Bangladesh in 2050: Aspiration, challenges & milestones

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By S. M. Anisul Haque

SINCE independence in 1971, Bangladesh has undergone a remarkable transformation in last 48 years proving many of the past predictions tellingly wrong. Immediately after independence of Bangladesh, many dismissed this newborn country as an “economic basket case”, unable to survive at its own. Now, half a century apart, it is apparent that Bangladesh not only has survived, but has also attained some remarkable progresses that even many of the more promising nations have not been able to achieve.

Bangladesh has been predicted to become the 28th largest economy in the world by 2030, a fact unknown to many; it is also poised to become the world's 23rd largest economy by 2050. A report of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) titled “The long view: how will the global economic order change by 2050?” had predicted that Bangladesh's gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) will grow to $1,324 billion in 2030 and $3,064 billion by 2050 despite many challenges this country is facing.

However, it is predicted that transforming the huge population into assets would be a key in our aspiration for a faster economic growth. The country’s plan to turn every village into a township will go a long way in ensuring growth-platform for every citizen connecting them productively with the mainstream economic activities of the country by 2050. The government has also adopted ‘Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100’ that would address climate change vulnerability and risk factors not only in short term but also in the longer term till next 100 years.

To fight the challenges in the infrastructure sector, the government has undertaken a number of mega projects to be implemented in next 10 years time that will transform Bangladesh’s existing infrastructure scenario and contribute substantially to the national economy. Padma multipurpose Bridge, Dhaka Metro Railway, Bangabandhu Satellite, Ruppoor Nuclear Power project, Dhaka Elevated Expressway, Karnaphuly tunnel, Paira Deep Sea port etc. are a few of the mega projects that are on fast tract to be implemented by 2030.

In fact Bangabandhu satellite project has already been launched and the other projects are expected to be in operation in next few years time. It is expected that these megaprojects will be able to address country’s infrastructure needs in the short and medium term.

Aided by a fast-growing manufacturing sector — thank to the garment industry which is now second only to China's — Bangladesh's economy has averaged above 6% annual growth for nearly a decade, reaching 7.5% last year. This industry is a key factor in the country's phenomenal success story and also is the country's largest employer providing about 4.5 million jobs and accounting for nearly 80% of Bangladesh's total merchandise exports in 2018.

In the recent years the industry has implemented sweeping reforms including factory upgrades, inspections, and improved worker conditions in order to maintain its competitive edge in the global market. Thus now it seems to be on track to meet the government's goal of exporting $39 billion in 2019; and the country aspires to reach a $50 billion export valuation in this sector by the end of 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of its independence.

Growth in agro-fisheries in Bangladesh is also phenomenal. From acute food shortages in 1974, the country has achieved self-sufficiency in food production for its more than 170 million people. Bangladesh is now ranked 3rd in the world in terms of the volume of fresh water fish, producing almost 44 hundred thousand metric ton of fish in 2018. Development in agriculture and manufacture sector has seen the number of people living in extreme poverty — classified as under $1.25 per day internationally — shrinking from about 19% of the population, to less than 9%, over the same period.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing in Bangladesh is also on the rise with Bangladeshi pharmaceutical products exported to well over 100 countries around the globe including Europe and North American market. With its LDC relaxation, the country has enjoyed a waiver on drug patents till 2032. Under a favorable situation Bangladesh is hoping to challenge Asian giants in pharmaceuticals production in the near future.

The government is now implementing an ambitious scheme to build a network of 100 special economic zones around the country; 11 of them have been completed while 79 are under construction. Once completed, it is expected that these Special Economic Zones will cater the need of the country not only up to 2050 but also for next 50-60 years.

The volume of FDI expected to come in these economic zones, if manifested correctly, should be enough to meet the proportion of FDI inflow prescribed in the relevant goal of SDG 2030, for achieving the targeted level of development. Those SEZs should also be able to guarantee the FDI inflow well beyond 2050.

The country also has a huge working age youth population that should bring the economic dividend for the country till 2052. If Bangladesh is able to sustain the momentum of economic growth for next thirty years and can utilize the population dividend effectively, the dream of attaining the status of a developed country by 2050 is well within our reach. — The writer is Minister (political), Bangladesh Embassy, Riyadh


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