Dear reader, I have an exciting piece of news that I really want to share with you. Well, many of you may already know that Pakistan now wants to be like Bangladesh. Recently, Pakistani journalist Zaigham Khan has advised the prime minister of his country to follow the development model of Bangladesh to ensure progress of Pakistan. He came up with the advice for the newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan while speaking at a talk-show styled ‘Awaam’ on the Capital TV of the country.
Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is reportedly going to follow the transparent governance model of Sweden, which has the lowest levels of national debt, low and stable inflation and a relatively healthy banking system among the European Union states. In reply to the party statement, Zaigham suggested that the new premier and the ruling party should follow the Bangladeshi model of development, instead of Sweden. After this suggestion, the video clip of the talk-show went viral on the social media. In the talk-show, Zaigham lauded the tremendous development Bangladesh made in the recent years. He drew an analogy between the Dhaka Stock Exchange and Islamabad Stock Exchange to explain the weakness of the Pakistan bourse. Other discussants at the talk-show also lauded the progress of Bangladesh. Zaigham said even if Imran Khan can fix all the problems, including the wide-ranging corruption, Pakistan will need 10 more years to become equal to Bangladesh in development. The noted journalist also mentioned that Bangladesh now exports goods and services worth $40 billion a year but Pakistan only $22 billion. Zaigham said, “We don’t want to be like Sweden, for God’s sake, please make us just like Bangladesh”. He further added, “We’ll be very much grateful to Imran Khan, if he can take us in the level of Bangladesh by next 10 years, which is also impossible”.But this Pakistan once had dominated Bangladesh for a long time. Now Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan in many sectors. The United Nations (UN) has recognised Bangladesh as a developing country. Unfortunately, during his visit to Dhaka in 1974, Henry Kissinger, the then US National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations, termed Bangladesh as a ‘bottomless basket’. Under Kissinger's guidance, the United States government supported Pakistan in the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. Kissinger was particularly concerned about the expansion of Soviet influence in South Asia. There are a number of comments for which Kissinger came under fire. He described the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a ‘bitch’ and the Indians as ‘bastards’. But the most irritating quote is of him dismissing the idea of an independent Bangladesh by saying, ‘the place is and always will be a basket case’.
However, the UN classifies all countries across the world under three criteria – least developed, developing and developed countries. The UN has recognised Bangladesh as developing country, after graduating from ‘Least Developed Country’ (LDC) bloc. Bangladesh has fulfilled the eligibility requirements to graduate from LDC, as it has met all the three criteria for the first time for getting out of the LDC bloc. The three criteria include: Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, Human Assets Index (HAI) and Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI). The UN recognition would allow the country to start graduating from the LDC category and would have to qualify two more reviews in 2021 and 2024 by the same UN committee to get out of the LDC list.
According to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, a country needs to fulfil some criteria to be a developing country: Per capita income should be at least $1230. Currently the per capita income of Bangladesh is $1610. Human Resources Index point should be at least 64 where Bangladesh stands with 72 points. The economic risk point of Bangladesh is now 25.2 per cent. If this point exceeds 36, one country has to be in the list of Least Developed Countries. Bangladesh looks likely to be the first LDC ever to graduate on the basis of all three criteria.
Bangladesh is one of the bright stars from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era. The final MDG progress report published by the General Economics Division (GED) of the Bangladesh Planning Commission indicated Bangladesh’s remarkable progress: poverty was cut to a half and school enrolment in primary and secondary achieved 97 per cent. However, other social challenges persist such as youth unemployment, climate change and quality of education.
In July 2015 the World Bank recognised Bangladesh as a lower-middle income country. The World Bank, in its data, elevated Bangladesh and three other countries as lower-middle-income economies on the basis of their per capita gross national income (GNI). The lending agency calculates per capita GNI on the basis of the gross national income of a country by converting it to US dollars divided by the midyear population using its Atlas method.
Bangladesh has already adopted advanced Information and communication technology (ICT) to be digitised in all spheres of its functions. The government has already introduced e-commerce, e-banking, automated clearing house etc. Things are really a historic move towards achieving higher productivity across all economic sectors including agriculture and small and medium-sized enterprises through use of ICTs.According to a recent publication, ‘Bangladesh: Consolidating Export-led Growth’, the country needs to improve its reliable energy supply, revise business policies that stunt the development of non-garment exports, and improve property and land rights registry systems to protect investments to reach the next level. It is not possible to make change the country over night. But if we can take and do some pragmatic job step by step than it will possible to transform Bangladesh into a progressive one. To overcome obstacles, strategies should be developed to decrease the economy’s reliance on low-cost exports, such as garments. This includes focusing on higher education and technical and vocational skills training.
The people of Bangladesh are crammed onto a flood plain swept by cyclones and without big mineral and other natural resources. It suffered famines in 1943 and 1974 and military coups in 1975, 1982 and 2007. When it split from Pakistan in 1971 many observers doubted that it could survive as an independent state. Bangladesh’s economy has recorded remarkable performance in the new millennium. Bangladesh was once famously dubbed ‘the test case for development’ is today an important example for others within the developing world. The country’s goal to become an upper-middle-income country by 2021 will require even stronger annual growth of 7.5–8 per cent. This is not only possible, but highly likely!
(The writer acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.)
The writer is a Chinese Government PhD Fellow and Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jagannath University, Dhaka