Saturday, 1 April, 2023

Bangladesh’s Remarkable Development Journey: Let’s Keep It Up

Dr. Mithun Mostafiz

Bangladesh’s Remarkable Development Journey: Let’s Keep It Up
Dr. Mithun Mostafiz

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I travelled to Kolkata in May last year to participate in the ‘International Lalon and SAARC Culture Festival’ as a special guest. The program's chief guest was Firhad Hakim, Cabinet Minister for Urban Development, Municipal Affairs, and Housing for the Government of West Bengal and the current Mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). I got the opportunity to meet him briefly at his office after this multicultural celebration. The mayor and his officials were too modest and enthusiastic to welcome me during this little curtsy call-on, so I could barely speak long. However, I spent much time at KMC answering the mayor and his associates' curious questions. All of their inquiries revolved around Bangladesh's miraculous development.

After instigator America's humiliating ethical defeat in 1971 at the hands of the allied forces of Bangladesh, India, and the Soviet Union, Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of state at the time, visited Bangladesh in 1974. Kissinger who was then functioning as a face of the imperialist international order said, “Bangladesh will be a bottomless basket.” The despicable diplomat intended for the country's penurious citizens to squander all contributions from abroad. Moreover, he blatantly said, cooperation with other nations would be pointless for Bangladesh's development. In order to distract from the sorrow of the American defeat in 1971, Henry Kissinger mocked Bangladesh's progress. Kissinger's derogatory remarks offended Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nation's founder, and his finance minister, Tajuddin Ahmed. Bangladesh responded to his brazen remark with charitable work. Before being brutally assassinated in 1975, the nation's founder made significant contributions to Bangladesh's socioeconomic development. The country experienced unrivalled growth under Bangabandhu's administration.

Let me now expand on what researchers worldwide have discovered and thought about Bangladesh. Prof. Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate, has noted that Bangladesh has outpaced India in terms of women's economic and social development, despite India's higher economic growth. Sen contends that Bangladesh outperforms India in all social indicators, including gender equality, women's empowerment, mortality rate, life expectancy, vaccination rates, etc. Regarding Bangladesh's success in promoting gender justice, Professor Sen said that India might learn from them.

Bangladesh is portrayed by the World Bank Group as an example of development and improvement, with plans to reach upper middle-income status by 2031. Bangladesh is currently one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, has moved to middle-income status, and has made significant progress in terms of development and social welfare metrics, according to authors and researchers Sreeradha Datta and S. Narayan's book "Bangladesh at 50: Development and Challenges."

The current per capita income in the country is USD 2796. The opening of the Metrorail and Padma Bridge is likely to result in significant gains for the country. Education, communication infrastructure, gas, electricity, women's education, a 100% increase in employee salaries and benefits, health care, food self-sufficiency, participation in social safety net programs and assistance to underprivileged communities (the elderly, widows, and disabled as well as divorced women) are all areas that are thoroughly covered. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the government has made substantial improvements in a variety of areas, including autism, assisting poor Freedom Fighters, the housing program, women's empowerment, and the overall growth of numerous sectors.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy of several nations, including Bangladesh, is in crisis. Besides, the Russia-Ukraine conflict influences everyone on the planet; it has consequences beyond national boundaries. The Sheikh Hasina government must also handle the conflict's aftermath.

Despite the global financial crisis, Bangladesh managed its foreign exchange reserves better than some of its neighbours. In contrast to India and Pakistan, Bangladesh was the only one of the three countries to gain foreign currency reserves in January of this year. It is still a relatively small amount. Bangladesh Bank said that there were $32.22 billion in reserves. Pakistan, which is going through a severe financial crisis, had a decrease of $170 million in its foreign exchange reserves, which are currently at $2.9 billion. The Express Tribune, a Pakistani news outlet, reports that Pakistan would have to repay more than $22 billion in foreign debt and interest over the next year. Otherwise, the country will default.

It makes sense to me as a socio-political analyst that the nation's infrastructure development helps economic progress. It is impossible to describe the 14-year infrastructure development phase as continuous. Hence, the development over the last 14 years should have been merely 25% over the past 36 years, as opposed to 400%, if the improvement that has happened over the prior 36 years, from 1971 to December 2008, had been constant. On the contrary, in some other areas, surprisingly, Bangladesh witnessed much over 800% of development.

Every government development initiative helps increase people's purchasing power, create jobs, and enhance their quality of life. Remember that essentials like food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education and other public services do not spontaneously materialize. These civic benefits can only be ensured when development efforts are correctly executed.

At this point, the whole world marvelled at Bangladesh's progress. It was a country that had been torn apart soon after 1971, but it made the best of its efforts to rebuild the nation utilizing the shattered pieces of a regional government. During the administration of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh was never a bottomless pit, as no one should ever have any doubts.

According to the study "The World in 2030: Our Long-Term Projections for 75 Countries," Bangladesh's GDP would increase by the greatest of any country—16 notches—between 2018 and 2030. Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh leveraged imported raw materials and equipment to overtake China as the world's top clothing exporter. The value of the nation's digital economy is now $1.3 billion or more. The government has made it easier for citizens to access public services by digitizing its services.

It has previously been shown that Kissinger's infamous 1974 claim that "Bangladesh is a bottomless basket" was false. According to a report from HSBC Global Research, Bangladesh will most likely have the most significant change in its GDP ranking by 2030, moving from 35th to 26th place.

The nation must overcome several significant challenges in the next few years. Included here should be things like corruption, unemployment, the long-term economic effects of the corona epidemic, the repatriation of the Rohingya, fighting extremism, drug abuse, rising commodity prices, and so on. The goals and hopes that led to our liberation war will likely take time to come true. However, even so, if the country is led with patriotism, honesty, and the spirit of the Great War of Liberation, our goal will be reached quickly.


The writer is the former Chairman of the Department of Folklore Studies, Islamic University, Kushtia. Email: [email protected]