The country's agriculture sector needs to be upgraded to a development-intensified one from the current cheap labour-based economic model, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman opined.
"The agriculture sector is playing a driving role for economic development. It is now time to integrate the agriculture sector with the country's financial sector afresh," the noted economist said while speaking in a discussion in Dhaka on Monday.
Although the ready-made garments and remittance are playing the key role to expand Bangladesh's economy, the farming sector is another one, which is also playing a leading role, added Dr Hossain, who is also the chairperson of the BRAC.
The Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) organised the plenary session - "Innovation in Monetary Policy, Economic Development and Five Year plan" - on the occasion of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Many sectors, including the agriculture, are lagging behind due to the Covid-19 pandemic impact, noted Dr Hossain, who was a former adviser to the caretaker government.
He said despite a huge improvement in rural economies, they did not have sufficient data about the changes. "If we want to achieve our goals, the data on rural economies is essential for making the future plans."
Among others, former central bank governor Dr Atiur Rahman, executive director of Institute for Inclusive Finance and Development (InM) Mustafa K Mujeri, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University Dr M A Sattar Mandal, and BIBM chair professors Barkat-e-Khuda and Dr Muzaffer Ahmad also spoke at the session, with Md Akhtaruzzaman, director general of BIBM, in the chair.
Dr Atiur Rahman said since the central bank has given policy supports, many small borrowers of micro-finance institutions and banks have transformed into cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs), which are facilitating Bangladesh's growth trajectory.
It is encouraging that the government with the refinancing support of the central bank has come forward with a number of stimulus packages, focusing on the agriculture, CMSMEs and informal sectors, to keep the momentum of economic activities.
Dr. Mujeri said Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in raising economic growth and reducing poverty since its independence in 1971.
"Once, Bangladesh was treated as a test case for development. Now the scenario has changed a lot, as the economy had grown at a high pace over more than a decade," he added.
Dr Sattar Mandal said the first five-year plan (FYP) from 1973 to 1978 was a roadmap towards economic development of Bangladesh.
Dr Barkat-e-Khuda said high growth has been achieved due to various inclusive activities of the banking sector.
A number of participants, including economists, senior bankers, academicians, media representatives, and faculty members of the BIBM, took part in the discussion.