The parameters of economic growth

Publish: 8:36 PM, December 8, 2022 | Update: 8:36 PM, December 8, 2022

Studies by donor agencies from time to time have repeated the point of how economic growth in Bangladesh is getting shaved off as a consequence of corruption. According to such studies, the country could probably add another 2 to 3 percentage points to its economic growth, annually or reach a growth level of 7 or 8 per cent from the present over 6 per cent on average, by significantly reducing its corruption.
This outlook of the donor bodies is not an ignorable one. But let us not be obsessed also from such observations that efforts on the part of those who govern the economy or run the country, should be essentially concentrated on reducing corruption.
Corruption can be only one component among many others and scoring well in all of these other components are probably more crucial than frustrating corruption. For the other components of growth, if the conditions for fulfilling them are reached, the same would likely create conditions for economic growth to soar into even the double digits in Bangladesh like in China in the past.
It is no overstatement to say that Bangladesh has the potentials of attaining annual economic growth of 10 per cent or above provided these other growth promoting factors are well addressed through proper plans and their executions and the establishment and retention of a growth facilitating environment.
These other components which are discussed here range from human resources formation to abilities and resolve of leadership at various levels to even overcoming cultural or religious barriers.
For example, in the context of Malaysia that rapidly developed from conditions not much dissimilar to Bangladesh in the seventies into a semi-developed country by the nineties, the singularly most important factor in this positive transformation of that country was the high quality and right visions of its extremely devoted and talented leadership spearheaded by Dr Mahathir Mohammad.
The long inning in power by Mahathir and his not being ruffled by undue political challenges that ensured long term political stability, were greatly contributory to Malaysia’s economic growth and development. Our Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, can play such a role for us like in Malaysia.
Japan and South Korea were the two fastest growing countries in the economic sense in the post second world war period. Japan became an economic superpower next only to the United States in the post war period while South Korea turned from a developing country into a developed one.
Japan was intermittently rocked by leaking evidences of high level corruption since the fifties. In 1954, the Yashida Cabinet collapsed on charges of corruption. In 1976, Prime Minister Tanaka had to quit on charges of taking bribe to the tune of 500 million Yen from America’s Lockheed aircraft company. Cabinet reshuffles and collapses were frequently noted in the eighties as effects of revelation of serious cases of corruption in Japan.
Financial scandals (some massive in scale) involving banks and other financial institutions, civil servants and politicians have continued disturbingly in Japan during the last two decades. Like in Japan, South Korea, too, presented itself as a country and society with serious corruption related problems in the post- war period. But it is notable that neither country went down the chute in the economic sense as a consequence of undiminished corruption incidents. Both have grown only more and more robust economically in the post-war period.
The point is this writer looks at achieving of a much increased economic growth rate in the context of Bangladesh as having many facets to it . It would be impossible to describe in details the numerous ways and means of achieving growth within the limited space provided here. But describing a few should help in the clarification of the views expressed in these columns.
For example, the country’s biggest export-oriented readymade garments (RMG) sector can contribute to growth by increasing productivity of its workers through selective and sustained training programmes. The RMG sector can expand in size from investing in the establishment of new units creating, thus, more employment and more wealth that would be contributory to the country’s economic growth in a major way .
It can make its production and other processes leaner and fitter to increase its productivity and earnings. It can adopt total quality management (TQM) that puts each worker and every phase in the production process in the position of quality controllers that would make maintenance of large quality control departments or operations–redundant– leading to big saving of costs.