Bangladesh has become eligible to graduate from LDC to a developing nation. Indeed, it is a great achievement for our country and this success will have to be maintained. As a liberal and responsible citizen of Bangladesh, I am proud of this achievement.
But we should keep in mind that we have not graduated yet.
We need six more years to move ahead with this achievement to graduate on time. However, the question we all need to ask is: Is it possible to graduate on time?
Indeed, the destruction of financial institutions, lack of human resource development, lack of good governance, and economic fragility are contradictory to the goal of being a developing nation. Paradoxical links are observed between its economic growth and its development of human capital (HCD), two factors which evolve together and reinforce each other in the long term.
Nonetheless, a country’s GDP alone should not be taken as a good measure for the well-being of its people, since, on its own, the GDP is rather flawed as a metric of development. To overcome the weakness of the GDP, other indices such as the Human Development Index (HDI), Well-being Index (WBI), and Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) were developed. To that extent, it is crystal clear that without HCD, being labelled a “developing nation” is completely meaningless.
The right metrics
To measure HCD, three well-accepted indicators are considered: Income, education, and health.
With regard to the first indicator, a huge gap between national household income and national household expenditure is observed due to high inflation rates -- and it is in contradiction with the economic changes experienced by the people of the country. This imbalance between income and expenditure serves as the major impediment to the development of human capital.
In terms of education, it appears that the government has neglected this sector in quite a few ways. It is noticed that the government spends less than 2% of its GDP on education, ranking the lowest among South Asian countries and well below that of most other countries with similar levels of development.
To develop human capital, large investments are essential in developing the country’s education sector. This is because quality education ensures quality citizens who are morally and economically sound, thereby enhancing the country’s human capital development. Unfortunately, for Bangladesh, the education sector is affected by a severe flaw in which quantity has replaced quality in terms of education.
There is no innovation and technological development, and quality in education standards has, over the years, declined rather than improved -- for instance, reports of question papers being leaked are all too common in the news these days. Students or their parents are always ready to pay for examination questions, which proves that grades and marks are prioritized over the fact if their children are actually learning anything.
Whenever the topic of question paper leaks is brought in to the fore, the discussion always devolves into a blame game, with none of the involved parties claiming any sort of responsibility. Undoubtedly, this lack of synchronization between the concerned parties affects our HCD and the sustainable economic growth of the country.
The destruction of financial institutions, lack of human resource development, lack of good governance, and economic fragility are contradictory to the goal of being a developing nation
Due to such instances of moral degradation, the younger generation now lives on the verge of a total collapse.
As their moral values drop, so does their proclivity to be helpful members of society. This affects all aspects of the country’s growth. In this regard, it is imperative for policy-makers, guardians, politicians, as well as the conscientious individual, to discuss issues such as question paper leaks actively.
The third most important indicator for Bangladesh’s HCD is health. It is known that the health budget of this country is only 0.8% of its GDP, the lowest among South Asian countries. This is an unfortunate situation for the people of Bangladesh, with many people being unable to receive good medical treatment due to a shortage of doctors and nurses.
Currently, the ratio is 5.5 doctors and 2.1 nurses per 10,000 people, while reality states that there should be 10 doctors and 30 nurses for the same figure. The poor medical situation has caused Bangladeshis to lose trust in their doctors. Consequently, many wealthy people choose to travel to India, Singapore, or even the US and the UK for treatment.
Moreover, as the the medical profession evolves to become more of a commercialised service, today’s medical treatments have also become exorbitantly high in terms of cost. Such a phenomenon has all but deprived the average person from being able to seek medical treatment.
The unfortunate outcome of this is the deprivation suffered by those living below their means, who are constantly deprived of adequate treatment, adequate nutrition, and adequate care, all of which are crucial to mental growth. Such an imbalanced link is of major concern, not just to our nation, politicians, economists, educators, and medical professionals, but also to each and every individual who is a part of the nation in one way or another. Left unattended, these issues can worsen Bangladesh’s efforts towards maintaining a sustainable economic development.
Therefore, it is imperative that the country -- particularly our politicians and policy-makers -- consider putting in more investment in education and the health sector so that Bangladesh’s human capital development is addressed duly to graduate on time.
Muhammad Mehedi Masud is Assistant Professor, Department of Development Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.