Bangladesh: opposite side of the coin

Sonam Saha

Sonam Saha

Rule of law, transparency, accountability, freedom of information, freedom of expression and peoples participation; these supreme virtue of good enough governance is at far distance from the vision of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has completed its forty years long journey with the experience of many ups and downs. Development ambassadors of different field have certified this voyage as successful and marked Bangladesh as exemplary for other developing countries.

It is undoubtedly factual that Bangladesh has improved its nationwide human development status quite satisfactorily compared to its neighboring countries. According to Noble Laureate Economist Amartya Sen, in last twenty years though India has expanded its economic capital and resources more largely than Bangladesh, but Bangladesh has succeeded and preceded India in the pace of Human Development. An incontestable truth is that in last 20 years Bangladesh has shown gradual improvement in different indicators which includes; life expectancy, rate of child mortality and maternal mortality, total literacy rate, female enrollment at primary school and women empowerment. At the same time, our per capita income and GDP growth rate have also been increased.

Altogether, the country has untagged the notion of a ‘bottomless basket”, which she had earned in the starting of her cruise by US President Henry Kissinger. But, such improvement in development indicators should not be the ultimate respite with self satisfaction. Rather, the praise from out-world could be the source of our self justification.

Let’s starts from the progress at the level of economic growth. At present Bangladesh is marching with 6% GDP growth rate which is considered as a sign of upward moving developing countries. Rate of poverty has been decreased at below 40%. But, what should not be overlooked that the rate of inequality is still at a stagnant position (Gini coefficient is about 0.6). That means, the output of economic growth is not shared equally among the total population and the share of income achieved by the poorest 20% is far less than the share grasped by the richest 20%. Such inequality in income distribution falsifies the justification of development itself.

We have achieved praiseworthy success in declining the rate of maternal and child mortality and life expectancy of people has increased. The question is how healthy, wealthy and comfortable life it is? Is it according to expectation? Do they find safe drinking water available? How efficient is the sanitation system and how greater the level of sanitation knowledge? Are the people free from the attack of endemic disease? Are the medical services provided by government adequate for the large population? Are the people satisfied with existing services? If not, are their demand have been heard by the authority?Similar question is to be raised about the education system.

Though our literacy rate as well as the enrollment rate has been improved, but it must not be forget, still we are in vain to resist the rising trend of dropout, especially in case of female students.

The rate of female’s participation at the secondary and tertiary level is so poor compared to their enrollment rate at primary level. The reasons are widely known, among them most common is lack of security to the female students at their way to school and early marriage. How responsive we are to wrestle against these ironies? And we must not forget literacy and education; these two are simply different and here comes the issue of quality.

So naturally a lot of question roam around; have our rate of educated population increased at the same pace of literacy rate? Are we flourishing at altering our literate population into effective human resource? How successful we are to resist the rate of brain drain through offering a functional work field to our human capital?

We have also earned praise at the field of women empowerment. But the fact is empowerment and development is not same and even empowerment is not only about to be employed and to earn.

Empowerment is about decision making power, development is about positive change at the realization and sensitivity about gender issue. Are we and our patriarchal society that much sensitive to cooperate for women’s freedom and development? What the pages of newspaper say?

In this way, we cannot overlook the points of administration while commenting on development. Still Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt countries of the world. In the ranking of UN governance index our position is 139. Rule of law, transparency, accountability, freedom of information, freedom of expression and peoples participation; these supreme virtue of good enough governance is at far distance from the vision of Bangladesh.

And last but not the least; our politics should be cased as the most unsuccessful area which is disqualifying our efforts for development. The political culture is wandering at a labyrinth where person is greater considerable than the collective amalgamation; cartels are more influential than people’s choice and demand. Mal-politicization of executive, legislature and bureaucracy has destroyed the structure of socio-political forces. Link of business community with national politics (rather than the grassroots politicians has over rated the quality of politics and money has become the only lubricants to move deaf decisions at the table without hearing to mass people. Thus, so called democracy has become just a system by the people but for the powerful interest groups and politicians. In last forty years, many things have been changes, but trend of politics has remained insensitively unchanged as nation’s agony, hindering the pace of sustainable development.

May be the above discussion is too much pessimistic in reaction to the optimism of the nation. But to be very honest, for developing Bangladesh; the other side of the coin is really such shady.

181 Responses to “Bangladesh: opposite side of the coin”

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    Md. A. Halim Miah

    Thank you very much Mr. Sonam for your though provoking article which has been contained a wide range of issues from Human Development Index and at the same time addessed the grey area of development. The author should be acknowledged for his good articulation and presentation skills. Besides he has made his own opinion from policy perspective on our national development which is very encouraging but except the one thing that is politics! He himself claimed that he is passimist as our political growth is negative and which is claimed one of the major barriers of our development. But I don’t see it is a matter of frustration as if we look back then we could see that how we are gradually developing democratic culture from feudal society. And I think we should link all of our development in line with the development of democratic culture otherwise we could not continue our progress in other human development index. The main technicalities is still we don’t have scales of understadning the progress of Politics like Party formation, Party financial transparency, Election Commission, Process of nomination, Cosnidering People’s Empowerment, decision making process within the parties, Parliament and cabinet meeting .

    Md. A. Halim Miah, Senior Policy Specialist, Advocacy for Social Change, BRAC

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