Bangladesh, A big jump from the roots of ruins: Dr Jasim Uddin Ahmad

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Published on January 17, 2018
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Bangladesh with its head held high emerged as an independent sovereign state thundering from the burns and ashes, destruction and demolition brutally wrought by the barbarous Pakistani occupation forces who left no stone unturned to appease their ugly lust and devilries from plundering and vandalism to rape and genocide, yet ultimately yielded to our long-cherished dream-the liberation of Bangladesh which proudly added another patch of color to the multi-colored global map.

Immediately after liberation, Bangladesh inherited from its Pakistani colonial ruler's little overall growth and few bank branch offices with a long trailback of unprecedented damage and devastations to our infrastructure and industrial plants that we had. This had ultimately brought inevitable disarray and disruption in the economic and financial system of the country which had to be repaired at a heavy cost in terms of time and resources.  

Still in a short span of time since independence Bangladesh had been able to prove the skeptics about its viability absolutely wrong and could totally efface the stigma of 'bottomless basket' creating a surprising instance for the international community in general and retributing with a stunning blow to the Pakistani hordes and its allies in particular.

The world witnessed with trauma the 'wounded and blood-stainedBangladesh' with too many a sore in the wake of liberation war. The public expenditure on relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation between January 1972-June 1973 amounted to Taka 290 crore ($ 400 million). The economy contracted by 12 percent showing a downhill slide in major macroeconomic indicators between 1969-70 to 1972-73. Thus, the task of immediate rebuilding and reconstruction on the 'debris of burns and injuries' seemed to have been a myth. 

Yet there were golden hopes and shining expectations streaming into the hearts of everyone.At the time of independence, Bangladesh was one of the poorest countries in the world with annual per capita income only $ 50 (BDT 400) and annual inflation rate over40 percent.Sadly, in less than 2 years after liberation, the worst of the events began to crop up. Globally, the world economy was caught in prolonged recession due to 2 oil price shocks.

And domestically, the law and order situation deteriorated to the point of 'beyond control'. Murder, hijacking and plundering of state-owned enterprises were regular events.  Added to this, nature also seemed to have arrived with all ferocity and rudeness causing a devastating flood that hit the country in 1974. 

At this inopportune juncture, the unscrupulous traders and hoarders sarcastically formed a syndicate to satisfy their financial profligacy through artificial food crisis that claimed heavy toll of lives of nearly 15 lakh people.  These foes of humanity hailing from the business syndicate thus brought utter disgrace and despair to the whole nation.

Still, the more shocking disgrace and sad lamentation were when Bangabandhu was brutally killed along with his family which did not bring anything good for the nation. Yet after that, there were continual outbursts of coup, counter-coup and mass upsurge till December 1990 when peace and democracy seemed to have returned and consequently, growth and stability were on the right track. 

However, the tempo of GDP growth rate began to accelerate since 1996 when it reached over 6 percent and inflation rate came down to single digit limit despite political unrest and frequent strikes mostly on flimsy grounds. With keen surprise the world observed the Bangladesh economy moving faster attaining GDP growth rate 7.24 percent (in 2016--17) which was 7.11 percent in 2015-16. 

The robust growth in GDP was contributed mainly by the industrial sector (10.5 percent). However, the service (6.5 percent growth), as well as the agricultural sector (3.4 percent), also contributed a lot.(source: Bangladesh Bank Quarterly, April-June 2017).

The general inflation rate based on CPI (consumer price index. 12 monthly average. Base: 2005-06= 100) calmed down to 5.59 percent in October 2017 well below the inflation rate 5.66 percent. in October 2016. In addition, the monetary policy targets were well achieved. At the end of 2016-17 annual growth rate in private sector, credit was 15.7 percent and growth in net foreign assets was 14.1 percent. 

Despite that,  growth in money supply (broad money= currency outside banks+ demand deposit+ time deposit ) was 10.9 percent which remained well below the program path due to decline in credit to the public sector.During  2016-17 fiscal performance strengthened. Total revenue grew by 19.8 percent against only 11.8 percent growth in total expenditure. Consequently, budget deficit moderated to BDT 51240 crore in 2016-17 (from  BDT 58710 crore in 2015-16). The external sector exhibited remarkable improvement with 8.42 percent growth attained in December 2017.

In addition workers' remittance, which had a dip only a year ago, soon enjoyed a comeback that jumped to $ 121 crore (BDT 9771.6 crore) during November 2017. Exchange rate negligibly depreciated to BDT 80.8 for one US dollar as at end October 2017, which partly led to the rise in export demand.  So far as the banking sector is the concerned performance of the private as well as the foreign banks is relatively better.During  2016 private banks earned  Taka 7075.22 crore net profit (after tax)  and foreign banks earned Taka  1385.13 crore net profit. Performance of some state-owned banks also in respect of profitability seems much improved compared to the previous periods. Janata Bank earned net profit Taka 1171 crore (source: Asian Age 3-1-2018), Rupali Bank earned net profit Taka 27.19 crore and BASIC Bank made net profit Taka43 crore during 2017. The ratio of gross NPL (nonperforming loan) to total outstanding loan of the banking sector slightly improved to 10.1 percent at end June 2017 ( from 10.5 percent at end  March 2017). Another key economic indicator is the level of unemployment which involves both monetary and psychic cost to the unemployed class of the society.  The current unemployment rate in Bangladesh is  4.9 percent (2016) which reveals a better position than her neighbor Pakistan (6.9 percent in 2016). 

According to ILO (International  Labor  Organization ), unemployed persons imply those who are currently not working but are willing and able to work (Age group: 18-65 years). Encouragingly enough, overseas employment grew by 11 lakh during the last one year At present 1.3 crores, Bangladeshi workers are employed in 162 countries remitting in total  $ 1300 crore (BDT  104453.66 crore ) during the last one year (Nov 2016-Oct 2017). The  Govt. is determined to continue the rising trend of sending more workers abroad to fulfill the major target of attaining SDG (Sustainable Development Goals). The achievement of Bangladesh in HDI (Human Development  Index), particularly in the health sector is excellent.

To conclude, for making the country a blissful abode for all, transparency and good governance in each and every sector of the economy is indispensable. Law and order should be made strict for all classes of people of the society.  Punishment for crimes and corruptions including financial scams and irregularities must be rapid and exemplary. ACC ( Anti  Corruption Commission) must be made neutral, transparent and strong enough to win people's  trust. Commendably, ACC recently put 6 AB  Bank directors under the quizzical net for alleged laundering of Tk 165 crore to UAE. More importantly, political stability must be maintained at all costs. Any activity by any quarter found subversive of peace and stability of the country must be restrained with an iron hand.

The writer is former General Manager of Credit Information Bureau, Bangladesh Bank

Courtesy: Daily Asian Age