Today’s Bangladesh: Challenges and Expectations

Farhana Chowdhury

Since independence in 1971, Bangladesh has played a can-do role above initial expectations in terms of glimpses of achievement with the increase of its per capita income many times over, cutting the deficiency rate in every corner of problems over successive years and is now in well position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Bangladesh moved towards a remarkable progress in solving the problems, especially reducing poverty, the death rate of mother and children, eliminating the difference of the rate of illiteracy, due in part to a GDP growth rate of 6 per cent in recent years. One of the world’s highest population densities though Bangladesh improvements in social indicators such as increased life expectancy and lower fertility rate, do correspond with economic growth. Despite having one of the countries in South Asia Bangladesh heads with the experience in a very rapid urbanization. As a result, most of the cities and towns of Bangladesh are expanding more than twice the rate of rural areas, and this rapid growth of urbanization is expected to continue till Bangladesh transitions from a low income to a middle income country. Only 28 to 30 percent of the total population living in urban areas is contributing approximately 60 percent to the national GDP. From 2017 to 2021, the UN Development Assistance Framework for Bangladesh has stressed prosperity on the top of the list, with a view to increasing opportunities, especially for women and disadvantaged groups, to contribute to and benefit from economic progress. This focus is in line with Bangladesh’s Vision 2021, the Seventh Five-Year Plan, and the SDGs. While human development indicators march significantly with an enlightened progress in Bangladesh, social and income disparities become a challenge. Persistent pockets of extreme problems such as poverty, unemployment, overlapping population not only in urban slums, but in an overall common picture throughout the country that do not fully reflect in national-level data.

The people who are kept away from light of progress are often structurally disadvantaged in terms of ownership of assets, and have inadequate access to institutional finance as well as basic services including quality education, healthcare, water and sanitation. As Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and about one third of Bangladesh’s population lives in urban areas, and according to the national poverty survey, 21.3% of the urban populations are either poor or extreme poor. The urban poor, especially women and children, often suffer from malnutrition resulting in stunted growth, weakening of the immune system, mental impairment and, in some cases, early death. Moreover, poverty of this nature has a lock-in quality, guaranteeing intergenerational transfers of disadvantage. Along with the Government of Bangladesh, UNDP created the National Urban Poverty Reduction Programme (NUPRP) to build from the successes of the Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction Programme. The project supports programs of settlement improvement and socio-economic development in 30 towns and cities, as well as community and local government capacity building and policy advocacy. To bring them to light there remains divers hindrance. For the reasons, the challenges that the people of Bangladesh face are numerous, making it necessary for the government and resident agencies to plan comprehensive programs to sustain the progress made thus far. The UN Development Assistance Framework 2017-2021 anchors around the government’s national priorities, and identifies the reduction of socio-economic inequalities as the principle indicators of positive change. Despite facing problems with a major hunger and malnutrition challenge, in line with global experience, the once strong relationship between these variables and poverty appears to be breaking down. In fact, declined markedly while poverty has, a giant proportion of the population of the country is unable to meet their recommended daily calorie intake and many children are underweight due to hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies.

The gains that have been made to date remain, many cases, sustained with mentioning the substantial challenges of achieving gender parity, ensuring productive employment, mitigating the effects of climate change and improving the lifestyle of labours and their rights.  Although Bangladesh walks towards a middle income country, yet it remains a low income country and part of the world’s least developed countries, making poverty reduction, income generation and social inclusion a central priority towards 2021 and beyond. UNDP supports a Bangladesh where everyone can openly, safely, and peacefully contribute to Bangladesh’s development story. This vision requires capable, inclusive, and rule-based governance institutions. UNDP works closely with the Government of Bangladesh to draft intelligent public policy, improve technical capacity, and introduce best practices that are responsive to the Bangladeshi context. Women, children, underprivileged and minority groups attract special attention and consideration in UNDP’s choice of projects and partnerships. UNDP also maintains an active and respectful relationship with civil society organizations, including local NGOs, academic, community and media institutions, recognizing that a healthy public discourse is essential to good governance. Recent years have seen a perceptible increase in interest in social safety nets within developing countries. Although many critics have questioned social safety-nets as something politically expedient, stigmatizing and highly inadequate to prime concerns of the poor, the necessity of such nets was never really discarded in practice. However, a new urgency is now visible in the discourse as safety nets and the broader issue of social protection is increasingly being seen as a mainstream development concern. Effective governance is critical to ensuring that Bangladesh can make the most of its human potential. Bangladesh has made significant progress in promoting competent, effective institutions that respect fundamental human rights and the rule of law, but challenges remain. UNDP-supported initiatives, including a National Human Rights Commission, an expansive Village Courts system, a Justice Sector reform network, and National Government Assessment Framework continue to improve the quality and scope of government services.

UNDP is a committed, impartial partner to government, civil society, community and academic organizations seeking to improve the transparency, accountability, and efficiency of Bangladeshi institutions. The main objective of developing the capacity development framework of LGIs is to identify the capacity development needs of all types of local governments in Bangladesh, and contribute to addressing these needs by implementing an appropriate development framework connecting every responsible authority those who are involved in the people from the City Corporations to the Union Parishads can be thought to bring under this framework. However, separate modules could be developed to address the capacity needs of different tiers of local government. The non-existence of such a framework has hindered the LGIs in Bangladesh from work in a coordinated manner to deliver better services to the citizen. Despite individual unit of LGIs have separate set of legislation, it is difficult to keep consistency and ensure coordination between them. Bangladesh faces significant challenges on several fronts: the country has three lines of primary and secondary educations at primary and secondary level; the problems are the natural disasters, the corrupt financial sector at the behest of the government, environmental disaster, and the economic and cultural aggression and dominant of the products that monopoly occupies the Bangladesh markets. However, identifying risks and challenges, the government and people of Bangladesh are entitled to take some pride in the degree of success they have achieved since the victory day of Bangladesh. The international donor community, led by the World Bank, respectively feels proud moderately of the role it has played in assisting this “largest poorest” nation to become a respected member of the family of nations. Along with the local hands Sheikh Hasina’s governance despite having divers deficiency in many sectors will lead the country to bring the dream to light the warrior children of Bangladesh had sacrificed their lives for.

Farhana Chowdhury, Faculty of a Private University, writes on current issues, especially on economic and social affairs.
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