Bangladesh’s economic advancement is a glimmer of good news amidst lot of bad. Forty years ago it would have been impossible to imagine that our economy could be on par with that of more powerful countries. According to Mumbai’s business-related website Business Standard, Bangladesh’s gap with India is gradually closing when it comes to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), per capital income, and human resource indicators. Our average life expectancy is higher than that of India and Pakistan. Bangladesh’s advancements in women’s education and empowerment, as well as in the health sector, are also notable.
According to Business Standard, Bangladesh’s per capita income has increased by 14 per cent over the last three years, including 2016. That year Bangladesh per capital income was USD 1355. If this trend continues, Bangladesh’s per capital income will exceed that of India by 2020. A citizen of India earns 25 per cent more than a citizen of Bangladesh, where in 2011 this figure was 87 per cent. Over the past three years including 2015, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in the case of the GDP has increased by 12.9 per cent. India’s rate in this context is less than half of that, 5.6 per cent. Pakistan’s CAGR is 8.6 per cent and China’s is 5.2 per cent. India’s GDP was 8.7 per cent. Bangladesh’s was 7.6 per cent.
The World Bank had previously hinted at Bangladesh’s emergence from the lower income country status and Bangladesh has now entered the lower mid-income bracket. We dream of being a mid-income country in the near future. The United Nations has said that Bangladesh has gone from to be least developed country to a developing one. All of this undoubtedly gives hope. But it is also necessary to keep in mind that GDP and per capital income alone are not the indicators of economic development. How the impact of this growth is distributed among the people of the country is also a matter of consideration. Poverty is not decreasing at the rate that economic growth is increasing. Even now 22 per cent of the people live below the poverty line. A lion’s share of the wealth is accumulated in the hands of a few, which goes against the fundamental premise of our liberation war. Europe’s Scandinavian countries are proof that even in a free market economy, disparity can be kept at a minimum.
Alongside economic growth, we also have to keep an eye on reducing income disparity. To take the human resource indicator to the top level, we must first make each and every citizen a skilled workforce. Then that workforce must be used appropriately. Unless the hundreds of thousands of young people who enter the job market every year are provided with employment, no development, not even economic development, can be sustainable. Thought must be given to improving the living standards of the agricultural workers and the labourers who work at home and abroad, who are the mainstay of our economy.
If we are to meet our aspired development goals, then the fundamental rights and human rights of each and every citizen must be ensured. Just as infrastructural development is required for economic growth, a strong and healthy democratic environment is imperative too. If the obstacles along the way can be removed, Bangladesh will be able to compete not just with other South Asian countries, but with the developed countries of the world as well.