Inclusiveness” in Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) means that the development must include all people in the development process. Leave No One Behind (LNOB), is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The main motto of SDGs involves all government, the private sector, civil society organizations, multinational development institutions, and all parts of the UN system and offers equal opportunities and equitable distribution of the benefits.
The first three SDGs pertain to ending poverty, hunger and improving public health Bangladesh has made good progress on all three and is on track to achieve the targets. Of the 17 targets under the three SDGs, four have already been met, six are on track and five need more attention. But some challenges have so far been identified; one major challenge is the lack of proper data. Bangladesh has data for only 70 indicators out of the 232 prescribed by the UN to assess the progress of SDGs.
However, government’s official report is pretty hopeful to achieve almost all the SDGs within the expected timeline. There are also some issues that are not getting proper focus in the development discourse of Bangladesh. Inequality among the rich and poor, urban and rural people is pretty much evident, but it is not getting proper attention.
Illicit finance flow is eating up a huge chunk of Bangladesh’s potential, which is once again an issue; concerned people are reluctant to discuss more. Unemployment of the youth population is also another big hurdle for Bangladesh which is hard to address.
Bangladesh must continue to promote a transformative policy regime to make its inclusive development journey sustainable. During the tenure of the present government, the infrastructural development in the country has been extensive. But infrastructural development is not the only factor in increasing national production. If we cannot increase production by utilizing infrastructural development, that infrastructural development will not be of any use in the long run.
Bangladesh is going through a demographic dividend situation; many are not aware of it. Bangladesh’s demographic dividend situation will end between 2035-2040. Then the number of senior citizens will increase. Human resources are the most important tool for the economic development of a country. But our human resources are not competitive at all internationally.
The two main sources of foreign exchange earnings in the economy of Bangladesh are the export of goods and services and the export of manpower. But these two sectors stand on weak and fragile foundations. At least 35 to 40 percent of the huge amount of money that Bangladesh earns annually from the export of goods and services goes abroad for the import of raw materials and capital machinery. The rate of value addition of this sector in the national economy is relatively low.On the other hand, the country’s foreign trade is highly dependent on a limited number of countries and a few products.
About 90 percent of the huge amount of money that Bangladesh earns annually by exporting goods comes from 28 countries of the European Union and the United States. Over-reliance on one or two products is by no means a sign of healthy trade. Manpower is the second largest foreign exchange earning sector in the country. But the problem in this sector is that most of those who go abroad for employment are unskilled and untrained workers.
As a result, they receive a much lower salary than workers in other countries. If we do not keep the economy flowing in the right direction, serious problems could arise at any time in the future. So, we have to focus on balanced development now.
To become a developed country by 2041, Bangladesh still needs to do a lot. On average, we need to increase the growth by another 2 percent. With this in mind, the government has undertaken many mega infrastructure projects. Padma Bridge alone will add more than 1 percent growth. The mega projects can be game changer for Bangladesh’s economy. Special economic zones, including Bangabandhu Industrial City, will take Bangladesh to new heights. However, the biggest challenge is to implement these planned infrastructure projects on time.
Good governance is still a substantial challenge for our institutions. Therefore, the need for improving transparency in our implementing organizations is a must. The private sector also needs to contribute to research and development, of course, with greater policy support. This will certainly require more resources. Not only we must collect revenue from within the country, but also need to raise international financial support from abroad. We should more focus on agriculture, industry, education, and population control. The challenge now is to maintain that policy consistency with the participation of all the stakeholders, particularly the private sector. To build a developed country at least 4 percent of GDP should be invested in the education sector. That education must be linked with the industry by promoting productivity of the skilled human capital. Also, this must be humane, climate-friendly, and broad-based. Skill development is the most vital tool to increase the productivity of our workforce. In this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the government and the private sector need to take apt initiatives to strengthen the training of workers.
In addition to the apparel sector, other sectors need to increase export diversification and dynamism with equal policies and financial incentives. Government, realizing that the future will be all about digitization, has been providing ample incentives to the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Two-thirds of our industry and trade have been developed in the vicinity of Dhaka and Chattogram. As a result, there remains a continuous crisis in workers’ accommodation, waste management, housing, and transportation.
The potential for Bangladesh to emerge as a regional trade and aviation hub to connect South and South East Asia must be fully realized. We need to develop an inclusive society in achieving any goal. The people’s participation plays a key role in achieving the SDGs.
Hiren Pandit is a researcher