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Intrusion of modern technology has dramatically changed the land use pattern in the country. Tripled Cropped Area has increased from 2.7 million acres to 4.4 million at the expense of Single Cropped Area. The cropping intensity has increased enormously over the same period. Rapid mechanization in the agriculture sector has led to the emergence of Quadruple Cropped Areas since 2010. Currently four crops are grown in a year in around 43,000 acres of land against 23,000 acres in 2010. The implication is that the farmers are in a position to use the same amount of land and get three to four times more production. However, the local MOA network (through DAE) needs to be more proactive in educating the farmers in judicious use of land to prevent deterioration of land quality due to its indiscriminate overuse.
Table 16: Sector wise GDP and
Source: CIA World Factbook. 2018.
The most significant achievement of agriculture sector is that it has converted traditionally food deficit Bangladesh into a food self-sufficient country. As a whole during last decade the food production in Bangladesh has increased by more than 30 percent. The food deficit North Bengal has emerged as the food basket of Bangladesh. Owing primarily to increased double cropped, triple cropped and quadruple cropped areas the Total Cropped Area in Bangladesh has increased by 14 percent. Pro-poor and pro-farmer agricultural policies have impacted positively on the farmers' lives and livelihoods. Once starving mass now have become owners of 'micro capital' through surplus production and savings. Very soft loans coupled with existing trend of capital accumulation at the grassroots level with assistance in terms of training, skill development and availability of relevant infrastructure and information can boost the rural economy. The government needs to ensure rural farmers' and entrepreneurs' easy access to credit facilities.
The food intake per capita per day has increased in 2016 compared to 1995-96, 975 gm against 913.8 gm. However, the indicator has declined compared to that in 2010. This decline may be explained by the changes in food habit or even by increased costs of living at the expense of food items. It is the duty of the policy makers to identify the causes of reduced food intake despite increased food production and rectify deficiencies, and let the people have the capacity to enjoy fruits of improved standards of life and agricultural development. According to FAO estimates the current per day calorie intake in Bangladesh is 2270 kcal. Corresponding figures for Srilanka, India, Nepal and Pakistan are 2570, 2360, 2340 and 2280 kcal. In terms of global ranking Bangladesh holds 137th rank in calorie intake in the world. The HIES 1983-84 revealed that the per capita daily calorie intake in the country was as low as 829 kcal in some areas and among some groups. According to BBS (1986) more than 70 percent of the people in Bangladesh did not have the capacity to consume bare minimum calorie per day in the 80s.
Bangladesh has achieved unprecedented success in education sector over the years. The literacy rate has increased from 29.2 in 1981 to 72.8 in 2016. Corresponding figures for Pakistan and India are 56.4 and 72.1 percent, respectively. According to UNESCO currently over 90 percent of the population of the country aged 15-24 are literate. This ratio was around 62 percent in 2007. One of the major pro-literacy arrangements that the government has created is the provision of stipend for 23 million students starting from primary to the highest level. This initiative helps bring vulnerable segments of the population to the mainstream developmental process by making them competitive in the job market through education and training. A unique initiative is the distribution of around 351 million books to more than 44 million school-going children on the first day of schooling each year. This and many other facilities created by the government have considerable positive impact on primary and secondary education. The enrollment has increased from 0.22 percent in 1972 to 31.22 percent in 2015. The dropout rate has reduced considerably over the years. In 2016 the dropout rate was around 20 percent compared to 47.2 percent in 2005. The government's incentive programs at the grassroots level to the primary and secondary students have yielded positive results in combating the dropout rate. At the same time poverty reduction and improvement of the food security situation through greater income and employment generation have had their positive impacts on the education sector.
Despite all these positive initiatives, the education sector faces severe difficulties in several areas, such as organizing fair public examinations. Recent initiatives have produced positive results although. There had been bureaucratic inefficiencies and corruption behind anomalies in the education sector, which the ministry failed to rectify for long time. These corrupt practices and inefficiencies had always been instrumental in instigating unfair practices and will again and again continue to instigate those unless the root causes are addressed impartially. The inquiry committees after each incident should not involve those who happened to be the beneficiaries of corrupt practices.
The education sector also suffers from acute standardization deficiencies. This results in quality differences among the educational institutions. Coaching business continues to remain as a major bottleneck against quality service in the schools. Weak monitoring and non-implementation of political decisions by the bureaucracy in preventing the negative activities as well as corruption in the education sector continue to remain as one of the major impediments in government's objective of quality education at all levels and preparing a generation capable of taking over leadership in future.
Governance is at the heart of development. Ensuring good governance continues to remain as one of the major challenges and complicated tasks of the political leadership. The consecutive governments of Bangladesh did not or could not pay much attention to this important pre-requisite for sustained development due to various historical reasons. Unconstitutional power captures adversely affected governance situation in the country. Many of the bad legacies from colonial and sub-colonial regimes could not be eliminated even after 47 years of independence. The 2017 report of the World Bank Group on the world-wide governance indicators provides disconsolate picture of the governance components in the country. Despite political leadership's dynamic efforts the overall situation remains unsatisfactory due to inefficient system in place which is difficult to rectify due to severe resistances from the vested groups.
Table 17: Governance status in Bangladesh
Source: The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI). The World Bank Group Report 2017.
Most indicators recorded negative trends over the years. Even in global and regional context these indicators are below average.
Development is a result of collective efforts of many actors. Government's role is crucial because in absence of facilitating policies other actor involvement would not yield expected results. The activities of the NGOs and the private sector in promoting grassroots level involvement were appreciable during last decade of enormous success. This success story could be brighter without bureaucratic hindrances and inefficiencies. The legislators at the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Parliament may formulate very many appropriate policies. But the fruits from those policies and strategies would be available to the tax payers only in case the implementation mechanism in the hand of the bureaucracy is conducive to the people's needs and comfort. Unfortunately a huge share of allocated resources is being evaporated in the corrupt bureaucratic machinery. In addition people need to pay for the elapse of time during implementation or due to low quality implementation. In Bangladesh corruption eats up at least 2 percent of the GDP. Coupled with other direct leakages the country loses around 5 percent of the GDP. With current initiatives of the government the country could attain a growth rate of 12 percent or more. Despite all prevailing adversities the country has emerged as one of the top growing economies in the world with well addressed social sector.
An emerging Tiger
Bangladesh is now recognized by the international community and development agencies as one of the next eleven emerging economies, a fact that was unimaginable at the inception of this country in 1971 or even during the 90s. The reserve in the central bank reached its peak (over 33.6 billion USD) in August 2017. According to IMF currently Bangladesh has around 32.4 billion USD foreign currency reserve that places Bangladesh in the second position in South Asia after India and 48th place among 193 countries of the world. Notably Pakistan remains far behind Bangladesh with 11.4 billion USD FCR in its central bank. Bangladesh has entered the club of the Middle Income Country by the World Bank Standards and striving to enter the group of Upper Middle Income Country by 2021. According to UN Human Development Report, the country has entered the group of 'Medium Human Development Country' even earlier owing to excellent performances in the social sectors: education and health, coupled with economic emancipation on a sustained basis during the last decade. Bangladesh ranked 139th out of 188 countries with an HDI value of 0.579 in 2015 against 0.468 in 2000 and 0.545 in 2010. In Human Development Index the country attained an average growth rate of 1.64 percent during 1990-2015, which is higher than all other South Asian countries. The recent graduation of the country to the club of Developing Countries from its long standing LDC status is yet another achievement of the nation. The preliminary recognition as a developing country suggests accomplishment of several requirements till the final recognition. Bangladesh needs to sustain the achievements in economic and social sectors. The level of growth attained needs to be sustained and a growth rate that suggests that type of sustainability needs to be ensured. The human development indicators need further improvement. Education and health sector reflecting knowledge and longevity of life and governance indicators need further improvements prior to final approval for graduation.
(The writer is former UN Official.
President - Governance and
Rights Centre (GRC)