Say the country’s eminent economists

Massive transformation in the agriculture sector, microfinance, robust remittance inflows and the emergence of an autonomous entrepreneurial class have contributed to Bangladesh’s economic growth over the past 50 years, said economists. 

Bangladesh inherited a fragile economy following independence, said Rehman Sobhan, founder and chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, at a virtual dialogue styled “A Look at Bangladesh’s 50 Year Journey: Turning Points in the Economy” on Saturday.

The Power and Participation Research Centre organised the dialogue, which was moderated by its Executive Chairman Hossain Zillur Rahman.

“Bangladesh has turned that around in its 50-year journey with a strong foothold,” Sobhan said.

The demobilisation of the state sector was an important and constant emphasis on the private sector, pushing resources to the hand of second generations, who were a privileged class.     

“In the 21st century, there is an independent entrepreneurial class. The emergence of an autonomous entrepreneurial class, who reinvested their profits, helped to post significant growth in trade and commerce.” 

In the last 50 years, transformation in the agriculture sector and microfinance, which grew without state patronage, and migrants contributed a lot to the autonomous growth in the economy.

“But it was in a very unequal form,” Sobhan added.   

The structural changes taking place in the Bangladesh economy is largely contributed by the agricultural sector and rural economy, said MA Sattar Mandal, former vice-chancellor of the Bangladesh Agricultural University. 

The transformation has been witnessed in high-valued crops, fisheries and livestock that contributed hugely to the reduction of poverty as well as improved nutritional standard with food security and sufficiency. 

“At the end of 1980, we saw a large-scale privatisation of agriculture.”

This led to a bump in cereal production, which reverberated to the other sectors.

“In our 50-year journey, the rise in agricultural production was a turning point for the Bangladesh economy. The farmers are the driver of the economy and we need a specific plan for their development.”

New technologies are being invented in the agriculture sector, but those need to be adopted in the sector as it would help to reduce costs and increase production further.   

Other than the agriculture sector, the emergence of an autonomous entrepreneurial class and microfinance contributed to Bangladesh’s economic development in its 50-year journey, Mandal added.    

Traditional cultivation methods in agriculture are still in place, while the health and education sectors are lagging behind peers in the region, said Binayak Sen, research director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

He went on to call for structural changes in agriculture and introduction of the latest technology so that the development can be sustained. 

If Bangladesh wants to reach the middle-income nation status, it will have to attain an average of 7 per cent GDP growth. 

And to attain 7 per cent average GDP growth, the investment needs to be ramped up to 50 per cent of GDP, Sen added.  

“Though there is still political instability, Bangladesh has turned around in its 50-year journey,” said Naila Kabeer, professor of Gender and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science.   

Women’s participation in the labour force is remarkable and they are contributing to the economy alongside the men. 

Women’s employment in the garment sector has contributed significantly to the development of the country’s economy. 

At the same time, microfinance and non-government organisations were the driving force behind women’s rights and creating employment opportunities.

Investing by parents in quality education of their children played an important role, while the government’s focus on boys and later girls’ education was very important, she added.      

PPRC Executive Chairman Rahman credited peoples’ aspirations and innovation for the remarkable economic growth.



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