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Bangladesh making impressive progress

24 Feb 2018

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Bangladesh is being tagged globally as the “land of impossible attainments”. The country has already achieved the targets set for hunger and poverty-free society under the UN Millennium Goals (MDGs). The success achieved in poverty reduction has been acclaimed by the international community. Johannes Jutt, former World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, said “Against all odds, Bangladesh lifted 16 million people out of poverty in the last ten years and also reduced inequality that is a rare and remarkable achievement”.

Poverty is the single most important socio-economic policy challenge for Bangladesh which is home to a huge population of 15 crore (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics). Poverty alleviation has therefore been high on its development agenda as is evident in all plan documents. Success achieved in this regard is attributable to the present government’s relentless engagement in poverty reduction interventions. By scrutinizing poverty reduction rate for the last five years it can be envisioned that by 2021 Bangladesh would become a country free from extreme poverty.

 

When the Awami League government took office in 2009, around five crore people of the country were poor out of which 2.88 crore were in the clutch of extreme poverty. During previous term of the present government, although population growth rate was 1.16 per cent on an average, the number of poor and extreme poor came down to 3.85 crore and 1.57 crore respectively. Forty five per cent of extreme poor were pulled out of extreme poverty during the last five years.
When the Awami League government took office in 2009, around five crore people of the country were poor out of which 2.88 crore were in the clutch of extreme poverty. During previous term of the present government, although population growth rate was 1.16 per cent on an average, the number of poor and extreme poor came down to 3.85 crore and 1.57 crore respectively. Forty five per cent of extreme poor were pulled out of extreme poverty during the last five years.

 

Despite experiencing many ups and downs the country has become a global example of economic success in a short period. The country is now the 44th largest world economy in nominal terms of GDP and 33rd largest in terms of purchasing power parity. The country is classified among the 11 next emerging countries and a frontier market. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bangladesh economy was the second fastest growing economy in 2016 with 7.1 per cent growth rate.

 

The Bangladesh government plans to set economic growth at 7.24 per cent in the current fiscal year. The GDP growth of the fiscal year has been fixed at 7.2 per cent. The World Bank has painted a brighter picture for Bangladesh’s economy for the next two fiscal years pinning hopes on strong domestic demand, exports, investment and remittances. The Global Economic Prospects, a flagship report of the World Bank Group, said activity in Bangladesh would grow at an average of 6.7 per cent a year over fiscals 2018-20 benefitting from strong domestic demand and strengthening exports. Bangladesh is among the top 17 out of 134 countries that are projected to have a growth rate of 6.4 per cent or more in 2017-18, said Zahid Hussen, lead economist of the World Bank’s Dhaka office.

 

Bangladesh economy is projected to grow 6.4 per cent in 2017-18. The seventh Five-- Year Plan aims to achieve 7.4 per cent GDP growth annually for 2015-16 and 2019-20.

 

Per capita income has now jumped to $ 1,610 which was $ 19 after Bangladesh emerged as an independent country. At the same time, poverty rate declined from 82.9 per cent in 1973-74 to 24.3 per cent with extreme poverty slipping to 12.9 per cent (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics). Analysts are of the view that a shift from once agriculture-driven economy to a more service and industry-oriented economy led the country to prosperity.

Noted economist Dr Shamsul Alam, head of General Economics Division and a top public think-tank, said Bangladesh has made tremendous economic growth, particularly in the last nine years, despite many ups and downs. According to him the country’s service sector is now contributing nearly 53 per cent of GDP with an increased share of industry which is the major shift of Bangladesh’s economy.

 

Renowned development analyst Dr Zaid Bakht thinks that two structural changes – more openness in the economy and rapid reduction in poverty – helped the Bangladesh government achieve success. “The country’s economy is now very much open in terms of the share of export-import in GDP which jumped to 40 per cent from 20 per cent”, he said. Increased openness means the country has become more efficient and competitive as both its imports and exports have grown considerably, he explained.

 

Agriculture, women empowerment, rural economic reforms, the role of NGOs and micro-finance played the key role in cutting poverty drastically, he observed. According to him, the structural change – declining share of agriculture to GDP – also helped the government in lowering poverty.

 

Noted economist Dr Shamsul Alam, head of General Economics Division and a top public think-tank, said Bangladesh has made tremendous economic growth, particularly in the last nine years, despite many ups and downs. According to him the country’s service sector is now contributing nearly 53 per cent of GDP with an increased share of industry which is the major shift of Bangladesh’s economy.

 

Bangladesh has become a low middle income country with per capita income of $ 1,610. It will become a middle-income nation if it achieves at least an average per capita income of $ 1,045 for three consecutive years as per the World Bank’s criteria.

 

Per capita income of Bangladesh is set to rise from the present $ 1,610 to $ 5,000 by 2030 and further to $ 12,000 to $ 15,000 by 2041 in line with the government’s mid-term and long term development vision, Dr Shamsul Alam informed. For doing this, maintaining social and political stability and preparing human skills for an industrialized economy will be the main challenges for the government, he said.




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