Many will be left behind due to pandemic: SDG Challenges

Publish: 2:55 PM, June 28, 2021 | Update: 2:55 PM, June 28, 2021

Mousumi Biswas
Few days back Bangladesh celebrated 50 years of its independence.During this journey we have made remarkable economic progress and achieved success in reducing the level of poverty despite having millions of challenges. In 1970s, about 71% people were living below the poverty line. The poverty reduction rates accelerated after the year of 1990s. The government has projected 7.2% GDP growth in the fiscal year of 2021-22though it will be very challenging considering the global economic crisis, ongoing pandemic and other incidentals.

To transform the world by 2030, 193 member stats of UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) consisting with 169 targets and Bangladesh is one of the key signatories to the Charter. The goal cover three dimensions of sustainable development: a) Economic growth, b) Social inclusion and c) Environmental protection. The agenda is a plan of action emphasizing on the core principles of peace, people, planet, prosperity and partnership which seeks to strengthen universal peace, prosperity and freedom. Following the successful completion MDGs, we hoped that the SDGs would be able to achieve the expected result in poverty alleviation including environmental protection. But the ongoing pandemic put threats to overall development process.

Although a significant number of people have access to food, education and shelter but still many of them live in under the extreme poverty line. The COVID-19 situation has made it much more critical. A recent survey shows that the number of “new poor” in Bangladesh stands at 14.7% of total population and it will be more challenging to return to pre-COVID occupations. In addition with that total education sector is facing tremendous challenge and there is little hope to re-open the institutions soon. On the other hand struggling is going on all the banking and private sectors. The unemployment rate in Bangladesh is expected to reach 6% by the end of 2021 according to Trading Economics global micro models and analysis. Moreover, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable country to climate change because of its disadvantage geographical location. Though we are now much more capable of handling natural disasters with minimum loss of life but many people rely for their livelihoods on climate sensitive sectors, particularly agriculture and fisherieswhich are putting threats for food security where projections suggest that by the year 2030 food-grain requirements will be 41.6 million tons. The agricultural production contributes 13.65% of national GDP of Bangladesh.

All the poorest people are considered to be the most affected in terms of access to livelihoods, healthcare and education during the pandemic and their daily income is negatively affected.The ‘new poor’ are not like the traditional poor. When Bangladesh is supposed to be ahead in SDG progress, this new rate of poverty may stumble to achieve SDG in time.In that case the success of SDG is a big question. Recently Bangladesh Planning Commission published SDG progress report 2020. In the context of Bangladesh, the progress shown in terms of status and goals is not as promising as our expectations. The progress report shows that only goal 1 (No poverty)is on truck and others are moderately poor (improving), insufficient data, poor (stagnating) and very poor (Worsening). This status is not so promising at all. Though the progress report has several limitations. There is a data gap and uniform baseline couldn’t be set for all indicators.

The final year of MGDs have been taken as baseline. However, this analysis will help find out the root cause of the problems and to be aware of the limitations.

The implementation of SDGs depends how effectively it is integrated into national policy cycle. Bangladesh is trying to integrate the SDG agenda into the national development plans. The 8th Five Years Plan sets 8.5% GDP growth target by 2025. The plan centers six themes where the number one put emphasis on “Rapid Recovery from COVID-19”. In our 2nd country Perspective Plan (2021-2041) proposes to reduce extreme poverty to 2.55% and increase GDP growth to 9% by 2031.

The proper implementation of any plan needs efficient and strong monitoring system as well as the transparency and accountability at all level.Legislative researches for identification of discriminatory laws and policies need to be initiated for inclusive development. An integrated plan is needed for the poorest and requires increasing the scope of social safety net. We should have increase more budgetary allocation for health sector and require possible systematic change. We must act together to face the COVID-19 crisis. Find out the salutations for alternative employment. Otherwise, many will be left behind.

Writer: Development Activist & Working with an International NGO