The Change in Bangladesh’s image on the World Stage over the Last Fifty Years -Md. Shawkat Alam Faisal
Bangladesh’s golden jubilee of independence is the most significant commemorative milestone as it has surmounted numerous obstacles in the post-independence journey to become a South Asian powerhouse. At present, the country’s economic performance is frequently referred to as the ‘Bangladesh Surprise’. Bangladesh’s graduation from ‘least-developed country’ to ‘developing country’ by the United Nations has added a timely dimension to the milestone celebration on the world stage.
Since 2009, the country has seen a sustained economic recovery facilitated by innovative macroeconomic and fiscal management. The expansion has been inclusive, corresponding to significant socio-economic and human indices. After fifty years, Bangladesh’s image is now seen as a role model on the world stage for other emerging countries through the milestones achieved by the country.
Bangladesh inherited a war-torn economy, and it began with an empty coffer in 1971. In the previous decades, the GDP growth rate has surpassed all records. The income per capita has been increasing constantly. Its performance in eradicating poverty is among the best in the world. For its 167 million inhabitants, the country has attained near self-sufficiency in food production. The country is currently hosting the world’s largest refugee population of more than one million Rohingyas of Myanmar.
Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew from -5.48% in 1971 to 8.15% in 2019. As a result of the epidemic, the economy, like the rest of the globe, contracted to 5.2% of GDP in 2020. GDP in Bangladesh is expected to reach $1280 by the end of 2021.
Bangladesh has continually improved its economic growth trajectory and key economic indicators since independence in 1971. Bangladesh’s per capita income was $134 when the country gained independence and has reached $2554 in 2021.
Bangladesh received a recommendation from the United Nations’ Committee for Development to be graduated from the least developed country (LDC). Bangladesh met all three requirements to upgrade from LDC to a developing country in February 2021, for the second time since 2018.
Bangladesh transitioned from being a low-income nation to a lower-middle-income country (LMC) in 2015.Since 1971, rising per capita income lifted the country out of the LMC category for the first time. Bangladesh aspires to achieve higher middle-income status by the end of 2021.
Bangladesh is recognized as a role model for other developing countries to emulate in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Bangladesh’s accomplishments in poverty alleviation, food security, primary education, mortality ratio, immunization coverage, and combating communicable diseases have been impressive.
Bangladesh was a pivotal contributor to the development of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Since its inception, Bangladesh has embraced the SDG by adding the 17 Global Goals in its National Development Plan, including the 8th Five Year Plan (8FYP), the Delta Plan 2100, and the Perspective Plan 2041.
Bangladesh joined the space age on May 12, 2018, with its first satellite, ‘Bangabandhu-1’. Bangladesh became the 57th nation to have its satellite in outer space due to this technological feat.
The ratio of the population living below the poverty line had decreased from more than 80% in the early 1970s. In 2021, the poverty rate will be25.87%, and by 2030, the country’s poverty rate will have been halved.
Bangladesh’s exports have increased by almost 80% over the last decade, mainly due to the growth of the garment sector. Export earnings totaled almost $40billion in 2020-21 and have set a target for $51 billion in 2021-22. Bangladesh is currently the world’s second-largest garment producer. Pharmaceuticals, bare steel, cement, and ceramics, amongst others, have the potential to thrive.
Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves rose to$48.04billion on August2021, setting a new record from $46.58 billion. Remittance inflows are critical for replenishing foreign exchange reserves. Additionally, the central bank and government have streamlined transferring money abroad and rewarded remittance senders.
In 2018-19, the investment to GDP ratio was 31.6%, with 23.4% coming from the private sector and only 8.13% from the governmental sector. In recent years, private sector investment accounted for over 75% of total investment. Additionally, it aims to strengthen Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives and develop 100 big industrial parks dubbed ‘Economic Zones’.
Bangladesh began accepting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 1971. Bangladesh got $90,000 FDI in 1972.FDI in Bangladesh is expected to reach $2500 million by the end of 2021.
In 1972, global food grain production was 9.9 million metric tons, and that figure will have risen to 45.4 million metric tons by 2021. Bangladesh is the world’s fourth-largest rice producer and the third most significant producer of freshwater fish.
Manufacturing’s share of GDP of Bangladesh has climbed from 4% in 1972 to 18.93% in 2021.At the same time, the non-manufacturing sector’s share has increased from 2% to 11% over the same period. To expedite the industrialization process, the Bangladesh government established 100 Economic Zones.
The service sector’s proportion in the economy has expanded to 56% over the years. Bangladesh’s economy has seen a considerable fall in farm employment over the previous 50 years and a quick surge in industry and service sector jobs. Between 1980 and 2010, the service industry grew at a constant 3.6-6.7% rate.
Although Pakistani forces devastated Bangladesh’s millions of infrastructures in 1971, the country has steadily invested in infrastructure development over the last fifty years, from housing to communication, industrial, water supply, solid waste management, and energy. Bangladesh’s rapid expansion results from significant public investment in massive infrastructures development projects such as the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, the Bangabandhu Tunnel, and the Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant.
Bangladesh has made significant strides in the last fifty years in terms of access to energy. In 1991, just 14% of people had access to electricity, which has risen to 99% by 2021.
Significant achievements are universal primary school enrollment and an 18% dropout rate. Gender equality in education has stretched ahead of schedule for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The literacy rate of Bangladesh has aggrandized to 75.6 % in 2021 from 26.8% in 1974.
Bangladesh has successfully reduced newborn mortality and maternal mortality by 75% through policy reforms. Additionally, the total fertility rate was reduced to 2.04 in 2020 from approximately 7 in the 1970s. Bangladesh was commended in 2011 as an example of ‘excellent health at a low cost’. The shift was accelerated by the presence of both state and private healthcare treatments and NGO activities.
Bangladesh’s founding year had a life expectancy of 46.6 years. In 2020, the average lifespan was 72.6 years.
In Bangladesh, the Infant Mortality and the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) have decreased by 75% during the last five decades. In 1975, the maternal death rate was 600 per every 100,000 live births and245 in 2021. Infant mortality was 167 per 1000 live births in 1973 and is almost 24in 2021.
In 1979, Bangladesh launched the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), a global immunization campaign. In 1985, vaccination coverage was 2%. Bangladesh had vaccinated 38 million children from 2003 to 2019. Bangladesh has been polio-free since 2006 and has eradicated neonatal tetanus.
Bangladesh has retained the top spot in the Gender Gap Index among South Asian countries for the second consecutive year. In 2020, Bangladesh closed 73% of the overall gender gap. Between 1996 and 2017, the national female labour force participation rate climbed from 15.8 to 36.3%, exceeding the South Asian average of 35%.
Bangladesh has the most extensive river delta system globally, which is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Since 1970, Bangladesh has been hit by six big floods and five cyclones, and Bangladesh used satellite photos to ascertain the storm’s severity in 2007. Additionally, the country has built new sorts of unique cyclone shelters where residents can seek refuge.
Bangladesh has made significant technological advancements in various fields, including telecommunications, internet connectivity and speed, digitization, and media. Since 2009, the government’s pledge of a Digital Bangladesh has resulted in significant ICT advancements.
Bangladesh already has an impressive track record demonstrating how strong leadership, solid policymaking, and persistent efforts can propel a country ahead. It has a lot to celebrate the fifty years of gaining independence, being in a solid position to achieve a poverty-free and advanced economy by 2041.
The writer of this article is a student of the Department of Law, University of Rajshahi