167Published on September 5, 2021
M Nazrul Islam:
When I arrived in Europe in political exile more than three decades ago, I felt quite isolated. In the early days in a new country that would be considered normal. But my emptiness was accentuated when I saw many people like me searching for their country's identity. When I would come across new people on the streets they wanted to know if I was Indian. When I’d tell them that I was from Bangladesh, my response was usually met with a frown. Most of those I met had not heard about Bangladesh. They’d ask where it was positioned in the globe, as though I’d landed from an alien planet. I would be deeply pained. We’d gained independence by fighting Pakistan, and yet we were unknown.
But things have changed. Look where we’ve come today. Once we had to tell stories to explain where Bangladesh was. Today, it is known all over the world—it stands tall in its own right.
The dreams of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are all coming true. His daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has done yeoman service for Bangladesh during this era. The present generation is unfamiliar with the word ‘relief’. This is because our Prime Minister has brought back what used to be an economically underdeveloped nation on the path of development and prosperity. Once a nation that suffered from a paucity of food, Bangladesh today is a country with a food surplus. Bangladeshis hardly remember that once the country had a shortage of electricity. Bangladesh sends its own satellites into space and is building the Padma Bridge with its own funds. From a least developed nation, Bangladesh has moved up to become a developing country.
Let’s pause to take a look at our economy and overall development. In 2008-09, our export revenue was USD 15.58 billion. In 2018-19, that is a decade later, it has touched USD 40.54 billion. In 2008-09, the size of the GDP was USD 103.5 billion. In 2019-20 it has gone up to USD 330.2 billion. Foreign exchange reserves have risen to USD 44.03 billion in 2019-20 from USD 8.48 billion in 2008-09. In 2001, the poverty rate in the country was 47.9 percent and the extreme poverty rate was 34.3 percent. In 2019, the poverty rate has come down to 20.5 percent and the extreme poverty rate to 10.5 percent. Compared to the previous year, Bangladesh has risen to the 133rd position in the Traditional Human Development Index (HDI) by 2020, two places ahead.
While the global economy is in turmoil due to coronavirus infection, Bangladesh has raised hopes for growth. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed back the growth of neighbouring countries, the International Monetary Fund says that Bangladesh is set to top South Asia in terms of GDP per capita and become fourth in Asia in the current financial year. Economists say the breakthrough in growth is a major achievement. Indian economist Kaushik Basu who served as the World Bank's chief economist until 2016 has said that Bangladesh’s progress has been due to the specific priorities set by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Every year, there is a big difference between the government's estimates on GDP growth and those of others. The World Bank says Bangladesh’s GDP would grow at below 2 percent in the current fiscal year as a result of the ongoing pandemic. The IMF, on the other hand, says the growth will be close to 4 percent, reassessing its earlier position that the country’s GDP would grow at 2 percent. In 2021, the IMF says the growth will be as much as 4.4 percent. According to the IMF World Economic Outlook report released at the joint annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington DC, Bangladesh is one of the top three countries in terms of GDP growth in 2021. According to the IMF, Bangladesh is one of the 22 countries whose GDP growth could be positive this year.
In the last five years, Bangladesh’s per capita GDP has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1 percent, compared to 3.2 percent in India. The rapid growth of the export sector, the steady growth of the country's savings and investment rates, have contributed significantly to Bangladesh's economic growth. In contrast, savings and investment have declined in recent years, along with exports, in India.
A month back the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Bangladesh’s GDP growth could reach 7.6 percent by the end of the current fiscal year. According to the Manila-based organization, Bangladesh's economy has started to turn around with the success of industrial production, exports and remittances.
Bangladesh has made great strides in the last one year in the fight against hunger as it continues to improve in reducing malnutrition. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) released by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Bangladesh currently ranks 65th out of 108 countries in the index. Not only progress in the position of the index, but also in all the four criteria by which the GHI is measured has Bangladesh made major gains. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (FPRI), in the last one year, Bangladesh has improved a lot in terms of score.
So when the world economy is in a negative trend, Bangladesh is walking in a positive direction. On the centenary of the birth of the Father of the Nation, the year of the fiftieth anniversary of independence, Bangladesh is on the verge of fulfilling its dream. The dream of a prosperous country that the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamed of is being fulfilled by his worthy daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
As I said at the beginning, three decades ago, when foreigners heard the name of Bangladesh, they would look at it with inquisitive eyes. Now they are no longer surprised to hear the name of Bangladesh, and are also respectful. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has established Bangladesh to its rightful place of honour in the international arena. I thank her from my station overseas.
Writer: President of the All European Awami League
Source: Daily Sun