On the other side of Bangladesh's enviable economic advancement is a contrary picture -- lack of good governance, bribery and corruption, environmental degradation and the absence of the freedom of expression. On one end there is high growth and on the other there is rampant corruption. That is where the dilemma lies.
In Transparency International (TI)'s corruption perception index of 2019, Bangladesh has only gone up one rank, 166 among 200 countries. Another international institution, Trace International ranks Bangladesh at 182 among 200 in its bribery risk index.
The UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) regularly publishes a democracy index. Bangladesh is in the list's 'hybrid regime' category, which is midway between autocracy and faulty democracy.
Bangladesh is not some Scandinavian heaven. It is poor and overpopulated, under educated and corrupt, frequented by natural catastrophes, experiences occasional terrorism, and the farcical nature of its democracy was exposed in the December 2018 elections. But the earlier caricature of a country on life support disappeared years ago. Today, some economists say it shall be the next Asian tiger
In October last year, the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness report saw Bangladesh drop by two ranks to 105 among 141 countries. Bangladesh also lags behind other South Asian countries when it comes to media freedom and journalists' rights. The latest Media Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders places Bangladesh at 146 among 180 countries.
On 11 March this year, the US-based World Justice Project published its 2020 report on the rule of law. Bangladesh had gone down in the index, ranking 115 among 128 countries. A year ago it ranked 112 among 126 countries.
These two different faces of one country have caused Bangladesh to be seen as a 'surprise', a 'mystery', a 'paradox'. There is a crisis of good governance in Bangladesh and a steady rise in corruption. So what is the mystery of Bangladesh's success?
* This analysis appeared in the print version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir