Growth is not sustainable unless it is inclusive
Bangladesh seems to have arrested much positive attention from the international community in recent times, despite some failures or cracks happening here and there.
For the past several years, it has received the international community’s adorations as the epitome of socio-economic gains attained under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The country has been adorned with a crown for its achievements in development. The first time was in 2015, when it upgraded itself to the World Bank’s “lower middle income” category by increasing its Gross National Income.
Recently, Bangladesh has met all three criteria for United Nations’ Least Developed Country graduation -- GNI per capita, Human Assets Index, and Economic Vulnerability Index.
In the past three years, Bangladesh’s GDP in dollar terms grew at a compounded annual rate of 12.9%, twice above of India’s 5.6%. A vision laid out by present leadership stated that we are now on the verge of becoming a middle income country by 2021, and a developed country by 2041.
Remarkable progress in poverty reduction, education, gender equality, climate change adaptation, and peace-keeping has made Bangladesh a role model around the world, at least by developing nations.
Not only in economic indicators, Bangladesh is also leading in comparison to its neighbours in the human and social development indicators of infant mortality rates and life expectancy at birth.
This indicates that Bangladesh is well-positioned to emerge as a global thought leader for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We take pride as Bangladesh was a star performer and among the top 18 countries achieving MDGs as reported by the UNDP. Our honourable Prime Minister was awarded with UN MDG Awards 2010 and several more accolades in last seven years for her outstanding contribution.
With an increasing budget size comes great pressures to manage and implement. Policy planners have been working continuously on alleviating poverty and increasingly becoming aware to combat the seasonal or ultra-poverty in the northwestern region, balancing between defense, education, and health budgets, ensuring quality education, minimum health service delivery to the common people, and accelerating the formation of national capital even through the use of technology.
Access to information (a2i), a project from the Prime Minister’s Office with support from UNDP and USAID, has already saved 1 billion man-days and $1.5 billion in 2016 alone. Bangladesh became the first country in the world to introduce SDG trackers, a technology-based platform to monitor the national programs integrated with SDGs.
In line with the vision of Digital Bangladesh, the nation’s first geostationary satellite, Bangabandhu-1, was successfully launched on May 11, 2018, making Bangladesh’s debut in the global space society.
Bangladesh, along with its prime minister’s prompt response and generosity, was globally acclaimed for its role in helping the Rohingya refugees.
Behind the curtains of these successes and milestones, we had the opportunity to prepare the 7th five-year-Plan, a perspective strategy plan of the government, which fortunately coincided with the final year of MDGs and the launch of UN’s 2030 agenda. Hence, the development approach underlying our 7th five-year-plan has been consistent with the global agenda.
Human resource development through increasing skill and capacity is one of our greatest areas of focus. We have made reasonably large investments in technology and infrastructure and are likely to continue the same in the future.
Bangladesh is stepping up to attain the development cycles of the first world through adoption of the technologies of future - blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial Intelligence, and robotics to compete in the age of Industry 4.0 are just a handful.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina initiated school stipends for school-going children belonging to the poor and vulnerable households, which has resulted into 100% primary enrolment.
The government also ensured the launching of several social safety net programs for vulnerable women and senior citizens, so that none is left behind and prosperity is shared among all, as growth is not sustainable and meaningful unless it is inclusive. There is a saying: Wealth can be shared, not poverty.
Digital Bangladesh for 2021 is seen to be in alignment with the SDG goals and those are being translated into e-governance initiatives to support the eradication of poverty, ensure food security, improve access to health and education services, develop talent for the 21st century, and provide equitable services for people from all economic, religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Through implementation of the 7th five-year plan and the SDGs, we want our country to flourish and exceed expectations in all the challenges that comes our way.
This might be challenging, but we need to fasten our seatbelt to embrace a journey through turbulent weather. We need more reforms, re-building of the institutions to protect the interest of the common people.
A free and fair election, a strong judiciary, a forward-looking civil administration, and an accountable parliament should carry the same definition here too.
I am sure we all will come to our senses one day, and we must. We love Bangladesh, and deep in our hearts, we know - we will be victorious one day.
Mamun Rashid is a leading economic analyst.