Bangladesh has done a ‘miracle’ in economic and social progress predominantly supported by a shift to the non-farm sector and a large workforce, analysts observed on Tuesday.
Access to microfinance, investment on human capital, women empowerment and infrastructure upgrade also helped a lot towards this end, economists said at a book launching seminar at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.Investment on some key infrastructures like Jamuna Bridge helped internal migration of the labour, which actually contributed to a growth of the non-farm sector, especially RMG and pharmaceutical industries, they explained.
The economists made the observations while commenting on a book titled: “Economic and Social Development of Bangladesh: Miracle and Challenges’ jointly published by JICA Research Institute and BIDS.
“Bangladesh’s recent economic and social success under several unfavourable situations can be called a miracle,” Dr Yasuyuki Sawada, one of the authors of the book and Chief Economist and Director General of ADB commented.
He listed industrialization success, infrastructure, microfinance and women empowerment as the mechanisms for structural transformation that Bangladesh has recently gone through.
However, the World Bank’s lead economist Dr Zahid Hussain, warned against any complacency regarding the success, saying that some peer countries of Bangladesh with similar historical junctures like China and Vietnam have done much better in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction.
“There is no doubt that our achievement is much larger and wider than our previous expectation, which has increased aspiration and potentials,” he remarked.But at the same time, he also said: “Development aspiration of Bangladesh is now much higher compared to its achievement.” he stressed on the steps that have been missed out or put less importance.
Now, the time has come to put more emphasis on quality of education, skill development, productivity of labour force, setting priorities for infrastructure, more expansion of healthcare facilities and meaningful social protection, according to analysts.
Dr Binayak Sen, BIDS research director, said Bangladesh’s success with very low public expenditure compared to some similar countries is definitely exceptional.
He suggested putting more focus on exploring decentralised urban development.
Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud praised the countries success because it earned success even after poor governance.
According to him, low-cost solutions in education, health sector and excellent rural road network helped Bangladesh a lot in the achievement.
For moving forward, the country will require focusing on higher technology, more skilled and productive manpower and raising public trust in institutions i.e. increasing governance and institutional capacity.
He said ‘one-party dominated’ democratic system is a big challenge for ensuring transparent, efficient and credible economic management in the country.
About the issue, Planning Minster MA Mannan said although governance is an important issue the government has its own priorities like lowering basic poverty, improving infrastructure and energy etc.
“If these important issues are addressed, governance will ultimately reach the door,” he commented.
He also noted that sustainability in state power and able leadership were the catalysts behind the country’s latest success.
He also questioned whether democracy or governance situation of China and Vietnam was better than that of Bangladesh.
JICA Chief Representative Hitoshi Hirat, ADB Country Director Monmohan Parkash, BIDS researcher, also an author of the book, Dr Minhaj Mahmud, Dr Imran Matin of Brac, also spoke at the seminar chaired by BIDS Director General KAS Murshid.