016, the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim came to Bangladesh for three days to witness the success of Bangladesh in poverty alleviation. Before leaving Bangladesh, Jim Yong Kim told in a press conference that there were many challenges in uplifting lower-income countries to medium-income countries and total eradication of poverty by 2030.
He advised to give emphasis on the- (1) reform of existing policies to improve the business environment; (2) increase of institutional capacity; and (3) establishment of good governance in the judiciary, nationalised banks, tax collection, anti-corruption commission, etc to have a strong civil society. The World Bank can extend its assistance for the stability of the economy, human development, regional communication, business environment, fuel, etc.
In a seminar, attended by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina as well as the World Bank President, the Hon’ble Prime Minister expressed her hope that Bangladesh’s poverty rate would fall to 7-8 percent by 2021. With regard to sustainable development, she said that due to the continued efforts, Bangladesh had been able to establish a model example in the world. We know that her vision, strong leadership and relentless efforts actually worked behind this achievement. The World Bank President appreciated Bangladesh’s excellent achievement in poverty alleviation. Mr Kim also said that investment for human development is as urgent and necessary as the investment in infrastructure sector.
The analysis of their statements predicts that Bangladesh has to face a number challenges to overcome poverty by 2030. The first challenge is to develop the human resources sector and the next one is to develop the environment for domestic and foreign investments. The two tasks will need to be done simultaneously, as complementary to one another.
About 9 million families in Bangladesh are living below the poverty line. They must be included in the development framework of human resources. The initial work is to prepare upazila-wise lists of the poor families. One member from each family would be selected for training of international standard so that they can work as carpenter, plumber, electrician, tailor, driver, motor vehicle mechanic, etc. Such training facilities should be made available at the upazila level. Every year 1.5 million selected persons would be brought under various training programmes so that every poor family will have, at least, one trained person in 6 years. It does not seem to be very difficult to organise such training. It is possible using the existing infrastructure. In this regard, the ILO or the World Bank might extend necessary guidance and financial assistance.
These 1.5 million trained people can be employed in three ways. The first way is the arrangement of self-employment in the country. But in this case, the major problem would be to get capital. Therefore, it is recommended that these trained people should be provided with necessary funding from banks. I believe many banks of Bangladesh will come forward to assist them.
The second way is to work in different government and non-government organisations. According to the available data, about 2 million people enter in the job market every year in Bangladesh. Therefore, it will not be difficult for these trained persons to find appropriate job. The economically backward population could be brought above the poverty line, if the government formulates necessary policies preferring their employment. However, we need to attract foreign as well as local investment. The coordination of new thoughts, technology and management is very important while ensuring investment friendly environment and government collaboration for attracting foreign and local investments. In this case, we should be careful so that corruption does not arise in any way.We have seen that the families who receive remittance from their members working abroad are financially in a better position than others. If the families under poverty line can be converted into remittance recipients, then those families will not remain poor. Therefore, the third way for their employment is to send them abroad. About 0.6 to 0.7 million Bangladeshis are going abroad for work every year. The government, on priority basis, can select at least 0.5 million people from this trained group every year for foreign employment. In this way, it is possible to bring 3 million poor families above poverty line in six years. If needed, necessary bank loan could be made available to meet the cost for their going abroad. Special policies to manage the entire process of migrating workers from the poor families should be formulated. I am confident, if these three methods mentioned above are implemented in one package together, it is possible to eradicate poverty from Bangladesh within 6 years.
We believe it is easier to maintain peace in political and economic fields by establishing a fair and just economy based society. It will be possible to make Bangladesh a happier and prosperous country, if the poor people could be made free from poverty by bringing them in the mainstream of the country’s economy. We know that our Hon’ble Prime Minister has been working hard day and night for that purpose.
According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), poverty rate must be reduced to 3% by 2030. The World Bank said that if the present trend of poverty reduction in Bangladesh continues, the poverty rate in Bangladesh will stand at 5.98% in 2030. But, I believe Bangladesh has the ability to bring poverty down to almost zero before that timeframe. However, this is definitely challenging. And by bringing that challenge into reality, Bangladesh might be an example to other countries of the world.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has started the trial of the war criminals, completed the trial of the killers of the Father of the Nation and taken strict measures to eliminate militant and terrorist activities from Bangladesh. Earlier, no head of state or government showed such courage. She is not only the daughter of Bangabandhu; she is the fearless voice of every person who believes in peace and democracy in this country, the staunch leader of our hope and aspiration, the inspiration of our survival. So, like a brave warrior, she has done all these serious tasks at the risk of her own life.
Bangabandhu has given us Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina will give us poverty and exploitation free golden Bangladesh, the people of Bangladesh expect that. She is the only person who can fulfil the expectation of the poor people of this country. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was the Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years. For the welfare of the country and the people, the Malaysians kept him in that position for so many years. Likewise, if the people of Bangladesh like to see Sheikh Hasina running the country for more years, hope they will not be disappointed.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary