The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Bangladesh Progress Report?, released at a function in Dhaka, portrays a picture of 'half-empty' or 'half-full' glass. It can be likened to a mixed bag of satisfaction and disappointment, in terms of progress made in meeting the MDGs. These goals were adopted in September 2000 by the world leaders at the United Nations headquarters. The MDGs range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target year of 2015.
A review of the progress made in reaching the MDGs during the penultimate year of the deadline set by the UN is a must-do job. The UN itself has published a progress report that also speaks of mixed results. The poor developing countries would generally be successful in meeting some of the targets by the timeframe. But it would take some more time for them to reach a few important goals such as reducing the child and maternal mortality rates and boosting the number of children attending primary education. However, the UN in its report published in July last claimed that the MDGs had made 'profound' difference to people's lives in the poor developing regions of the world.
Bangladesh, according to the government report, has also made some laudable progress in achieving a good number of MDGs including those of poverty reduction and child and maternal mortality rate. But it is unlikely to reach some of the other key targets within the UN-set deadline. Employment generation, gender equality, improvement of the nutritional status of the population and forest coverage are among the areas where progress has been rather unsatisfactory.
The MDGs set eight goals under which there are 21 targets and 60 indicators with targets to measure the progress. According to the report, Bangladesh is, in general, on track in achieving partial success in areas like eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equity and empowering women, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. The country, however, lagged behind in achieving three goals - combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development - which needed more attention. The current employment rate for the country's population aged 15+ is 59.3 per cent. The country will not be able to achieve the target of ensuring employment for all by 2015, and the percentage of women in wage employment needs to be raised to 50 per cent by 2015 which is now only 19 per cent.
Notwithstanding the fact that Bangladesh is being frequently cited as a role model in MDG achievement globally, its failure to make a satisfactory level of progress in meeting the targets concerning employment, primary education, adult literacy, women empowerment, nutritional and forest coverage will continue to hurt most the impoverished section of its population.
There is no denying that the developed economies, particularly the OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) countries have failed to keep their promises on making available at least 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) to the developing and least developed countries, including Bangladesh, as official development assistance (ODA) to help the latter achieve MDGs. The development assistance that Bangladesh has been receiving since the launching of the MDGs is not enough for achieving the targets. However, the failure to keep commitments on the part of the rich and developed countries on resource transfer is nothing new. It has happened time and again.
But what remains more important is the prudent use of domestic as well as foreign funds through the right kind of projects and programmes that would directly or indirectly help achieve the MDGs. Wastage and misallocation of scarce resources in public sector programmes are quite common features in Bangladesh. Thus, there is an urgent need to make improvements in the utilization of public resources. More importantly, the government should ensure greater involvement of the private sector to supplement, not to supplant, its own initiatives that are purported to meeting MDGs and also other national development goals.
According to the seventh MDG Bangladesh Progress Report, as quoted in the press, the country made progress in achieving some indicators of millennium development goals. The said report also mentioned that in other important targets including ensuring employment for all, increasing share of women in wage employment, adult literacy and completion of primary schooling, Bangladesh lagged behind. However, in the assessment of the Planning Ministry, it emerged that Bangladesh, still considered as a Least Developed Nation, has met some other Millennium Development Goals. What has most economists stumped is that Bangladesh will certainly not attain the targets by 2015 and there has been lack of promised international support for achieving such.
Under these circumstances, developed nations must come forward with more private investment in Bangladesh, which would prove more effective in helping Bangladesh to achieve the goals. Seemingly, Bangladesh is on the right track in achieving the goals set, but lack of adequate infrastructure and assistance from developed countries poses a big hindrance to bridge the gap of unmet goals. It is high time the government, experts and industry insiders came together to ensure a better standing of Bangladesh in the global context by helping to lead the country in the right and effective direction. Ultimately such goals must be achieved by our own efforts.
At the top of it, to attain a sustainable development level, there must be strong and honest political leadership with the will to deliver good governance free from corruption and vices of over-politicisation of the affairs of the state down to the ground level.r
The writer is an economic analyst and a columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]