The Bangladesh government has been facing a data deficit on indicators regarding the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the past five years.
Even in the ongoing year, the government could not find data on 110 indicators of the SDGs. Partial data was found on 58 indicators, and all data was available on 64 indicators. Such data is crucial for an effective evaluation of SDG implementation.
Despite these circumstances, the Planning Commission's General Economics Division (GED) released the Sustainable Development Goals Bangladesh Progress Report 2020 on Thursday at an event held in the NEC Conference Room in the city's Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area.
This was the second SDGs progress report, the first one having been launched back in 2018. Planning Minister MA Mannan attended the launching event as the chief guest, while GED member Dr Shamsul Alam presented the progress report.
In his presentation, Dr Alam said, "A new baseline year has been set for the 165 indicators. Among them, monitoring and evaluation structures are ready for 142 indicators, but we could not find updated data on them."
The United Nations has set 232 indicators for the 17 SDGs.
The progress report pointed out that the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) does not accumulate any data on many economic activities. For this reason, the government cannot find essential data related to a significant number of SDG indicators and for the Formulation of National Development Plan.
Commenting on the SGD progress report, Planning Minister MA Mannan said, "The implementation of SDGs began from January 2016, while the baseline year for many of the indicators is Fiscal Year 2014-15.
"Besides, most of the data – found in the latest progress report – was actually collected two years ago."
The minister continued, "We have a deficit of data, and this issue must be resolved as soon as possible. As per the Statistics Act, it is the BBS' responsibility to compile all the data in the country. So, the bureau must play a larger role in collecting updated data."
Speaking as the special guest, the Chief Coordinator for Sustainable Development Goals at the Prime Minister's Office, Zuena Aziz, said, "Development activities are facing issues due to a lack of data.
"In many instances, we see that the work has been completed, but data is yet to be updated. The deficit of data is a big challenge to SDG implementation."
Sudipto Mukherjee, Resident Representative of UNDP in Bangladesh, said, "Bangladesh must invest more in data collection. Besides, monitoring activities should be increased too."
The second SDGs' progress report reveals that Bangladesh has lagged behind in achieving several goals, such as Reduced Inequality, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education and Zero Hunger.
Goal 1: No Poverty
In the baseline year 2016, Bangladesh had a poverty rate of 24.3 percent, which came down to 20.5 percent in 2019. The rate of ultra-poverty also dropped from 12.9 percent to 10.5 percent.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has not been factored into the calculation.
Addressing the issue, Dr Alam told The Business Standard, "Due to the pandemic, the poverty rate has increased to 29 percent."
However, a number of non-government organisations consider the rate even higher.
Dr Alam added, "Despite an increase in the poverty rate due to Covid-19 and natural disasters, the country's economy will return to normal in FY2022-23. The economy will move forward with renewed strength, exceeding the previous pace.
"So, it will still be possible for us to bring the poverty rate down to zero by 2030."
The report further stated that Bangladesh has made some progress in some other indicators, such as maternity healthcare and completion of primary education. However, progress in the essential healthcare and education indicators are low.
Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen said, "The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed the economy down, and we have to tackle the situation globally. Social security programmes have to be strengthened further.
"International development organisations and the private sector have to come forward to help stimulate the economy."
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Bangladesh is meeting its targets insofar as this goal is concerned. However, progress is slow with several indicators, such as malnutrition, the trend of moderate and extreme food shortage among people and malnutrition among children aged under five years.
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being
Bangladesh continues to face a number of challenges in the health sector, such as reducing the inequality centering on easy availability of healthcare services.
The other challenges are a lack of trained healthcare professionals, expansion of primary healthcare services in urban areas – especially among the poor, prevention of contagious diseases and ensuring coordination among healthcare sector stakeholders.
The progress report further recommended that the capacity of healthcare-related institutions be increased to boost the capacity of making policies. Quality healthcare must also be ensured to marginalised people areas and regions.
It also stated that the ongoing inequality in healthcare for mothers and children must be eradicated, and an adequate number of personnel must be trained.
The report further revealed that deaths related to heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and asthma are steadily increasing.
Goal 4: Quality Education
According to the report, around 4 million children are currently out of school at the primary level throughout the country. Bangladesh faces a significant challenge in meeting the targets of SDG4.
Although the net enrolment rate is currently 79.97 percent, the dropout rate is also quite high at 18.8 percent. Besides, a large proportion of primary students could not make the transition to secondary schools.
Economic disparity in the enrolment of secondary school children aged between 11-15 years is also a critical challenge in attaining SDG4. Although access to primary education is in relatively good shape, the quality of education is a matter of concern.
Due to a lack of data, enrollment and quality of education indicators could not be evaluated.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
Bangladesh has achieved significant progress in attaining SDG5, and has closed 72.6 percent of its overall gender gap.
Goal 6: Clean water and Sanitation
The report indicates that in 2019, the proportion of the population using safely managed drinking water services stood at 47.9 percent at the national level, with 98.5 percent of household members using improved sources of drinking water.
In 2019, 84.6 percent of household members had access to improved sanitation facilities and 74.8 percent households reported washing their hands with soap and water.
Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
The report revealed that more than 92 percent of people have access to electricity, and the proportion of the population with access to clean fuel and technology increased to 19 percent in 2019 from 7.24 percent in 2000.
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Annual growth rate of real GDP per employed person increased to 5.85 percent in 2018-19 from 5.71 percent in 2016.
The report highlighted Bangladesh's upward shift in average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita to 6.91 percent in FY 2018-19 from 5.1 percent in the baseline FY 2014-15 as noteworthy.
However, there are significant uncertainties over growth prospects due to the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The report noted that higher unemployment rate of women, persons aged 15-29 years, informality in the jobs market, skills demand and supply mismatch, child labour and problems involving migration of workers need to be tackled.
Goal 10: Reduced Inequality
The report pointed out that Bangladesh is witnessing an increasing level of income inequality along with its developing economy. However, Dr Alam termed the issue as a normal phenomenon.
Meanwhile, the planning minister opined that income inequality is not acceptable. He recommended putting more emphasis on bigger allocations for development, education, healthcare and employment of marginalised people.