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

Keeping Girls In School
Right now, 130 million girls ages 6 through 17 are not in school. Fifteen million girls will never receive any kind of education. The international community has recognized the importance of rectifying this problem, including the elimination of gender inequality in education as a target of the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the significant hurdles which remain, the number of girls in school has increased dramatically in recent decades indicating progress.

Between 1970 and 2017, the global average number of years a girl spends in school increased from 6.7 to 12.5. South Asia experienced the most amount of progress, tripling the average length from 3.8 to 12.

South Asia

Several countries in South Asia have implemented programs that target keeping girls in school. Efforts in India largely drove the increase in rates, where average years of schooling jumped from 4.1 to 13, exceeding the 12-year target. Many nonprofits have worked to improve the educational attainment of Indian girls. For instance, ConnectEd brings education to girls at home when their parents do not allow them to attend school. Additionally, the nonprofit organization CARE has worked with the Indian government to provide educational programs for girls who have dropped out of school and to strengthen early childhood education. CARE also advocates for the bolstering of legislation and policies which ensure safe and secure access to education.

Bangladesh has also made significant strides in keeping girls in school. Secondary school enrollment for girls went up from 39 percent in 1998 to 67 percent in 2017. In 2008, the government of Bangladesh initiated the Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project (SEQAEP) with the help of the World Bank. This program provides stipends and tuition payments to impoverished children, especially girls. Teachers have received additional training and incentives to ensure that at least 70 percent of their class passes. Additionally, Bangladesh has taken steps to improve sanitation and water facilities at schools. Before the implementation of SEQAEP, 50 percent of children completed primary school and only one-fifth of these went on to complete 10th grade. Now, 46 percent of students graduate from secondary school, including 39 percent of children from impoverished backgrounds. Girls have experienced a rise in enrollment rates in particular due to a number of specially targeted stipend programs. Between 2007 and 2017, the gender parity ratio for grades six to 10 improved from .82 to .90.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa also made significant gains in the number of years girls spend in school, more than doubling the average from 3.3 years to 8.8. However, this region remains the worst in terms of keeping girls in school. In many countries in the region, girls never even get a chance to attend primary school. In the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali and Niger, two-thirds of primary school-aged girls do not enroll in school. In Liberia, this number is 64 percent, while in South Sudan it reaches a staggering 72 percent.

Nigeria has driven the current progress. Since 2007, the Nigerian government partnered with the World Bank to distribute grants and resources to school systems in particularly struggling areas. Programs that provide free meals and uniforms have incentivized families to allow their girls to obtain an education. Additionally, resources such as textbooks and expanded class space have made class time more effective for students and assisted in graduation rates. In one state, primary school completion rates for girls rose from 17 percent to 41 percent.

These statistics show that change is possible. Advancements in these countries show that even small investments in girls’ education can drastically improve their prospects.

Clarissa Cooney
Photo: MaxPixel

Maldives Poverty RateMaldives is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean. While the country was a life expectancy of 77 years and a literacy rate of 98.4 percent, the Maldives poverty rate still allows room for growth.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that by 2016, only two percent of the nation’s citizens lived under the international poverty line. Similarly, Asian Development Bank reported 2015 that 15 percent of people in Maldives lived under the national poverty line.

Though this seems a bit higher, other South Asian countries show even greater numbers for the same statistic. For example, India’s is almost 22 percent, Nepal’s is over 25 percent. Bangladesh ranks higher than all of them, coming up at over 31 percent.Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives—at 12 and 6.7 percent, respectively.

When looking at the death of infants in Maldives, 2015 data indicated that seven out of 1,000 babies die in live births. This country ranks the lowest when put side-by-side with Sri Lanka (8), Bhutan (27), Nepal (29), Bangladesh (31) and India (38).

When looking at 2012 data on the percentage of “employed population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day,” Maldives settles in at 6.6 percent. This means that it still ranks below Bangladesh (over 73 percent), India (almost 18 percent) and Nepal (over 12 percent).

Similar to the statistic regarding the national poverty line, only Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives in the list of six nations—both resting at slightly over four percent.

The Maldives tout an unemployment rate slightly below 12 percent, a GDP per capita at about $11,282 and tourist activities accounting for a quarter of its GDP.

However, it is important to note that a variety of issues still impact the nation.

The UNDP points out a lack of opportunities for female autonomy, a need for greater answerability within governing bodies and the dangers of environmental degradation.

Rural Poverty Portal also touches on problems the nation struggles with. It indicates that much of the country’s poverty exists on islands where fishing and farming predominate. Focusing on the less urbanized areas, it highlights that insufficient supply of natural resources, low credit and poor farming techniques all contribute.

Still, in relation to many of its counterparts, the Maldives poverty rate suggests much promise for the South Asian country. Although the nation must make improvements in a variety of aspects beyond those listed, its current status reflects its well-being.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in Sri Lanka
In the face of unlikely odds, Sri Lanka has risen to carry the highest Human Development Index value in South Asia. But severe lifestyle disparities between rural and urbanized regions have led USAID to donate $1 million to provide access to clean water in Sri Lanka.

Over recent years, Sri Lanka has wrestled through a 27-year conflict, a devastating tsunami in 2004 and a global recession. Despite these catastrophic events, this country has achieved “middle-income status”. This growth has been steady enough for a striking vision in 2020: ideally, every family will experience healthy lifestyles and conditions on a daily basis.

Overall, access to clean water in Sri Lanka reaches nearly 86% of the population. While this is to be celebrated, the 14% who find themselves without access suffer terribly. Primarily, this consists of isolated rural regions, plantations and the remote east and north of the country. The poor-quality water consumed is believed to be closely related to malnutrition and poor education commonly found in these areas. In communities that are still being resettled, an estimated 40 percent of the residents practice open defecation, which is a major contributing factor to the fierce spread of water-borne diseases in Sri Lanka.

The recent funding will expand on pre-existing projects already started by USAID for providing access to clean water in Sri Lanka’s areas predisposed to droughts and floods. These programs support national and regional policies that minimize the effects of these natural disasters while providing infrastructures such as piped water and rainwater harvesting tanks. The newer technology will be geared specifically to families and hospitals affected chronic kidney diseases, the prevalent water-borne disease rising in the country.

This funding is anticipated to grant access to clean water to 100,000 people. Should this program reach its intended goal, Sri Lanka may just see its 2020 dream become a reality.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr

How the UN Plans to Achieve Global Education Goals?
In 2015, the international community came together to set new goals for development. These consisted of 17 main goals to be achieved by the year 2030. These goals are built to transform the world and lead it faster towards further development. Goal Four of the Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure inclusiveness and quality education for all and promote life-long learning.

The United Nations believes that global education goals are important to improving the lives of individuals, particularly in developing countries. This is essential as it would lead to sustainable development for future generations.

A lot of progress was made in terms of enrollment rates, particularly for girls. Basic literacy rates are on the rise and there is a general desire toward achieving universal education goals. The 2030 goals will further work on providing free, accessible and equitable education while removing disparities based on poverty, gender and skills.

At the World Education Forum in 2015, UNESCO adopted the Incheon Declaration. This declaration affirms the global community’s dedication to achieving global education goals. UNESCO is mandated to work and supervise the goals. This includes country level and partnerships with governments by involving multi-stakeholders into the process.

On the other hand, a study by the UNESCO discussed the student-teacher gap in different communities. The study found out that on the global level the gap was the worst in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. To fill this ratio gap between students and instructors, 69 million teachers need to be recruited globally by 2030. Both regions mentioned above will need 32 million teachers alone.

This is the necessary number to meet global education goals. Currently, low pay is a challenge. However, an increase in pay is known to improve student performance. Thus, there are hopes in the international community to fund such an initiative.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

katchi abadisImagine Arthur Dent’s surprise when he woke up to the sound of bulldozers, reared back to demolish his home. That is the iconic opening to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Now imagine that instead of Arthur Dent, an entire community faces such a predicament.

This was the case for the low-income community of Afghan Basti in Pakistan. On May 21, 2014, government-backed workers armed with bulldozers came to commence with roadworks. The Central Development Authority (CDA), which holds municipal responsibilities for Islamabad, had already demolished 25 stalls and five rooms nearby as part of the work.

According to Tribune journalist Maha Musaddiq, the bulldozing team was met with outcries as elders and children came out in protest of their forced eviction.

Enter July 2015. Despite protests, the CDA demolished sector I-11 in Islamabad. The sector was a low-income community similar to Afghan Basti. Both communities are known as ‘katchi abadis’.

What has motivated these evictions are claims on the part of the CDA that katchi abadis house criminals and terrorists. Umer Gilani, a lawyer for the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, challenges these allegations, seeing them as unfounded. He is not alone.

Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui, an urban planner, has called for a paradigm shift in urban planning, taking Islamabad’s katchi abadis as an unfortunate example of what happens when a city is planned for the rich and fails to account for those laborers who might work for them.

According to the Tribune, Siddiqui has since proposed a solution to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Karachi, a new city district called DHA City is being constructed. But to some, the plan has committed the mistake Siddiqui outlined: there are no residences marked for drivers, housemaids or other staff.

A proposal has been submitted to the prime minister for a low-cost housing scheme.

Where protests in Pakistan have occurred over urgent circumstances — forced eviction with bulldozers at-the-ready — Indian koliwadas, or fishing villages, have protested their classification as slums.

Specifically, it is Mumbai’s Worli Koliwada, a historical fishing village, home to the Koli people who make up the city’s oldest residents.

Times of India journalist Priyanka Kakodkar reports that the land in question has been seen as valuable by property surveyors — and classifying the koliwada as a slum would open up the historical area to development.

The plan, however, was abandoned after locals vehemently objected to it.

It has instead been suggested that the local community try to develop and rehabilitate the area.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: Times of India, Tribune 1, DNAIndia, Tribune 2, Pakistan Today, Tribune 3
Photo: Wikipedia

Regional CompactsMany developing countries struggle to catalyze their economies because they are isolated and their governments are ineffective. When corruption is rampant, it is difficult for meaningful change to happen. And when countries are unable to collaborate with their neighbors, they usually stagnate. These kinds of issues, however, are being addressed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an American agency that draws up regional compacts to promote prosperity in developing countries.

The MCC works mainly with African countries but also creates regional compacts in South Asia and Central America. To date, its 32 regional compacts benefit 26 countries and about 175 million people around the world.

The compacts serve several purposes. Firstly, they encourage partner countries to achieve and maintain good governance. When governments are reformed along the lines set down by the MCC, it is easier for adequate economic changes to be properly implemented.

The economic changes consist of promoting sound investment and securing economic freedom. The MCC invests about $1 billion in grants per year in its partner countries. Most of this money is used to improve road and energy infrastructure, facilitate access to clean water and increase people’s educational and financial opportunities.

What makes the compacts successful is that they encourage countries to collaborate in achieving these goals. Improving infrastructure across national boundaries facilitates trade and migration, thereby increasing opportunities for growth and exchange. Measures to preserve the health of workers and consumers, in addition, keep economies going once they start to expand.

Because of the MCC, private investment has soared in Benin, Ghana and Jordan. Governments of Honduras, Cabo Verde and Senegal have achieved greater transparency and accountability because they follow MCC guidelines. The guidelines also encourage the empowerment of women. In Burkina Faso, for instance, thanks to regional compacts, improved test scores have expanded girls’ opportunities in the job market.

The World Bank estimates that the regional integration of Sub-Saharan African countries could double that region’s share of global trade, which is beneficial to both the MCC and the U.S. Since its inception in 2004, the MCC has enjoyed an average economic rate of return of over 16 percent. By helping other countries become more self-sufficient, it has generated many new opportunities for American businesses.

At the moment because of congressional restrictions, the MCC’s ability to use regional compacts to promote prosperity is significantly limited. But a bipartisan group of politicians in Washington are looking to change that. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has already passed legislation to strengthen the MCC — and an effort to do the same in the Senate, the M-CORE Act, is currently being considered.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December 2015, Chief Executive Officer Dana J. Hyde stated that the MCC “helps drive U.S. efforts to promote American values and the market democracy model” and is “creating new opportunities for the private sector, including U.S. businesses, to invest and grow.”

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Borgen Project, Senate, USGLC, World Bank

Moringa oleifera, the moringa tree, has been aptly nicknamed the miracle tree for its nutritional value and medical qualities. The moringa tree is native to South Asia and is known for how quickly it grows.

Many parts of the tree are edible, making it a valuable source of food in impoverished, rural areas especially in times of drought because the tree is very hardy.

Nearly every part of the moringa tree can be used. Although the wood from the tree is not very high quality, the fruit, leaves and pods are all edible.

The moringa tree leaves have a very high level of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C as well as vitamin A. One cup of moringa leaves offers two grams of protein and more than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and riboflavin. One cup of moringa pods offers 157 percent of the daily allowance for vitamin C.

The leaves have twice as much calcium and protein as whole milk when compared ounce for ounce. Considering approximately 670,000 children die from a vitamin A deficiency every year, the moringa’s nutrients are very valuable.

Moringa oil is extracted from the seed of the tree. This oil’s special quality is that it does not quickly go rancid. In impoverished areas where refrigeration is not an option, the oil can be a very good alternative to other vegetable oils.

One of the significant attributes of the moringa tree in light of global poverty is the purification quality of the seeds. There is a coagulant found in the crushed seed that can be used to reduce turbidity and alkalinity in water. There is also an antiseptic property withing the seed that helps purify it.

The nutrition within the tree makes the moringa a valuable asset in the alleviation of global hunger. The success of the moringa tree is evident as organizations have incorporated it into their programs for hunger alleviation. The Peace Corps in specific implements the use of the tree into the programs.

Iona Brannon

Sources: Epoch Times, Fox News, International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Kuli Kuli, SABC
Photo: Flickr

restricted labor force in india
While stories of India’s gender gap have been in the media spotlight in past years, a recent census shows the depth of the inequality. India is rated 101 out of a 136 country survey for gender disparity, with lower economic opportunities and a lower literacy rate. With a population of over a billion, nearly 160 million women are estimated to be restricted to domestic work, many of whom are of working age.

With a restricted labor force in India, the capacity for growth and development is hindered. Additionally, the options women do have are limited by unequal access to education and training. While this problem has been acknowledged, its scope was underestimated. Sociologists hope that governmental encouragement of women in the workforce can help reduce illiteracy and poverty among women.

However, even women who are employed are more likely to be “vulnerably employed” than their male counterparts. This term, used by an ILO study to describe nearly 84 percent of South Asian women, refers to the risk these workers face: seasonal employment and more easily terminated services leaves them with little job security. Additionally, these workers perform mostly domestic services, a trend which consistently reinforces the patriarchal hierarchy in India.

With job security being a problem for women, the government is hoping that opening up more opportunities in the public sector, now dominated by men, can have an equalizing effect for the women of India. With women and girls being among the most disadvantaged in the world, employing them and fostering growth in education and literacy is in the best interest for 21st century India.

For as large of a nation as it is, the hindrances on the labor force have not allowed India to realize its potential. For the generations of women now and those in the future, women must have the opportunity to come out of the domestic sphere and into the working world.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Silicon India, ISP News
Photo: Worldbank

poor quality of education in south asia
According to a report released by the World Bank on June 30, 2014, the poor quality of education in South Asia is holding the region back. Weak education systems act as a snare, keeping many young people in poverty and preventing economic growth.

The World Bank performed its first comprehensive study to assess the effectiveness of the education in South Asia. It found low levels of student learning in the region despite the increase in enrollment.

In South Asia, a region which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sir Lanka, countries have committed significant resources to increasing access to education. The recent push to raise enrollment comes in an effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal education for primary education by 2015.

The effort has been largely successful, as the enrollment rate in the region has grown from 75 percent in 2000 to 89 percent in 2010. The percentages, however, are just an average, and education access varies greatly from country to country. For example, Sri Lanka achieved almost complete universal education over 10 years ago while Afghanistan and Pakistan are considerably behind.

Despite the increased enrollment, the systems of education in South Asia prove to be achieving below the standards. The World Bank concluded this after measuring the student learning in each country. Part of the problem is that many children who attend primary school do not complete the final grade. For example, in Bangladesh only 55 out of 100 students complete the last grade of primary education. Gender inequality is also a contributing factor as evidenced by the fact that over half of world’s illiterate women reside in South Asia.

The poor quality of education is, according to the organization, also due in part to the large increase of first-generation students in the classroom. The curriculums lack important lessons on measurement, problem-solving and writing. More than one quarter of students who complete primary school do not have fundamental number and literacy skills. This deficit severely impairs their ability to complete secondary school and to secure higher paying jobs.

The World Bank surveyed employers in the region and the results supported the findings that students lack many skills essential for the work place. As a result of the poor education systems, there is a lack of a skilled and qualified labor force.

To help address the issue, the World Bank presented a multi-faceted strategy in order to improve the quality of education. One factor calls for the countries to ensure that children receive proper nutrition. South Asia has one of the highest rates of malnutrition, which inhibits children’s ability to learn. Another aspect includes improving the quality of teachers by establishing and upholding academic standards that every educator must achieve. Additionally, more investments should be focused on improving the learning goals for students and not simply expanding facilities and raising teacher salaries.

Part of the World Bank’s strategy also includes bringing in the private sector to help. The governments of South Asia have very little money, and companies could provide a source of capital to improve education. In addition, the strategy calls for and improvement in the measurement of student progress by bettering the quality of student assessments.

The hope is that with the World Bank’s model for improvement, children will be able to receive better education. Literacy and mathematical skills are key for accessing skilled labors jobs. With more young people getting these jobs, individuals will be able to escape poverty. And an increase in the skilled labor force will also help the individual countries prosper as the country will be able to produce more and have more potential consumers. In starting with education, the World Bank hopes to help the entire region grow.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO
Photo: World Bank