By the time the clock hits twelve at midnight, and it is 2021, many expect Bangladesh to make the transition from a low-income country to a middle-income heavyweight. 2021 is set to be it’s fiftieth year as an independent nation, but alleviating poverty is still a really huge challenge for this hot and humid land.
Somewhere around 47 million people, almost one-third of the population, are still poor. Many people are disadvantaged and vulnerable despite years of efforts on the European Union’s and the United Nations’ part. On the eve of a nation fresh from elections and soon to be drafting up a new constitution, how does the economic and developmental future look like for this former British colony?
It is indeed a glorious accomplishment to be a member of the prestigious Next Eleven, crafted by the American-German multinational investment bank, Goldman Sachs, because it certifies the potential Bangladesh has to become one of the largest economies in the world in the 21st Century.
There is however much room for improvement here because this Bengal nation is still labelled as underdeveloped, has a low human development index (HDI) and is a blundering democracy. Formulating policy for the South Asian country, thus means taking some stark realities into consideration, from high-level of school drop-outs to the really dire state of rural infrastructure.
Primary school education attainment rated have seen a jump over the years. There are more than hundred thousand institutions across Bangladesh, with the enrolment rate presently standing at a staggering 90 percent. But these figures start to slide from “Year 5” onwards, with only 44 percent seeing their education provide them with the tools to chart a much more dignified life as an adult.
The primary concern here seems to be funding because many children have reportedly not been able to afford tuition, books, and numerous other necessary educational materials. Although distance has also been cited as an issue in educational attainment, what would really help in bridging that gap would be an improvement in the state of roads and streets, which for the most part are very badly constructed.
A good idea would be to provide training to teachers because although the ratio of teacher to student is 1 teacher for every 55 students, the concept of teacher qualifications seems lost on most, which could be a contributor to low motivation, and standardised examinations still testing students largely on memory recall.
With the help of a good education, young children in Bangladesh will be able to claim better livelihoods, and a higher quality of life as they grow up. Furthermore, as adults they would collectively represent a much more educated, thoroughbred and highly-skilled workforce, spurring on economic growth and subsequently reducing the visibility of disadvantaged areas.
To reduce disparities in access to learning and gender, there needs to be more diplomas and teacher training programs doled out, and the introduction of a more competency-based curriculum. Although most of the region’s developmental partners have agreed to operate with the support of a common framework, in tandem with the government’s desires, be it the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) or Department for International Development (DFID), one of the key areas such agreements are overlooking in the lack of funding acting as a barrier to education.
Owing to the fact that there is a widespread recession in most developed nations, it would be wise to be a little bit more selective about the areas that funding is delegated to, namely providing means-tested tuition support infrastructures and increasing access to textbooks for young school children. On the subject of providing young ones, particularly girls, based in disadvantaged and remote areas, access to education, a range of initiatives need to be launched.
A few examples include, rejecting “child marriage” and the subsequent benefits this could bring to their lives in the form of various stipends to remain in education, and coming up with new ways to better reading habits. Carrying on teaching basic skills in Mathematics, English and Bengali, as is being done at the present, would play a positive role here in both intriguing children about books and increasing their motivation.
Bangladesh regularly faces cyclones, floods and droughts, which means that its roads and streets need greater resistance to wear-and-tear than as is often deemed necessary from the idea of ‘rural infrastructure’ in emerging countries. Water transport is crucial for residents of remote areas and offshore islands particularly, as its cheaper and often the only medium of transport for them.
Providing Decent Wages
Wages need to be set at below market level for low-skilled workers to enable them to be beneficiaries of the various endowments courtesy of foreign aid. Another factor that should be looked into is workers rights to own land and property, and if any conditions can be set for the determination of decent wages accordingly, given that they already own land or property, to better put to use available financial resources. Marginalised groups should not have to face social and economic exclusion; they need to be a part of the labour market.
Agriculture makes up 56 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP, and the food market, employment numbers and income for farmers depends on this economic produce regularly. To better look after crops and harvests, funding needs to be allocated to supplying farms in the region with machinery, information systems, transport systems, and farmhouses. There is a lack of cultivated land, because majority of the farms, very small to begin with, only harvest rice. Transport systems would aid with entrée to markets, that would be required with the recent spotting of fresh spices, tomatoes, maize and brinjals, alongside the more popular items with customers, such as fresh rice, fruits vegetables, livestock and fisheries.
Wildlife & Natural Ecosystems
Bangladesh is home to a special wildlife breed: the Royal Bengal Tiger, one of the most endangered species in the world. In addition, Bengali natural ecosystems pool in about 13 to 15 percent of the world’s biodiversity. According to WWF UK, there are only as few as 3,200 tigers left in the world, which highlights how dangerous illegal wildlife trade is. Because of the diversity in wildlife, flora and fauna, and natural ecosystems in Bangladesh, it is especially susceptible to the lucrativeness of this nasty trade. A two-pronged approach as suggested by The World Bank, should be applied here:
- capacity building to address illegal wildlife trade, with the support of a strong network of regional cooperation
- habitat protection and management to generate regional conservation benefits and address the human wildlife conflict
Body parts, skin, bones, and meat are highly valued by poachers for their demand in the use of traditional Asian medicine. A good way to further them from human contact and sustain effective animal-protection in the region is to provision more grazing lands, their natural habitats, for tigers, so that they can adequately prey on more deer and livestock.
Air pollution significantly drives greenhouse has emissions for the country, emitted by numerous vehicles and construction of new buildings. Industrial pollution needs to be reduced to further the “green” agenda for Bangladesh. Better traffic management, pedestrian pavements, bridges, and industrial infrastructure, will help to make the country more environmentally-friendly.