Economic outlook 2030: Bangladesh on a stable course

Masih Malik Chowdhury | Published: October 10, 2018 21:21:54 | Updated: October 13, 2018 21:33:44

Bangladesh had a GDP growth of 7.86 per cent in the last fiscal. This is  welcome news as this performance is the resultant effect of all activities & performances by the nation.

The global credit ratings of Bangladesh have also been impressive. Moody's rating for Bangladesh has been at Ba3 since 2010 till 2017. This rating applies to both foreign & local currencies. S&P rated Bangladesh as BB (Stable) & BB-for foreign and local currency in the long term. Fitch has assessed Bangladesh at BB-(stable) from 2011 till 2029 for both local & foreign currencies in the long term.

The average life expectancy of people in Bangladesh has increased to 72 years seven months. The life expectancy for women is 73 years five months while for men, it is 70 years six months. It is much better than India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Mortality rate in 2018 in Pakistan was 73.82, Bangladesh 32.49 and India 39.89. Foreign currency reserve of Bangladesh is now at around US $ 34 billion. India is struggling with a depleting reserve while Pakistan has a reserve which is less than $ 10 billion.

The power sector has been performing well as the installed production capacity is over 16,000 MW now. Around 80 per cent of the population has access to electricity. At least 52 power projects are in the pipeline, which once completed can add another 18,415 MW to the production capacity. Once these projects are complete, more people in Bangladesh will have access to electricity. The government is working and planning on more projects which will lead to a total production capacity of 60,000 MW by 2050.

Bangladesh is doing well in other areas as well, be it sports, domestic politics, Rohingya issue or anything else related to the country.

HSBC recently made a forecast which placed Bangladesh as the 23rd economy with a GDP of over US $ 1.5 trillion by 2030. All these are happening despite persistent bad governance, lack of accountability and transparency.

HSBC has prepared the outlook on 75 economies of the world. It observed that the emerging economies will account for roughly 50 per cent of world GDP-- a seismic shift from half of it in 2000, it added. China will continue to be the single biggest contributor to global growth but five other Asian countries will be among the world's top six fastest growing economies. These are, Bangladesh, India, Philipines, Pakistan and Vietnam.

"India is set to become the world's third-largest economy in just over a decade, up from seventh today-leapfrogging the second and third-largest developed economies of Germany and Japan," the report said. "The projections and rankings contained in this report are based on the countries' potential to catch up with more developed nations," it added. The report stated, "…it is very clear that a country such as Bangladesh has far more potential for growth than one like Norway, which is far richer."

HSBC's long-term growth model projections for real GDP growth also showed that Bangladesh is on top of the five fastest-growing economies in Asia. The rest of the countries included India, the Philippines, Pakistan and Vietnam. The country is projected to grow above 7.0 per cent annually through 2030.

As per the projection, Bangladesh is the only country to maintain 7.0-plus growth rate annually up to 2030 and even beyond. India is projected to maintain 6.0-plus growth rate but not 7.0 during the period reviewed by the report.

The risk areas for Bangladesh are also noted in it. It said that Bangladesh is set to make a remarkable progress on the economic front. It is also one of the top five countries projected to be the most vulnerable to environmental disaster and climate change. Surprisingly, Bangladesh is among four of the top six countries for projected growth, including India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Together these four countries top a list of 67 countries that the ESG analysts of the report estimated to be most vulnerable to climate change.

In terms of sectoral development, education and health have received the most importance in Bangladesh. The gender equity is also a priority. The GDP growth has been stable after getting out of the 6.0 per cent growth trap, despite vivid evidences of deplorably persistent bad governance. Application of laws is not same for all income strata of people in Bangladesh. Accountability & transparency are still a far cry. Corruption is the root cause in all sectors which hinders  the application of law on the privileged. In the street, law enforcers and government officials can be seen moving on the wrong side of the road and violating other rules. They run vehicles without papers and valid documents like licenses & route permits. Such approach from them should not be the practice.

Moreover, lack of respect for law and effect thereof creates the tendency to be non-compliant. Corruption is everpresent in government offices. No individual segment of the society is fully directed towards total national interest. Despite these limitations, people-driven developments have taken place in the country putting it in the Middle Income Country (MIC) cluster.

Bureaucracy has always been a barrier. The country is still struggling for a people-oriented bureaucracy. Still, government machinery is dependent and guided by the bureaucrats.

 Quality wisdom in running the state is the need of the time. This is required to holistically imbibe the political manifesto of the elected government. Following the liberation war in 1971, Fidel Castro while visiting Dhaka had asked the then PM Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that how the war ravaged country is being guided in post liberation by a bureaucracy that had worked with occupation forces during the war? Bangabandhu had replied that everybody belonged to Bangladesh. This response was more emotional than realistic. As a result, political philosophy of the government gets lost in bureaucracy.

  All these are offset by peoples' aspirations for progress. The per capita GDP of Bangladesh has been a unique indicator which is uniformly on the rise. It is stable and steadily rising. It was US$ 318 in 1972. In 2017/18, it rose to $ 1,751 per capita. The purchasing power parity in 2018 was at $ 4,571.

The journey to MIC and beyond is now on a stable course. Bangladesh has met all three conditions required to be recognised as MIC, when two out of three were  the prerequisites. Now democracy and development should go hand in hand.

Masih Malik Chowdhury is Founder Partner, Masih Muhith Haque & Co., Chartered Accountants and Past President of ICAB.

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