Economists stressed long-term policies for narrowing down the gap between high growth and growing inequality
A major overhaul in the country's economic structure is required to attain the status of developed country by 2041, economists said on Monday.
They suggested adopting long-term policies for narrowing down the gap between high growth and growing inequality, boosting private investment, generating employment, increasing export and industrialisation.
They said political stability gathers concern in the aspect of combating development challenges. They emphasised strengthening institutional framework and ensuring good governance in this regard.
The economists were addressing the closing session of the two-day seminar at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in the capital.
KAS Murshid, director general of the BIDS, chaired the session while Planning Minister MA Mannan was present as the chief guest.
Mannan said, "Our growth has reached an uncontrollable level. Therefore, people are not getting the benefits. The government is failing to do it properly, leaving many gaps behind. It needs to be phased out by legal action."
Former lead economist of the World Bank Dhaka office Dr Zahid Hussain said, "Some changes need to be carried out to ensure stability in agriculture, banking, energy and infrastructure. Bangladesh has ensured some progress by governmental and non-governmental organisations.
"Two factors now need attention to attain the sustainable development goals by 2030 and to become a developed nation by 2041. Those are growth and good governance," he said.
Zahid said, "High growth requires building industrial infrastructure, transportations, information technology and agriculture. Human resource management also needs to be prioritised. Macro economy is required to be strengthened and structural changes demand more attention. Good governance determines whether these changes will be carried out."
He said, "Currently, three types of ideologies exist. The first school believes that the ruling government is shrinking participation of others and this could lead to economic instability. Besides, political stability is also feared to be damaged.
"The second school believes that development was possible due to the current government. Reforms are paving way for manpower and infrastructure. It will bring new economic possibilities.
"The third school of economists believes that development is not depending on political stability. If the institutional structures are strengthened, the changed political scenario will not affect development," Zahid explained.
BIDS Research Director Binayek Sen said, "Both government and individual contributions led the country to present state of development. Agriculture, many business initiatives and remittance are the examples of that."
He said economic indicators such as employment and investments have dropped since 2016-17. "In order to develop various economic indicators, strategies have to be formulated in human resource development, technology, agriculture and industry sectors."
"The highest importance should be given on poverty reduction. For this, if the inequality goes up a little, it will not be a problem. If we can retain six percent growth in the next 10 years, then inequality will drop to zero or below three percent," Binayek explained.
He said there are 1,400 exportable products in the country and export will grow further if the government provides incentives for those products like it does for ready-made garments.
"For this, the government needs to make effective policies."
Former special adviser to the International Labour Organisation Dr Rizwanul Islam said Bangladesh is now receiving high growth but there are controversies over numbers.
He said, "Inequality is increasing with growth in the country."
He also said the fourth industrial revolution is a new challenge for Bangladesh. "We have to cautious so that we do not fall in the trap of middle-income countries like Brazil and South Africa."
Rizwanul said, "Despite having eight percent growth, our amount of wealth has not been increasing and that is a big challenge.
"To increase investment, we have to increase wealth.
"We were a poor country in 1973-74 but there was less inequality back then than there is now. According to the Gini index, we are now a country of high inequality."