That story is now beyond the imagination of our young generation.
A country that was born out of blood and fire had little wealth to rebuild on.
The per capita income was less than $100, when Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation on the world map.
The government's exchequer was almost empty. It was largely dependent on foreign aid. In that situation, the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made his infamous remark in 1974 – "Bangladesh is a bottomless basket."
Gone are the days. Bangladesh is now a story of rise, rise and rise.
Our per capita income stands at $1,909. Our economic growth hit record 8.15 percent in the last fiscal year. This is a continuation of the success of our growth. We averaged more than 6 percent growth over the last one decade. The strength of our growth is its consistency.
And now we are among the five fastest-growing economies in the world.
Rapid growth enabled us to reach lower-middle income country status in 2015.
In 2018, we fulfilled all three eligibility criteria for graduation from the UN's Least Developed Countries (LDC) list for the first time and are on track for graduation in 2024.
Bangladesh wants to become an upper-middle income country by 2030.
All global financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF and renowned economists fell in love with our growth story. They paint a rosy picture about our future growth.
We have been recognised by many as the new Asian tiger after Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan that experienced rapid growth between 1960s and 1990s.
All these have been possible for independence from Pakistan that deprived us in many ways – from economy to politics – for more than two decades.
Now Bangladesh is ahead of Pakistan in terms of per capita income and in other economic indicators.
Yet, we have a long way to walk. Our struggle for independence was against all sorts of social injustice. The nine-month-long bloody war was fought against the Pakistan military junta to create a new Bangladesh free from social and economic injustice.
In the constitution enacted after the Liberation War, democracy and human rights have been declared as major fundamental principles of state policies.
In Article 11, the constitution clearly announces that Bangladesh shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human persons shall be guaranteed.
Bangladesh's journey was never smooth. It had to overcome many hurdles – political and natural disasters. The country was derailed from its track as military dictators grabbed state power and ruled the country for around 15 years from 1975 to 1990.
The country began its new journey after the fall of military dictator HM Ershad's regime at the end of 1990. Since then, Bangladesh has gradually emerged with a new look.
Readymade garment export, remittance from expatriate labourers, rise in food production through the relentless efforts of our farmers accelerated the country's economic growth, which has been consistent in the last one decade.
We have achieved many successes. Yet the troubling rise in inequality, poor quality of education and health, increase in air pollution and continuous degradation of environment emerged as hindrances to ensuring the quality of our growth.
The readymade garment sector is the main source of our export earnings. But in more than three decades, we still have a crying need for skilled professionals as the industry lacks skilled mid-level management.
There has been an alarming increase in the number of patients with respiratory diseases as air quality deteriorates day by day.
In the last five years, the number of asthma patients rose by a factor of 24 to 78,806 in 2019 from 3,326 in 2015. Deaths from the disease went up 10 folds to 588 from 56 in the same period.
No Bangladeshi university has made it among 1,000 universities in the world in a global ranking by the UK-based Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2020 published last September. India and Pakistan have 36 and seven universities respectively.
Our ranking in other global indices like rule of law, corruption, press freedom, democracy and doing business is also poor.
All those indices indicate we have a long way to go to fulfil the dream of our freedom fighters who dreamt of a country free from social injustice and inequality, which have become a roadblock to becoming an upper-middle income country by 2030.
The global economic situation is not inspiring. The trade war between the US and China has already slowed down global economic growth. Many countries are bearing the brunt of the trade war. Many countries witnessed the rise of nationalism crippling the norms and values of democracy.
Therefore, we need to be extra-cautious. All the roadblocks must be removed to become an upper-middle income country and to fulfil the dream of the people who through a historic struggle established the independent, sovereign People's Republic of Bangladesh.