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‘Prioritizing SEZs should not deter the govt from focusing on the entire economy’

  • Published at 11:27 pm July 25th, 2018
economic dialogue on inclusive growth

At present, Bangladesh has an infrastructure-investment ratio of around 1.6% of the national GDP; this needs to be enhanced gradually to at least 5% of the GDP

South Asian Network of Economic Modelling (SANEM) Executive Director Prof Selim Raihan has said that the main challenge with Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is managing them, and while the government should prioritze SEZs, that should not hinder its focus on the entire economy.

He was speaking at a media dialogue, Economic Dialogue on Inclusive Growth in Bangladesh, organized by The Asia Foundation, UKAid, and Overseas Development Institute, at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Prof Selim, also a professor with the Economics department at Dhaka University, said that the mega projects currently undertaken by the government should be completed on time in order to help improve people’s lives.

Speaking on the occasion, Centre on Budget and Policy Director Prof M Abu Eusuf said the government should play a more influential role to move towards inclusive growth. He suggested there should be more investment in education, health and other social services to expand human capacity, and to eliminate market and institutional failures and social exclusion to level the playing field.

He added that despite a remarkable growth record, over 40 million Bangladeshis are still living below the poverty line, indicating that further inclusive growth is required.

The agro-processing and leather and leather goods and the ICT sectors have great potential to stimulate inclusive growth, he opined.

He went on to say that a new policy agenda needs to address both common and sector specific constraints and barriers to the performance of these sectors.

At present, Bangladesh has an infrastructure-investment ratio of around 1.6% of the national GDP; this needs to be enhanced gradually to at least 5% of the GDP.

He, among other speakers, suggested that in order to enhance growth and employment opportunities, mobilization of resources for promoting private investments is critical, and the innovative strategies are needed for increasing investment through reducing cost of doing business.

 Speakers were also of the opinion that large scale investment is required in physical as well as social infrastructure for fostering inclusive growth. To overcome the current hurdles to private investment and employment opportunities, streamlining the establishment and operation of SEZs is likely to serve useful purpose.

In addition to the SEZs, development of growth centres, information technology parks, and the economic corridors along major transportation networks will help accelerate the pace and industrialization and create employment opportunities in smaller population centres adjoining the rural areas, the speakers added.

Effective delivery of public services must ensured through improving governance and strengthening institutional capacity in order to make the growth process inclusive and sustainable.

Prof Kazi Maruful Islam with the Department of Development Studies at DU said that a prerequisite to inclusive growth is inclusive governance, and should allow for more accountability and transparency.

State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Mannan was present at the event as the chief guest.

The dialogue was moderated by Jamil Ahmed, CEO of Journalism Training and Research Institute, with Sadat S Shibli of The Asia Foundation also speaking on the occasion.

The dialogue was presided over by Muhammad Shafiqur Rahman, president of the National Press Club.