As part of a series of discussions on important national and international issues, Dhaka Tribune and the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) jointly organized the roundtable titled “Global Trends 2022” on January 30.
The president of BIPSS, Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman and the editor of Dhaka tribune, ZafarSobhan, moderated the roundtable, which was attended by academia, local and foreign diplomats, former and serving government officials, journalists and university students.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, member of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) board of trustees and distinguished fellows, talked about vaccine equity, trade and economic trends; Dr Lailufar Yasmin, Professor of international relations at Dhaka University, spoke aboutthe environmental, strategic and geopolitical trends, while Shafqat Munir, research fellow of BIPSS, shed light on security and technological trends.
Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman, President, BIPSS
Global trends every year indicate the critical issues and scenarios that pave the way for international events, shaping the rest of the year and beyond. We live in an interconnected world. So, a scenario anywhere is a scenario everywhere. Thus, what happens in the major capitals of the world has a direct impact on critical issues of policy in all states, including Bangladesh. Therefore, it is extremely important for us to understand what is going to drive the year 2022.
We will identify some critical issues regarding trade, commerce, economy, security, technology, geopolitics and strategy.
In a scenario of uneven economic recovery, there could be several economic shocks that countries, including Bangladesh, can face in the coming years. We also understand that all the trends that we are trying to analyze and understand not only have some initial consequences, but also second and third tier consequences -- what I would call the “consequences of consequences”. So, we need a holistic understanding of all the forces that are at play here.
As we are living in a data driven world, data and information will determine everything that we do. But we see increasing tendencies of data nationalism, which again is not conducive to international growth.
A rapid pace of urbanization is turning the world into a different place that we will experience in the coming years and beyond. With many cities turning into mega cities, the number of mega cities will probably double by the next year, many of which are locatedwithin the Asian continent. So therefore, we are going to experience a whole lot of changes in the current year.
It is important for smaller nations to understand them even better, so that we are not caught off guard. We don’t want to go into strategic shocks, which can completely destabilize economics, politics, and relations of a country. And finally, we can never rule out what are called “Black Swan” events. The best example that comes to my mind is something like a solar geomagnetic event that can block off the complete global satellite system in a matter of minutes, leaving us without communication, electricity and many of the known means to communicate with each other. We should all be prepared for all kinds of eventualities so that we charter our course better in the current year and beyond.
Zafar Sobhan, Editor, Dhaka Tribune
When we talk about global trends 2022, we cannot really talk about 2022 in isolation, because this is really the start of a new way of doing things. If we take a look at the horizon of the next seven to eight years and see where we are at 2028 or 2030, which would be more helpful. I think a lot of these trends will only startto become apparent this year, and I think we're just now coming out of the effects of all the changes that should have been wrought. A lot of these trends will occupy our thoughts and dictate our policies internally, regionally and globally coming forth.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, member CPD of board of trustees and distinguished fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)
One of the major dimensions of the global trend is the pandemic and vaccination. The inequity concerning the vaccination process will persist. This will remain one of the most persistent problems for the global economy not only from the health perspective, but also considering the socio economic fallouts and consequences, and Bangladesh will have to deal with it, not only on the financial front, procurement and distribution, but also in terms of reaching out to those who are yet to be brought under the vaccination coverage. So in the global aid agenda of 2022, vaccination will remain as one of the important challenges in the coming days, and Bangladesh in no ways will be able to escape that.
The global inflation is now being projected to be around 5%. It will not get moderated throughout the year 2022, till the production comes in line with the demand. We might only see some respite in 2023.
In the coming days, what we will see more for the international economy is the issue about commodity prices going up.
Bangladesh is already feeling the pressure, because of the high demand on imports, low inflow of remittances and low exports.
The foreign exchange rate is under tremendous pressure. The government is trying to deal with it through the incentives which are expanding its scope, but this is not a viable option for the future. Because at the end of the day, we need a competitive exchange rate policy in order to adjust to the realistic or effective situation.
You have to manage three things at the same time; exchange rate, inflation, and the interest rate. 2022 will demand much more dynamic macroeconomic management. Unfortunately, this is my personal opinion. I see the macroeconomic management is at autopilot at the moment because separate parts of the organizations are dealing with it separately, somethingthat was most epitomized through the adjustment of the fuel prices without coordinating with anything else.
Bangladesh will have to ensure strong vigilance on its external front, remittance, FDI marginally and export imports. The only good news on that regard is that we have more foreign aid this year, compared to earlier years. And in the coming days, the country will have to continue with its fiscal policies of supporting the poor, disadvantaged, in addition to post pandemic recovery. For that it will have to do some structural reforms like, improving the efficiencies and, as in general, looking into the domestic economy, how to prop up its demand, and complement the fall in exports, if any, in the future. For 2022, it's any finance ministers dream, to manage dynamically and show results but that would mean undoing the ‘autopilot’.
Shafqat Munir, Research fellow and Head of BCTR, BIPSS
There is a greater interplay between security and technology. Therefore, in order to understand security, we also need to understand technological trends as well, which are constantly evolving in the 21st century, with 2022 being no exception. In terms of the security trends, there are a few security flashpoints that we ought to take into consideration, due to their vast significance across continents. The potential flashpoints include Ukraine, with Russia and Ukraine staring eyeball to eyeball towards each, further complicating the security landscape of Europe. We in Bangladesh are observing the situation. We hope good sense will prevail and violence will be prevented.
The Taiwan Strait is on the front burner again with increasing tendencies for independence in Taiwan, escalating tensions with China. Sino-Indian border tension also needs to be viewed carefully, as it has important ramifications for Bangladesh. The Korean peninsula isyet another important flashpoint, especially with the launch of an intermediate range ballistic missile recently by North Korea.
The nature of warfare is changing fundamentally. The traditional concept of warfare, as we have known it for millennia, is going through a fundamental shift, especially with the increasing militarization of space.
We're also noticing tensions shifting from the domain of land to the sea. And nowhere perhaps it is more pertinent than in the Indian Ocean region, which is our patch in the maritime domain.
In the Indian Ocean in particular, we see increasing competition between China with other Indian Ocean littoral countries and countries outside the Indian Ocean littoral. We have competing strategies developing in the Indian Ocean.
And I would argue that contentions would continue in the maritime domain. As competing claims emerge, new powers rise, recalibrations of power take place around the oceans.
The way we see it, hybrid warfare is coming as a game changer. It's not just militaries fighting each other but also an employment of political warfare, deployment of disinformation, irregular warfare, extending malign influence, and so on. For us in Bangladesh in particular, it is very important to understand and study what hybrid warfare means for us.
Despite all our progress on disarmament and non-proliferation, we are seeing an unabated arms race in terms of both conventional and nuclear weapons speaking up again,which has multiple security consequences for all the countries in our region.
Robotics is going to rise at a very rapid pace.When I talk about robotics, I'm not just talking about the employment of robotics in warfare, but also the employment of robotics in terms of systems production, consumption and delivery, which will ultimately become dependent on robots. And for countries like ours, which are labour intensive export dependent, this has direct connotations in terms of future of work. And I think there needs to be a lot more work done in Bangladesh on this issue, that with greater inclusion of robotics and technology, what this future of what looked like for countries like Bangladesh.
it is also important for us to understand that getting ahead in terms of technology is not just about finances or just about resources. It is also a lot about innovation. And therefore, as these technological advancements take place, it is absolutely important for us to remain ahead of the curve, to have out of the box thinking, and to have a whole of government and whole of society approach towards integrating some of these changes.
Dr Lailufar Yasmin, Professor, Department of International Relations at Dhaka University
A number of studies tell us that the size of the global economy will become 2.3% smaller in 2024. The global economy would have shrunk significantly had there not been the pandemic.
I would like to bring out that the involvement in different charities, aid programs and donations will significantly decrease which will have implications especially in the case of refugees. The contraction will have a greater impact and that will also bring a greater strategic and geopolitical implications.
With the recent climate action failure, extreme weather condition and biodiversity loss, only time will tell how this will have implications in 2022. Because it is very difficult to predict something on environmental issues. The implications can already be seen in Maldives, America as how winter has been delayed and in Bangladesh as well. The whole cycle of weather pattern has changed; it is either extreme winter or extreme summer. So this environmental impact will have long term implications not only on how countries take policies but also how they have to priorities issues. They will also have to look after environmental refugees, a category that does not fall under international legal criteria.
There are not only internally displaced population, but there are people going, crossing boundaries from one country to the other and they are being compelled to do so. So this is something we often pay very little attention to.
There are a number of frozen conflicts that we also often forget to pay attention to. Ukraine is one of those frozen conflicts. There is conflicts within Russia. There are frozen conflicts in Korean peninsula, China and Taiwan. All of these have greater implications for Bangladesh as well as for the rest of the world. Because any sort of conflict taking place in one part of the world, today or tomorrow that will reach to us and to the different corners of the world.
We do not see any responsible power or locations of power more solid like we have seen in the 20th century. So here, who is the responsible power, who is going to take into account of how a rule based international system will be followed and who is defining rule based international system?
The social features will have a both geostrategic and geo economic implications, for example, social cohesion, erosion, livelihood crisis, mental health, deterioration, and aged population.
The number of ageing population is increasing in the Western countries. And at the same time, we can see there is a barrier to migration to these countries. So how great powers are going to tackle their greying population in the coming years? This is a very less talked about issue, but this is the social feature especially during the pandemic, as Bangladesh is also planning now on taking active initiative to export semi skilled manpower instead of only exporting unskilled manpower. That is another area, another option that has opened up for least developing countries.
Parvez Karim Abbasi, Assistant Professor Department of Economics, East West University
We should be mindful of the possibility of the Federal Reserve’s heightening interest rates during the latter part of 2022, which might put pressure on Taka.
Pressure on the Taka, rising global commodity prices, rising imbalance of payment deficit, rising inflation and continuation of the pandemic may exacerbate conditions of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh should be also wary of competing between navigating geo-political objectives of the United States, China and India.
Aysha Kabir, Editor (English), Prothom Alo
There are questions about how far the global trends on human trafficking have change,because that's like a huge issue nowadays, and specially with the COVID pandemic, there's been lax of control over this. We've seen this in our own country in the refugee camps, and not just in Bangladesh, but all over the world.
Shahed Akhtar, ndc, Former Ambassador and Secretary
We have been talking about sending our qualified people abroad. But what about 100 Export Processing zone and high tech parks and whatnot? Do we have qualified people in the country? There is a vast dearth of these qualified people. I don't know what preparation is underway. But very little in the sense that we still see a large number of people from other countries getting good employment opportunities in Bangladesh, and this is a big concern.
There is rampant unemployment existent all across Bangladesh. We received 300 applications with higher degrees for a position in my office, and it was very difficult to pick the right person. I'm sure they are not fitting in this job even though people applied for the position because there is no job in the country. So this is something which is the impact of the COVID-19, and this is not going to go away in the coming years.
Key points of the discussion
- The vaccine equity issue will remain a challenge for 2022 whether it becomes moderate or not.
- Bangladesh will have to deal with three things at the same time; exchange rate, inflation, and interest rate.
- The government’s notion of interest rate as the major problem in holding back investment is an issue of concern as studies has shown that it is the other aspect of business that is playing a bigger role in the scenario of investment.
- The government will be under pressure to do the public finance in the right way.
- As of security aspect, Bangladesh has to observe carefully about the relationship between china and India regarding border issues as it has direct consequences for the country.
- It is also very important for the country to understand and study about hybrid warfare.
- Introduction of robotics in labour force will directly affect the future of workforce in Bangladesh, a labour intensive country.
- Considering the fundamental change in the nature of market and competitiveness, the country has to be vigilant about building skilled human resource in order to win in the human race.
- Concerning debt issue, the experts do not see a Sri Lanka situation immediately. But they suggest the country has to be very vigilant about it.
- The nature of the country’s development is not attending the need of educated young people at this moment but only the poor through social safety net programs, and the elites.
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