Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Chal­lenge

Bangladesh is earnestly pur­su­ing hu­man de­vel­op­ment goals to bet­ter the lot of its masses.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Dr. Moo­nis Ah­mar

The coun­try is mov­ing fast to­wards achiev­ing MDGs.

Un­like the past, Bangladesh is no more a poverty stricken coun­try but ac­cord­ing to crit­ics it is still be­hind in achiev­ing the UN mil­len­nium de­vel­op­ment goals (MDG) out­lined in 2000. The cur­rent prime min­is­ter of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina was hold­ing the same of­fice when the MDGs were pre­sented. Af­ter a decade and a half when she is again head of the gov­ern­ment of Bangladesh, it will be in­ter­est­ing to an­a­lyze to what ex­tent her coun­try has ac­com­plished the tar­gets en­vis­aged in MDGs and how she can play a piv­otal role in achiev­ing the vi­sion of hu­man de­vel­op­ment. In view of its im­pres­sive record to achieve MDGs, can Bangladesh emerge a role model in hu­man de­vel­op­ment and what are the ob­sta­cles for erad­i­cat­ing poverty and un­der­de­vel­op­ment in that South Asian coun­try?

Hu­man de­vel­op­ment is a whole­some ap­proach which, how­ever, fo­cuses on im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life of the peo­ple and eman­ci­pat­ing them from key so­cial ills. As far as the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals as out­lined in the UN Mil­len­nium Dec­la­ra­tion of 2000 are con­cerned, nine goals were iden­ti­fied which had to be ac­com­plished by 2015. In Septem­ber 2000, 189 coun­tries signed the UN Mil­len­nium Dec­la­ra­tion to achieve the MDGs..

Although the goals seemed quite am­bi­tious for 2015 in view of bad

gov­er­nance and ram­pant cor­rup­tion pre­vail­ing in many coun­tries of the global south, it will be in­ter­est­ing to ex­am­ine how Bangladesh as a Least De­vel­op­ing Coun­try (LDC) man­aged to strive for the ac­com­plish­ment of such goals within the stip­u­lated timeline.

There are two opin­ions about Bangladesh’s ac­com­plish­ment of MDG. First, is the stance taken by the Bangladeshi gov­ern­ment that de­spite im­ped­i­ments, the per­for­mance has been good. The sec­ond opin­ion, which also con­sists of in­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts, ar­gues that no plau­si­ble change has oc­curred in Bangladesh in the last 15 years in terms of im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life of the peo­ple and the con­cen­tra­tion of wealth is a ma­jor is­sue ob­struct­ing the goals of hu­man de­vel­op­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port en­ti­tled, Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs): A Re­view of Bangladesh’s Achieve­ment by A. R. Bhuyan, “while Bangladesh seems to be on track to achieve some of the MDGs such as uni­ver­sal pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion and gen­der par­ity, the prospects to other ar­eas ap­pear doubt­ful. Bangladesh has made rea­son­ably good progress in its ef­forts at re­duc­ing poverty. The de­cline in poverty was more rapid in the 1990s than dur­ing ear­lier decades. Poverty re­duc­tion in the first half of the cur­rent decade was also some­what faster than in the 1990s. The MDGs tar­get for Bangladesh is to bring poverty down to 25%.”

Poverty is rooted in the cul­tural dy­nam­ics of Bangladesh and the so­called pros­per­ity which is ob­served in that coun­try de­spite enor­mous in­flow of re­mit­tances and more than 20 bil­lion dol­lars of the ex­port of gar­ments only tends to have a trick­le­down ef­fect on the main­stream pop­u­la­tion which still lacks bet­ter qual­ity of life.

In the ar­eas of Uni­ver­sal Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion, which is a ma­jor goal un­der the MDGs, Bangladesh has done well. There is great deal of scope for rais­ing both the net pri­mary en­roll­ment rate and the pri­mary com­ple­tion rate in Bangladesh with a pack­age of in­ter­ven­tion that in­cludes eco­nomic growth, ex­pan­sion of adult male and fe­male school­ing, im­proved roads and trans­port, and greater cov­er­age of gov­ern­ment pro­grams, such as the Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion Stipends Pro­gram.” Bangladesh seems to have made re­mark­able progress in the last 15 years on MDGs of Achiev­ing Gen­der Equal­ity and em­pow­er­ment of Women.

Elim­i­na­tion of gen­der dis­par­ity and dis­crim­i­na­tion is the age-old dream of this world. Bangladesh has made strides in em­pow­er­ing women, par­tic­u­larly those liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas. Here one can­not un­der­mine the role and con­tri­bu­tion of Dr. Mo­ham­mad You us, No­bel lau­re­ate in three ma­jor ar­eas of im­prov­ing the qual­ity life of the com­mon peo­ple: pro­vid­ing mi­cro credit fi­nanc­ing to the poor­est of the poor; help­ing ru­ral pop­u­la­tion in earn­ing their liveli­hood by start­ing small busi­nesses through mi­cro credit fi­nanc­ing pro­gram un­der the Grameen Bank; em­pow­er­ment of women.

It is a pity that a per­son with the stature of Dr. Mo­ham­mad Younus be­came a tar­get of vic­tim­iza­tion un­der the present regime. Not only he was ridiculed but the Awami League gov­ern­ment re­sorted to mea­sures against the Grameen Bank and his pro­grams for hu­man de­vel­op­ment.

In the con­clud­ing anal­y­sis of Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs): A Re­view of Bangladesh’s Achieve­ment, it is ar­gued that, “Bangladesh seems to be on track to achieve some of the UN mil­len­nium de­vel­op­ment goals such as pri­mary school en­roll­ment and gen­der par­ity.

A re­cent UNDP re­ports says that Bangladesh could be a role model for UNDP by show­ing that sus­tained im­prove­ment in hu­man de­vel­op­ment is pos­si­ble even in poor coun­tries at rel­a­tively mod­est lev­els of in­come growth. Iden­ti­fy­ing im­ped­i­ments to take the goals of UN’s MDGs to their log­i­cal con­clu­sion, the re­port is of the opin­ion that, “at least two im­ped­i­ments are ob­vi­ous. One is the coun­try’s in­sti­tu­tional in­abil­ity to ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment poli­cies and pro­grams, given the abysmal record of poor gov­er­nance in terms of in­ef­fi­ciency and cor­rup­tion, lack of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity, and above all poor law and or­der con­di­tions. The other con­straint is that lim­ited do­mes­tic re­sources that will fall far short of the re­quire­ment to im­ple­ment pro­grams to im­ple­ment the MDGs. More­over, the coun­try will need a lot more re­sources to achieve some non-MDG tar­gets such as the de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture, im­proved man­age­ment of power and ports, and achieve­ment of a bet­ter in­vest­ment cli­mate, with­out which eco­nomic growth and con­se­quently poverty alle­vi­a­tion ef­forts will suf­fer.”

The regime of Sheikh Hasina blames the pol­i­tics of ag­i­ta­tion launched by the op­po­si­tion Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party (BNP) and Ja­maat-i-Is­lami which caused a se­ri­ous dam­age to the econ­omy of the coun­try. But, the ag­i­ta­tion lasted for few months early 2014 and in the so-called sec­ond term of Sheikh Hasina, the Awami League gov­ern­ment has a free hand and faces no po­lit­i­cal ob­sta­cle or chal­lenge as far as im­ple­ment­ing the MDGs is con­cerned.

Com­ment­ing on the per­for­mance of Bangladesh in achiev­ing MDGs, Dr. Sha­hed Im­ran while writ­ing in Daily Star, Dhaka ar­gues that, “one of the 8 UN Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) that were set, Bangladesh is well on its way to be­com­ing a role model of suc­cess in achiev­ing these goals. With con­sis­tent ded­i­ca­tion and sup­port from na­tional and in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ing part­ners, the coun­try sees a brighter fu­ture for the peo­ple. Bangladesh has re­ceived sup­port from in­ter­na­tional and na­tional part­ners in its long bat­tles to at­tain the MDG.” In view of its re­mark­able per­for­mance in at­tain­ing MDGs, six coun­tries in­clud­ing Bangladesh re­ceived the UN Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goal Awards for their sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments to­wards at­tain­ing the goal. Three of these coun­tries are from Asia and the rest of the three are from Africa.

Some pos­i­tive re­flec­tions about Bangladesh’s track record on the UN’s MDGs were dis­cussed in a re­port en­ti­tled Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals & Bangladesh com­piled by Mo­ham­mad Aman­ul­lah of East-West Univer­sity, Dhaka that “Bangladesh has made sig­nif­i­cant steps for­ward in achiev­ing the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) pre­dom­i­nantly in poverty alle­vi­a­tion. The aim was to trim down poverty to 29 per­cent by the year 2015. Two years in ad­vance of time in 2013, it has been achiev­able to bring this down to 26.2 per­cent.” Nine other in­di­ca­tors which have been iden­ti­fied for sus­tain­ing the process of hu­man de­vel­op­ment in Bangladesh are: reg­is­tra­tion in pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, re­duc­tion of in­fant mor­tal­ity, im­mu­niza­tion, ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity re­duc­tion, preva­lence of HIV, treat­ment of chil­dren un­der five years of age for malaria, re­duc­tion of death rates due to tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and ac­cess to drink­ing wa­ter.

With am­bi­tious goals out­lined for ame­lio­rat­ing the so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions of the peo­ple of Bangladesh, the real chal­lenge rests not only with the UN and the Bangladeshi gov­ern­ment but also with thou­sands of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions based in that coun­try. So far, Bangladesh has been able to do well in ac­com­plish­ing MDGs to a large ex­tent, but what is needed is to im­prove the mode of gov­er­nance, erad­i­cat­ing cor­rup­tion and the cul­ture of strikes which de­rail the process of hu­man de­vel­op­ment in that coun­try.

The writer is Pro­fes­sor and Dean, Fac­ulty of So­cial Sciences, Univer­sity of Karachi and Di­rec­tor, Pro­gram on Peace Stud­ies and Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion. The writer is Dean, Fac­ulty of Arts, at Karachi Univer­sity.

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