Economic agenda for the new government
Since Sheikh Hasina took power in 2008, Bangladesh’s per capita income has seen a three-fold increase. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $250bn in 2017, according to the IMF, and last year clocked a growth rate of 7.28 percent.”I promise to build a more beautiful future by learning from the past. We will build a non-communal golden Bangladesh free from hunger, poverty and illiteracy as cherished by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” Hasina said at the launch of her party manifesto some 4 weeks before the national elections held on 30 December last.
The AL’s manifesto promises to make Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated countries with a population of over160 million, a middle-income nation by 2021 and triple its current per capita income of $1,750 in the next decade.
The garment industry has emerged as one of the main pillars of the economy, providing jobs to 4.5 million people. It makes up 14 percent of the GDP and nearly 80 percent of the country’s exports worth $35bn.Nearly 2.5 million Bangladeshi expatriates send home about $15bn annually. Exciting new sources of income are emerging in areas such as ocean going shipbuilding industry and pharmaceuticals. The traditional economic sector, jute trading and industry, is reviving and diversifying. The entire export sector has been showing uptrends without a pause. The export sector growth is likely to be even bigger, diversified and sustainable in the future.
Bangladesh has performed well on most human development index indicators by controlling its population growth, improving infant mortality drastically that has resulted into higher life expectancy, which at 72 years, has surpassed those of India and Pakistan.
MahbubulAlamHanif, a senior AL leader, said there has been development in every sector under Hasina.”Sheikh Hasina brought the country out of darkness to prosperity,” AL Joint General Secretary MahbubulAlamHanif saidrecently . “The country has totally transformed in the last 10 years.”
But notwithstanding such accomplishments that has given the country strong macro economic fundamentals, the new third term government of PM Sheikh Hasina needs to take a fresh look at what things have remained rather skewed under her second consecutive term in power. It is now generally recognized that while the benefits of economic growth have generally trickled down to nearly a preponderant number of people in different degrees, economic disparity too has widened. Not most sections have benefited equally or proportionately from the higher economic growth and charges of wealth concentration are not unfounded. Thus the main economic challenge that would remain during the third term of the incumbents in power, is ensuring better distributive justice while ensuring growth. In other words, the greatest number in the population should be enabled to taste the fruits of ‘inclusive economic growth’ .
Another all important aspect in project implementation would be fastest and efficient completion of projects in the planning and execution boards. Projects that are completed well in time are most wanted by people because these generate beneficial outcomes for them the moment these get completed in time. The opposite is the case when projects get inordinately delayed, get soaked up in corruption and cost overruns. To these aspects of project completion, the new government under PM Hasina must cast their eyes sternly. No compromise should be allowed to these ends.
The banking sector is suffering considerably from the burden of loan defaulting. Election time considerations may have restrained the government from taking cut and dry drastic punitive and corrective actions against willful loan defaulters and outright swindlers. With the election over, these considerations should now cease. The well entrenched new government is expected to take decisive actions against these people showing no favour or fear in response to none. In sum, the government should take steps early in its current tenure to ensure anti-corruption measures in the banking sector and to truly promote transparency and accountability in it.
Government in its present term is also much expected to promote highly job oriented technical and vocational education. The much wider skill training opportunities at nominal or no costs should be made available to people in government run programmes and organizations dedicated to this purpose.