Thoughts on 48th Victory Day
Bangladesh today is observing its 48th Victory Day. It was on this day 47 years ago in a chilly but sunlit mornings that the eternal quest of the Bengalis to be finally their own masters was fulfilled with surrender of the Pakistani forces of occupation. This day will live indelibly in the minds of Bangladeshis, young and old. We from this paper salute and recall the very great sacrifices made on this day nearly half a century ago by the valiant sons of the soil, our freedom fighters, who achieved the feat of complete triumph over the formidable adversaries to ensure the birth of independent Bangladesh. A great deal of pessimism was expressed by a section of observers about Bangladesh ever since its emergence. They underlined that Bangladesh was destined to be a failed state in all respects sooner than later. But an objective analysis ought to show up that the achievements of this country in the last forty seven years have not been small which justifies the birth of Bangladesh in every way. Any sensible and well informed person who looks back and attempts to measure Bangladesh’s progress ‘objectively’ and with an open mind, cannot fail to spot the tremendous successes attained by this country over the nearly five decades. Bangladesh started off with the odious label pinned on it by renowned US Foreign Secretary, Henry Kissinger, who described it as a ‘bottomless basket’ meaning that this country would be destined perpetually to depend on foreign charity.ButBangladeshis could discard this projection long ago. Today, it is a strong trading partner of the USA in being among the top apparel exporter to that country. In fact, Bangladesh is the second biggest exporter of garments in world markets and seems to be headed to become the number one fairly soon.
The economic strength of Bangladesh is reflected in the fact that never even for once in all these years it had to request is development partners to reschedule repayment of its loans to them. Bangladesh has one of the best records of timely debt servicing among developing countries. Depending entirely on external assistance in the early seventies for developmental activities and even for routine administrative ones, today Bangladesh meets its entire needs of administrative expenditures from within its own resources and at least half of the resources as well for its developmental activities. The most dependable international rating agencies such as Goldman Sachs had no hesitation in identifying Bangladesh some years ago as a growing economic powerhouse in the near future. Heads of international development agencies foresee the rise of Bangladesh as a middle income country sooner than the targeted date.
Bangladesh had a population of 75 million in 1971 but out of this number only about 20 million people had an existence above the poverty line. The population of Bangladesh has doubled in these thirty years to over 160 million. But about 50 per cent of this vast doubled population live in poverty free conditions today which gives some idea about the Herculean success attained to banish poverty on a sustainable basis. Bangladesh is also doing a wonderful job of feeding its vast doubled population. Its import of food grains is nominal suggesting its sustainable great success in achieving higher agricultural productivity.
It has had other successes also in building an industrial base for producing many essential consumer as well as intermediate products and a wide range of capital equipment. It is currently showing promise in new areas like shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals, information technologies (IT) and outsourcing business.
Bangladeshis in greater number are seen who are able to take on enterprise in diverse fields. Bangladeshis with varied entrepreneurial abilities have emerged who are to be regarded as assets in taking the country forward in different fields. Such development of entreprenurial abilities was unimaginable in the suppressive colonial times. This growing entreprenurial flair holds out the best assurance that this country would continue to improve its economic status while bestowing the benefits of its economic growth and development among more and more people in the future. Independence of the country that was achieved on the Victory Day of December 16, 1971 set forces in motion which were unthinkable in the pre independence era. The psychological relief of the people has been simply very great. The class system or the system of privileges is certainly weaker today compared to the past. Many people in this country are still in poverty. But they do not perceive themselves like the serfs of the middle ages destined to be always at the beck and call of their masters .
hey have learnt to hope, to feel that they are their own masters of their destiny with rights and liberties and that they can hope to win against their poverty conditions by the dint of their own hard work and little else because there is no wicked system to keep them in bondage perpetually.
Very significant has been the mental and spiritual liberation of people from the colonial days when they suffered from the inferiority complex that was sought to be imprinted massively in their minds by the colonial rulers. They were persuaded to think and feel as inferiors to be ruled by superior races.The coming of independence shattered such notions and for the first time in centuries, Bengalis in their own land learnt to hold up their heads high in an air of freedom and feel that they are next to nobody in intellectual prowess and other abilities to change their lot for the better in the individual and collective sense. This feeling of emancipation can be a tremendous force for development in any setting and this was possibly the greatest gift of independence for the people. The future, it seems, is far from bleak for Bangladesh although the impatient ones or the incurable skeptics in Bangladesh society would have us all believe that this country is destined to ultimately become a failed state from the burden of its accumulated problems. Bangladesh has developed superior entrepreneurial, business and managerial skills and classes who can be relied on to excel in various forms of enterprising. They are raring to go at top speed but are being held back from governmental failures in supplying them with adequate energy and for infrastructural and institutional weaknesses. Once government in Bangladesh starts addressing these factors rapidly and effectively, Bangladesh then would likely swiftly move on to a higher growth path ; its present a little over 5 per cent annual growth could easily shoot up to 8 or 9 per cent or could go up even into the double digits. Thus, the real challenge for Bangladesh is to have good governance, efficient governance and visionary governance to prepare for its full take-off and to sustain the momentum when it has taken off fully.
Government in Bangladesh is expected to put the greatest emphasis in augmenting energy supply by exploiting located reserves of coal and finding and using new such reserves of gas, building and maintaining diverse economic growth supporting infrastructures, keeping population growth well bridled, imparting skill and productivity training extensively among the people, giving solid stimulus to create all kinds of human resources of international standards and working very sincerely to maintain political calm in the country which is a very important requirement for local and foreign investments .