Human Development Index: Climbing one place up not enough


It is an achievement for Bangladesh to climb one place up in the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), but the overall condition is not promising. Bangladesh ranked 135th among 189 countries in the 2019 HDI index of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The index accounts health, education, per capita income and so on.

The report was unveiled by UNDP Bangladesh in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Though Bangladesh fared well in several indicators, she stood fifth among South Asian nations ranking higher than Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and lower than India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.

We cannot expect to match Europe's Norway, top country in the HDI, nor Singapore, nation having the highest HDI in the continent, but it's not impossible to beat other countries in South Asia. According to the UNDP report, Bangladesh did well in life expectancy, women empowerment and women's job participation, but it lags behind in per capita income. The GNI per capita of Bangladesh is $4,057 while it is $6,829 and $5,190 for India and Pakistan respectively.

We must therefore focus on increasing our wealth. And it will only increase if we invest big on education and health. Although investment has increased in these sectors, it is still less than the developed nations. Inequality is sharp in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. As much as 26.80 per cent of the total wealth is owned by 10 per cent people while the ratio is 30 and 29 per cent for India and Pakistan respectively.

Though Bangladesh has slightly improved in education and health, it's still in a worrisome state. If 26-27 per cent wealth is accumulated by 10 per cent, most of the people still remain disadvantaged despite huge development. Planning minister MA Mannan too mentioned that the funds of the safety net programmes for the poor are not spent properly. "Inequality is rising as the government subsidy incentives do not reach the right people," he said. “This is the main problem. Development, using local means, is our main goal," he said. Former adviser of the caretaker government, Hossain Zillur Rahman, too identified the weaknesses of our education system. Inequality is growing due to various education systems, he observed.

A survey of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) shows that one third of the educated youths are unemployed. This means our education system is not being able to provide skilled and eligible manpower. Desired human development cannot be expected in such a condition.

The government must change its development strategy. Development that turns the wealthy wealthier and intensifies the poverty of the poor is not expectable. Transparency and accountability of all the safety programmes adopted by the government, for the poor, must be ensured. The education system must be rearranged in such a manner that no one remains jobless after completing education. An education system that renders such a huge number of unemployable youths is not desirable in a country that is a role model for development.