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Realities of Bangladesh: Requisites and Prerequisites for Sustainable Development
How conducive is the realities of Bangladesh in fulfilling the commonly known
requisites and requirements of sustainable development?
Course NRM-102: Program Management for Sustainable Development: Processes and Practice
Professor Niaz Ahmed Khan
Department of Development Studies
University of Dhaka
Muhammad Aminur Rahman
MSS 2nd Semester
Natural Resource Management
Roll No. 09
Department of Development Studies
University of Dhaka
Date of Submission: 15.12.2012
Today, as a concept or idea, sustainable development is probably most discussed and most hotly
debated term. The term sustainable development has been popularized through publication of
‘our common future’ a report published by the world commission on environment and
development in 1987. In the report ‘our common future’, sustainable development is defined as
‘development which meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future
generation’. This definition was accepted in Rio summit in 1992. In Rio summit, world leaders
set out the principles of sustainable development. According to the definition given by
Brundtland commission, development should ensure present generation needs which would not
hamper the needs of future generation. This definition heavily criticized because of prevalence of
hunger all over the world. Today’s world system has failed to ascertain the needs of present
generation let the needs of future generation. Inequality in wealth distribution and income, mass
poverty, hunger, environmental degradation etc. has heavily criticized the definition of
sustainable development. To some, Sustainable development could be which can address the
required standard needs of present generation and also responsive with changing situation of the
world. However, original broad aspects of sustainable development require convergence between
the three pillars i.e. economic development, social equity, and environmental protection. But, at
present, sustainable development has lost its origins. Its focus has been concentrated more to
environmental affairs than social equity and economic development. As a result, climate change
has become the proxy of sustainable development. However, Bangladesh has signed/ratified
many international conventions/protocols concerned with different aspects of sustainable
development. As a signatory country of world summit, Bangladesh is required to take proper
initiative and measure to achieve success for fulfilling the target of sustainable development. In
this regard, Bangladesh has adopted a number of policies, legal instruments and guidelines at the
national level. For instance Bangladesh has created a climate change fund by 40 million taka in
financial year 2012-2013. But the question which has to be checked that, how conducive is the
realities of Bangladesh in fulfilling the commonly known requisites and requirements of
sustainable development? In this article, the answer will be explored on the basis of requirements
of sustainable development.
Bangladesh has shown a substantial success in terms of economic growth. Though there has
resource constraints, poor technology and traditional agricultural system, Bangladesh has
achieved, on an average, annual economic growth rate about 6 per cent or 6 percent plus over the
past 5 years. It is one of the significant achievements of Bangladesh. However, agriculture plays
major contribution in this economic growth. Average annual growth of agriculture is about 4.4
per cent per over the last five years and it consistent. Last year, agricultural growth rate was
about 4.4 percent (Bangladesh Economic Review: 2011). The share of agriculture sector as GDP
contribution is decreasing day by day. In 2011 this sector’s contribution was 18 percent in GDP.
Agricultural production still can be improved to higher level. For this, major constraints of
agricultural production such as poor soil quality, poor agricultural technology, tenurial system,
prices of food grains etc. have to be improved.
On the other side, industrial growth of Bangladesh is still sluggish on an average. This sector’s
contribution in Bangladesh GDP per capita is about 32 percent. Bangladesh has limited base for
industrial development. This sector suffers from low productivity. Productivity could be
improved if human capital and technological innovation is prioritized. New investment comes
forward due friendly environment for business. Improved transportation, secured power supply
could make Bangladesh as lucrative country for investment. For booming this sector, income
levels of general people is required to develop. Highly skewed income distribution has to be
reduced. In Bangladesh, only about10 percent people own 80 percent of national income.
Bangladesh scores in Gini index is 31, which means a pervasive inequality situation here in
Bangladesh. However, again, good business environmental has to be improved to attract foreign
Service sector contribution in Bangladesh economy is about 52 percent (Bangladesh economic
review 2011). This sector contribution is consistent over the last few years. Expatriate plays vital
role service sector. Small and medium enterprise and non-traditional sector play key role in
economic development of Bangladesh (Onnuyan Onnesa quarterly, 2011).
So, overall economic development of Bangladesh not pleasant but it could be accelerated if good
environment of business we can improved.
Bangladesh has achieved a significant progress in certain aspects of social development.
Bangladesh has shown good performance in reduction of population growth. Population growth
rate has reduced to 1.40 percent. Infant mortality rate has reduced to around 45 per thousand and
adult literacy rate has increased over 60 percent. Except these sectors, others social indicator is
not satisfactory. In 2011, people who live under poverty line were around 32 percent. Hardcore
poverty is around 21 percent who cannot intake at least 1805 kilo calorie per day. Around 30
million people still live as hardcore poor (Bangladesh economic review 2011). Furthermore,
socio-economic inequality is glaring and increasing. This inequality is increasing due to
iniquitous socio-economic order, lack of access to resources for large portion of people,
unemployment, and high level of poverty.
People’s participation in social, political, and economic processes in Bangladesh is very limited.
There is lack proper strategy for effective inclusion of mass people in state affairs and decision
making. In terms of empowerment, Bangladesh has achieved notable success in women
education. Female enrollment in primary education has reached almost above 90 percent. In
secondary education, women participation is almost equal to men participation (Bangladesh
economic review 2011). But women participation in decision making is still very limited.
Therefore, in terms of social indicator of sustainable development, Bangladesh’s overall
achievement is good. Key challenge to Bangladesh is the reduction of inequality in terms of
Good or effective governance is crucial for sustainable development for any country. It very
unfortunate for Bangladesh that performance of this regard is very poor. Governance in
Bangladesh suffers from transparency and accountability problem. In worldwide governance
indicator, Bangladesh’s percentile position is 37.1 in 2011, which denotes to poor transparency
and accountability (worldwide governance indicator 2011). Confrontational politics in
Bangladesh is pervasive. Elected government and opposition party is very rival position.
Bangladesh could be a bad example of democratic failure. We cannot expect a consensus among
political parties on basic national interest. Moreover, pervasive corruption is habituated practice
here in Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s percentile corruption rank is 16.1 in 2011 (worldwide
governance indicator 2011). However, Bangladesh position in terms of political stability/
absence of violence was 7.1 in 2011. In terms of governance effectiveness it was 19.9 in 2011. In
terms of regulatory quality it was 22.3 in 2011 and in terms of rule of law it was 28.6 in
2011(worldwide governance indicator 2011). So, all governance indicators show very poor
performance of Bangladesh. To improve the situation, bureaucratic procrastination and hurdles
have to be eradicated; effective decentralized local government quality has to be made effective,
proper coordination between horizontal and vertical authorities have to be ensured, proper
trained functionaries should be ensured. In addition, existing legal and regulatory provisions
should make effective. To reduce overlapping and pervasive government control on other social
sectors, a clear cut delineation of economic and social responsibilities of the government, the
private sector, and the others actor within the ruling market economy framework and an
appropriate regulatory system to that effect should be stratified. Above all, participatory
governance is prerequisite for present’s world situation where world is very closely related.
Bangladesh achieved an impressive increase in Bangladesh over the past decade or so in
awareness building within and outside government regarding environmental protection and
enhancement. Bangladesh has signed various International Conventions and Protocols
concerning environment and adopted policies for environmental conservation, protection, and
enhancement. There is a Ministry of Environment in overall charge of the environment sector
activities, with the Department of Environment being its operational arm. There are also many
research and action oriented organizations outside the government involved in environmental
activities. But, environmental degradation continues unabated in Bangladesh. Salinity in coastal
area has increased due to shrimp cultivation. Quality of soil has degraded due to mono
cultivation of high yielding variety, applying insecticides in land; a lot of traditional species has
extinct. Most of the rivers has polluted severely through dumping industrial waste in open air and
water source. So, more co ordination among national and local as well as international agencies
is required for safe environment and ecology.
Globalization is the currently dominant defining factor for the global order and participation in
the process is now almost universal. Due to globalization, distance among the countries has
eliminated. Now, we can imagine a world without border and that is globalized world.
Multinational and transnational governance idea has arisen from the concept of globalization. So
for sustainable development, Bangladesh needs to be integrated in globalised world. However,
Bangladesh’s participation in four major dimensions of globalization is not satisfactory.
Bangladesh is merely beneficiary of globalization rather a victim country. Political globalization,
economic globalization, communication based globalization, and cultural globalization is
defining Bangladesh new destination, where our contribution or protection of national interest
and identity seems very blurred. It is impossible to stay alienated from the flow of globalization.
So, in order for Bangladesh to take advantage of the relevant opportunities arising from
globalization, it must put adequate emphasis on developing/ improving the capability of
government functionaries, business executives, and others who would be involved in
international interactions, negotiations, and deal making. At the same time, national policies of
the country (e.g. those relating to education, training, healthcare, employment creation,
promotion of sustainable agriculture, land reform, access to credit, rule of law, women
empowerment) and institutions (e.g. participatory democratic evolution, establishment of
effective local government, establishment of public-private partnership with social concerns built
into the process) need to be adjusted/redesigned/ developed, as appropriate, to empower the
people to participate effectively in economic, social, political processes, and environmental
processes and benefit equitably there from globalization.
The overall situation of Bangladesh in fulfilling the requisite in pursuit of sustainable
development is not fine tuning. Progress is extremely limited and capacity building is very low
level. For real progress to be achieved, Bangladesh needs to prepare comprehensive plan and key
guidelines to organize necessary activities within a definitive but flexible framework. A political
commitment, based on a broad consensus across political parties, is an overriding pre-requisite.
Also a committed thrust forward is needed to establish effective governance at all levels-central
to local-which is key to both the construction of and moving along an appropriate sustainable
development pathway for the country. Because of resource constraint country, Bangladesh needs
foreign assistance for effective sustainable development. So, Bangladesh is needs to prepare it
for attaining the benefits arising from globalization.
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2. http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/indicators/67106.html (last viewed on 09/12/2012).
3. Bangladesh economic review 2011. Published by ministry of finance.
4. Bangladesh Economy Quarterly 2011, Unnayan Onnesa, Bangladesh.
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Strategic Studies (BIISS), Dhaka, 2000.
6. Q K Ahmad, “On Sustainable Development and All That”, Brown Journal of World Affairs,
Brown University, USA, May 1996.
7. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2001 (Impacts,
Adaptation, and Vulnerability) Summary for Policymakers and Technical Summary of the
Working Group II Report , IPCC Secretariat, WMO, Geneva.
8. Q K Ahmed, “Perception on sustainable Development in Bangladesh”. Presented at a roundtable
on Bangladesh perspectives toward 2002 world summit on sustainable development, organized
by Bangladesh institute of international and strategic studies (BIISS) & Bangladesh Unnayan
Parishad (BUP), Dhaka, 4 September 2001.
9. “Sustainable Development: From Brundtland to Rio 2012”. United Nations Headquarters, New
York, September 2010.
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