Waiting for the New Sun

Bappy Rahman

31st December, 2019 01:56:22 printer

Waiting for the New Sun

Today is the last day of the year 2019. The following day is the first day of 2020. In the year 2019, Bangladesh has experienced several notable social and economic achievements.

The ruling Awami League government has been working relentlessly to build a poverty-free and ICT-based prosperous Bangladesh in line with its electoral pledges. Robust economic reforms, remittances received from the expatriate community, the boost in export, coupled with the vision of the country’s leadership, are significant factors behind the turnaround of Bangladesh’s economy. Even in the face of the global recession, the country has recorded an estimated 8.1 percent GDP growth in 2019. Bangladesh has also climbed up a spot to 135 among 189 countries in the 2019 human development index, according to a report by the United Nations Development Program.

According to a World Bank report, the Bangladesh economy sustains strong growth in the fiscal year 2019, led by rising exports and record remittance inflow. Remittances grew by 9.8 percent, reaching a record of $16.4 billion in the fiscal year 2019. The contribution of net export growth was positive, supported by a diversion of garment export orders from China. Agricultural and pharmaceutical exports led to non-readymade garment export growth. However, leather and leather product exports declined by 6 percent. Net foreign direct investment increased by 42.9 percent from a low baseline with investments in the power, food, and textile sectors. Private consumption grew by 5.4 percent. Private sector credit growth was weak and bank liquidity remains constrained. Non-performing loans continued to rise in the banking sector.

Another study of World Bank namely Doing Business 2020 says that Bangladesh carried out three business reforms during the past year, the most in a decade, and would need to accelerate the reform pace to further improve its regional and global competitiveness. The country rose to the 168th position in the global ease of doing business rankings this year from 176th in the previous year.

However, this is not the end of the story. Bangladesh saw some horrible cases of murder in 2019. Of these murders, the ones that shook the nation were the killings of Buet student Abrar Fahad, Rifat Sharif in Barguna, Nusrat Jahan Rafi in Feni, and Taslima Begum Renu in Dhaka, who was murdered by a mob.

This year, the dengue fever outbreak was alarming in Bangladesh, where there was panic all over, with people urgently seeking for blood. On a single day in August, nearly 2,500 patients tested positive of dengue and were admitted to hospitals. It was the worst outbreak in the history of Bangladesh, as hospitals ran out of bed with more patients getting admitted.

Bangladesh has bitter experience of series building fires, especially in factories where safety and structural standards have long been inadequate. This year Dhaka has seen a pair of major fire incidents that have shaken the nation. The first fire tore through apartment buildings and chemical warehouses in Old Dhaka’s Chawkbazar that took 67 lives, and the second that took place in a commercial building in the upscale area of Banani. At least 25 people have been killed, and about 74 injured after a massive fire engulfed a 22-story building. People even jumped from a 22-floor structure to escape.

At least ten people have been killed and millions displaced after Cyclone Bulbul smashed into India and Bangladesh in the year 2019.  However, a total of 2.16 million people were evacuated from their homes across the country. Bulbul is not the first powerful storm to hit the region this year. In May, seventeen people died following Cyclone Fani in ten districts of Bangladesh. These are the impacts of climate change.

Although the situation seems quite grim, Bangladesh is not giving up. The country is often considered a climate-change adaptation champion. The government is committed to the cause. Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations Secretary-General, termed Bangladesh as the best teacher about how to adapt to climate change impact. He also lauded Bangladesh as ‘miraculous’ in addressing climate change issues. Ban Ki-moon, the chair of the ‘Global Commission on Adaptation’ specifically said the following while speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Dhaka meeting of the Commission: “We are here to learn from Bangladesh’s experience and vision about how to adapt to the climate change impact. Our best teacher, who is on the front lines of climate change impact, opened doors. Among a few countries, which have the experience to teach the rest of the world about climate change adaptation, Bangladesh is the best to teach in this regard. So Bangladesh is the best teacher from whom we can learn about climate change adaptation. While the rest of the world debate about climate change, Bangladesh is adapting to a warmer, more violent and less predictable climate.”

However, in 2019 the prime minister has launched the crackdown, saying it was necessary to prevent a repeat of the January 2007 coup by the powerful military, which said tackling corruption was one of its key goals. The high-profile head of the Dhaka youth wing of Hasina’s Awami League party, Ismail Hossain Samrat, was arrested with one of his associates. This strong drive against corruption, especially the crackdown against Casino clubs in Dhaka, has been welcomed by the people of Bangladesh. The crackdown against even her party men has increased the government’s popularity.

The Year 2020 will mark a significant milestone in the history of Bangladesh. The year will mark the 100th Birth Anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of the nation. The country is moving forward. Development activities are in progress, and the standard of living is also improving. But corruption, drug and militancy grasped the whole society like deadly diseases as the military dictators ruled the country for a long time. Not enough has been done in the past; there needs to be a step-change to tackle these problems more effectively. These are sombre reminders to all of us that the struggle for independence is still an unfinished business. The government and citizens should work effectively together towards building a prosperous Sonar Bangla as dreamt by the Father of the Nation.

Let the sun rise. We are waiting for the new sun!

(The writer acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.)

The writer is a Chinese Government Ph.D. Fellow and Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jagannath University, Dhaka