Can our economy stay on target?
In 1971, Bangladesh appeared on the world map as an independent nation.
Millions of lives were lost, and women were sexually abused in a bloody liberation war. The war left the country with a fragile economy, a devastated infrastructure, and thousands of people homeless.
The war led to widespread disease, malnutrition, and starvation. And the broken economy of Bangladesh after the war forced the country to rely almost exclusively on foreign aid for the coming years.
Henry Kissinger once labelled this Bangladesh a “bottomless basket.”
However, with the growing humanitarian and economic crises, the development of the country has not stagnated. Recently, Bangladesh has achieved remarkable success in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
As liberal and responsible citizens of Bangladesh, we take pride in such achievements. We must appreciate such economic, social, political, technological, and other aspects of development.
Bangladesh experienced steady economic growth in recent years, in stark contrast to 1971. Bangladesh has also witnessed continuous growth and expansion in industrial export, remittances, and agricultural production.
The global market share has doubled since 1995. Bangladesh is now the world’s second largest apparel exporter after China, and the fifth largest recipient of cash remittances from all over the world. The garments sector, the largest contributor in the economy of Bangladesh, employs about four million people, of whom 75% are women.
Furthermore, Bangladesh has set a landmark record in poverty alleviation by reducing it by 24.6% between 2000 and 2016. This means that more than 20.5 million have now risen above the poverty line to find better lives for themselves.
Bangladesh has also been praised in the world media for its outstanding successes with regards to various socio-economic indicators, such as the rate of literacy and life expectancy. The gradual improvement of these indicators demonstrates that the country is currently experiencing significant development.
Furthermore, the adult literacy rate has increased from 29.23% to 72.76% and, simultaneously, life expectancy has increased from 53.92 years to 72.22 years. Improvements in education, medical treatment, and hygiene have contributed to the reduction in infant, child, and maternal mortality rates.
For example, the number of premature death of infants has shrunk significantly. Where we would see almost 150 infant deaths per thousand in 1971, after 45 years, it has been reduced to 28.
Bangladesh has also made enviable progress in the education and health sectors. More than 90% of girls were enrolled in primary schools in 2005. By 2000, the enrollment rate for girls had doubled.
Bangladesh is modern day success story, and it has successfully managed to shift itself far away from Kissinger’s label of a “bottomless basket.”
Because of its steady growth, it has caught the attention of the contemporary world. Even in the context of low income nations, Bangladesh has successfully managed to meet the eligibility criteria for being a developing nation with honour and dignity in the South Asian region.
Indeed, it is a great success for the country, and this success will have to be maintained. Therefore, to continue this breakthrough, politicians, policy-makers, regulators, civil society, conscientious people, the judiciary, all the stake-holders, and others should come forward to work together to establish golden Bangladesh.
Muhammad Mehedi Masud is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Development Studies, Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya, Malaysia.