Prime Minister Hasina has repeatedly said that infrastructure development has been happening at a massive rate in Bangladesh that will attract foreign investors.
Recently, the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Conference, with representations from 46 countries, was held in Doha, Qatar. Since 1980, the United Nations has been organizing this conference regularly every 10 years, but due to Covid the conference was delayed by two years and happened after 12 years this time. Bangladesh was at the centre of discussions at this conference, as it often held out as a role model for other less developed countries. Not only has Bangladesh achieved LDC graduation capability in just 12 years, but is far ahead of other countries in all the socio-economic indicators required to achieve graduation, which was a surprise to everyone.
Bangladesh has been dubbed the "Leader of List of Developed Countries" and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was praised for her "transformational leadership" in leading the country toward achieving its socio-economic goals.
First, the economic progress of Bangladesh is astounding. its GDP has been steadily improving. When the world is suffering due to the global economic recession and coronavirus, Bangladesh has been able to weather the storm due to competent leadership.
Second, its progress in human development is remarkable. All its initiatives have been successful in increasing average life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality rates, stopping child marriages and spreading education. According to World Bank data, Bangladesh's average life expectancy in 1971 was only 45 years; in 2021 it had gone up to 72 years. The main reason for this is the great improvement in the health system, production of nutritious food and overall socio-economic development.
Thirdly, Bangladesh has become an exemplar in disaster management. The government takes various steps to deal with other natural disasters like floods, cyclones, heavy rains, and droughts. The government also takes quick mitigating steps so that disaster victims can return to normal life quickly.
Lastly, Bangladesh has played an active role in international cooperation and has received significant support from the international community in its efforts to achieve economic and social development.
A leader among LDCs
These factors have contributed to Bangladesh's reputation as a leader among LDCs. Despite numerous challenges, Bangladesh has shown remarkable resilience and progress, which has certainly made it a model for other developing countries to emulate.
Also, in 2009, the Bangladesh government started efforts to build a "Digital Bangladesh" with the aim of transforming the country into a knowledge-based society by 2021. This initiative includes various projects such as the Access to Information (a2i) programme. One of the objectives of which was to improve public services using digital governance and ICT. The National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy is playing a major role in the development of the ICT sector.
The government has established more than five thousand digital centers across the country where initiatives are being taken to provide various digital services to citizens, including e-governance services like online tax filing, e-passport services, and e-procurement to improve efficiency and transparency.
Bangladesh is also gaining capacity in the field of education. According to UNESCO data, the education rate was only 53 percent in 2001, which has gone up to 73 percent in 2018. The government's various steps, including creating infrastructure for education, is transforming education in a big way.
Massive infrastructure development
Apart from this, a major chapter was initiated under the Military Cooperation Agreement between Bangladesh and Qatar through which hundreds of army members from Bangladesh are set to be inducted into Qatar's military, who will get the opportunity to work on deputation in Qatar on the same pay scale and rank of the Qatari armed forces.
Prime Minister Hasina has repeatedly said that infrastructure development has been happening at a massive rate in Bangladesh that will attract foreign investors. Not just infrastructure, Bangladesh is also working on various other investment-attracting policies like the creation of Special Economic Zones and single-window policies.
One of the objectives of this conference was to make an effective plan for the next 10 years and work accordingly. Because Bangladesh will transition from the list of least developed countries in 2026, its recommendations have also been approved. Therefore, as a less developed country, Bangladesh will not be present in future conferences. So many people said that if Bangladesh was not there, they will miss a "role model". Can the country, once condemned as a "basket case", get any higher praise?
(The author is a Kolkata-based educator and South Asian affairs researcher at the University of Calcutta. Views are personal. She can be contacted at email@example.com)