B’desh enjoys confidence supported by its growing economy
Resuscitating a country is not easy, but nothing is impossible when you have the resolve. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has told such a true story regarding the political-economic resurrection of the country.
Bangladesh is certainly one of the most dynamic economies in Asia. Gross domestic product (GDP) has grown steadily since 2010 at more than 6% per year; it exceeded 8% in 2019.
“We have accomplished a lot over the past 50 years. When we became an independent nation in late 1971, our war-torn country of 75 million was mired in widespread suffering. GDP per capita was only $133 and growing little, if at all, and life expectancy was only 47 years. Bangladesh is now a vibrant economy of 165 million people, with a GDP per capita of $2,554 and growing rapidly, and life expectancy has risen to 73 years,” Hasina wrote in an essay “Innovations: Bangladesh at 50” published by MIT Press, USA. .
Remittance income from expatriates working abroad hit a record $21 billion in 2020, the eighth highest in the world. The country’s foreign exchange reserve stands at 47 billion dollars.
Of all the inequalities that exist in Bangladesh, the greatest is that of housing. In 2020, the centenary year of the birth of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, the country has pledged to build homes for the landless and provide everyone with a proper home address. Ending homelessness alleviates poverty, creates more equity and results in a healthier population.
“It was inspired, like many other initiatives, by Sheikh Mujib, who created village clusters for the landless and started the distribution of state-owned land for the construction of better housing. We supported his paradigm and are currently implementing it,” Hasina explained.
“Inclusiveness is deeply embedded in our ethos. This is because our nation’s conscience emerged against discriminatory rules, first under the British and then under the Pakistanis. Sheikh Mujib was the champion of inclusivity and the best articulator of this philosophy. Development must engage our whole society. It must be inclusive. It must be participatory,” she added.
Once digital communication devices became mainstream, the country realized they could be harnessed for financial inclusion.
“As a result, my government endorsed the idea of mobile financial services immediately after the start of my second term in 2009. Today, more than 80 million people in the country use mobile financial services, and we are proud to to be a world leader in this sector. We have established Karmasangsthan Bank, a bank dedicated to facilitating small businesses, where young men and women can obtain no-deposit loans for sums of 200,000 taka (about $2,400) or more to run a business or farm . Other start-up programs offer training and access to low-interest loans. »
Micro-savings are one of the key elements that encourage people on the lowest incomes to save a little.
Bangladesh is now world famous for its communications and digitizations.
“A few months after taking office in 1996, I approved three digital mobile licenses for national services. These networks now provide mobile access to virtually everyone in Bangladesh. In 2009, to capitalize on the widespread availability of mobile phones, to complement the phenomenon and propel the country into a digital future, we launched the Digital Bangladesh initiative.
“This vision includes e-governance (providing government service delivery at home through digital platforms), creating a technology-based economy and the sector. We have set ourselves the ambitious goal of achieving our first phase of Digital Bangladesh by 2021, and I am pleased that our achievements have exceeded our expectations. Today, government services continue their rapid digitization, our ICT sector is a booming export industry, and our IT freelancers are in demand all over the world. Some of the initiatives we have undertaken are outlined below,” Hasina said.
Digital hubs have been set up in each union council (community governance group) location; there are 5,275 union councils in Bangladesh.
The Hasina government has invested $300 million in financing, aiding and promoting startups.
Currently, Bangladesh exports $1.3 billion worth of software and other digital services. Additionally, approximately 650,000 freelancers earn over $500 million per year. We aim to grow exports to $5 billion by 2025. As developed countries experience population decline, the demand for highly skilled people in their service sectors is likely to increase. We are working on this great potential to further increase our income.
The government of Bangladesh has also paid a lot of attention to the electricity supply.
“I have always considered energy to be a major pillar of economic development. Therefore, beginning with the private power generation policy in 1996 and my efforts to privatize power generation that year, we have increased both generation and diversification of power sources. We formulated several other policies, including one creating incentives to mobilize private capital and foreign investment for this capital-intensive and technology-dependent sector. Our diversification efforts have focused on different fuel options, including nuclear and renewables. Furthermore, we have initiated regional cooperation with India, Bhutan and Nepal for the export and import of electricity, including hydropower,” Hasina said.
During the pre-pandemic years, our foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country grew steadily, reaching nearly $3.9 billion.