ILLUSTRATION: COLLECTEDWhile most of the world's economies are now suffering from an economic crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh's gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow by 6.4% in fiscal 2021- 22, acc"> ILLUSTRATION: COLLECTEDWhile most of the world's economies are now suffering from an economic crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh's gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow by 6.4% in fiscal 2021- 22, acc">

Supporting our economic growth for a better society

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While most of the world’s economies are now suffering from an economic crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow by 6.4% in fiscal 2021- 22, according to the World Bank. Prior to the epidemic, the economy was growing rapidly, registering an annual expansion of around 8%. Much of this growth is driven by export earnings, particularly from the ready-to-wear (RMG) industry, remittances sent by migrant workers, and growth in the agricultural sector. Today, Bangladesh has become the 41st largest economy (in terms of GDP) in the world and the second in South Asia. It is expected to be the 25th tallest by 2035.

The role of domestic and foreign direct investment

The government of Bangladesh wants to achieve Upper Middle Income Country (UMIC) status by 2030 and High Income Country (HIC) status by 2041. Research suggests that to transform Bangladesh into a high income country high, Bangladesh would need to raise its investment-to-GDP ratio to between 40 and 44 percent of GDP. Currently, the investment to GDP ratio in Bangladesh hovers around 30%. Experts say it is possible to achieve advanced economy status by 2041, but for that the country will need massive domestic and foreign investment in infrastructure development, health and education, etc Unfortunately, while public investment has increased to some extent, private investment has increased. stagnates around 22-23% of GDP. We are also lagging behind in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). Bangladesh’s FDI inflow rate is only around 1% of GDP, one of the lowest in Asia.

The low inflow of FDI into Bangladesh indicates that we have failed to gain investor confidence. Although Bangladesh has moved up eight notches in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business ranking to 168th out of 190 countries, there are still significant bottlenecks to doing business. According to industry experts, deterrents that discourage foreign investors include time-consuming bureaucracy, poor socio-economic and physical infrastructure, unreliable energy supply, corruption, lack of good governance, low labor productivity, underdeveloped money and capital markets, complicated tax system, frequent changes in policies on import duties for raw materials, machinery and equipment, delays in decision-making, etc.

Currently, more than 68% of our population is of working age, between 15 and 64, and each year approximately 2 million people are added to our existing workforce. Furthermore, it is reported that a significant number of migrant workers who have contributed to the economic development of the country while providing a better life for themselves and their families have been sent back to Bangladesh due to Covid-19. Therefore, to create jobs on a large scale to absorb a growing labor force, including migrant workers, the government should immediately remove the barriers that are responsible for the high cost of investment.

Inclusive and equitable quality education

While Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in expanding primary and secondary education, especially in terms of enrollment and gender parity, there are serious concerns about the quality of education. Also, there is a gap between the education provided in cities and the education provided in rural areas and as a result, in rural areas, many parents are reluctant to send their children to school as they consider that education is not beneficial as neither the textbooks nor the curriculum is suitable for their living situation, while the hours spent in the workplace generate income and support the family.

According to the Global Inequality Report 2022, just 1% of the population of Bangladesh held 16.3% of the national income in 2021, and the bottom half held 17.1%. Picture: star

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According to the Global Inequality Report 2022, just 1% of the population of Bangladesh held 16.3% of the national income in 2021, and the bottom half held 17.1%. Picture: star

At present, the primary and secondary education system is the victim of a corrupt mindset that devotes all its energy to achieving higher pass rates through an apparent policy of easy grading, while caring less actual learning outcomes. At the tertiary level, we have failed miserably. No Bangladeshi university found its place in the QS World University Rankings 2022 – Dhaka University and Buet were placed in the 801-1000 range, while our top private universities ranked even lower.

The uncomfortable consequence of this situation is evident when we see that a significant share of skilled jobs in our industries and other economic enterprises are occupied by professionals from neighboring countries.

Nutrition, health and economic growth

The interconnections between population health and the economy are well known. Although Bangladesh has improved many health indicators over the past decades, one in seven people still suffer from undernourishment, according to the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI). he Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), between 2018 and 2020, the number of food insecure people in Bangladesh increased by 2.4% to 52 million.

The nutrition problem is compounded by health facility issues. The pandemic has laid bare the flaws in our health system, we have seen how inadequate and paralyzed our health structures are. Bangladesh’s investment in health is one of the lowest in the world (less than 1% of GDP). There is a severe shortage of doctors, medical technologists, nurses and clinical equipment. Currently, there is one registered doctor for every 1,847 people and one government doctor for every 6,579 people, according to the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BMDC). Patients, especially the poor and disadvantaged, end up seeking care from unskilled providers in the informal sector. Every year, a large number of people, including politicians, businessmen and even ordinary people, go abroad for treatment due to a lack of confidence in our healthcare system. The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), using data from the Health Bulletin, estimates that Bangladeshis spend about $2.04 billion a year on health care abroad.

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Growing income and wealth inequality not only compromises the sustainability of growth, but also increases the threat of social and political unrest. According to the Global Inequality Report 2022, just 1% of the population of Bangladesh held 16.3% of the national income in 2021, and the bottom half held 17.1%. Research suggests that the number of ultra-rich people in Bangladesh grew faster than any other country in the world between 2010 and 2019. Bangladesh was ranked first among the world’s 10 fastest growing wealth markets in the world. over the period, where wealthy people with more than $5 million in net worth grew 14.3% per year on average.

Studies show that key factors that deprive poor and vulnerable people of their most basic rights and can lead to greater income inequality in Bangladesh include unequal access to education and employment opportunities, exploitation in the workplace, low paying jobs with few benefits, high rates of youth unemployment, poor health care, corruption and lack of access to formal financial services such as credit, savings and insurance that high-income groups may take for granted.

Therefore, for every citizen of Bangladesh to live in peace, security and prosperity, we need to put in place policies that ensure “inclusive growth”, that is, that the share of economic benefits from growth must reach all citizens. Priority should be given to issues of social protection, good governance and policies of redistribution of wealth – transferring money from those who have too much to those who have too little, through the tax and social system ( i.e. taxing higher income groups at higher rates) and spending the revenues on sectors and areas such as free/subsidized health care and education/skills development program for low-income groups, so that they can access more productive and rewarding jobs, which, in turn, contribute to achieving the highest sustainable economic growth and development.

Finance is an essential ingredient of economic growth. In Bangladesh, banks remain the main source of finance for businesses and play an important role in our socio-economic development. But in recent years, this crucial sector has faced many challenges, including a large volume of non-performing loans (NPLs), a lack of corporate governance, a growing capital shortfall and slow recovery of loans that have raised serious concerns about the efficiency and strength of this sector. It is an open secret now that the country’s banking sector has been mired in a series of scams and irregularities, such as channeling loans worth billions of taka by violating banking rules and procedures. to influential people, known to be lax with refunds. As a result, in September 2021, delinquent loans in the banking sector stood at a record 1 trillion taka. Unfortunately, while the banking sector is going through a financially difficult period, government borrowing from the banking system continues to increase.

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