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Partners and priorities

  • Published at 11:00 pm September 25th, 2018
Promises of growth Bigstock

Can we hit all our development goals?

Among the several sectors of highest priority for Bangladesh, education, health, poverty reduction, and human development rank as the most integral. Besides the sectors mentioned above, environmental management and gender equity, water and sanitation, urban development, private-sector growth are also extremely important.

The focus of the country’s development partners vary -- the World Bank on good governance; Asian Development Bank on agriculture and rural development, energy, infrastructure, and transport development; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on SDGs, democratic governance, democratic decentralization, climate change adaptation; the European Commission on human development, good governance, decentralization, economic, and trade development; Japan International Cooperation Agency on capacity building; Department for International Development on poverty reduction, governance and urban local governance; Swiss Agency for development and cooperation, and Danish International Development Agency on local governance.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), mandated for maintaining macroeconomic stability of the country, is a significant source of external funds. Moreover, plenty of counties exist whose governments directly provide bilateral assistance to Bangladesh, including Japan, Canada, UK, Germany, and so on.

Apart from these, a significant number of international civil society or humanitarian organizations support Bangladesh through direct-local fund approach -- partnering with local civil society organizations.

The biggest donors -- World Bank and Asian Development Bank -- provide the major portion of assistance, but almost entirely in the form of loans. Japan is the biggest bilateral donor, which evenly splits the supports between loan and grant. Three development partners -- World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Japan government -- account for almost 50-75% of the total external support to Bangladesh in recent years. 

Also, according to monitoring profile, these three main providers are accounting for 74% of total development cooperation in 2015 in Bangladesh.

Since 1990, there has been a realization by the development partners towards the fact that their many different approaches and requirements have resulted in additional costs imposed on aid recipients. There was need for change, resulting in collaboration, both amongst organizations and partner countries, to harmonize the approaches and requirements. 

Specifically, this drive started with the Comprehensive Development Framework, launched by former World Bank President James Wolfensohn in 1999, followed by World Bank’s initiative for Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and UN’s initiative for Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000.

PRSPs get prepared by member countries in broad consultation with stake-holders and development partners, including the staff of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These get updated every three years with annual progress. 

Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) in Bangladesh titled “A National Strategy for Economic Growth, Poverty Reduction, and Social Development” was an important milestone in the process of renewing the national goal of policy ownership over the formulation of poverty reduction strategies (PRS). 

While the commitment to poverty reduction since then has continued to be pursued through a wide range of concrete actions, the government further undertook specific steps to ensure a comprehensive participatory process by which to deepen policy ownership in the formulation of a full-blown PRSP titled “Unlocking the Potential: National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction” in October 2005. 

The revised version of the second PRSP of Bangladesh titled “Steps Towards Change: National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction” embodied policies as well as strategies for achieving accelerated poverty reduction through pro-poor economic growth and macroeconomic management during 2009-2011.

At that time, following a two-year movement with the local consultative groups, in 2010 the government and 18 development partners signed a Joint Cooperation Strategy (JCS), which set the ground for accelerated implementation of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action in the country. This was followed by an aid management policy document titled “Aid Management in Bangladesh: A Review of Policies and Procedures.” 

Two strategic country documents were framed within two national strategic plans -- sixth Five-Year Plan (FY2011-FY2015) titled “Accelerating Growth and Reducing Poverty,” and seventh Five-Year Plan (FY2016-FY2020) titled “Accelerating Growth, Empowering Citizens” under the Vision 2021 and its Perspective Plan 2010-2021.

On the onset of SDGs in 2016, 14 out of 17 goals are fully reflected in the seventh Five-Year Plan of Bangladesh. Also, a Development Results Framework (DRF) covers all thematic and sector areas. And in 2015-2016, the government has aligned development planning with the medium-term budgetary framework considering that public expenditures evolve around development priorities. As such, the country has its priorities in place, and is looking towards making strides in achieving its targets.

Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Talukdar is a development researcher and political analyst.

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