Bangladesh's success stories are highly recognised across the world these days with some developed nations even considering this country as one of the attractive business destinations now. Different international research organisations have acknowledged the success of the country with regard to achievement of high GDP (gross domestic product) growth, poverty alleviation, increase in per capita income, rate of female education and some other social indicators. The 2018 HSBC report, 'The World in 2030: Our long term projections for 75 countries', says Bangladesh is poised to become the 26th biggest economy on global scale, improving from the current 42nd position. The report says Bangladesh's real GDP growth would be 7.1 per cent per year up to 2030 and the country is projected to rise from the current $300 billion economy to a $700 billion one in 2030. However, a lot has to be done to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Bangladesh Economic Association (BEA) at a seminar on implementing SDGs has reviewed the work already done and highlighted what is yet to be done. It has been noted that the country has on its own taken a number of steps and has demonstrated strong political commitment towards implementing the SDGs. A strong 20-member SDG monitoring committee has been formed under the Prime Minister's Office. SDG mapping has been done and 40 lead ministries, 34 co-lead and 60 associates are working accordingly. A national-level monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework has been prepared. Online SDG tracker with relevant action plan has been launched with the data repository system already in progress.
As of now, the challenges have been identified. The government is monitoring SDG progress in a structured way and progress of each ministry can be gauged by the annual performance agreement (APA) or can be tracked online anytime. Progress made so far is encouraging. The government at the same time should be aware of the constraints and challenges in achieving the SDGs.
Some think that the SDGs have actually been developed from MDGs, while others point out the differences between the two. MDGs had eight goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators, and the duration was 14 years (2001-2015). The duration with regard to SDGs also remains 14 years (2016-2030), but there are 17 goals, 169 targets, and 232 indicators. MDGs were based on UN Millennium Declaration 2000, while SDGs are based on United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), RIO plus 20 declaration of 2012. Although the countries have the experience of MDGs implementation, there remain many risks and challenges.
MARKET ECONOMY AND IN EQUALITY: Meanwhile, a question has arisen with market economy which has created huge differences in societies and regions, inequalities of wealth, environmental impacts, and usurpation of poor people's resources by the rich. But number one priority for SDGs is inclusive growth and SDG-10 is specially aimed at reducing inequalities among countries. How can this goal be achieved within the purview of market economy?
EMPLOYMENT AND CONSUMPTION: SDG-8 is about full and productive employment and decent work for all, while SDG-12 focuses on ensuring sustainable consumption and production pattern. Bangladesh is in the process of preparing a 10-year framework programme on sustainable consumption and production plan. The target is to achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by 2030. Production line has to follow the circular economy concept instead of linear economy - meaning that wastes are to be converted into resources again. Access to technology is one of the primary needs, policies are to be tuned with the targets, chemical use pattern throughout the lifecycle of production in line with the internationally agreed framework would be a difficult task, and initially would increase the cost. Sustainable consumption with the improvement of lifestyle, decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, and at the same time creating decent jobs are the new lines of thinking for entrepreneurial class. These tasks are really challenging.
The BEA seminar quite rightly talked about the sustainability of production that requires easy access to factors of production. With this, unwavering application of rules and regulations supportive for ease of doing business and investment is the primary requirement. Bangladesh has been suffering badly in this respect. Bureaucracy is yet to be supportive of business and investment. Automation of business services has not happened and SMEs (small and medium enterprises), the lifeblood of business are yet to get due attention.
Consumption is related to quality. But quality infrastructure is not yet developed. Cost of businesses increases here because of sending samples and testing abroad. Tests done at home are at times found not to be acceptable outside the country.
Data availability is another issue. About 44 ministries/divisions are involved in data management and preparation, while 48 different departments under separate ministries are engaged in data management. There are serious lapses in standard practices for collecting, compiling and analysing data. There is a continuous mismatch in data received from different sources. Because of different types of calculation method, one fails to get the true picture of the situation.
INCOME INEQUALITY AND POVERTY REDUCTION: It is well documented that income inequality is on the rise, with the richest 10 per cent earning up to 40 per cent of total global income. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sources, the poorest 10 per cent earn only between 2.0 per cent and 7.0 per cent of total global income. In developing countries, inequality has increased by 11 per cent if population growth is taken into account. These widening disparities require the adoption of sound policies to empower the bottom percentile of income earners, and promote economic inclusion of all - regardless of sex, race or ethnicity.
Income inequality is a global problem that requires global solution. This involves improving regulation and monitoring of financial markets and institutions, encouraging development assistance and foreign direct investment (FDI) to regions where the need is of the greatest magnitude. Facilitating safe migration and mobility of people is also a key to bridging the widening divide. All these issues are very much related to SDGs.
Poverty has gone down to 24.3 per cent and extreme poverty has been reduced to 12.9 per cent in Bangladesh, according to the 2018 Bangladesh Economic Review. But about 38 million people are still under poverty and about 21 million in extreme poverty. As per the UNDP Human Resources Development Report 2017, the world's 783 million people are still poor having income less than $1.9 per day. It is, of course, true that the number marks a significant reduction compared to 1.9 billion in 1990. UNDP has been preparing multidisciplinary poverty indices considering multiple indicators since 2010. In this report, it was revealed by mapping multidisciplinary poverty indices (MPI) that poverty impact is higher than income poverty. In Bangladesh, poverty impact would be much higher if consideration of children's education, access to clean drinking water, health, institutional support for particular economic activity, access to electricity, and food intake are taken into account.
According to the Wealth-X report, the world's Ultra-High Net Worth (UHNW) population - individuals with a net worth of $30 million or more - rose by 12.9 per cent to 255,810 in 2017 with combined wealth surged by 16.3 per cent to $31.5 trillion. The fastest growth was in Asia, which posted an increase in ultra-wealth of 27 per cent. Of the top ten fastest growing UHNW in Asia, Bangladesh came on top with compound annual growth rate of 17.3 per cent (2012-2017). Increase in inequality is another challenge for this country.
SDG BUDGET: It is estimated that Bangladesh will need $928 billion for SDG implementation. Of this, 85.1 per cent has to be generated from domestic sources and the remaining 14.9 per cent need to be gathered from external sources. That means about $66 billion has to be added to nearly $48 billion annual budget. The private sector needs to play a big role, and FDI inflow will play a crucial role.
Ferdaus Ara Begum is CEO of Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD), a Public-Private Dialogue platform working closely with DCCI, MCCI and CCCI.