Half of the rural population of Bangladesh has no access to electricity, ranking the country in bottom place among the least developed countries (LDCs) in Asia, according to a UN study launched on Wednesday.
"The Least Developed Countries Report 2017" report was launched in Bangladesh at an event organized by the Dhaka-based think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at the CIRDAP auditorium.
Citing the report, CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun said in 2014, nearly 60% of the overall Bangladeshi population had access to electricity – the lowest among all the Asian LDCs.
In contrast, two other Asian LDCs, Nepal and Bhutan, are on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) of universal access to modern energy.
“At this rate, the challenge of reaching the SDG of universal access to modern energy by 2030 will be substantially greater for Bangladesh,” she said.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report identified a huge discrepancy between the country’s rural and urban populations, with around 84% of the urban area inhabitants enjoying access to electricity.
However, the report says this figure is still low compared to the world average.
Experts at the launch event on Wednesday urged the government to strengthen Bangladesh’s electricity system and address electricity governance and finance to ensure power supply to both home and business users at cheap rates.
“Bangladesh has significantly increased electricity production over the last 10 years, but there are still some challenges,” said Prof Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of CPD.
“The country needs to increase energy production to achieve the target of being a developed country by 2041.”
'LDCs lagging behind in terms of access to energy'
According to the report, 47 LDCs are falling far behind the rest of the developing world in connecting homes and business to electricity and achieving universal access to energy.
CPD Executive Director Fahmida said: “Achieving universal access to modern energy globally is critically dependent on achieving it in LDCs. However, for most of them, doing so by 2030 will be an enormous challenge.”
The report of the study was first unveiled in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday, when UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi said achieving universal access to energy was not just a question of satisfying households’ basic energy needs.
“For electrification to transform LDC economics, modern energy provisions needs to spur productivity increases and unlock the production of more goods and services,” he said in a press release.
Citing the report, Kituyi said more than 40% percent of businesses operating in LDCs were held back by “inadequate, unreliable and unaffordable” electricity.
On average, they suffer 10 power outages per month, each lasting around five hours, and this costs them 7% percent of the value of their sales, the press statement said.
While, on average, 10% percent of people in other developing countries lack access to electricity, this remains the case for more than 60% of the populations of LDCs.
Furthermore, LDCs as a group have just 8% of the capacity of other developing economies to generate electricity per person, and barely 2% of that of wealthier nations, the press release said.