Ushering an employment-intensive growth, moving up the value chain in the export market, improved infrastructure particularly energy, enabling environment and continued integration with the global economy are a few of the much-discussed challenges that Bangladesh has to overcome to become a developed nation. This strategy requires social inclusion to deliver essential social services and building institutions, optimizing the distribution of the dividend of economic growth and strengthening special protection. This way forward emphasizes partnerships and avoiding aid dependency.
This was the gist of an international seminar held in Bangladesh Institute on Development Studies (BIDS) on 10 January 2018 titled Development Partnerships in Middle-income Countries. Dr. Syed Sajjadur Rahman, Senior Fellow, School of International Development and Global Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa, Canada presented the keynote paper and Dr. K. A. S. Murshid, Director General of BIDS, chaired the session.
Pointing out to the resilient nature of our countrymen, Dr. Rahman said, “We have the adaptive capacity and country is overpopulated. Due to poverty, we are very cautious and that is why our development took place. Our people are very open-minded, and that is why they can learn things very quickly.”
The emphasis of the event was on the necessity for development partnerships at this stage of economic growth. Dr. Rahman detailed the income classification and informed the audience that low-income countries have $1,045 or less as per capita income, while the figure is around $12,747 and more for high-income countries. Nevertheless, it is the only measure of economic ability and not development. “At this stage, the most important challenge before us is to achieve Sustainable development goals (SDGs). Moreover, we must avoid the middle-income trap and continue economic development,” he added. He stressed that social inclusion and shifting nature of poverty is important to understand as poverty is expressed more in urban areas than rural areas, “We are in a paradox; Bangladesh is a MIC in transition where 28.1 million people are still living in extreme poverty. The paradox is that we achieved LMIC but remain an LDC.”
Using his global expertise, Sajjadur suggested that to face the challenges we need a stable government. “Our government needs to be accountable and pro-people. It must prioritize the continuation of democratic and fiscal policy reforms.”
BIDS’ K.A.S. Murshid wrapped the session with his observation from other countries, “I am not worried about the development finances where there are numerous sources. We have to decide where we have to take the finances. If we are obtaining finances from suppliers credit, there will be many kinds of inefficiencies. It increases the likelihood of corruption. From my experience in Cambodia, I found that they stopped taking loans from World Bank, but it did not hamper them because they were taking aid from China. This is also happening in Myanmar.”
To move forward, Bangladesh in all counts will be a middle income country according to Murshid: “We have so far done well due to many reasons. There is an enterprising capitalist class. However, we cannot leave anyone behind, and our development process must include the marginalized class too.”
Murshid proposed that the governance is one of the keys to financial inclusion, “Governance is important and how we are managing our internal and external financing is imperative. Aid projects remain a priority for bureaucrats. So there are many complexes remain, although our development is remarkable and there is much more to achieve.”