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Growth that eludes human development

| Updated: October 14, 2020 22:19:54

Growth that eludes human development

Today, we're living in a world where most people have started calling everything as the new normal. Running after time to meet daily needs, losing social adda (rendezvous), falling prey to hegemony of technology, widening resource gap, shrinking space for ventilation and even the rule of kakistocracy - all these are being accepted as normal phenomena.

If these are really not abnormal, why do we proclaim such normalcy so loudly? Or, are we saying so just without reflecting on the actual reality that each of us has to face every day?

Perhaps, many forget how the term 'new normal' was developed, let alone remembering Bill Gross who made it popular. Lest we forget, it's "a period of time in which economies grow very slowly as opposed to growing like weeds, the way children do".

"Growth" has been such a concept that critics could hardly amass courage to challenge it. Disparity, which accompanies higher economic growth of a country, is said to be a normal phenomenon as well! A major new normal beneficiary of such growth is the one who boasts of paying millions of dollars in income tax when records show he actually pays $750 a year.

Developed by economists and compiled by statisticians, this growth mostly belongs to people like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg or Amazon's Jeff Bezos who own higher wealth than many countries' gross domestic product (GDP). The growth on paper is often hijacked by powerful politicians or maybe, they are used to preside over the process.

Otherwise, why would a finance minister be angry if his/her country's growth is shown to be lower than the officially projected rate? Even the rationale behind the current pandemic, which has shattered methods and systems, is not enough to convince the incumbents that lower growth is the new normal at least now.

What's that growth, by the way?

A child is supposed to grow, with support of adequate food, medicare services, learning opportunities, and a healthy atmosphere to live in. S/he grows, even if there is malnutrition and utter negligence, but this cannot be called growth proper.

Growth not only makes an Einstein but also millions of unknown citizens who are healthy, sophisticated and happy. It's about flourishing of the potential of individuals and the way they aspire to grow.

However, the concept of growth has been limited to the increase in value of goods and services produced by an economy in a year. And the development thinkers have been obsessed with such growth while people cannot confirm how much they've gained from the rise in wealth.

Estimating growth has been such a practice, though a cliché by this time, that there is a tendency to ignore disparity. If you want to measure inequality, you've to take shelter in another not so understandable measure called 'Gini Coefficient'.

Bangladesh is applauded for higher growth and sometimes criticised for widening inequality. However, the Covid-19 has affected not just economic growth; it may have enhanced inequality further. More importantly, the pandemic has exposed serious weakness of the growth estimation, which could hardly be argued earlier.

If growth is the yardstick of development, we need to have a critical look at the poor's deprivation of assistance during the pandemic, vulnerability of women, state of medicare services, or water supply situation in slums.

How the majority of children, juveniles and youths deprived of access to online classes would understand the country's economic growth --- be it 8.0 per cent or 1.6 per cent --- could be a matter of future research.

When politics of exclusion creates hostile minds among a large group of people, it cannot be expected that development bypassing the majority would make them content with everything around them as new normal.

It remains to be seen if the post-pandemic Bangladesh is awaiting new aspirations among the youths who have already experienced once-in-a-century crisis.






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