After five decades of independence, Bangladesh is now a strong vibrant country in terms of various socio-economic indicators. The continuous struggle of the country's people to reduce poverty and hunger and improve the quality of health and education has paid off significantly. Gone are the days, when a large number of people did not have a minimum income to purchase required foods and there was also not any necessary social safety net for them. Hunger and malnutrition were inescapable for many. Today, almost everyone has access to the minimum level of food and nutrition. They have also better access to healthcare and education despite many limitations. Then there are diversified job opportunities although the major part is informal.
Undoubtedly, the list of achievements in the last five decades is long and laudable. From a basket case to one of the fastest-growing economies is a commendable achievement after all. When it concerns managing the natural disaster or economic hardship, the ability to do so by the country has already been proven in the global arena. Thriving private businesses coupled with vibrant activities of non-government organisations have been driving the socio-economic progress making the government's development effort effective and sustainable in the long run.
The achievements of Bangladesh are thus definitely a matter of celebration and pride. At the same time, some of the successes are also a matter of disappointment and call for self-criticism.
Achieving self-reliance in food is almost a reality. Also Bangladesh has no dearth of resources to procure food from the global market whenever needed. The policymakers argue that the country has become self-sufficient in food but in the strict sense of the term it has not. Though Bangladesh now exports some food items including rice, there is a regular import of rice and wheat also. Thus, self-sufficiency is yet to be achieved.
Over the years, Bangladesh has developed a good road network across the country. Thousands of kilometres of roads and highways have been repaired, reconstructed and even added to make the mobility of people and goods smooth. The construction of the Padma Bridge reflects the paradigm shift in communication infrastructure. Nevertheless, it is sad to note that road safety is a matter of grave concern. Every day, some people die from road accidents for reckless and unruly driving which is not desirable. When adequate resources are there to invest in mega infrastructure, a reasonable portion should be made to ensure road safety.
To speak of another downside of communication, after more than 50 years of independence, Bangladesh is yet to introduce a fleet of decent public transport in Dhaka and other major cities. This is costly in terms of time, money, health and productivity of millions of people who have to commute daily braving unbearable traffic congestions and pollution. There is no lack of resources and planning to revamp the public transport. What is absent is a strong political commitment to do so.
Notwithstanding some spectacular successes, there are areas of disappointment. It is time to take the right course of action to overcome all these constraints in the interest of a sustainably vibrant Bangladesh.