Bangladesh on Road to Achieving Zero Hunger by 2030

Hiren Pandit: According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the average per capita income of the people of Bangladesh stood at $2795 at the end of the outgoing fiscal year (2022-2023). The per capita income has increased by $357 in the past four months of the current financial year. Most of the world’s economies have seen negative growth in the last few years due to the extreme Covid-19 pandemic situation and global recession. This means that the gross domestic product (GDP) of most countries has become lower than the previous year even in the high-growth countries. Bangladesh was one of the exceptions, whose economy suffered but did not shrink in size from the previous year. Despite the global economic downturn in 2019-20, Bangladesh’s economy did not lag. Bangladesh is also doing well in overcoming the effects of the pandemic. Bangladesh’s economy is recovering faster than many. Again, Bangladesh has been able to maintain the continuity of progress in various social indicators. Bangladesh’s ability to survive in a crisis is not of today only. Bangladesh has proved it many times before also. Despite this, the economy of Bangladesh has increased by 3.5 per cent in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Temporarily, the growth in the last financial year has been five and a half per cent. The World Bank and the IMF have forecast growth of 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal year, indicating a recovery. This is also evident in various recent statistics. The current driving force of the economy, the export sector, has also grown by 15 per cent in the last financial year. Exports have increased by 11 per cent in the first three months of the current financial year. During this time, the revenue has increased by about 18 per cent, which is considered to be a sign of a return to the pace of trade and commerce. Despite a slowdown in remittances over the past few months, it rose to a record 36 per cent in the last financial year. Foreign exchange reserves are now over 46 billion. Bangladesh is now lending to Sri Lanka from the reserves.

Taking over as Prime Minister for the second time on January 8, 2009, Sheikh Hasina worked tirelessly to implement the Sixth Five-Year Plan, the MDGs, and the First Perspective Plan. She was re-elected in the February 5, 2014 elections and got a chance to take the country forward by forming the government again. The Prime Minister took 10 special initiatives. She prioritised a poverty and hunger-free society, digitisation, education, healthcare, employment, social safety net and housing for all in the country. The shelter project has provided shelter to 3,20,072 families till now. In the Mujib birth centenary, she has given 66,189 families a home as a gift. About 14,500 community clinics are at people’s doorsteps to provide health care. The state provides scholarships and stipends to more than three crore students, various allowances to six lakh people, rice worth taka 10 lakh to 50 lakh families, subsidy to farmers in the agricultural sector, announces various incentive packages of taka 1,21,000 crore in the country’s economy during the Covid-19 pandemic have been playing a significant role in poverty alleviation.

Now Bangladesh is the third-largest producer of rice in the world and is also self-sufficient in fish, meat, eggs and vegetables. Bangladesh ranks second in terms of the growth rate of fish production in inland open water and Bangladesh ranks first among 11 Hilsa producing countries. Today, the benefits of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ have spread from urban to rural areas. Bangladesh has achieved many unprecedented successes. Our beloved motherland is moving forward by overcoming various obstacles. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken up several mega projects. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, whose work is already 91 per cent completed with the last span being set up in December last. Travel across the bridge will begin in the middle of 2022. This will revolutionise communication with the southern part of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 contributes to boosting the country’s economy by providing all citizens with a wide range of telecommunications services (direct-to-home TV, radio, telemedicine, education and internet access), Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Dhaka Metro Rail Project, Matarbari Deep Seaport Construction Project, Rampal Coal Based Power Project, Bangabandhu Tunnel Construction Project, work of 100 economic zones is in progress, elevated expressway, more than three dozen high-tech parks and IT villages are being built.

The eighth Five Year Plan has been adopted. The villages are being equipped with all civic amenities. Today we have become a country with self-respect in the world holding our heads high. The UN has announced the transition of Bangladesh from LDC to a developing country in 2018. On the golden jubilee of independence, the UN has made a final recommendation to make Bangladesh a developing country. According to the World Economic Forum, Bangladesh will be the 24th largest economy in the world by 2030. According to the second perspective plan, in 2031, there will be no one to call Bangladesh extremely poor. Bangladesh moves to developing countries status. Per capita income, human resources, and economic fragility— the criteria for these three indicators determine the eligibility of developing countries to be listed. Bangladesh has achieved the desired qualifications in all three indices. Even during Covid-19, Bangladesh’s per capita income has stunned the world by maintaining economic continuity. Which has multiplied the acceptance. There have been positive changes in women’s education, women’s empowerment, healthcare, maternal and child mortality rate. Women are now contributing at all levels including social, political and economic. Women in rural areas are not lagging behind due to technology. They are also moving forward in parallel. Which has brightened the image of Bangladesh in the world. Bangladesh is moving forward on the path of building the golden Bengal as dreamt by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu. The young generation is the leader of the future state. To turn the young generation into human resources, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education is being introduced for career-oriented education. The state must give due value to the knowledge, skills, experience, desires and opinions of the youth.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given four milestones, the first is the vision of Digital Bangladesh by 2021, the second is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the third is to build a developed Bangladesh by 2041 and the fourth is the Delta Plan for 2100. Architect of Digital Bangladesh Sajeeb Wazed Joy has been making an outstanding contribution to the implementation of these plans. The World Bank thinks that Bangladesh will have more growth in the next financial year. The forecast for the fiscal year 2022-23 is 7.9 percent. Because it is expected that there will be continuity in exports and consumption. Whether the recovery of the economy will continue and poverty will be reduced will depend on tackling the damage to the economy by helping the affected families and businesses. In the last few years, Bangladesh has shown success in infrastructure development, especially in the implementation of megaprojects. The Padma Bridge, built with its own money, is now waiting for inauguration. The construction of Metro Rail in Dhaka is also at a visible stage. Construction of the Karnafuli Tunnel is underway in Chittagong. The Payra Bridge has recently been inaugurated, which will play a big role in improving communication in the south. Capacity in power generation has also increased several times.

Bangladesh has a lot of ability to survive in adverse conditions. Even in successive floods, farmers grow crops by any means. Many small and cottage industries have survived in the face of adversity. There is success in microcredit. Bangladesh has come a long way in providing financial services through mobile phones. Even in the financial crisis, various technological innovations are taking place. Agent banking is expanding. But Bangladesh could have done better in many ways. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has recently published ‘Vital Statistics’ of 2020 including birth, death, health, and education. It can be seen that the average life expectancy of Bangladesh is now 72 years. Thirty years ago, in 1990, the average life expectancy was only 56 years. The average life expectancy of Bangladesh, which became independent through a bloody war of liberation due to Pakistan’s misrule, has increased in 30 years. The average life expectancy of Pakistan is now lagging far behind Bangladesh. The average life expectancy of India is also less than that of Bangladesh. In 2020 it was 70 years. In Bangladesh, 31 out of every 1,000 children under the age of five died last year. In 1990 this number was 144 deaths. There has also been a lot of improvement in the admission rate of students at the primary and secondary levels. Considering the age of secondary level, 63 per cent of the children now go to school. All citizens are working for a developed Bangladesh, free from hunger and poverty (achieving SDG-1 Ending Poverty and SDG-2, Zero Hunger) and upholding the spirit of liberation war and secularism which Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of. Bangladesh has limited resources, more population compared with its geographical neighbours. Bangladesh today is a role model of development to the world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently mentioned that economic activities must be carried out in compliance with the health norms. She also mentioned the establishment of a golden Bengal free from hunger, poverty, illiteracy and secularism. Praising Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress, she said, “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to grow our GDP by 5.24 percent” While many developed and developing countries are struggling with negative conditions due to the COVID-19 epidemic. She said foreign exchange reserves have exceeded 48 billion and the country’s remittance inflows, agricultural production, and exports have increased. Bangladesh is in a precarious position in terms of the global multidimensional poverty index. The multidimensional Poverty rate in the Maldives is 0.8 per cent, around 2.9 per cent in Sri Lanka, 24.6 per cent in Bangladesh, 27.9 per cent in India, 34.0 per cent in Nepal, 37.3 per cent in Bhutan, 38.3 per cent in Pakistan, 55.9 per cent in Afghanistan. The realisation of the projection made by the UK- based CEBR hinges on how we perform in solving regional and multidimensional poverty problems. The SDG Progress Award conferred upon the Prime Minister in 2021 bodes well for the future accomplishments in SDGs. Bangladesh has reached a newer height in the international arena and transformed the country into a safe and peaceful abode for the next generation. The present government is working tirelessly to build a hunger-and poverty-free developed and prosperous Bangladesh as envisioned by the Father of the Nation. One of the dreams of the Father of the Nation about the Bengalis was to liberate the motherland and build a hunger-free, poverty-free golden Bengal. The first dream was materialised by Bangabandhu. The greatest achievement of the Bengalis is the independence of Bangladesh, which he has brought. At present, under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s wise and visionary leadership, Bangladesh is fast moving towards realising the second dream of the father of the nation. With dedication, honesty, and efficiency Bangladesh is surpassing many countries in the world today.

The writer is a Research Fellow, BNNRC

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