In 2022, Bangladesh celebrated its 51st Independence Day since breaking away from the idea of the two-nation failure theory. The creation of East and West Pakistan in 1947 began to show cracks as early as the 1950s when the imposition of the Urdu language on the maximum majority of Bengali speakers sowed the first seeds of dissent.
Sheikh Mujubir Rahman, later given the title of Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal) with the Mukti Bahini fought a horrific 9 month bloody battle to create what is today’s Bangladesh. The barbaric and murderous regime of the West Pakistani establishment, mostly Punjabi in nature, has spared no effort to obliterate the very existence of Bengali cultural identity. However, they failed miserably as the two-nation theory was buried at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal forever on December 16, 1971.
Under the leadership of Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu, Bangladesh has been going through an incredible golden period since 2009. Bangladesh has become a confluence of peace, progress and harmony. Success stories of development are written one after the other. Today, Bangladesh sets an example for other countries to emulate for exemplary development.
Over the past 13 years, GDP growth averaged 6.6%, exceeded 7% in fiscal years 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19, and exceeded 8% in fiscal year 2018-2019. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, GDP growth in fiscal year 2020-21 is remarkable at 6.94%.
The average growth rate achieved during the Sixth Five-Year Plan period was 6.3% and it increased to 7.6% during the Seventh Five-Year Plan period. The Eighth Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), Perspective Plan (2021-2041) and Delta-2100 Plan have already been developed and their implementation is underway.
The size of GDP exceeded BD Tk. 39 crore lakh of BD Tk. 4 lakh 72 thousand 338 crores. Per capita income fell from US$543 in FY 2005-2006 to US$2,824. Inflation is well between 5 and 6%. The poverty rate fell from 41.5% to 20.5% and the extreme poverty rate fell to 10.5%. Les réserves de change ont atteint un record de 48 milliards de dollars américains (le 23 août 2021)[Maintenantellessontd’environ40milliardsdedollarsaméricainsLatailledubudgetaétémultipliéeparonzeparrapportàcelledel’exercice2005-2006etl’allocationpourlesprogrammesdefiletssociauxaaugmentédeBDTk2mille505croresàenvironBDTk1milliondecrores[NowitisaroundUSbillionThesizeofthebudgethasincreasedbyeleventimescomparedtothatofFY2005-2006andtheallocationforthesocialsafetynetprogrammeshasgrownfromBDTk2thousand505croretoaroundBDTk1lakhcrore[Maintenantellessontd’environ40milliardsdedollarsaméricainsLatailledubudgetaétémultipliéeparonzeparrapportàcelledel’exercice2005-2006etl’allocationpourlesprogrammesdefiletssociauxaaugmentédeBDTk2mille505croresàenvironBDTk1milliondecrores[NowitisaroundUSbillionThesizeofthebudgethasincreasedbyeleventimescomparedtothatofFY2005-2006andtheallocationforthesocialsafetynetprogrammeshasgrownfromBDTk2thousand505croretoaroundBDTk1lakhcrore
Electricity generation capacity increased from 4,900 MW to 25,566 MW. Under the program, Sheikh Hasina’s initiative – ‘electricity in every house’, 100% of the population of Bangladesh has been covered by electricity.
With the final settlement of legal disputes over maritime boundaries with Myanmar and India, Bangladesh has acquired ownership of 1,18,813 square kilometers in its territorial waters, including exclusive economic zones and continental shelves, in the Gulf of Bengal. To take advantage of this open right to extract the blue waters of the sea and its resources, the blue economy strategy has been adopted in the Perspective Plan 2041.
Bangladesh has successfully emerged from a low-income country; reached the final stage of transition to developing countries from the list of least developed countries.
The commitment made in “Vision 2021” to increase food production, alleviate food shortages and make the country self-sufficient in food production has already been achieved through various effective measures taken by the government.
Digital Bangladesh’s dream has come true. With the establishment of Union Digital Centers in 4,550 Union Councils, laying optical fibers at the bottom of the deep seabed. The launch of the Bangabandhu satellite into space, the launch of mobile banking activities. The launch of the Bangabandhu-1 satellite has facilitated the provision of Internet services. Around 17 million mobile phones are currently in use in the country.
Maternal mortality rate fell from 348 per lakh live births in 2005 to 165 currently and under five mortality rate fell from 68 in 2005 to 28 in 2019 per thousand live births. The presence of skilled health workers during childbirth increased from 15.6% in 2004 to 59% in 2019.
Bangladesh has started the implementation of a large number of mega projects in the country. The Padma Bridge has been inaugurated and is expected to give a huge boost to the economy.
The Metro, Karnafuli Tunnel and the elevated highway connecting Dhaka Airport to Kutubkhali near Jatrabari will soon be open. The completion of several other major projects including PayraSeaport, Matarbari Deep Seaport, Rampal Power Station will add a new dimension to the progress of the country.
It should be noted here that unlike the Sri Lankan debt trap and a corrupt regime that brought the country down. Bangladesh is on a much safer footing and obviously the post-pandemic shockwaves will be felt, but the country has the capacity to absorb and overcome in due time.
Bangladesh is now the 41st largest economy in the world. According to the Center for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), a British economic research body, Bangladesh will become the world’s 25th largest economy by 2035 if economic growth continues.
According to the ERD (Entrance Relations), the government repaid US$1.91 billion on external debts in fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2020, Bangladesh paid US$1.73 billion against its TLMs, followed by $1.59 billion in FY2019 and $1.41 billion in FY2018. As of June 2021, Bangladesh’s outstanding foreign loans s stood at $50.87 billion, while there is another $48 billion in the works. ERD data shows overall debt repayment would be $2.5 in FY22, $2.7 billion in FY23, $3.28 billion in FY24 and $4.02 billion in FY25.
Bangladesh will face maximum pressure in FY27, FY28 and FY29 as debt repayments will reach at least $2.5 billion in the three FYs. Such an upward trend will continue until FY33.
The government has succeeded in combating terrorism. In this regard, the government has adopted a zero-tolerance policy. The rate of sabotage in the country has decreased a lot thanks to the appropriate initiatives taken by law enforcement agencies. The foreign policy introduced by Bangabandhu – “Friendship to all, wickedness to none” – was also followed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh is perhaps one of the only shining stars in the region that has endured so much in the past and has unlimited potential for the future. Obviously, there are deep-rooted challenges (some like the global energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine). Fault lines are also present and need to be appropriately managed in order to take Bangladesh to the next level in its trajectory of growth, development and prosperity (Bangabandhu’s golden dream).
(Priyajit Debsarkar is an independent geopolitical analyst with a special interest in the political history of the Indian subcontinent. Opinions are personal)