Monday, January 25, 2021

Why Bangladesh Overhauled Pakistan In Economic And Social Development

Bangladesh, to the east of India on the Bay of Bengal, is a South Asian country marked by lush greenery and many waterways. However, description to the country was quite different before the 1970’s when Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan.

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Liberation War in Bangladesh, was a revolution and armed conflict sparked by the rise of the Bengali nationalist and self-determination movement in what was then East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. It resulted in the independence of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

 In 1974, the then secretary of state Henry Kissinger who served under U.S President Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administration visited Dhaka on a short trip and termed Bangladesh a bottomless basket.

But four and half decades later, history has given its verdict that Kissinger was quite wrong about Bangladesh. In 1970s Bangladesh was a war-torn country plagued by poverty and starvation. But now Bangladesh had many things to take pride in.

In March, 2018 Bangladesh has achieved the eligibility criteria set forth by the United Nations (UN) to be recognized as a developing country.

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Bangladesh was categorized as least developed country (LDC) since 1975.  However, according to the UN, the minimum requirement of per capita income for transitioning into a developing nation is $1230 but Bangladesh is now $1610.

Moreover, In July 2015 Bangladesh transitioned from low income to lower middle income country. This is also based on per capita income set by World Bank.

Today, many economists claim that Bangladesh shall be the next Asian tiger. Its growth rate last year (7.8%) put it higher than India and well above Pakistan (5.8%). The debt per capita for Bangladesh ($434) is less than half that for Pakistan ($974) and its foreign exchange reserves ($32 billion) are four times Pakistan’s ($8bn).

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Bangladesh is likely to be the biggest mover in the global GDP rankings in 2030, becoming the 26th largest economy in the world from 42nd last year, according to the latest HSBC Global Research report. The report – The World in 2030: Our long-term projections for 75 countries — showed Bangladesh’s economy would jump 16 notches, the highest by any country between 2018 and 2030.

Much of this growth owes to exports which zoomed from zero in 1971 to $35.8bn in 2018 (Pakistan’s is $24.8bn). Bangladesh produces no cotton but, to the chagrin of Pakistan’s pampered textile industry, it has eaten savagely into its market share.

The International Monetary Fund calculates Bangladesh’s economy growing from $180bn presently to $322bn by 2021. This means that the average Bangladeshi today is almost as wealthy as the average Pakistani and, if the rupee depreciates further, will be technically wealthier by 2020.

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Pakistan’s currency Rupee is now trading well below the value of Bangladesh’s Taka: Tk 85 fetches one US dollar, whereas it costs more than Rs 155 in Pakistan.

Bangladesh is now the world’s second largest apparel exporter after mighty China and its entrepreneurs have achieved that with imported machineries and raw materials. Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves is now more than double of Pakistan’s and the latter’s trade deficit is almost four times that of Bangladesh.

Also, Bangladesh has made considerable progress in social sectors such as poverty reduction, health, family planning, female education, women’s empowerment and child mortality reduction despite some challenges like governance crisis, corruption and political instability.

The health sector is no less impressive far fewer babies die at birth in Bangladesh than in Pakistan. Immunization is common and no one gets shot dead for administering polio drops. Life expectancy (72.5 years) is higher than Pakistan’s (66.5 years). According to the ILO, females are well ahead in employment (33.2pc) as compared to Pakistan (25.1pc).

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Other indicators are equally stunning. East Pakistan’s population in the 1951 census was 42 million, while West Pakistan’s was 33.7 million. But today Bangladesh has far fewer people than Pakistan – 165m versus 200m. A sustained population planning campaign helped reduce fertility in Bangladesh. No such campaign or even its beginnings is visible today in Pakistan.

In 1991 over 40%of the population lived under the extreme poverty line but today as World Bank (WB) says that amount is less than 14 %. According to the latest survey results conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics the poverty rate in Bangladesh is 24.3 % while it was 31.5% in 2010.

The current rate of extreme poverty is 12.9 percent, compared to 17.6 percent six years ago. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics conducted the survey between April 2016 and March 2017.

The previous survey was done in 2010.The most important thing is that Bangladesh has a huge population of young generation while many countries like China, aged population are increasing. About 52 % of Bangladeshi people falls in the age bracket between 15 to 35 what denotes the young labour force of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is marching forward not only in economic sector but also in social fronts.

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For Pakistan, human development comes a distant second. The bulk of national energies remain focused upon check-mating India. Relations with Afghanistan and Iran are therefore tense; Pakistan accuses both of being excessively close to India.

Bangladesh is conflicted by internal rifts. Still, being more multicultural and liberal, its civil society and activist intelligentsia have stopped armed groups from grabbing the reins of power, unlike Pakistan.

With the economic and social advancements, Bangladesh is also a step ahead in Information and Communications Technology. Recently, Bangladesh reached a milestone as its first- ever satellite Bangabandhu-1 was set to orbit the earth. Thus Bangladesh has turned into a country from bottomless basket to space odyssey.

Bangladesh has now 66.8 million active internet subscribers, over 90% use mobile and 10 million use smart phones. Over 23 million Bangladeshi uses Facebook. Bangladesh is now 5th largest mobile market. In May 12, 2018 a new feather has been added in the crown of Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina once said “My objective is to fulfill the dream of Bangabandhu through building a hunger- and poverty-free Golden Bangladesh being imbued with the spirit of the War of Liberation.” Bangladesh has become a prodigy of economic , social development as well as ICT for rest of the world.

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