Bangladesh has overtaken India in the Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index 2020 (GSCI) by showing a significant improvement in utilising its resources more efficiently. Besides, the country leaped 17 notches ahead in the index, while India moved only three.
With a global ranking of 115th out of 180 countries, Bangladesh widened its lead against Pakistan (174th) and Afghanistan (178th) in South Asia this year. However, the neighbours Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives and Sri Lanka remain far ahead of Bangladesh.
Sustainable competitiveness is the ability to generate and sustain inclusive wealth, without compromising the future capability of sustaining or increasing current wealth levels. Bangladesh scored 43.3 out 100 in the GSCI 2020, improving the score by 4.2 from last year.
Sweden topped in the ranking globally, followed by Iceland, Denmark and Finland, revealed the 9th edition of the GSCI published by SolAbility – a Swiss-Korean joint-venture and sustainable intelligence think-tank – on Friday.
Scores across pillars
The national competitiveness ranking is based on 127 quantitative indicators, drawn from UN agencies, World Bank, IMF and Transparency International, and grouped in five pillars – natural capital, social capital, intellectual capital, governance and resource intensity.
Bangladesh has shown substantial improvements in resource intensity and natural capital. The country improved the highest in resource intensity, achieving 60.82 points compared to 48.7 in 2019, which means Bangladesh used resources more efficiently this year.
Besides, the country received 40.14 points in natural capital compared to 30.8 in 2019. This pillar indicates the availability of natural resources, and the level of depletion/degradation of such resources.
Bangladesh however lost points in social capital and governance in the GSCI 2020 compared to the previous edition.
The country scored 41.47 points (dropping from 42.1) in the social capital, which considers a country's health performance indicators, birth statistics, income differences, equal opportunities (gender, economic), freedom of press, human rights considerations, the level of crime against both possession and humans, and perceived levels of well-being and happiness.
Bangladesh also dropped to 54.20 points (from 55.5 in 2019) this year in governance, which measures the results of core state areas and investments – infrastructure, market and employment structure, and the provision of a framework for sustained and sustainable wealth generation.
Despite narrow improvement from 18.5 to 19.87 in intellectual capital, Bangladesh has achieved the lowest score in this pillar. Indicating that the country's capability to generate wealth and jobs through innovation and value-added industries in globalised markets is still lacking.
All the South Asian countries, including Afghanistan, also scored higher than Bangladesh in this pillar.
Responding to a query about the issue, Policy Research Institute's Executive Director Dr Ahsan H Mansur said, "Bangladesh has a very minimum level of innovation, research and development. Moreover, Bangladesh's technology complexity is one of the simplest ones.
"We use the simplest technology in every sector. For example, in the RMG sector, we are still in the first step of manufacturing – cutting and sewing."
Voicing his recommendations to improve the situation, Dr Mansur said, "We have to improve labour productivity. Our resources are limited, and so are innovation opportunities. So, by increasing foreign investment, we can create opportunities to use new technology.
"Foreign investors can bring in new technology to our country through investment."
He added that Eastern Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea is taking the lead from the Western nations in terms of technology and innovation.
It should be noted that Bangladesh is set to overtake India in terms of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal year 2020-21, according to the latest projection of the International Monetary Fund.
GSCI in South Asia
Nepal (53rd) ranked top in GSCI 2020 among the neighbouring countries. Bhutan (55th) ranked second, followed by the Maldives (65th) and Sri Lanka (86th). Meanwhile, Bangladesh became fifth by overtaking India (127th).
In the previous edition of the GSCI published in December 2019, Bangladesh was two places behind India with a ranking of 132th. The think tank has been publishing the report since 2012, while Bangladesh has been improving in the ranking since 2016.
Pakistan (174th) and Afghanistan (178th) are the bottom two countries in the region.