Priorities in achieving SDGs in Bangladesh

As a signatory to SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) framed by the United Nations, Bangladesh is required see that its development policies are SDG compliant. The SDGs have 17 major goals covering a total of 169 targets that include a broad range of development issues.

Bangladesh has made a remarkable achievement in meeting the targets of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). But we cannot feel complacent as regards SDGs. The goals and targets of the SDGs are more dynamic, challenging and ambitious than the MDGs.

The developing countries like Bangladesh have to do a lot on some basic issues regarding infrastructure, flexible investment and need-based prioritisation un the context of the 17 SDGs. Moreover, some basic areas of social components (social norms, values and ethical practices) have to be nurtured at every stage of development.

We are now going through a transformative mood in real values of social, economic and environmental aspects. This is indeed a time of our transformation in daily work, thinking and lifestyle with a new shape of development agenda. As the SDG says, this new form of development is to be initiated from person to person, community to community, region to region and country to country.

During our transformation with the SDGs, many local and international organisations have started their work jointly for the benefit of Bangladesh. Beyond own thinking and efforts, Bangladesh has also been receiving guidelines and investments from the international donors/agencies with the conditions of undertaking the types of innovative projects which correspond to our SDG vision. Even, many donors have cut down their money for mainstream development of Bangladesh because of attainment of lower middle-income country status. But the real scenario is that the future donor money would be invested in a new transformative way of our regular development projects. This means the new shape of development is certainly going through a social entrepreneurship model with a flexible return on investment.

Regarding the transformation issues, the Copenhagen Consensus (Copenhagen Consensus is a project that seeks to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics using cost-benefit analysis) has been working for more than 10 years at the global level – mostly on the applied economic inputs to the SDGs. most recently they have worked with BRAC at a national level discussion to provide a prioritised scenario of implementing the SDGs in Bangladesh based on cost-benefit analysis of further investment in different development sectors. After community involvement, roundtables held with universities, the government and NGOs generated an extensive list of 1,000 ideas and among them 76 policy options were considered for further analysis. The project is approached with researchers mostly where about 60 per cent of them are Bangladeshi. They have given some smarter prioritised ideas in our prospective work for better Bangladesh.

However, the 76 policy issues have been ranked on the basis of the return benefit on investment if we do now. All the ranked issues were then categorised under 19 broad heads within different development sectors. After cost-benefit analysis, the team considered ‘Digital Bangladesh’ highly emerging sector with the highest possible return on further investment (rank 1). Under this development sector, three prioritised areas have been selected for our further investment, e.g. a) e-procurement across government (Tk 663 worth of social, economic and environmental good if we spend more Tk 1 in this sector), b) more services at Union Digital Centres (Tk 8 of good return in against of spending Tk 1), and c) Expanding broadband (Tk 5 of good return is for Tk 1).

Similarly, the ‘Land administration’ sector has been ranked the second highest possible profitable sector where land record digitisation can be a vital issue for our further development. In this sector, if we spend Tk 1 more, we will get Tk 619 of sustainable return (considering social, economic and environmental return collectively). Then, other development sectors have been ranked sequentially against significant return on further investment, e.g. rank 3) food security, nutrition and agriculture; 4) non-communicable diseases; 5) health system and access; 6) infrastructure (energy); 7) migration; 8) education; 9) governance and institutions; 10) water and sanitations; 11) industrial policy and trade; 12) environment and biodiversity; 13) urbanisation; 14) fiscal management and revenue mobilisation, 15) infrastructure (transport); 16) gender equality; 17) climate change; 18) capital and financial markets; and 19) poverty, entrepreneurship and growth. So, here we see the poverty eradication sector as the least possible investment sector since we have already achieved a lot of success in this sector in comparison to other sectors. Under this theme, the study says that only Tk 2 will be returned now if we invest Tk 1 in a flexible microfinance programme. After ranking all of these sectors, the Copenhagen Consensus framework identified top most 3 major areas with greatest returns to the society- investment in tuberculosis treatment, infant nutrition, and e-government solutions.

The above development sectors and policy issues were analysed and ranked in case of our further investment to implement different projects in Bangladesh. The priority of these development sectors considers the present context of Bangladesh and the SDGs. This analysis consists of not only economic benefits and costs, but also the overall benefits in social, environmental and health sectora corresponding to the UN SDGs.

The writer is Senior Research Associate, Research and Evaluation Division (RED), BRAC.