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Dhaka Tribune

Panelists: Real development requires aligned realities

  • Dialogue discusses Bangladesh's GDP growth
  • Panel highlights poverty and investment challenges
Update : 26 Sep 2023, 10:23 AM

Panelists from different sectors on Monday stressed that the real development of a country is only possible when development and reality are equal and not parallel. 

They exchanged views at a citizen platform dialogue on how, despite GDP growth in Bangladesh, limited private investment and a significant number of people living below the poverty line challenge real development.

The dialogue, titled “Bangladesh Development Narratives and Parallel Realities: Perspectives of Backward Communities,” was held at the Krishibid Institution Bangladesh’s convention hall in Dhaka. 

“Development is not possible without investment,” the panellists stated. 

At the beginning of the event, a book with the same title as the citizen platform dialogue was unveiled.

The panelists included, Citizens Platform Core Group members Advocate Sultana Kamal, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Fellow Professor Mostafizur Rahman and Apex Footwear Limited Managing Director Syed Naseem Manzoor and former judge of Appellate Division Justice Md Abdul Mateen.

The event was presided over by Prof Rehman Sobhan, economist and founder chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of Citizen Platform for SDG Implementation and distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), presented the main article in the dialogue.

He said that if a family is financially weak, its members lag behind in various aspects, including education and treatment. 

“The current government has increased the GDP, launched mega projects, and improved the development rate, but individual-level development is still far off. 

“One reason for this is that while government investment has increased, private investment has not. 

“Another reason is the government's unsuccessful revenue collection. Following that, allocations for education and health have been reduced due to the prioritization of mega projects. 

“Weaknesses have been observed in external debt service,” he said. 

"We live in two different societies. It is true that we have improved, but not everyone has been part of this development. If we want to bring everyone to one reality, we need recognition. However, I see reluctance in this matter," he remarked. 

Regarding employment, he said there is currently an employment shortage in Bangladesh.

“As a result, educated unemployment is rising, leading to increased emigration. This issue is most prominent in the northern region of the country. Many still live below the poverty line in Kurigram,” said Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya.

On the topic of violence against women, he noted that despite having female leadership in many of Bangladesh's main roles, violence has not subsided. 

“Women are now an endangered group in Bangladesh. Additionally, the management of all government institutions in Bangladesh is weak, with many facing shortages. Corruption is rampant, increasing through not only financial but also political power,” he said. 

“Development cannot be seen as a model if it does not benefit the entire population. If all the undertaken projects had been implemented properly, this issue would not have arisen. A democratic transition is necessary for Bangladesh's future progress. The shift to democracy has become essential,” he added. 

In the president's speech, founding chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Professor Rehman Sobhan said: “Bangladesh has policies, but their implementation is lacking due to a lack of pressure on the government.”

“Democracy has failed here, and I blame civil society for this failure. If we want to implement Bangabandhu's ideals, civil society and political figures must work together,” he added. 

Human rights activist Advocate Sultana Kamal said: "The development of Bangladesh will not be possible as long as policy and implementation are not aligned.”

“What similarities exist between the current situation and Bangabandhu's ideology?” she questioned. 

“We want to see the realization of his vision. We are uncertain about the way forward. If we do not discuss it, how can the country progress? Merely seeking a solution to the current situation is not enough," she added. 

Former judge of the Appellate Division Md Abdul Mateen acknowledged Bangladesh's progress. 

However, he questioned the extent of overall development. 

“In 1972, the number of millionaires was five. This increased to 93,000 in 2020 and 91,000 in 2021. Corruption has grown alongside this increase,” he said. 

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Fellow Professor Mostafizur Rahman said that when he assesses individual progress versus overall national progress, there is a clear disparity. 

“If you only consider the average, it will not lead to sustainable development across all sectors. Sustainable development should not impede the growth of future generations,” he said. 

Apex Footwear Limited Managing Director Syed Naseem Manzoor admitted that despite correct policies, Bangladesh's development is hindered by a lack of implementation. 

“In addition to education and healthcare, employment opportunities in industrial establishments should be expanded. Having statistics on which degrees lead to which jobs is crucial. Furthermore, migration to Dhaka should be minimized,” he suggested. 

Culture and drama personality Mamunur Rashid said that politicians, technologists, and economists should be involved in the discussion on the country’s development. 

“Planners or economists are not overseeing the country's mega projects and economic plans; instead, bureaucrats are handling them. As a result, the country's development is not being planned properly, and the quality of education is deteriorating,” he said. 

Writer Selina Hossain commented: "Ultimately, aligning the parallel reality and development narrative in Bangladesh should be straightforward; those in power need to ensure their actions match their words."

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