Of course, Bangladesh is progressing in terms of economic, social, and other spheres in recent years. The country is supposed to start formal graduation from the least developed country (LDC) to middle-income country status in 2021 because of improvements in several indicators such as GNI per capita, Human Assets Index, and Economic Vulnerability Index. As it appears, Bangladesh is also moving forward leaving many other countries including India and Pakistan behind on some socio-economic indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality, and gender parity. In fact, there are good potentials for remarkable progression on many fronts, but there is a range of political, economic, social, and other challenges to desired development — or the realization of potentials of the country or all citizens of the country.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic puts significant barriers to the desired progression of Bangladesh. As of now, it has killed around 8000 people and brought many other negative impacts. The economic harms it brought are obviously enormous, although Bangladesh secured a commendable GDP growth of 5.24 (according to the provisional estimation of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics) during the devastation of the pandemic. Along with challenges to recovery from the pandemic, there are many other aspects — old and new — that put hindrances to the development of the country and its people as desired. Of course, Bangladesh has taken diverse policy and programmatic initiatives for addressing economic, social, and other barriers to development, but some challenges which have rippling effects on many sectors and sub-sectors deserve to be given emphasis.
Economic development and economic justice — usually defined as a set of principles for building economic institutions with the ultimate goal of creating an opportunity for each person to establish a sufficient material foundation for a dignified, productive, and creative life — are crucial for the desired development of all people in any country. But along with economic development challenges, there are challenges to economic justice. Some major economic challenges are the continuation of increased economic growth, effective regulation of irregularities in the banking system, implementation of planned economic zones, improvement of semi-formal and informal sectors, maintenance of stable fiscal deficit, diversification of products and economic sectors, and creation of foreign markets for diversified products. In the latter aspect, Bangladesh, as a rising economy, faces varied challenges including structural barriers to economic justice and providing fair income opportunities for all.
Of course, desired development requires the development of people as capable persons — or the development of people’s personal ability to use diverse material and non-material recourses for diverse useful purposes — economic and others. At present, one-third of the total population is the youth who can play crucial roles in the development of themselves and contribute to their families and society. But a portion of them are uneducated, inadequately and improperly educated, unemployed and under-employed and many do not have the required skills for better jobs at home and abroad. Without developing people as capable persons, it can undoubtedly be difficult to develop the country in the competitive world as desired. Though there are educational arrangements at different tiers and skills development programs, these do not reflect actual needs and their coverage is low.
As is known, good governance is needed for providing efficient and quality services and securing the planned development of any country. In fact, mal-governance practices — criticized to be directly and/or indirectly caused by a portion of political leaders, government employees, businessmen, and other actors — at different sectors and sub-sectors lead to many negative consequences including a financial loss in public sector enterprises, loss of revenue, quality compromised services and failure to initiate and implement development projects as desired. But there is a lack of good governance practices from the national to the local level. Major mal-governance practices include lack of transparency and accountability, lack of responsiveness, lack of effectiveness and efficiency, in different tiers of government institutes or departments, private organizations, and other organizations in Bangladesh.
It is undeniable that political leaders play very significant roles in the development of any country. But the development of political leadership is a vital challenge for Bangladesh. Even though there are political leaders capable of developing the country and its people with visions and making significant changes in diverse sectors and sub-sectors with their leadership, there is a paucity of quality, visionary and effective political leadership. As is criticized, a portion of political leaders — at the local, regional, and national level — are involved with corruption, support might-based politics, misuse power, promote social injustice and do some other activities deemed as counter-developmental. As a result of a lack of desired political leadership at all levels, both current and future development can be hindered.
As is rendered, effective diplomacy that can deal with diverse trans-boundary challenges is crucial for the development of the country. In the future, external challenges will increase mainly because of the transition from the least developed to middle-income country status and increased geopolitical engagement of regional and global powers in the region. Of course, Bangladesh is improving its diplomatic aptitude — and its position in the international sphere — through increased engagement with diverse multilateral forums at regional and global levels, maintaining balanced relations between/among geopolitical rivals, improving economic and other relations with traditional partners, and some new countries, etc. But it is undeniable that diplomatic capacity is obviously inadequate compared with rising geopolitical challenges and increasingly diverse trans-boundary goals of the country.
Not less important is the fact that good social norms and values, rendered as guiding principles, are decaying owing to improper family guidance, education without desired emphasis on moral aspects, peer influence, moral decay in the society, politics of hatred, availability of diverse harmful online sites, excessive use of online social media and some other reasons. As it appears, teenagers and the young population are engaged with criminal and other anti-social activities including drug abuse. The overall progression of people and the country may not be as good as desired, given that good social norms and values, including those which are based on good traditions and historical ideals, continuously decay and their protection and promotion are not ensured especially in the age of globalization.
Of course, the above challenges are crucial — not exclusive — for the improvement of the grounds conducive to the overall progression of Bangladesh and enhancement of economic, social, and other situations of all in the coming years in a better way. Thus, all such challenges deserve to be well-addressed. In my opinion, the government is the primarily responsible authority to address diverse challenges, but adequate roles of other actors including private and non-government organizations are crucial. In terms of political leadership development, the ruling party has more responsibility but other political parties have some roles to play too. In fact, there is no alternative to the earnestness of the government and all other actors for addressing challenges and facilitating development as desired.