Bangladesh came into being in 1971 as a new member in the world of states. In fact, Bangladesh is the youngest nation-state in South Asia. The picture of a war torn county might not be unknown, poverty, starvation, was a common picture. During his visit to Dhaka in 1974, Henry Kissinger termed Bangladesh as a ‘bottomless basket’. But today after 44 years of Kissinger’s observation of ‘bottomless basket’, Bangladesh has been turned into a ‘full basket case’. And with the passage of time, Kissinger’s country, the United States itself is eager to make ‘strategic partnership’ with Bangladesh.
In addition, the then US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W Mozenain in February 2014 said his country’s former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger’s remark “Bangladesh is a bottomless basket” was totally wrong. Moreover, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) dismissed the previous branding of Bangladesh and commented Bangladesh as ‘Basket Case’ with a higher growth rate, a lower birth rate, and a more internationally competitive economy.
In fact, Bangladesh today is a full ‘basket of food’ rather than ‘bottomless basket’ by dint of tens of thousands of hardworking farmers, factory workers, garments workers, along with other classes of people in the country. Even Bangladesh is forecasted as one of the emerging economies in days to come. In this regard, it is pertinent to present some forecasts regarding Bangladesh.
According to a study of UK-based firm PwC, Bangladesh will be 23rd largest world economy by 2050 , seven position above the current 31st ranking, is seen to move up to 29th by 2030 and could grow at an average annual rate of over 5%. In addition, the current gross domestic product at purchasing power parity (PPP) is $536bn which will be turned into at $1,291bn by 2030 and $3,367bn by 2050. In addition, the Goldman Sach forecasts Bangladesh as one of the countries in ‘N11’ after BRICS who will dominate the future world economy.
Against the above backdrop, this write up intends to look at the question that how much progress Bangladesh achieved since its inception in 1971. The piece concentrates on the socio-economic development, political development and the challenges that the country is facing in the 21st century.
In terms of political aspect of the country, fractional politics is a common feature in Bangladesh. Military rulers ruled a long period from 1975-1990. And democracy re-entered into the country in 1991. Hence, level of maturity of democracy is very poor. A matured democracy is a crying need for the country for a long term sustainable development.
Economy and Development is another dimension that also needs to be looked at. The economic growth of Bangladesh is over 6 percent. And from the earlier parts, a number of studies, has shown Bangladesh as one of the emerging economies in the days ahead. But the question remains that does this 6 percent economic growth translates into human development or human security?
In terms of development, Bangladesh alike others follow the neo-liberal economic model of development focusing on economic growth, large scale developmental projects and so on. While the principle of profit over people is followed, the well-being of the people is hardly taken into account. Hence, development is seen from the aspect of development of state alone. And while this neo-liberal economic model, i.e. the principle of ‘profit over people’ is followed the large number of people become marginalized. Hence, even though it is claimed that Bangladesh is self-sufficient in food production, but the problem remains in terms of entitlement. Still, people suffer from hunger and disease. Hence, this neo-liberal economic model needs to be problematized and the development needs to be focused on human development.
Among the challenges Bangladesh faces, political violence is the major one. It has been even institutionalized within political parties. In the period of 1991-2001, for example, 2,423 political violence and conflicts have been recorded in Bangladesh. According to Ain o Salish Kendra’s (ASK) acting executive director Nur Khan Liton, in the year of 2013 alone, 507 people died in 848 acts of political violence.
Another prime challenge is environmental challenge. It is recognized worldwide that Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country to global warming and climate change even though the country is the least contributor to global warming. The increased number of natural disasters, rising temperature, changing the seasons, decreased volume of rainfall is common phenomenon in the country.
Despite the innumerable challenges it faces, Bangladesh has been successful in meeting many of its 2015 Million Development Goals before time, from reducing the poverty gap ratio to attaining gender parity. In term of women’s empowerment or other social developments, Bangladesh is far better than India.
There are a lot of potentials for Bangladesh. The most important potential for Bangladesh is that her 60 % population are young. If the potentials of this large volume of youths can be explored and utilized, it is expected that Bangladesh will emerge as one of the developed countries very soon. This requires efficient leadership, national unity, honesty, hard work and dedication.
Lastly, without any doubt, Bangladesh has achieved a lot but still there is a long way to go. In this regard, I intend to remind Bangladesh the famous sentence of Robert Frost, ‘and miles to go before I sleep’.
Md Shariful Islam is a Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org