No more a ‘bottomless basket’ case

“$2730cr reserve in ‘bottomless basket’ was the caption of the lead story of daily sun carried in its issue on January 2, 2016. Surely, it is a piece of happy news for the whole nation at the advent of the New Year 2016. Another piece of happy news for the nation at the beginning of the new year is that, Bangladesh will attain the third global position in the year 2016, in respect of economic growth. It will surpass all other countries of the world in economic growth except Iraq and India. This has been stated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its annual report on global economy released in the last week of December 2015.
When Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, had dubbed Bangladesh as a perpetual bottomless basket case, it was the economic sense by which he had meant that the country would remain economically crippled in the years to come. Made at the moment of its start of journey as an independent state, Bangladesh by now has dampened Kissinger’s rude remark into the dustbin of the history. Dismissing the degrading remark, Bangladesh has now been able to surge its position ahead of many South Asian nations.
Bangladesh has emerged as a role model for developing countries in many social and economic indicators. During the last couple of years, the economic growth rate has hovered around 6.5 per cent per annum, and despite all odds, improvement in social indicators of the country have outstripped even those of India and Pakistan. The country’s annual per capita income in fiscal 2013-14 rose to $ 1,044 from $923. The improvement in the social security sector and positive change in different economic indicators have contributed to this rise in per capita income.
If the per capita income of Bangladesh could be raised to 1190 US dollar then the country would meet one of the three requirements for having the status of the middle income country. Sri Lanka tops the South Asian countries with an annual per capita income of $2,923 in 2012-13 followed by India’s per capita income of $1,527 which may be somewhat eroded by the fall in the value of the rupee vis-a-vis the dollar, much the same way as Pakistan’s annual per capita income that now stands at $1,380. India is the world’s fourth largest economy but ranks 94th in per capita income in the world.
Bangladesh has met many of the goals of the first UN-established Millennium Development Goal (MDG) including the poverty reduction, two years ahead of the 2015 deadline for faster advances towards the universal target. The New York-based Time magazine in a report published  recently, under the title ‘After Much Heartbreak, Some Good News at Last for Bangladesh’ and sub-title ‘World Bank quietly announced that Bangladesh reduced the number of people living in poverty from 63 million in 2000 to 47 million in 2010’, said that the country is also on course to lower its poverty rate—the proportion of the population living below the poverty threshold—to about 26 per cent, an improvement on the original target of 29.5 per cent.
An in-depth study on global poverty reduction by the Oxford University also produced some surprising results. It certified Bangladesh as a “star performer” in the struggle against poverty among other developing countries. The study came in the wake of a similar positive report from the UN about a significant decline in poverty worldwide among developing countries including Bangladesh. The government in Bangladesh also has been promoting and holding such views for sometimes now. The official Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics provided the information from its research in 2011 that the poverty rate in Bangladesh had dropped to 31.5 per cent in 2010, reflecting an 8.5 percentage point decline in the past five years. Some analysts are even suggesting that poverty would be a thing for the museum for the future generations of Bangladeshis.
The MDGs are the most successful global anti-poverty push in history by the United Nations. Its Goals have helped to set global and national priorities, mobilise action, and achieve remarkable results. With plenty of positive and negative data for assessing Bangladesh’s progress towards the MDGs, there was apprehension that the country would not be able to meet most of its targets. Now the picture is quite different. The other MDGs where Bangladesh has made significant progress, are goal 2 – achieving universal primary education, goal 3 – promoting gender equality and empowering women, goal 4 – reducing child mortality rate and goal 6 – combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Experts found that Bangladesh has some weaknesses in goal 7 – ensuring environmental sustainability and goal 8 – developing a global partnership for development. The more Bangladesh can achieve on the MDGs, the more it will be able to build confidence and support for a bold and ambitious post in the global arena.
Bangladesh’s economy has achieved an average growth of over six per cent over the past five years primarily due to the healthy flow of remittance and rising exports. Both exports and remittance flow from expatriate Bangladeshis have doubled over the last five years despite many hurdles. The foreign currency reserve has increased two and a half times, again due to rising exports and remittance flow. Economists say exports, remittances and foreign reserves have come to form a growth triangle that helped Bangladesh pull a large part of its population out of poverty and helped it achieve UN targets two years in advance. For the first time since independence, Bangladesh has the surplus amount of $2,730 crore reserve in its foreign currency account. A buoyant economy gives Bangladesh the confidence to even decide to fund the $2.9 billion Padma bridge, the country’s biggest ever infrastructure project, with its own resources.
Children do not die in big numbers now in Bangladesh as they did two decades back. The country is now preventing over 1,100 child deaths a day, thanks to a successful reduction in child mortality by 72 per cent in last two decades. Back in 1990, as many as 1,454 children used to die a day even before they could reach their fifth birthday. Now that number has come down to 347. According to a report jointly released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the United Nations Population Division, Bangladesh has outshone all its South Asian neighbours in terms of reduction in child mortality. By reducing its own under-five mortality rate from an astounding 144 to 41, Bangladesh has made significant strides in the world child mortality rate by minimising the preventable child deaths. In 2011 Bangladesh received a UN prize for its success in reducing child mortality.
Bangladesh has also made an astounding success in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The globally reputed ICT-related research and advisory body, Gartner, included Bangladesh last year as one of the potentially top 30 countries for ICT outsourcing possibilities. The government has taken a number of measures that are supportive to ICT sector development. It has set up community e-centres in 147 upazilas and information centres in 4,501 unions. The rural people of Bangladesh can be brought under these community e-centres.
That Bangladesh is going to launch its first-ever satellite within next three years is surely news that bears an optimistic note. The vision of a Digital Bangladesh by 2021 may come true through the usage of satellite, as the country has already made headway in the use of internet.  Bangladesh’s own satellite would make it easy to bring the entire country under internet facilities and with the increase in internet connectivity in various areas using our own satellite, it would help us to alleviate poverty, enhance industrial and farm production and bring about a significant change in the education. These developments in the ICT sector will help the country to implement its digital Bangladesh vision.