Crucial phase in meeting SDGs  

Published: January 28, 2019 22:08:18 | Updated: January 30, 2019 21:47:37

On the back of successful attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and  completion of the first phase of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  on June 30, 2018, Bangladesh has embarked   on the mid-term  phase to  attain a certain cluster  of SDGs by 2020. It may be recalled that the United Nations (UN) had set in 2015, 17 goals, 169 targets and 241 indicators under   the rubric of    SDGs  to  be  achieved   by 2030. Thus, in pursuit of the Goals, the country is into the crucial mid-term phase, and the SDG progress report by the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission should be very useful for  future planning.  It is the first monitoring report of its kind   identifying   where the  public and private sectors need to refocus on  and redouble their efforts in, so that     sustainable development process gathers momentum keeping to the timeline --unfailingly.

 That  the  economy   must  grow at a rate of  more than 8.0 per cent in the  years ahead  to be able to  absorb  the country's     fast increasing labour force  is  a formidable sustainability challenge  by itself. Massive  foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, bilaterally or sub-regionally negotiated funds, attracting  slices from Asia-wide  China-led infrastructure bank  coupled  with  domestic investments  through internal   resource mobilisations   would be needed  to spur on that kind of high growth  shift. Add to these potential  sources, the  curbing of  capital flight, tax evasion, increasing the existing  number of three million taxpayers  to 10 million,  containing corruption and transport accidents  to  retrieve  some of the 3-4 per cent loss  to  gross domestic product (GDP) growth eaten up by them, the cumulative  national wealth so  created  could be funnelled  into job creation  with a diversified skill content.

 Garnering funds, however, is not as big a hurdle as it is made out to be; the real issue concerns  utilisation of money and  efficient implementation of projects. Institutional capacity needs to be upgraded and put in place, especially in nodal agencies for facilitation of investments.  The poor   quality   public spending,  deeply eroding culture of  loan default, land grabbing  and  wasteful state-owned enterprises put together make for huge opportunity cost  lost to  child health, mother care and education, job creation, skill   training  and the like.

The good thing about a few consecutive years of  cross-sector  incremental  growth pattern is  that  it  gets an economy   catapulted on to a  high growth trajectory  by virtue of an inbuilt sustained   push factor. With the lead time of three years since 2015  having been spent up, Bangladesh has 12 years  to meet the deadline of 2030 -- not a long time to accomplish a whole lot of  multi-disciplinary and  synergic tasks. In such a context, the findings of  the Planning Commission  regarding SDG-9 and SDG-7  underline the challenges posed in implementing the two key clusters of the SDGs. The conclusions on   SDG-9  underline two  familiar facts: One, available skills   fall short of meeting  the demands of  established industries, to say nothing  of  catering for emerging industries; two, a mismatch  exists between the labour market  demand for academic specialties  and academic disciplines  being offered by  the universities.  The  answer lies in  taking a  leaf  from South Korea's example; it prioritised investment in  technical education early in its history.  Since industrial sector's contribution to  GDP is on the rise and a huge number of infrastructural projects are coming up simultaneously, a spike in demands for  technicians and  engineers  is the likeliest thing  to happen in the near future. This approach can  run  parallel   to   export-oriented and  labour-intensive  manufacturing industries like the ready-made garment (RMG)   to yield  job growths. As for meeting SDG-7, those in charge will  have to retool their strategy  to access "affordable, reliable and sustainable energy".

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