Today, Bangladesh is a modern success story, beginning with the literacy rate, GDP growth, poverty reduction, increased export performance, and overall global linkage have taken us to a new league, pacing well with 21st century progress.
The platform once was set early on, by the Father of the Nation, when he said that the struggle is one for our emancipation.
The struggle, now, is the struggle for our financial independence.
In pursuance of his vision among many, he initiated land reform aimed at helping millions of poor farmers post-independence and thus, the economy started to recover. His intentions were clear: Empower the strength of the people by encouraging them via subsidy, opportunity, and exposure.
As a result, a platform for growth and sustainability was created -- along with a vision of a modern nation.
Since, the present government has been utilizing the scale of population in Bangladesh, creating employment and income earning opportunities in the rural areas, strengthening the efforts toward achieving high and sustainable growth -- critically important prerequisites for triggering an exit from widespread poverty and socio-economic deficit.
Technology, while widely emphasized globally, is also now a part of our economic growth; it is now redeemed as the intrinsic virtue of the ongoing development of the country.
Growing on demand
During the PM’s recent visit to Singapore, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina welcomed the business community in Singapore to be Bangladesh’s partner in its journey towards economic development.
“Bangladesh has a huge young, energetic, and easily trainable workforce with competitive wages. It offers opportunities for duty- and quota-free access to the markets of the EU, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, and New Zealand,” she said.
Today, there are platforms such as BUILD (Business Initiatives Leading Development) Bangladesh to support and coordinate with foreign investments to ensure friendly and proper investment climate and policies. BUILD is accessible to all Bangladeshis across the globe.
The main stimuli to economic growth in the country have been from labour-intensive garment exports, a vibrant and dynamic private sector, extensive growth in small and medium scale enterprises, remittances from migrant workers, and rise in the size of the middle class. Hence, the opportunities to structure and re-structure the local businesses via automation and technology continues to grow on demand.
SMEs in Bangladesh remains a vibrant sector to invest in, a source of new business creation and employment generation in the country. The re-emergence of the SMEs in the developed world has made a strong economic case for fostering development of new industries.
Employment statistics highlights that women in the rural sector are either self-employed or employed in family-based enterprises that includes both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. These activities -- which include homestead agriculture, livestock and poultry rearing, fish farming, nursery and tree plantation, tool making, fish net making, food processing, tailoring, rice processing etc -- have been regular and invisible sources to Bangladesh’s GDP growth.
Foreign investments in these categories will not only add to further development but shall also bring in diversity in sectoral growth and sustainability. By way of example, technology has played a key role in developing the agricultural industry. Today, it is possible to even grow crops in a desert by use of agricultural biotechnology. Plants have been engineered to survive even in drought conditions.
We are in a new era of economic development involving diversified models, and at times, a nations weakness can become its greatest strength.
Much to do
However, special attention is warranted to improve good governance, not merely for domestic efficiency, but for better flow of international negotiation and avert contagion effects and systemic risks.
Informational asymmetry and coordination problems aggravate investors. In recent times, some difficult situations could have been avoided if the policies for foreign investments were delegated to responsible authorities.
A time for a focus shift at large appears imperative for all.
To conquer and uphold the vision of achieving the MDG goals, our methodology should be to invite and decentralize investments throughout the nation in private sectors. However, this should be done with careful monitoring, minimizing the bureaucracy of funding, along with encouragement for women entrepreneurs to participate.
Bangladesh has become one of the biggest MDGs success stories in the developing world. The PM wishes to remain focused on moving Bangladesh to fully recognized, middle-income country status by 2021.
“Our positions are based on a deeper understanding of, and respect for, each other’s values, principles, and approaches.” With these words of assurance from Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina, we should uphold the momentum that new investment have created, and aim to strengthen all our sectors.
Let us continue our effort and cooperation until we finally build a great investment climate in Bangladesh.
Tarique Afzal is a banker.