H M Munir
Bangladesh having scored tremendous achievement in various socio-economic indicators over the last decade or so is now on the threshold of development highway. By maintaining consistent high growth in its gross domestic product the country is well on the way to reach its anticipated target of becoming a developed country.
According to the latest data provided by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Bangladesh has achieved the highest-ever 7.86 percent GDP growth in the 2017-18 fiscal year, widely surpassing the estimated growth of 7.65 percent. It says the size of Bangladesh’s GDP has increased to Tk22.5 trillion ($274.11 billion) in FY2017-18, rising from Tk19.76 trillion in FY2016-17. The BBS data also say that the per capita income has soared to $1,751 in FY2017-18 from $1,610 in the previous year. All this data, viewed from any angle, are indicative to the absolute strength of the country’s economy. This incredible success also comes as a real morale booster for not only the policymakers but for the ones at the roots who have been working relentlessly to the country’s economy to the next level.
It is worth mentioning here that prestigious British magazine the Economist has recently revealed that Bangladesh had surpassed Pakistan in terms of annual per capita gross domestic production in 2016-17 fiscal year. This revelation is yet another testimony to the country’s fast and vigorous stride towards economic advancement. But this achievement appears before us with even greater significance and makes every citizen feel proud when viewed from the angle that just 46 years ago, when Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan, the country was much poorer than the country it had come out of. In the nine-month Liberation War not only three million people were killed and millions others were displaced but also the roads, railways and other infrastructures were severely damaged.
The Economist rightly mentioned that when the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the helm of the newly born but war-torn country, industry accounted for only 6-7 percent of the country’s GDP while in the Pakistan economy industry sector’s contribution was more than 20 per cent at the same point of time.
From there on, the country has marched much forward. And now, industry accounts for around 30 percent of its GDP. The country that once struggled to provide shrouds for its own people now is the second largest exporter of readymade garments in the world, whose volume of garment export is more than the combined total of that of India and Pakistan.
The contributions of other sectors e.g. service and agriculture to the national economy have also increased tremendously over the years. It is truly unbelievable that Bangladesh that suffered a great famine just one year before its independence, when its population was just 70 million, is now self-sufficient in producing the major cereal rice to feed its ever burgeoning population which at present stands at around 170 million. With increasing contributions from all the economic sectors, the country’s GDP is now growing by more than seven percent per annum and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Bangladesh has also attained astounding success in various social indicators, like healthcare and education, over the years. The country has achieved tremendous success in various crucial indicators healthcare services i.e. reducing child and maternal mortality rate, eradicating various fatal diseases like polio, bringing down the number of deaths in diseases like cholera and diarrhea, ensuring sanitation and increasing the average life expectancy of people on birth. Bangladesh’s success in these areas is much greater than what its other South Asian counterparts, especially India and Pakistan, have achieved. And the country has made these achievements with a much lower per capita income of people when compared to that in either India or Pakistan. Besides, much improvement has been achieved in education and income.
We can definitely take pride in our achievements as a nation. All the stakeholders, including the government, entrepreneurs, exporters, farmers and even marginal ones in the field of agriculture deserve credit for all these achievements. Saying this, we can also say that these achievements could have been multiplied further had there not been repeated blows to the country’s journey towards democracy and dangerous confrontational national politics. So, there is no scope for us to feel complacent with the achievements we have made so far. We have still a long way to go.
Even though there has been a sharp rise in per capita income in the country it is not rising proportionately. The income gap between rich and poor is widening radically. And since the economic growth is not inclusive, wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a limited number of people. The percentage of people living under the poverty line is still alarmingly high. The literacy rate is yet to reach a desired level. Unemployment still remains an unresolved puzzle for the economy. A significant number of the country’s total workforce, a big portion of which is educated youth, is out of any sort of productive activity, a status that is technically termed as NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training).
As a result, the national economy is being deprived of the contribution that they have potential to make if provided with opportunities. Besides, corruption and a lack of transparency, accountability and good governance in our bureaucratic system; destructive rivalry in national politics; and our failure to establish democracy effectively are working as huge stumbling blocks to Bangladesh’s way of reaching anticipated level of development.
Bangladesh is committed to end poverty and attain sustainable development for all by 2030 in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) program, which consists of 17 ambitious sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 specific targets. Besides, the incumbent government has also set targets to take the country to a middle-income status by 2021 and make it a developed one by 2041. Attaining these targets will not be easy at all. In fact, implementing these agendas will be a daunting task and will require proper policy formulation and efficient and transparent use of available funds. To be able do so we have to overcome the barriers to development at any cost.
If the barriers are removed, proper policies are formulated and active participation of all the countrymen is ensured to implement the policies, Bangladesh will surely reach its development targets much ahead of the stipulated timeframes. One feels Bangladesh’s outclassing Pakistan with regard to GDP per person would work as a great source of motivation for its policymakers and general people alike in their endeavor to achieve desired development for the country.
The writer is Assistant Editor, Bangladesh Post