Resurrecting a country is not an easy task, but nothing is impossible when one has the resolution. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina narrated such a real story regarding the countrys politico-economic resurrection.
Bangladesh is certainly one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. The gross domestic product (GDP) has grown consistently since 2010 at more than 6 per cent annually; it exceeded 8 per cent in 2019.
“We have accomplished a great deal in the last 50 years. When we emerged as an independent nation at the end of 1971, our war-ravaged country of 75 million was mired in widespread suffering. The per-capita GDP was only $133 and growing minimally, if at all, and life expectancy was only 47 years. Bangladesh is now a vibrant economy of 165 million, with a per-capita GDP of $2,554 and growing fast, and life expectancy has risen to 73 years,” Hasina wrote in an essay ‘Innovations: Bangladesh at 50’ published by MIT Press, US.
Remittance earnings from expatriates working abroad hit a record $21 billion in 2020, the eighth highest in the world. The country’s foreign exchange reserve stands at $47 billion.
Of all the inequities that exist in Bangladesh, the greatest is housing. During 2020, the centennial year of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s birth, the country pledged to build homes for the landless and to provide everyone with a proper home address. Eliminating homelessness alleviates poverty, creates more equity, and results in a healthier citizenry.
“It has been inspired, like many other initiatives, by Sheikh Mujib, who set up clusters of villages for landless people and began the distribution of state-owned land for building better housing. We have upheld his paradigm and are currently implementing it,” Hasina elaborated.
“Inclusivity is deep in our ethos. This is because the consciousness of our nation emerged against the discriminatory rules, first under the British and then under the Pakistanis. Sheikh Mujib was the champion of inclusivity and the best articulator of this ethos. Development must engage our entire society. It must be inclusive. It must be participatory,” she added.
Once digital communication devices became widespread, the country realized that they could be harnessed for financial inclusion.
“As a result, my government endorsed the idea of mobile financial services immediately after my second term started in 2009. Today, more than 80 million people in the country are using mobile financial services, and we are a proud world leader in this sector. We established the Karmasangsthan Bank,a bank dedicated to facilitating small enterprises, where young men and women can obtain loans without a deposit for sums of 200,000 taka (approximately $2,400) or above to run a business or farm. Other startup programs are providing training and access to low-interest loans.”
Micro-savings is one of the key elements that encourages people with less earnings to do some savings.
Bangladesh is now known globally for communications and digitisations.
“Within months of taking office in 1996, I endorsed three digital mobile licenses for nationwide services. These networks now provide mobile access to virtually everyone in Bangladesh. In 2009, to capitalize on the widespread availability of mobile phones, to complement the phenomenon, and to catapult the country into a digital future, we launched the Digital Bangladesh initiative.
“This vision includes e-governance (bringing doorstep delivery of government services through digital platforms), creating a technology-centric knowledge-based economy, and sector. We set ourselves the ambitious target of achieving our first phase of Digital Bangladesh by 2021, and I am pleased that our achievements have exceeded our expectations. Today, government services continue their rapid digitization, our ICT sector is a booming export industry, and our IT freelancers are in demand all over the world. Some of the initiatives we undertook are outlined below,” Hasina said.
Digital centres have been set up in each union council (community-based governance group) location; there are 5,275 union councils across Bangladesh.
Hasina government has invested $300 million in funding, helping, and promoting startups.
At the moment, Bangladesh is exporting $1.3 billion in software and other digital services. In addition, about 650,000 freelancers are earning more than $500 million a year. We are aiming to boost exports to $5 billion by 2025. As developed countries experience population decline, demand for highly skilled people in their service sectors is likely to increase. We are working on this great potential to further increase our earnings.
Bangladesh government has also paid a lot of attention to electricity supply.
“I have always considered energy to be a major pillar of economic development. Hence, starting with the Private Power Generation Policy in 1996 and my efforts to privatize power generation that year, we have increased both the generation and diversification of energy sources. We formulated several other policies, including one creating incentives to mobilise private capital and foreign investments for this capital-intensive and technology-dependent sector. Our diversification efforts have embraced different fuel options, including nuclear and renewables. In addition, we have initiated regional cooperation with India, Bhutan, and Nepal for the export and import of power, including hydropower,” Hasina said.
In the pre-pandemic years, our foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country increased steadily, reaching close to $3.9 billion.