Post-LDC Challenges for Bangladesh Economy

Post-LDC Challenges for Bangladesh Economy

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on 6 February 2018

Bangladesh became a member of the least developed country (LDC) club in 1975. As a newly emerged independent country Bangladesh had to face many socioeconomic as well as geopolitical challenges at that period (soon after the independence).

But gradually we achieved remarkable progress in many fields and emerged as one of the fastest growing economic power in Asia. Continuous progress of Bangladesh economy is an example to the entire world. But we are supposed to achieve even more if political chaos, greed and immaturity is not there. Frequent change of political ideology made us bound to radical shift towards multidimensional economic paradigm. Besides shortcomings of infrastructure, industrial utility, absence of united political will towards a particular system of economy, Bangladesh achieved the millennium development goals (MDGs) with significant performance in many arenas. Bangladeshi expatriate workers and women workers in readymade garment (RMG) sector are the significant contributors of this wonderful achievement.

Bangladesh reduced poverty rate into 23.2% (up to 2016) whereas it was 31.5% in 2010. At the same period extreme poverty rate declined into 12.9 % from 17.6% in 2010. Per capita income of Bangladesh increased to USD 1610 in 2016-17 fiscal years. Hopefully, Bangladesh could be considered to graduate from the list of LDC in upcoming triennial review meeting of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) in this year. Second review of the same committee could be in 2021 then we will be observed for another 3 years i.e. up to 2024 to be finally graduated from the LDC club. This graduation is so much expected and welcoming for the whole nation. It will increase value of Bangladesh brands, Bangladeshi passport, and Bangladesh’s position in different global platforms. Therefore every Bangladeshi is expecting this graduation as soon as possible. But before going for final celebration of this achievement we should conduct an impact assessment study by an impartial body to identify possible impact of LDC graduation on Bangladesh economy during next decade. Few impact of LDC graduation on Bangladesh economy could be as follows:

  1. Loosing preferential market access / preference erosion: Bangladesh exported USD 34.83 billion in last fiscal year. About 90% of Bangladesh’s total exports go to the export markets under different preferential market access facilities in EU (under EBA), Canada, Japan and the US, under their respective GSP schemes. Bangladesh also enjoys preferential market access in such other industrialized countries as Australia and in some developing countries, such as China, India and the Republic of Korea, under RTAs and bilateral initiatives. All these schemes are non-reciprocal in the sense that Bangladesh is not expected to offer preferential access to products originating in the preference-giving countries in response to the offer made to her as an LDC. Since developed country markets account for about 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s total exports, preferential market access in these countries is of special significance to Bangladesh. Besides GSP or EBA Bangladeshi export items are enjoying duty free and quota free market access under the following trade regime:
  • Special and Differential Treatments (S&DT) for LDCs under different agreements of WTO
  • Preferential market access for LDCs under different regional trade agreements like SAFTA, BIMSTEC, APTA etc.
  • Preferential market access for LDCs under different bilateral trade agreements.

The above mentioned discussion made it clear that, Bangladesh’s export items enjoys preferential market access in different parts of the world under different trade regime. If 90% of our export items loose preference then Bangladesh’s export performance is likely to be adversely affected. Therefore fact finding studies should be conducted to identify the financial value of preference erosion in USD, what could be its spillover effects on Bangladesh’s investment environment especially to attract FDI, what could be ways forward to minimise adverse affects of preference erosion on Bangladesh economy.

  1. Impact of Reciprocal Trade Regime Offerings: Currently Bangladesh is a member of nine (9) RTA or FTAs namely, Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (Proposed), Bangladesh-Turkey FTA (Proposed), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Free Trade Area, Pakistan-Bangladesh Free Trade Agreement (Negotiations launched: 2003), People’s Republic of China-Bangladesh FTA (Proposed), Preferential Tariff Arrangement-Group of Eight Developing Countries (D-8), South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Trade Preferential System of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC PTA). An LDC country is allowed not to offer reciprocal trade preference to its counter parts. But Bangladesh has to offer it while graduating from LDC. In such case signing free trade agreement could be more costly for Bangladesh after graduating from LDC list.

  1. Paradigm shift in Official Development Assistance: Bangladesh received official development assistance from development partners 90.5 % as grant and only 9.5% as loan in 1971-1972 fiscal years. Foreign grants and soft loans played a vital role in infrastructure and other development activities in Bangladesh. Still official development assistance (ODA) is a significant source of funding in various mega project of Bangladesh. Development partners are shifting their mode of financing with the wheel of local economic development. Grant amount is decreasing and loan amount is increasing day by day. For example Bangladesh received only 12.5% grants and 87.5% loan in last fiscal year. Soon after the graduation Bangladesh will be completely out of grant assistance facility, everything has to be bearded by local resources or go for foreign loans and repayment with interest. So it may have another adverse affect on development motion of Bangladesh.

  1. Other challenges: Besides the above mentioned challenges Bangladesh may face challenges in getting aid for trade, implementing IP laws, paying more subscription fee to international platforms like UN, unavailability of technical cooperation in terms of development assistance etc.

Finally; we can state that, Bangladesh’s graduation from the list of LDC is a good news for us, but could we please recheck statistical figures that we are producing now, is there any methodological errors, could we conduct an impact assessment study to identify post graduation adverse affects on Bangladesh economy, could we please evaluate economic value of those prospective adverse affects whether we could survive and prosper further or bounced back to the LDC club again. It is better to graduate later than bouncing back to the same pavilion again. We have to develop 100 SEZ, Deep Sea Port, Increase efficiency of existing sea ports, generate more power, develop internal road networking and offer load shedding free electricity connection to the mass people. Lots of mega projects are yet to be materialised. Internal resource mobilisation, confidence building of local investors and attracting foreign investors to invest here in Bangladesh is still pending. So graduation without preparation could be more painful for us if sustainability is not sure.

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Colonial habits persist

Colonial habits persist

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on January 7, 2018

Celebrating 31st Night or New Year’s Eve is also known as Old Year’s Day or Saint Sylvester’s Day in many countries. Saint Sylvester’s Day is the day of the feast of Pope Sylvester I, a saint who served as Pope of the Western Church from 314 to 335 and oversaw both the First Council of Nicaea and Roman Emperor Constantine I’s conversion to Christianity. Among the Western Christian Churches, the feast day is held on the anniversary of Saint Sylvester’s death, 31 December, a date that, since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, has coincided with New Year’s Eve. This is the most prominent historical reference about celebration of 31st night in the West mainly the Christian dominating societies. They used to organize social parties in this occasion and have alcoholic drinks with light shows and others. Probably Indian society has been adopted this 31st night celebration like so many other things from the British culture during the colonial period.

Many colonial habits injected to Indian cultures and became part and parcel of our daily life. We sometimes promoted those habits to show our loyalty to the western masters; sometime we wanted to place ourselves in the British level elite by adopting their cultures here in the colonial India. The eastern part of British India is dominated by the Bengali originated people. It is not unlikely to state that celebrating 31st night and New Year’s Eve is one of those western cultures adopted by the upper class people of the Bengali society to place themselves in British level elite class. Though is does not have any reference in Bengali Culture or does not permitted by the major religious believers of the Bengali society.

Not only the Gregorian calendar year have many other cultures celebrated respective New Years Eve today. For example the Pohela Boishakh (1st Day of Bengali New Year), The Chinese New Year (exact date can fall any time between January 21 and February 21), the Korean New Year or Seollal (the first day of the lunar calendar), The Vietnamese New Year or Tết Nguyên Đán (most times is the same day as the Chinese New Year) and the Tibetan New Year or Losar (falls between January and March) etc. Actually celebration new years is a trillion Dollar business around the world today. In presence of too many New Years Eve we Bengali people are crazy to celebrate the Gregorian New Year’s Eve or the Saint Sylvester’s Day only. Why do we? May be it is the most widely used calendar around the world, maybe we are inheriting this event from the British Lord’s till now, maybe it is allowing us to dance with alcohol and others.

We observed another new trend of 31st night celebration in Dhaka city this year. This trend was listening loudspeaker Hindi songs (90%), English songs (5%) and Bengalish songs (5%) throughout the night. Few parties used Fanush (throughing fire to the sky) with different types of bombs. These fires and bombs could create dangerous fire distraction any time. We are thankful that Dhaka Metropolitan Police was strict (as per their media announcement) against such dangerous acts. But in practice Dhaka duelers had to fight for sleep in the 31st night this year. At last the night passed without any major casualty or fire incident. But the silent harm is doing by this injected events to our culture is that, Bengali songs are going to be abolished due to the loud presence of Hindi songs in the 31st parties. Hindi is the official language of our neighboring country. But I am afraid that, such frequency of loud Hindi songs was absent in many states of India like Dhaka during this 31st night. I am sure native state of current Indian Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi i.e. Gujarat had not played such a huge number of Hindi songs in loud speaker during this 31st.

I do not have any reservation for listening to Hindi songs or English songs or any other language songs during the 31st or throughout the year. My only reservation is listening to Bengalish songs i.e. 70% English or Hindi lyric and 30% Bengali words in a song to make it Bengalish. It’s totally unaccepted to destroy our own resources like the language by the name of modernization or becoming smart. I am afraid our future generation will be affected by this wrong pronunciation of Bengali language and miss the original glory of our beloved mother taught. We fought for this language, our forefathers offered their bloods and lives for this language. But today we are doing nothing to save this language from the illegal transformation into Bengalish (Bengali + English) or Hingla (Hindi + Bengali). Some FM radio stations are regularly competing with each others to inject foreign words into Bengali illegally. Some singers are copying Hindi or English lyric to sing Bengali songs. As a result our beloved language is becoming polluted.

Government shall look after the matter seriously and going to anti language pollution drive is essential need of the time now. Broadcasting authority should make it clear that, no Hindi or English lyric shall be allowed to copied and used in Bengali songs. No FM radio shall be allowed to pollute Bengali language with the name of modernization or smart practice. Serious attention of the government and relevant agencies is required to save our beloved mother tang from this trend of pollution and preserving the pure taste of Bengali for our future generation.

Journey to Competitive, Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Progress

Journey to Competitive, Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Progress

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on October 31, 2017

The world is going through an economic and political power shifting from the west to the east during the last couple of years. Reshape of geopolitical forces is resulting in extra tensions in the world politics. Its impact on the economic progress is becoming more visible day by day.

The world economic growth was 3.5 % in 2017 but uneven distribution of wealth increases disparity around the world. As a result, all segments of the society are enjoying the benefits of economic progress. Current economic models are not capable enough to serve needs of different segments of the society equitably. Socialist movement failed to serve its objectives even in its birth places. Similarly, limitations of the capitalism are becoming clearer to the academics and practitioners. Therefore, the World Economic Forum feels the need for a new model of human centric economic progress.

Capitalist concept not only failed in the least developed countries like Bangladesh, it also failed to reduce inequalities in the advanced economies like USA or Germany as well. The world experienced complex impact of globalization during the last decade. It is creating job in one corner but shifting job from others. Job creation versus job diversion is currently a popular debate of free market economy. The well off segment of the society is enjoying its rapid boom; on the other hand, the neglected segment is suffering more. Therefore, the world is in need of an inclusive and sustainable model of economy which will be inclusive, environment friendly and safe for future generations too. This model has to be human centric, pro-environment and create equal opportunities for all segments of the society.

To achieve the above societal features of economic progress, governments have to enact public-private collaborative policies. A joint effort of the government, business community, academia, and civil society will have to be ensured to get optimum benefit out of it. Countries have to be more competitive to face the emerging challenges of tomorrow.

Bangladesh is focusing upon the issue from different platforms. But in absence of a better coordinated effort we are failing to achieve targeted benefits in time. As per the latest report, Bangladesh ranked the 99th position of the Global Competitiveness Index. It progressed a little from 106th position earlier. But 99th position is displaying our measurable competitiveness around the world whereas we are dreaming to be among the Asian Tigers or Next 11 or Frontier 5 in economic development.

If we look at the current global competitiveness index we could find Switzerland, USA, Singapore, Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, UK, Japan and Finland in the top 10 respectively. Two Asian representative Singapore and Japan are in the top ten. Our neighboring countries (other than Pakistan) are also doing quite well than us. India ranked 40th previously they were in 39th position. India’s negative growth is not for their bad performance but it is for others’ better performance. Other members of SAARC like Nepal ranked 88th previously they were in the 98th position. Bhutan ranked 82nd but previously they were in the 97th position. Pakistan ranked in 115th previously they were in 122nd and Sri Lanka ranked in 85th previously they were in 71st.

Global competitiveness index is not only a single featured ranking but it is an aggregate outcome of 12 different pillar analysis. These twelve pillars are institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education as basic requirement of factor driven economies.

The second groups of pillars are higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness and market size as efficiency enhancer of efficiency driven economies. Finally; business sophistication and innovation are factors of innovation driven economies. Therefore, global competitiveness index is a comprehensive outlook of an economy.

Bangladesh Investment Development Authority is working out to prepare ourselves for uplifting Bangladesh’s position in the doing business index.

There is a position called Chief Coordinator for SDG affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office to ensure better coordination in implementation of the SDG related government policies. Similarly, a Commission or Board or Corporation is needed for looking after these 12 pillars related to the competitiveness index. It is more important than other stated issues here due to its coverage and wide range of the scope. Even a dedicated ministry could be established to look after the competitiveness issues to make Bangladesh competitive and face the challenges of tomorrow’s world.

Competitiveness is required not only for economic growth but also for the inclusiveness and sustainability. Economic growth without inclusiveness will increase disparity, social tension and environmental threats. Therefore, we are in extreme need of such economic policies / systems where inclusiveness will be ensured, equal opportunities could be created, and that would be environment friendly and safe for the planet. Without thinking of humanity, consciousness of environmental safety no economic advancement should be acceptable because pro-human and pro-planet policies are demands of the time now; otherwise social chaos and adverse reaction of the nature is waiting for us in near future.

 

Skill development: a priority for sustainable development

Skill development: a priority for sustainable development

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on December 18, 2017

The government of Bangladesh has fixed up vision 2021 and vision 2041 to be middle income and developed countries by the year 2021 & 2041. Similarly major opposition political platform has come up with their vision 2030 to have economic development of the country. On the other hand globally sustainable development goals (SDGs) 2030 were fixed up by the United Nations as a follow-up action plan of the millennium development goals (MDGs) 2015. Government of Bangladesh took SDG targets seriously to be achieved by 2030. 7th five year plan of Bangladesh focused mostly to the SDG goals and targets. Separate platform has been created to coordinate SDG related issues under the leadership of a Senior Secretary of the government under direct supervision of the honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Each of the newly enacted policies, development plans, projects and programs are making linked with the SDG and other national goals like vision 2021 and 2041. During resource allocation for these development activities we identified a serious gap between our development expectations and availability of required skills. Bangladesh is earning about USD 5 billion by exporting 8 million plus semi-skilled or unskilled workers mainly to the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries. But Bangladesh is paying about USD 5 billion plus by recruiting less than 0.2 million foreign professionals here in Bangladesh. That means we are lagging behind in terms of mid-level managerial and technical capacity required to operate our existing corporate houses.

Skills development became an emergency issue for Bangladesh to achieve its visions and to increase valuable foreign currency earning in any forms namely; export earnings and remittance. According to a recent study conducted by BIDS titled “Labour Market and Skill Gap in Bangladesh” labor demand has been projected to increase from 63.5 million in 2016 to 88.7 million in 2025. The rapid increase in projected labor demand is the result of high projections of GDP growth, which has been assumed to be sustainable with the same elasticity of employment as experienced during the last decade. From the year 2021, labor demand will be in excess of supply of labor in Bangladesh. In fact, Planning Commission has also estimated that during the Seventh Five Year Plan period, labor demand generation would be in excess of supply. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also mentioned that Bangladesh is in skills shortage in a study conducted in 2015.

BIDS (2016) showed in another study i.e. Skill Gap Analysis for Selected Sectors that, existing skill gap is the highest in the agro-food sector followed by the RMG Sector. Skill gap for “skilled workers” is also high (40%) in the IT and leather sectors where this is a constraint. Generally skilled workers and semi-skilled workers are in short supply in every sectors of Bangladesh. The same study projected that demand for skilled workers would be in agro food sector will increased to 261%, in construction sector it would be 54%, in healthcare sector 54.95%, in hospitality and tourism sector 35%, in IT sector 100%, leather goods sector 107%, light engineering sector 76.95%, in RMG sector 122.6%, and in shipbuilding sector 677% in 2025-26 fiscal year. From the above study findings it’s quite clear that, to meet the visions (2021, 2030, and 2041) Bangladesh has to develop skilled manpower in every sector. Few other studies identified that demand for overall manpower in Bangladesh would be higher than its population growth. That mean overpopulated Bangladesh is becoming manpower shortage country within next one decade.

To meet up this skills gap government is trying to restructure overall education system of Bangladesh. Technical and vocational education system is given priority over general education. A cash incentive is given to the technical education students along with other instrumental support. But performance of the vocational institutes throughout the country is miserably poor. Quality of education in technical and vocational sector became questionable. Graduates from these institutes are becoming idle due to their poor performance in the industry. This education system is unable to meet up-to-date demand of the industrial sectors. As a result graduates are remaining unemployed. On the other hand industries are recruiting foreign professionals with valuable foreign currency to meet concurrent demand of the world competition in respective sector.

National skills development council (NSDC) was established and upgrading it into National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) is under process. National Skills Development Policy (NSDP) was adopted few years back. Updating curriculum of technical and vocational education board is under process. Now is the time to analyze weather our existing institutional setup is capable to create required number of skilled hand to meet up the demand or we have to establish new institutes?

One of the major challenges to improve quality of our education system to produce qualified manpower is absence of enough laboratory facilities in specific fields. Secondly, we have limitation in development of appropriate course curriculum and modules to teach. Scarcity of trained trainers / teachers is another bold barrier to capacity building of our local education institutes. Government alone cannot fight with all these barriers toward capacity building of our education system and facilitate demanded skills development of Bangladesh. Government shall involve private sector more actively with skills development initiatives. Local entrepreneurs shall be encouraged by the government to establish skills development institutes and training up their employees in respective field.

Without governments direct support private sector cannot effort cost of training up an employee during his working hours (while he is paying for this hours), paying the training cost in addition to the salary without work. As a result local professionals are remaining backdated in absence of up-to-date training facility; finally they are remaining under performer. Government could allow Private Sector to adjust the cost of capacity building of his employee from the applicable corporate taxes on him. Government may enact 100 hours mandatory training act to facilitate skills development of the professionals working in private sector. But that 100 hours cost should be adjusted from corporate tax applicable on respective organizations. Otherwise skills development in massive scale will remain a need never be achieved.

Private Sector shall be encouraged to establish technical institutes with up-to-date modules and laboratory facilities. Government should allow foreign investment in capacity building sector of Bangladesh to facilitate technology and managerial capacity transfer. A massive revolution is required to draft and adopt competitive course curriculum, modules, trained teachers, laboratory facilities, industrial attachments and other necessary tools of skills development. SEIP type’s project is required for capacity building of technical and vocational institutes as well as the institutes established by Private Sector Entrepreneurs, Chamber of commerce, Sectoral Associations, and Social Contributory Trusts etc. Without producing qualified manpower with up-to-date skills all of our visions i.e. Vision 2021, 2030, and 2041 will remain unattended forever.

 

Opportunities and challenges of the new industrial revolution

Opportunities and challenges of the new industrial revolution

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Independent on November 26, 2017

 

The term revolution means radical change of existing order in favor of a newer one. Industrial revolution refers to the radical improvement of manufacturing and other technologies that have completely changed the previous scenario and established a newer version with positive shift of industrialization. Experts are forecasting that 4th industrial revolution is taking place in the international arena. As a part and parcel of industrialization Bangladesh have to enter into the 4th industrial revolution to compete and gains its stake from the industrial world. Each change or shift offers something opportunistic and few challenges. Relevant policy makers have to be careful about the opportunities to grab and challenges to overcome of it. Bangladesh has a long list of industrial sectors waiting to take off. Some of the sectors are in performing level like RMG sector; some of the sectors are in growing stage like Leather and leather goods sector, some of the sectors are potential to grow like ICT and Outsourcing. In such a condition 4th industrial revolution is taking place. So we have to be careful about the opportunities and challenges of 4th industrial revolution and prepare proper policies to grab the opportunities at most and overcome the challenges efficiently.

The then latest technologies played vital role in each of the industrial revolution for example 1st industrial revolution (1760) was driven by the rise of steam power, railways and mechanized forms of production. Similarly 2nd industrial revolution (1890) was driven by the invention of electricity and new approaches to manufacturing based on assembly lines and mass production. Rapid improvement of semiconductors and the spread of computers and the internet technology were the driving forces of 3rd industrial revolution (1960s) finally 4th industrial revolution is going to be take place with the mass performance of the artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, mobile internet (available everywhere), 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, such as cars and drones etc. technologies. These technologies will offer new ways to create and consume, will transform how we deliver and access public services, and will enable new ways to communicate and govern. Almost every aspect of our lives will be touched: jobs, business models, industrial structures, social interactions, systems of governance.

In comparison to the 4th generation manufacturing / production technologies most of the Bangladeshi sectors are lagging behind. As a result there performance and product’s quality, productivity is very low in comparison to the competing countries technologies. Therefore challenge of losing market share by Bangladeshi companies in upcoming competitive world is becoming prominent day by day if we failed to adopt the sophisticated technologies and machineries in every sector. Study found it out that, new technologies are emerging faster, being adopted more quickly and delivering greater impact than ever before. For example fixed-line telephones (1878) took 75 years to reach 100 million users. On the other hand mobile phones (1979) took only 16 years to reach 100 million users. Similarly internet (1990) took 6 years to reach 100 million users. On the other hand Apple App Store (2008) took just 3 years to reach 100 million users. So it is proved that the technologies pushing the reality into 4th industrial revolution will be adopted faster and change the reality of human society even faster ever before.

Opportunities of 4th industrial revolutions could be wealth maximization through continuous improvement of GDP growth, inclusive growth, improved performance of the SMEs, jumping into advanced stage of development, connecting disconnected people, improve environment management system, automation of agriculture and transformation of agro production technologies, more access to healthcare and use of modern technology to forecast about natural calamities etc.  Bangladesh shall start its wholehearted preparation to avail all of these above mentioned opportunities of 4th industrial revolution. For example we have highest priority to economic growth, SME development, digitization of processes etc. but till now we are lagging behind in terms of inclusive growth, improved environment management system, access to healthcare by all etc. parameters. Preparation to avail an opportunity could be our strengths and vice a versa.

Challenges of the 4th industrial revolution includes losses of jobs and disruption by the lower educated people, inequality and political instability, end of low-cost and low-skilled labor based industrialization due to artificial intelligence and robotics technology, more market access to the global giant companies through offering more value to the customers, vulnerability of LDC countries to fight with cyber crimes and cyber attacks etc. Shift of technology causes losses of job by the people dependent on the previous technology for any reason. For example light engineering enterprises of Bogra light engineering cluster used to produce sallow machine, tube well and rickshaw etc. with shift these technology into deep tube well, tractor, battery driven auto-rickshaw and CNG driven auto-rickshaw many of them losses their job there in Bogra light engineering cluster. Because most of them have no access to the technologies relevant to the deep tube well, tractor, battery driven auto-rickshaw and the CNG driven auto-rickshaw due to many reasons. So they lost their livelihood from that profession. Similarly 70 coconut oil mill reduced into 4-5 during last couple of years in Bagherhat coconut oil cluster. Therefore government and relevant agencies have to be careful about the negative impact of 4th industrial revolution on many sectors in Bangladesh.

Finally we can state that, advancement of technology could not be controlled by any society. We have to adopt it today or tomorrow by our own willingness or unwillingly. But we must have to be prepared ourselves to minimize diverse negative effect of it into the society and rehabilitate the victim society like Bogra light engineering and Bagherhat coconut oil cluster. Otherwise new industrial revolution will give us a missed result. Few people will be reached again and rest will be losing respective profession without any rehabilitation facilities. Again it will not be an inclusive development in the society.

Place Private Sector in Driving Seat to Achieve SDGs

Place Private Sector in Driving Seat to Achieve SDGs

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on October 29, 2017

The post-MDG agenda adopted by the global leaders in a historic UN Summit on January 01, 2016 and to be achieved by 2030, are known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17 goals focused to overcome poverty and sustainability of the planet i.e. the world. SDGs are – end poverty in all its forms everywhere; end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation; reduce inequality within and among countries; make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts; conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development; protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss; promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels; finally and strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership to achieve the above goals of sustainable development.

All of the above goals are some qualitative statements to achieve a certain condition in each aspect. But how could we know that a particular target is achieved in a society? How to measure achievement of a certain country? To facilitate quantitative calculation of the performance of a community in SDG achievement 169 targets and 241 indicators have been set up. The world leaders are yet to decide on 11 indicators but 230 indicators have been selected unanimously. Whatever the final number may be, the 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 plus indicators are there to measure SDG achievements of a society in quantitative means. Let’s try to have a look on the relationship among goals, targets and indicators of SDGs.

For example; the first goal is end of poverty in all its forms everywhere; there are 5 targets and 9 indicators of this goal (SDG Goal -1). Five targets of goal number 1 are (by 2030) eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day; reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions; implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable; ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance; finally to build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters. All of these targets are to be achieved by 2030 under the first goal.

Nine indicators of the goal number one are proportion of population below the international poverty line, by sex, age, employment status and geographical location (urban/rural); proportion of population living below the national poverty line, by sex and age; proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions; proportion of population covered by social protection floors/systems, by sex, distinguishing children, unemployed persons, older persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, newborns, working injury victims and the poor and the vulnerable; proportion of population living in households with access to basic services; proportion of total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognised documentation and who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and by type of tenure; number of deaths, missing persons and persons affected by disaster per 100,000 people; direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP) and finally the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies.

From the above two paragraphs it is clear when we could claim achievement of goals one i.e. end of poverty in all its forms everywhere. It also clear that SDGs are more transparent and scientific than the MDGs. In case of MDGs countries have reported a summary statement qualitatively and the United Nations has accepted it without any second thought. But in case of SDGs all these 169 targets and 241 indicators made the whole programme quantitative, transparent, measurable, methodical and off course time bound (by 2030). So SDG reporting would be more indicative with quantitative statistics therefore countries have to be authentic and claim anything with specific numbers backed by statistics. The only flexibility of the whole SDG programme is all the definition are to be fixed by respective governments of the country. Countries like Bangladesh are getting a certain degree of freedom to determine the national definitions. But to make the definitions acceptable they must be aligned with the neighbouring states or look-alike countries.

The government of Bangladesh has already prepared its policies like 7th Five Year Plan, National Industrial Policy, ICT Policy etc. in line with the SDGs. The government is serious on SDG achievement and appointed a very experienced and influential bureaucrat as Coordinator for SDG affairs under the Prime Minister’s Office. But till now something more has to be done to achieve the SDGs in time. This is involving private sector as key partner to achieve SDGs.

There are several committees in different ministries with private sector representatives in this regard. But what will have to be done – how, when and by whom? These types of questions regarding private sector’s involvement in SDG are missing. Generally, no private company is supposed to spend money for capacity building of their employees to achieve any certain target of SDG. Therefore it is the government who has to create mechanism to involve or engage private sector entities more closely with the SDG process.

Leadership chair has to be given to the private sector to achieve few goals and the government could remain there as a catalyst. Today is the prime time to delegate the responsibility with adequate power and authority to the private sector organisations from the bureaucracy to achieve SDGs by 2030; otherwise it would be too late to do so. Off course, another valid question would be private sector’s capacity to handle the issues efficiently. And, again, the government has to play a vital role along with the development partners for capacity building of Bangladeshi private sector to make them capable enough to play their role effectively. Only government’s initiative without private sector in the driving seat is bound to fail in this regard.

 

Development Realities of Bangladesh

Development Realities of Bangladesh

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Daily Sun on October 5, 2017

Bangladesh is one of the most potential Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to be graduated from the list within next one or two decades. It has proved its capacity by achieving several socioeconomic indicators during the last few decades.

For example, Bangladesh reduced the number of people living below poverty line from 31.5% in 2010 to 23.2 % in 2016, maintained economic growth rate between 6-7 % during the last couple of years, increased foreign exchange reserves to $33 billion in 2017 from $10.8 billion in 2010, reduced lending rate from 15% in 2013 to 9.5% in 2017 etc. Bangladesh economy proved its resilience power in much international financial turmoil in the past. We are hopeful to overcome current challenges like massive flood in the Northwestern part of the country, injection of about a million Rohingya refugees by Myanmar into its Southeastern part etc. too.

We have visions to be developed from our major political platforms in the form of vision 2021, vision 2030 and vision 2041 etc. Now it is a moral responsibility of the political leadership to implement the visions from respective platforms. Bangladesh economy has to maintain 7% plus economic growth rate for the next couple of years in order to graduate to middle income country status within the projected period. Maintaining economic growth numerically may not be enough to be a middle income country without inclusiveness of the growth. That means we need inclusive economic growth in a rate of 7 plus per cent. For inclusive growth we have to ensure female participation in the income generating activities, not only minimising the gender gap in the labour market. Macroeconomic stability has to be ensured through maintaining the trade balance, underperforming loan, stability in the financial sector etc.

Unemployment is another major treat to the economic development of Bangladesh. Employment generating movement or making the workforce self-employed is a major task for the government and policy makers now. Industrialisation especially promoting micro, small and medium enterprises could be an aid to employment generation. The government may go for rapid policy reform to make the investment wheel move faster than ever before. Restrictions, licensing requirement, registrations and permit requirements could be reduced to boost up the investment climate.

Policy reformation is not enough to boost up development of the country. We have to ensure an entrepreneurial environment from every aspect like, pro-entrepreneurial education system, well setup skill development facilities, availability of business development services, reduced requirements of permits, registrations, licences etc. Free movement of capital machinery and raw materials, hassle free transportation, security and safety of the local and foreign investors have to be ensured by the state.

Bangladesh has to be more cautious about the skill development of its population from top to the bottom edge. About 8 million Bangladeshi expatriate workers are earning $13-15 billion per year whereas it has to pay back $5-6 billion per year by recruiting less than half a million foreign professionals here. Per head income and payment ratio is too high here. Therefore we have to train up our expatriate workers to ensure better earnings in the bottom of the pyramid. At the same time we have to train up our professionals to develop managerial and technical skills to take over the seats from the foreign professionals for saving foreign exchange at the mid-level.

Bangladesh has to start a good number of trade policy reforms for better flourishing of the economy. Internationalisation of local companies could initiate journey of a Bangladeshi global brand like the Coca-Cola, Bata etc. Reform is required to increase access to foreign capital by the Bangladeshi entrepreneurs. Capacity building of the sea ports to handle growing foreign trade of the country is one of the most urgent needs of the time.

Other socioeconomic priorities for development of Bangladesh could includes reform the education system to make it productive and demand driven, spreading up the healthcare facilities into the door step of rural poor people, promoting agriculture for food security and agro-processing industrialisation, infrastructure development, electricity generation and other energy security, qualitative change in the politics, maintaining friendly trade regime with the trade partners, rooting out corruption through social revolution etc.

Working upon the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be a comprehensive syllabus for Bangladesh to be on the right track of development. There are 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by the UN member countries by 2030. Goals and targets of the SDGs are setup to boost up economic, humanitarian and environmental development of the planet and to save the planet as a whole. Therefore rigorous efforts from all stakeholders are required to achieve the SDG goals in time so that development of Bangladesh could be a reality of tomorrow. Political leaders, bureaucrats and well off people of the society have to be more responsive from respective positions to achieve each of the 169 targets by Bangladesh.