Bangladesh, India and Pakistan were in the same colonial rule of Britain in South Asia since 1757. Pakistan and India were liberated from the British India on 14 and 15 August respectively in 1947. Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) is the newest and smallest country that has achieved independence from Pakistan after 23 years of oppression in the social, economic, political and in every sector. Notably, after 74 years of independence of India and Pakistan and 50 years of independence of Bangladesh, Bangladesh is in the leading seat in socio-economic development compared to the other neighbours of the Indian Subcontinent. The country is now recognized as “the new Asian tiger” with a substantial amount of sustainable development throughout the last decade. The article unearths the areas that make the country in the leading seat comparably with its neighbour.
Once “Basket case” Bangladesh is now stretching helping hand to India and Sri Lanka recently to fight against the Covid-19 and massive foreign debt respectively. In 1971, Bangladesh started its journey with zero foreign reserve and devastated socio-economic conditions. Eventually, with the visionary leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh became able to tackle the primary challenges of state-building and now the country after 50 years, has shown an exemplary socio-economic developmental model for the world. Based on the explicit foreign policy “Friendship to all and malice to none”, Bangladesh focuses on maintaining good relations with its neighbours and developmental partners. The successful economic and public policy of Bangladesh are the key catalysts of poverty alleviation, women empowerment and higher economic growth; unlike its neighbours.
|GDP Per Capita||2,227 USD||1543 USD||1947 USD|
|GDP Growth (During Pandemic)||5.2%||0.4%||-7.3%|
|Gross Savings (% of GDP) (2019)||35.72%||12.31%||29.14%|
|Foreign Reserve||45 billion||16.1 billion||592.8 billion|
|Average Lifetime||72.3 years||67.3 years||69.7 years|
|Infant Mortality Rate||25 per thousand||58 per thousand||28 per thousand|
|Fertility Rate per women (2019)||2.0||2.2||3.5|
|Primary Education Enrolment (2018)||116%||95%||96%|
|The Global Gender Gap Index 2021 rankings||65th||153rd||140th|
The Planning Minister of Bangladesh MA Mannan recently stated that the GDP per capita of Bangladesh stands at US $2,227 in the fiscal year 2020-21 with 9 percent growth rate. Bangladesh has become able to maintain strong economic development relying on the garment industry, surpassing both India and Pakistan. Whilst all the world economies are fighting to keep pace with the Covid pandemic, Bangladesh’s economy grew by 5.2 per cent in 2020, and is expected to grow by 6.8 per cent in 2021. The per capita income of the country just exceeded India’s in May this year. In 2020, Bangladesh received over US $21 billion remittances and the foreign reserve has reached a record US $45 billion in 2021. On the other hand, India’s GDP contracts 7.3 per cent in 2020-21 fiscal year. Whereas the public debt of Bangladesh is 30-40 percent of its GDP, the public debt-GDP ratio for both India and Pakistan is around 90 percent. Rupa Subramanya rightly opined in Nikkei Asia, Bangladesh is now a “rising star” in South Asia.
Mihir Sharma explained in Bloomberg that the rise of Bangladesh is based on three pillars- “exports, social progress and fiscal prudence”. Whilst the world economy has been facing tremendous pressure due to the economic crisis of 2007-08, trade war between the giant economies of China and USA and finally due to Covid-19 pandemic since December 2019, Bangladesh, however, managed to foster its economic wheel at 6-7 percent economic growth in the last decade. As regards the exports, thanks to the RMG sector and especially women empowerment of Bangladesh that constitutes 80 percent export of the country. Bangladesh is the only South Asian nation in the top 100 countries globally in the Global Gender Gap Index 2021 rankings. In the other social development index i.e., life expectancy, child mortality rate, primary education or happiness index, Bangladesh is well ahead of its neighbouring India and Pakistan (See the table). And finally, the US $200 million currency swap of Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, for the very first time in the history amid the second wave of the pandemic, is unrolling the economic rise of the country in the days ahead.
Though Bangladesh has achieved weighty socio-economic success compared to its neighbours, corruption is still one of the main drawbacks of its sustainable development. To achieve the “Vision 2041”- to be a developed nation by 2041- corruption needs to be addressed accordingly. Besides, a comprehensive strategy needs to be taken to meet the challenges with the graduation to a middle-income country by 2026. No doubt, the prudent leadership of Sheikh Hasina, political stability, opulence of RMG sector and foreign remittance are playing key role in achieving a new developmental height amid the hard time of Covid-19; from where the neighbouring countries have a lot to ponder over.
*Shaikh Abdur Rahman is an independent Researcher. He graduated in International Relations from Rajshahi University. His research interest are Human Security issues, South Asian Politics and Economic Diplomacy of Bangladesh. He can be reached at- [email protected]