The Financial Express

Policymakers urged to shun 'growth obsession’, address inequality instead

| Updated: December 31, 2020 10:36:33

Policymakers urged to shun 'growth obsession’, address inequality instead

Speakers at a discussion on Thursday urged the government to redefine the development strategy from the economic growth-centric paradigm to reducing inequality and disparity.

They have suggested making policy in the upcoming 8th Five-Year Plan for attracting more investments, creating jobs and cutting the gap between the poor and the rich for a sustainable development agenda.

The recommendations came at the virtual dialogue on "Bangladesh's Eighth Five Year Plan (2021-25): Development Strategy and Interests of the Left Behind," organised by the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh on Thursday in Dhaka.

The Platform's convener and distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattarcharya presented a keynote paper with economist Professor Rehman Sobhan in the chair.

Dr Bhattarcharya, in his presentation, proposed a strategic framework, which underscores redefining the development strategy for the 8th FYP.

Parting with the so-called 'growth delusion,' he said, the country's development plan should focus on mitigating inequality, social exclusion and vulnerabilities, increasing the productivity growth, bringing about technological transformation, welfare protection and promoting the wellbeing of the people.

He noted that the employment target during the last 7th FYP period was not achieved, youth unemployment rate was significantly higher than the national average, unemployment rate and the jobless rate of educated youths was even more.

Dr Bhattarcharya suggested a secured macroeconomic stability focusing on domestic resources mobilisation through direct taxes and enhancing allocations for the quality of education and health services.

He underlined the need for promoting transparency and accountability in public expenditure, quality development work and establishing good governance.

He laid emphasis on attracting private investment, including the foreign direct investment (FDI), which would ensure employment opportunities for the people, affected by the COVID pandemic.

Professor Rehman Sobhan said the growing inequality and disparity in Bangladesh are the big challenges at this stage.

The elimination of the disparity should be the key development agenda of the present government like the development philosophy of Bangabandhu, he added.

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) executive director Dr Iftekharuazzaman said in a country, where corruption eats up 2-3 per cent of GDP and nearly US$10 billion worth money is laundered to other countries, it is impossible to make a balanced development without establishing governance.

By promoting corruption, the state institutions have become dysfunctional, which is now a big debacle to a balanced society, he added.

Business leader Selima Ahmad said the plan should focus on small and marginalised businessmen.

Private investment and employment opportunities for the returned migrant workers amid the impact of the COVID should be the priority in the 8th FYP, she added.

The disparity in education, urban-rural, and the rich-poor is huge in Bangladesh, which should be addressed in the next development plan, Ms Ahmad said.

President of the Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services (BASIS) Syed Almas Kabir said since high-tech would dominate the next development era, the government's plan should focus on re-skilling the present labour force aimed at creating diversified employment opportunities.

Lawmaker Abdus Shahid said the marginalised people should get priority in the development plan for achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh.

Standing committee member of the ministry of finance Kazi Nabil Ahmed emphasised better education and health services for all without any disparities.

BNP leader Rumeen Farhana said the pace of poverty reduction is slowing, but the per capita income has been rising over the years.

"It means that the rich are becoming richer and the poor people are becoming poorer here in Bangladesh."

She urged the government to frame such a policy which will reduce the disparity in the society.

Jatiya Party leader Pir Fazlur Rahman said if the government fails to curb corruptions and improve the productivity, it would be impossible to achieve targets of the 8th FYP.

The disparity in education, health services and income is growing, which is diminishing the country's achievement, Mr Rahmna said.

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