The Financial Express

On the road to economic prosperity  

Nilratan Halder   | Published: May 16, 2019 22:10:12

On the road to economic prosperity   

It was not long before that global financial institutes and analysts including the prestigious Economist Intelligence Unit used to consider Bangladesh's economic development quite an enigma. All because the country defied the well established economic theories and practices on its march towards bolstering the economy. A little later, some started calling it a development paradox. Even today, there are financial experts and think tanks who complain that the official calculations for arriving at the declared gross domestic product (GDP) growth are not transparent enough. So, the projected growth rate has to be taken with a grain of salt. 

However, such complaints and whines receive a rebuff when a few world-class financial institutes and research firms paint a rosy picture for the country's future. The latest to do so is the Standard Chartered Bangladesh. According to its projection, the Bangladesh nationals will be richer than the Indians by 2030. As of now, the nationals of the largest South Asian neighbour have a higher per capita income at $ 1,913.2 than Bangladesh citizens at $ 1,599.8. But over the next decade, Bangladesh's per capita income is projected to grow nearly four times to reach $5,734.6 by 2030. During the same period India's per capita is expected to grow less than three times to reach $ 5,423.4.

The StanChart has taken into account the economic forecasts by various international and multilateral organisations to arrive at its conclusion. It has focused on the seven fastest growing economies around the world, which are expected to maintain at least 7.0 per cent economic growth in the 2020s. Only Vietnam and the Philippines are expected to register higher growth and overtake Bangladesh during the period.

By 2030, India is expected to emerge as the fourth largest economy in the world. Bangladesh too will improve its world ranking quite appreciably to be placed at 23rd position. This means the country will move 20 places up from its current 43rd. Bangladesh took just six years to move 16 notches up in 2018 to become the 43rd largest economy in the world. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a UK-based research firm, in its 10th edition analysed 193 countries' economies the world over to determine their 2018 positions as also the places they will attain in the year 2033.  The CERB analysis was published early in 2018. Its economic forecast was for the 2033 and at that cutting point, Bangladesh was assigned the 24th position. The projections do not quite conform to each other but also are not wide off the mark.

The important point here is that Bangladesh economic growth is no fluke, nor something preposterous. It has been maintaining its move on a higher trajectory and if the predictions are right, it will propel the country on the road to a developed economy. Today its economy size is equal to that of Canada and by 2030, its robust economic growth is expected to positively influence its social development to a large extent.

Experts who are baffled by the country's economic performance grumble that in the absence of good governance and institutionalisation, economy loses its way in the wilderness. What they have sorely missed is the genuine entrepreneurship of unassuming farmers and entrepreneurs who have acted as the silent engine of economic growth. That a food-deficient country has now turned into a self-sufficient if not a food-surplus one owes to farmers who have been amply supported and egged on by the country's department of agriculture.

In this context non-government organisations have also played a crucial role in developing women entrepreneurship. Women now take part side by side with men in crop fields. Thus a silent revolution has taken place in boosting women empowerment. Had this been duly recognised in economic terms, the mystery behind the country's economic performance would have long been solved. At a time of globalisation, farmers have also proved their courage and enterprising spirit by sending their sons abroad with employment. Illegal migration is beside the point. Remittance sent by migrant workers has strengthened village economy and raised the living standard of rural people.

Now what makes financial institutes and organisations to be optimistic about the country's uninterrupted high economic performance? One of the main elements is the country's demographic constitution. A nation where 47 per cent people are younger than 35, the demographic dividend is waiting to be taken care of and harnessed. Actually, the biggest challenge before it lies there -how to turn its population into human assets. Sure enough, education is the best recipe but it has to be devised pragmatically to suit the country's needs.

There is a need for caution against the backdrop of anti-globalisation and anti-integration of economies in the developed nations. Also climate change poses a serious threat to consistent agricultural and economic performance. However, by 2030, 20 per cent of the global population will be living in Bangladesh and India. Considering the share in population of the two countries and other Asian nations, their consumption and improved lifestyle, it is possible to increase a closer cooperation between and among them. If it has to be a really Asian Age, such cooperation and transfer of technology will be in high demand. Hopefully, they will not be found wanting in the spirit of togetherness for collective prosperity. 



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