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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh and beyond

Update : 14 Dec 2015, 06:59 PM

Globalisation is a complicated issue. There is no question that globalisation has been a good thing for many developing countries like Bangladesh who now have access to global markets and can export cheap goods. But globalisation has been very good for multi-national corporations. Proponents of globalisation argue that it allows poor countries and their citizens to develop economically and raise their standards of living, while opponents of globalisation claim that the creation of an unfettered international free market has benefited multi-national corporations in the West at the expense of local enterprises, local cultures, and common folk.

Globalisation is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world.

Globalisation has influence on different spheres of life viz economical, cultural, political, geographical, technological, among others. Economic globalisation is the increasing economic interdependence of national economies across the world through a rapid increase in cross-border movement of goods, service, technology, and capital.

With improvements in transportation and communication, international business grew rapidly after the beginning of the 20th century. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of GDP. Industrialisation, advanced transportation, multi-national corporations, offshoring and outsourcing, all have a major impact on world trade. Singapore, the top country in the Enabling Trade Index, embraced globalisation and became a highly developed country.

On the other hand, cultural globalisation refers to the transmission of ideas, meanings, and values around the world in such a way as to extend and intensify social relations. It involves the formation of shared norms and knowledge with which people associate their individual and collective cultural identities.

Supporters of globalisation argue that it has the potential to make this world a better place to live in, and solve some of the deep-seated problems like unemployment and poverty. According to supporters, globalisation and democracy should go hand in hand -- it should be pure business with no colonialist designs. Globalisation represents free trade, which is supposed to reduce barriers such as tariffs, VATs, subsidies, and other barriers between nations. Free trade promotes global economic growth, creates jobs, makes companies more competitive, and lowers prices for consumers. The presence of competition between countries is supposed to drive prices down.

Sharing technology with developing nations will help them progress. As a result, globalisation has made tourism a popular global leisure activity. WHO estimates that up to 500,000 people are in flight at any one time. Modern aviation has made it possible to travel long distances quickly. According to UNESCO, in their 2014 World Conference on Higher Education report, over 3.5 million students were studying outside their home country.

But globalisation has not been good for the working people and has even led to a continuing de-industrialisation. For billions of people, business-driven globalisation means uprooting the old ways of life. The global social justice movement, itself a product of globalisation, proposes an alternative path, more responsive to public needs. Intense political disputes will continue over globalisation’s meaning and its future direction.

The general complaint about globalisation is that it has made the rich richer while making the poor even poorer. Globalisation is supposed to be about free trade where all barriers are eliminated but there are still many barriers. For instance, 161 countries have VATs on imports which can be as high as 21.6%, as it is in Europe. Large multi-national corporations have the ability to exploit tax havens in other countries to avoid paying taxes. Those corporations are accused of social injustice, unfair working conditions, as well as a lack of concern for the environment, mismanagement of natural resources, and ecological damage.

Bangladesh’s progress is the very picture of achievement, with only a few disappointments. Over the past 40 years, Bangladesh has increased its real per capita income by more than 130%, cut poverty by more than half, and is well set to achieve most of the millennium development goals. The economy today is a lot more flexible and resilient, as indicated by the ability to withstand the global financial crisis with minimum adverse effects. Bangladesh is now much more capable in handling natural disasters with minimum loss of life.

This remarkable progress was achieved despite numerous internal and external constraints. Yet our country remains a low-income country -- almost a third of the population remains below the poverty line, and some 40% are illiterate. This situation must change for the better. For achieving the targets of Vision 2021, significant policy reforms and a long-term strategy can make that possible. The economy needs to be managed within the framework of a market economy with appropriate government interventions to correct market distortions, to ensure equality of opportunities, and to ensure equity and social justice for all.

For Bangladesh, the journey to middle income country and high HDI status requires sustained growth and its equitable and inclusive nature. To reach the middle income threshold by 2021, industrial expansion must go hand-in-hand with highly productive farm and non-farm agriculture. Furthermore, a strong and competitive manufacturing sector is especially important for generating productive high income jobs.

Long-term stability and prosperity cannot be achieved without building effective institutions for sound governance. Bangladesh needs foreign investment in infrastructure for an expanding transport network and our burgeoning urban centres cannot and need not be met from domestic resources alone. With improved economic management and a highly liberalised investment regime, and with strategic locational shifts in labour-intensive industries, Bangladesh could become an attractive destination for private capital flows over the next decade. But political stability is a prerequisite for foreign investment as well as to create new local entrepreneurs.

Globalisation is not without its opportunities and potential. To find the right balance between benefits and costs associated with globalisation, as citizens we need to understand how globalisation works and to choose proper policies.

Moreover, democracy in its fullest sense can help us utilise the opportunities offered by globalisation, restore hope, and lead Bangladesh to the prosperity it has always yearned for. 

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