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Saturday, November 3, 2012
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The Economist

Bangladesh made major progress

The Economist says lives of poor improved a lot in 20 years

Between 1990 and 2010, Bangladesh has made extraordinary improvements in almost every indicator of human welfare, The Economist reported.

“Economic growth since the 1970s has been poor; the country's politics have been unremittingly wretched. Yet over the past 20 years, Bangladesh has made some of the biggest gains in the basic condition of people's lives ever seen anywhere,” the popular British magazine wrote in two reports published in its November 1 issue.

In the 20 years, life expectancy rose by 10 years, from 59 to 69. Bangladeshis now have a life expectancy four years longer than Indians, despite the Indians being, on average, twice as rich, the reports said.

It further said Bangladesh has also made huge gains in education and health.

More than 90 percent of girls enrolled in primary school in 2005, slightly more than boys. That was twice the female enrolment rate in 2000.

Infant mortality had more than halved, from 97 deaths per thousand live births in 1990 to 37 per thousand in 2010. Over the same period child mortality fell by two-thirds and maternal mortality fell by three-quarters. Maternal mortality now stands at 194 per 100,000 births, the reports added.

In 1990, women could expect to live a year less than men; now they can expect to live two years more than men do.

“Some of these changes are among the fastest social improvements ever seen. Remarkably, the country has achieved all this even though economic growth, until recently, has been sluggish and income has risen only modestly,” said the reports.

On family planning, the reports said Bangladesh not only halved the rate of fertility within a generation, but also increased women's influence within their own households. For the first time, wives controlled the size of families.

According to the reports, four main factors contributed to the surprising success.

They were the government's programme of voluntary family planning, growth in textile sector where four-fifths of its workers were female, remittance from abroad sent by six million Bangladeshis, and green revolution, mircocredit and the role of NGOs, particularly Brac and Grameen Bank.

“And both the boom in the textile industry and the arrival of microcredit have, over the past 20 years, put money into women's pockets, from which it is more likely to be spent on health, education and better food,” the reports added.

The reports also said Bangladesh has maintained a broad consensus in favour of basic social spending despite military coups and a toxic politics dominated by the bitter infighting of the “battling begums” (Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia).

Moreover, Bangladesh's achievements remain vulnerable to political interference, the reports said, adding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was vindictively meddling with Grameen Bank, removing its boss and trying to impose her own choice upon the institution's shareholders, all to punish its founder, Muhammad Yunus, for daring to think of setting up a political party.

Between 1971 and 2010, rice harvest more than trebled though the area under cultivation increased by less than 10 percent.

Bangladesh still has formidable problems. Its nutritional standards are low and stalled for a few years in the early 2000s. While the government has managed to increase school enrolment, the quality of education is abysmal and the drop-out rate exceptionally high, the reports said.

Bangladesh is badly governed, stifled by red tape and faces severe environmental problems. But in terms of the success of its grass-roots development, it has lessons for the world, the reports went on to say.

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It is heartening that in spite of inequity in the distribution of wealth, we have made considerable progress in most sectors of our economy and in social development. This has been made possible, among others, due to increased inflow of remittance, higher export earnings by RMG and increased agricultural output. With a little more prudence and boldness on the part of the government and a tougher stand against corruption, we could still reach a few notches up. Regrettably, however, we have not been able to make satisfactory progress in the field of primary and secondary education and in ensuring a higher standard of education in the academia. The expenditure in this sector has to be substantially increased not only for raising the quality of life but also for better economic performance.

: Iftikhar-ul-Awwal

This is definitely inspiring! This is just the beginning and long way to go, we certainly have problems like other countries but what makes us different is the attitude to fight with the problems and to overcome it! But no doubt, it feels great to get such positive international accreditation.

: Tasnova Khan


  • Masudur Rahman
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 03:12 PM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    The report adds something positive to the image of Bangladesh in the international media which usually portrays the country from a negative point of views. Furthermore, the case of Bangladesh is other evidence on the claim that social progress can be achieved though economic growth is slow or low. Social progress requires qualitative changes the indicators are life expectancy, access to clean water, health services, gender equality, literacy, maintenance of democratic values etc. Bangladesh scores better as the table shows in most areas, except income per person. The table however, does not include inequality. Bangladesh could have achieved more provided the growth results and the national income and wealth were distributed to the people, to certain extent, equally. Bangladesh is one among the countries where the level of inequality is highest. The progress of Bangladesh made owes to the collective efforts of the rural poor and the urban civil society.

  • niloufar sarker
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 12:09 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    This report coming from The Economist is surprising. Only a few months back it was saying how bad things were.Well, Kissinger a Nobel Laureate called us a bottom less basket but the fact is we are doing very well in certain sectors.We still have hope.

  • Shabbir A Bashar
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 02:17 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    Sadly this report fails to mention the contribution of the garments workers and the expat labor force deployed in the middle eastern and south east Asian countries. These are two vital direct avenues of income generation for the poor in this country - and both done without the help of western financed NGOs or loan sharks.

  • neutral
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 01:30 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    Thanks to the Economist for presenting an optimistic report of human welfare in Bangladesh during last 20 years. This would definitely encourage millions of individual working hard in food and agriculture, education, healthcare, physical and social infrastructure and enlargement of service sector under private initiatives despite poor support from politics which rather hampered for misleading leaderships, ideological gridlock and taking wrong route to capture powers.

    The credit goes to the hard working people and very limited institutional support to empower the people, especially women, to achieve optimistic path to human welfare and development. Please do not fragment people achievement by narrow political approach to this individual and combined private initiative with optimism which needs clear and targeted political and institutional support to furthering the success story.

    I though the Economist could pay some attention to decentralisation of politics, policy and development at the local levels. The picture is shady and unclear from the political perspective of inaction by successive governments in these periods.

  • X. Gomes
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 02:34 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    I thought The Economist only talks negative of our country. Why are all the critics of this world renowned magazine so quiet.Don't you think the magazine could use a 'pat on the back'?

  • A Choudhury
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 02:43 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    Well done Economist. Now you have come to your senses to appreciate the tremendous progress the country have made. Is it possible for you to send a copy of your report to one famous idiot who called the country at birth bottomless basket?

  • Amdem,USA
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 04:17 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    Bangladesh is fortunate in sending a large number of its people abroad who send money home. In October this year, they sent 1.45 billion dollars to Bangladesh. That helps the people living in the country. Government contribution in the improvement of the condition of the people is not noteworthy.

  • JD
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 05:18 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    I read the article commending Bangladesh performance on socio-economic progress of its population poor and rich alike. Bangladeshi people life expectancy is now greater than their Indian counterparts in spite of India having a much hoer per capita income. It just goes to show that a country's socio-economic progress is not always linked to its economic growth rate. Bangladesh now has to pick on economic growth to provide jobs to its increasingly educated young population. All Bangladeshis should be proud of their country's achievements in spite of monumental obstacles, Bangladesh performed much better than Pakistan since the separation in 1971.

  • Nasirullah Mridha,USA
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 05:24 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    The government will now take credit of Economist reports.But previously different issue of Economist substantial negative reports was considered as false by ruling AL.Though our living standard could have been sky-high had two major political parties shelved their parochial interest toward each other.

  • Sam
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 07:11 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    In Bangladesh in 1990 military dictators were booted out and democracy took firm root. In India starting in 1991 a massive economic liberalisation process began and in Pakistan starting in 1990 Islamist radicals became more and more militant. So you can see why Bangladesh and India galloped forward and Pakistan slipped from top position among the three to bottom! There is a lesson there for anyone with minimum common sense!

  • Shahadat hossain
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 08:27 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    Its really great achievement for least development country Bangladesh. Political issue is major obstacle for Gross development.

  • Dr Didarul Alam
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 08:53 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    Good achievement in social sector of course is a result of policies & initiatives directed towards the women empowerment; their accessto education, access to credit, honest income & honest investment are changing the socio-economic landscape of the country.

  • Harun Rashid
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 09:34 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    It is really awesome! Hope the glorious days is not too far when a citizen of Bangladesh will be proud be a Bangladeshi around the glove.Political leaders need to read this incredible news and need to stops their toxic politics for the sake of nation's great interest.

  • Rezaul Bari
    Saturday, November 3, 2012 09:39 AM GMT+06:00 (170 weeks ago)

    For some unknown reasons, the Economist article took credit away from our politicians and attempted to give it to some NGOs. Needless to say it recognized the developments and Bangladesh's achievements in the last 20 years, but failed to mention that the developments happened during civil political rule under democracy led by our politicians.

    The article mentioned about the family planning programme, growth of garments and textile industries, women's education and health. But it failed to appreciate the political leadership that led these developments. Who conducted the successful family planning programme? Who guided the non-profit NGOs to operate freely and at times even to operate as profit organisations? Who gave tax-holidays and export incentives that contributed to the growth of garments and backward-linkage industries? Who introduced free primary and secondary education for women? Who took steps to ensure women's health at the grass-root level? The answer to all these questions should point to where the credit is due. Of course, majority of our population know the answer and correctly appreciated and worked with our politicians leading to these achievements that the Economist now can not deny.Go Bangladesh.





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