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Economic Growth in Bangladesh

Bangladesh, a diverse and culturally rich nation located in South Asia, is known for its beautiful green scenery and numerous waterways. It is currently the 8th most populous country worldwide. When it first became an independent country in 1971, Bangladesh was incredibly poor with 82 percent of the population living below the extreme poverty line. At the time, the country experienced a negative rate of 14 percent; political tensions were high and the nation was continuously devastated by famine and flood. Today, the situation of is much different with economic growth in Bangladesh on the rise.

Growth on Many Fronts

Bangladesh now has an average economic growth rate of 8 percent, well above the regional average growth rate of 5.5 percent. In the first quarter of 2019, Bangladesh was the 7th fastest growing economy in the world, with a real GDP growth rate of 7.4 percent. Notably, between 2008 and 2017, per capita income in Bangladesh has increased by 149 percent helping to boost human development indicators for the country.

Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth has raised a significant portion out of the population out of poverty. The poverty rate of Bangladesh fell from 48.9 percent in 2000 to 24.3 percent in 2016 and the proportion of employed workers living in extreme poverty dropped from 73.5 percent in 2010 to 14.8 percent in 2016.

Contributors to Economic Growth in Bangladesh

With a combination of progressive social policies and economic reforms, Bangladesh has been able to attract a large number of foreign investment and find new markets, resulting in a thriving economy despite the world’s stagnating state.

Bangladesh’s economic liberalization, successful adaptation and modernization policies have allowed the country to compete in the global market place and attract foreign investors. Net foreign direct investment rose by 42.9 percent, concentrating on the power, food and textile sectors.

The Garment Industry

The success of the garment industry is one contributor to strong economic growth in Bangladesh, accounting for 84.2 percent of exports in the country. Growth in garment exports increased from 8.8 percent to 11.5 percent in 2018, reflecting strong demand from the U.S. and newer markets like Canada, Japan, India, China and Korea.

Despite continued success in the garment sector, it is risky to rely on a single industry for the majority of exports. Bangladesh is aiming to diversify its export basket, increasing competitiveness in other sectors as well. The Export Competitiveness for Jobs project, supported by World Bank Group, is an example of the effort Bangladesh’s government is taking to increase diversity in exports. 

Empowering Women

Additionally, Bangladesh has taken serious steps to empower women with efforts from non-governmental organizations such as Grameen and BRAC as well as the government to educate girls and give women a greater voice in both households and society. These efforts have helped to improve children’s health and education, which are key indicators of economic development. Additionally, the authority promotes lending to small and medium-sized enterprises as well as women entrepreneurs, introducing policies that promote economic inclusion, creating more active transactions and other economic activities.

Moving Forward with a Vision

Since 1975, Bangladesh has been listed by the U.N. as one of the least developed countries (LDCs) but has recently met the criteria to graduate from that status by 2024, which is a sign indicating the country’s capability to enable sustainable development. The government has its own agenda to become a middle-income country by 2021, celebrating the nation’s 50th birthday.

Thanks to sound economic policies, rapid modernization and progressive demographic development, Bangladesh is now able to build an economy that can successfully thrive in a volatile world. With the right policies and timely actions, Bangladesh is on the trajectory to achieve its “Vision 2021”.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

disabilities in Senegal

Senegal has the fourth largest economy in the western region of Africa. However, half of Senegal’s population still lives in extreme poverty. Due to the limited disability services provided by Senegal’s government, the barriers that people are encountering under poverty are amplified for Senegalese people who have a disability. Efforts towards improving disability services in Senegal are currently focusing on accessibility within education and economic inclusion.

Improving Educational Opportunities

Children with disabilities often miss out on quality education due to a lack of accessibility services. It is estimated that, in West Africa, one in four children with a disability does not attend school. Many organizations are working to improve the education system in Senegal to make it more accessible for people with disabilities. One organization is Sightsavers Senegal.

There are 700,000 people in Senegal who have a visual impairment, which includes thousands of children. Sightsavers Senegal started a pilot program in order to address the large number of visually impaired students who are excluded from the education system in Dakar. The program began in 2011, and by 2016, 187 students with visual impairments were enrolled in three different schools.

Sightsavers was able to provide scholarships to students along with textbooks that had been translated into braille. Facilities and technology were also adapted in order to accommodate students with a visual impairment. Sightsavers was able to collaborate with Senegal’s Ministry of Education to provide resources and training for students and educators to include more inclusive learning spaces for children with visual impairments.

The success of this pilot program provided incentives to the Senegalese government to uphold the program and work towards expansion nationwide. This budget has allowed for the addition of assistive facilities and learning resources in two more regions in Senegal.

Improving Economic Inclusion

Gaining economic independence and success is often difficult for individuals with disabilities. Job training and matching are challenging when services aren’t available to facilitate the movement of people with disabilities into the workforce. Senegal enforces a minimum access quota to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in both private and public sector jobs. These quotas minimize the number of people out of work due to a disability. The Ministry of Civil Service, Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Training are in charge of implementing and enforcing the quota.

In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion’s “EMPHAS” Project is working to provide training and services to help individuals with disabilities work towards economic security. Their focus has mainly been pointed towards women and young people who have disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion focuses not only on the technical training side of job fields but also advocates for accessible facilities. At least 500 adults and 90 public and private employers have benefited from the implementation of EMPHAS.

In March 2019, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, under the U.N., assessed the efforts being made towards improving disability services in Senegal. The committee identified areas where more intervention can be made, such as more vocational training and a focus on the implementation of services. Although there is still a portion of the disabled community in Senegal experiencing exclusion, resource allocation and a focus on making facilities more accessible have contributed to improving disability services in Senegal.

Claire Bryan

Photo: Flickr

Violent Extremism and Development
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) strives to prevent and promote violent extremism and development respectively. USAID’s mission is to “end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing [America’s] security and prosperity.” The mission itself outlines the answer in the fight against violent extremism: development.

What is Development?

While economic growth is a necessary condition for development, development is a broader concept that covers both social and economic progress. Dr. Amartya Sen, an economics professor at Harvard University who was awarded The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1998, has said that development is about creating freedom and eliminating obstacles to greater freedom. According to Sen, obstacles include:

  • Corruption
  • Poor governance
  • Poverty
  • Lack of economic opportunities
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of health

Freedom is hard to measure, but other indicators illustrate the concrete aspects of development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) uses the Human Development Index (HDI) to measure development. The HDI tracks changes in three areas: per capita income, health and education.

To track per capita income, the HDI measures GDP per capita, which specifically indicates material standards of living. For health, the HDI measures life expectancy, which is typically higher in more developed countries and which can be affected by the availability of food, war and rates of disease and natural disasters.

For education, the HDI measures adult literacy through the International Adult Literacy Survey. The Survey tests subjects’ abilities to understand and interpret text as well as to perform basic arithmetic.

The Relationship Between Violent Extremism and Development

Violent extremism and development have an inverse relationship: the more developed a country, the less likely it is for violent extremism to emerge; while development impedes violent extremism, violent extremism also impedes development.

Violent extremism impedes economic growth, and therefore development, by discouraging long-term investments. People living in areas plagued by violent extremism do not feel comfortable or optimistic about opening businesses and as a result, these areas’ economies suffer.

Besides stalling economies, violent extremism also taxes health systems, displaces people from their homes, prevents children from attending schools and drains government resources that could be put toward development.

Less-developed countries are vulnerable to violent extremism, which can grow more easily in the absence of strong social, economic and political institutions. Stronger institutions can address grievances that may otherwise fuel violent extremism and radicalization. Certain facets of development, such as steady governance, enable countries to control outbreaks of violent extremism if necessary.

USAID’s Approach

In 2011, USAID issued The Development Response to Violent Extremism and Insurgency policy. Over half of U.S. foreign aid goes to countries in conflict or toward preventing conflict, leaving less than enough to put toward really helping people therefore undermining the other work USAID is doing.

USAID’s policy strives to stimulate growth and progress in developing countries as a method of fighting violent extremism. Through Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), USAID hopes to be able to devote more funds toward development rather than conflict in the future.

One of the overall program principles is to identify and address the drivers of violent extremism, such as exclusion and injustice. USAID partners with local and national governments in Africa, the Middle East and Asia — as well as NGOs — to specifically address such drivers before they can grow to become larger problems. The policy also targets specific populations, such as women and at-risk young men.

USAID’s policy and approach concentrates on:

  • Youth empowerment
  • Social and economic inclusion
  • Media
  • Reconciliation
  • Conflict mitigation
  • Improving local governance

USAID also strives to think locally and take a coordinated and integrated approach toward violent extremism and development. The program tailors its activities to meet the threat levels, political environments and material needs of each community it works with based on qualitative and quantitative data. For example, in Africa, USAID has “developed web-based training, built knowledge sharing platforms, and convened workshops to assure innovation and learning.”

In September 2014, President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly and said, “We will expand our programs to support entrepreneurship and civil society, education and youth — because, ultimately, these investments are the best antidote to violence.” Thankfully, USAID is one of the many organizations working to advocate for and promote such change-making efforts.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr