Some challenges and new hope for 2017
Bangladesh successfully is moving on to come across the target set forth by 2030 as an agenda of Sustainable Development Goal. Over the year, it has been fighting poverty, gender-based violence, poor healthcare and illiteracy, social injustice, extremism, criminal offenses among many others which are supposed to be the awkward predicaments of unrivalled progress. In effect, all these hindrances had been the causes of social discomfiture for the recent days. Undeniably, Bangladesh is becoming a model of development and struggling hard to overcome the barriers to reach the elite club by 2041. Seemingly, the target is high-tampering but by no means is it happened to be unachievable because the trend of development is very convincing. But, the fact is very un-conducive to mark down. As the political climate grows to be gloomy and social barriers are apparently huge, finishing the task will not be very easy.
Among all, radicalism and growing religious impatience towards other believers appear to be much more stigmatic social problem in present context. In spite of having huge success in almost all directions, all these problems together are now out to diminish the image of the government very badly. So, it needs to reassess the programme on which Bangladesh has been on the way to recount its success.
The year 2016 has been a remarkable one for the government because there was political stability and less commotion between rival parties. Economic activity has gained momentum and the ability of the poor people has increased to engage themselves in reduction of poverty. The reserve of foreign currency has reached a record point and growth rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) exceeded 7 per cent and these achievements are considered to be outstanding by any stranded. Keeping hold of the growth rate near 7 per cent or so for any country is always good in terms of economic development. And, Bangladesh is making this very smartly keeping aside almost all south Asian countries including Pakistan. Here, Pakistan is very prominently brought to the discussion because once Bangladesh fought against the economic injustice and the disparity made by Pakistan itself.
Within the year, foreign investments, particularly from China and India, have created new records. A good number of projects are now working with the help of those countries mostly in infrastructural development and addressing climate issues. The most challenging project, Padma Bridge, has been in the way as per the schedule and metro-rail project, despite its huge blow, are now at work satisfactorily.
By the end of the year, illegal migrant influx from Myanmar, a very dangerous social problem, has pushed the country to a level of uncomfortable social state.
At the middle of the year, Bangladesh lost her long achievement and historical non-violence character following a gruesome militant attack at Holy Artisan Bakery in Dhaka. This unprecedented mayhem claimed the lives of 20 foreigners including nine Italian and seven Japanese, who were mostly involved in metro-rail project in Dhaka. Besides, over the year, some other foreigners were killed by the same group in different places of the country. Obviously, the killers targeted the minorities or foreign people in order to destabilise the government. Although such an attack was absolutely new to the people of Bangladesh but it was a continuation of global militancy. However, government's concern and the initiatives taken by it were very convincing and the foreigners didn't misunderstand the sincerity. So, they stood up for the government and kept their words to continue all technical and logistic assistance.
Bangladesh is gradually improving the status of common life in terms of reducing ultra poverty and facing natural disasters. Poverty rate has been reduced to below 30 per cent and per capita income has reached near fifteen hundred dollars. The inflation rate is (5.38) within the comfortable line and it is lower than it was in the initial month of the year. More significantly, enrolment in primary education reached near 99 per cent and maternal mortality rate has also declined remarkably. These are the stories of success.
However, for the New Year, some challenges loom large as the key problems of social dynamism. Political stability and economic progress are proportionally intertwined. Last January 5, 2014 general election and its after-effect have claimed innumerable lives and rendered huge number of people homeless. In addition, how many people were unkindly treated by their political opponents is still uncounted, I suppose. And the damage to the economy was irrecoverable. Therefore, the economic progress also depends upon the ensuing activities of political parties.
Now, let us have a look at the progress in terms of UNDP-set sustainable development goal (SDG). 17 goals have been set for 2030 among which 'no poverty' is at the top of the list. Bangladesh hopefully will become the fastest growing nation in the world which is endorsed by the world leaders. Rusanara Ali, a British Labour Party politician and envoy of British government and also the member of British Parliament, says last week that most European countries are now envy at the progress of Bangladesh. Ending hunger and food security is at the second position in the list. Health and nutrition is in the third followed by gender equity, climate issue, sanitation, industrialisation, human settlement etc. For all cases, Bangladesh is successfully doing the job in making the dream come true.
Government's poverty reducing policies and food security are rather satisfactory among the vulnerable groups. For extreme poverty-stricken people, government is now ready to feed them with sufficient allocation. As a result, the most vulnerable groups of people are now secured than ever. However, there are still many areas where the programme can be extended. Nevertheless, it was factually impossible to net them all.
There had been a revolution in communication. The whole country has by now been digitalized and the area is expanding with sophisticated engineering. This is the most striking sector in present Bangladesh, I believe.
So, what is the challenge for the New Year? The challenge is obviously the threat from the group of the people who are out to mar the achievement of the government. The challenge is of course good governance and rule of law. The challenge is from the people who don't care the success of the government. Lastly, recently concluded Narayanganj City Corporation election is obviously a mandate for the government for the future activities. It is proven that people will support and acknowledge the
government activities if it goes on right footing.
Professor Dr Siddhartha Shankar Joarder is Chairperson, Department of Philosophy, Jagannath University.