"Surjodoye Tumi, Surjasteo Tumi
O Amar Bangladesh Priyo Jonmobhumi"
(You are at sunrise, you are at sunset
O my Bangladesh, my beloved motherland)
Bangladesh's national flag was designed along the model of the Japanese flag, with changes in colour. Bangladesh is now considered one of the leading emerging economies.
We have now outdone Pakistan in all indicators of socio-economic development. But, by the end of the 1960s, we were far behind all development indicators compared to the then West Pakistan. And in some indicators of social development, such as average life expectancy of the people, we have now outshone neighbouring India. Therefore, the economic rationale that worked behind the Six-Point Movement and the Liberation War stand justified.
The country that Henry Kissinger once castigated as a bottomless basket is now referred to as a "development wonder". This is because despite many adversities, Bangladesh has been in the front row among developing countries in terms of average annual growth of per capita income over the past three decades. Even more astonishing is the fact that we are far ahead of our economically equivalent countries in terms of social development indicators, including education and health, even though our public sector development spending - be it per capita or GDP - is relatively low, and the quality of public services is low.
It is noteworthy that Henry Kissinger came upon the phrase "bottomless basket" in the documents of an official of his State Department. That official had worked long on the famine in Africa and used the phrase in his assessment of the countries affected in the continent. Kissinger used this term to indicate that Bangladesh would be a similar famine-prone country. Moreover, his political resentment of this country was well known. Famine in Bangladesh is now a matter belonging to history.
In this scene of the rising sun, the bright light of the sun is slightly covered in clouds. Why? The promise to build a non-discriminatory society has not been kept. On the contrary, economic and political inequalities have increased in society and these two types of inequalities are adding strength to each other. Standards of morality have been on a decline in society. Space for an intellectual middle class society based on knowledge has been shrinking rather than expanding. The phrase "civil society" has dwindled to being a laughing stock. And yet in the process of nation-building, the entire society has to become civilised and sophisticated.
All in all, in all these years we have not been able to come up with a sustainable system of governance underscored by accountability at all levels. Development is not sustainable without accountability in any democratic or authoritarian system of governance. Amartya Sen agrees with this statement of mine, but he has added "sense of responsibility" to it. Accountability is an essential condition for effective administration, and demonstrating responsibility is a matter of personal ethics. Both are essential. (Source: My recently published article: Bangladesh's socio-economic progress with poor governance: How are Amartya Sen's thoughts relevant for Bangladesh?)
Interestingly, mention of Bangladesh as a "development wonder" came to the notice of international organisations and our government much later.
The latest reference to this factor in the international media was by Amartya Sen – based on articles of Bangladeshi researchers published internationally. It is not possible to redress these problems if we do not identify the reasons why the social indicators, having improved dramatically, are now stagnating.
(A search of "Bangladesh Development Surprise" on www.scholar.google will reveal the number of times research articles and others have used their formulas.) Again, we do not notice or want to notice that many social development indicators now have stagnated over the past five to seven years and, in some cases, have even gone backward.(The recently published Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2017-18, Key Indicators report available on the website, contains a series of statistics on the indicators.) It is important that research be conducted to understand why that has been so.
[The author is an economist and a former advisor to the caretaker government. This write-up is taken from the writer's Facebook account and translated from Bangla]