If economic growth is achieved at the cost of unduly depleting environmental resources, air, food and water pollution, it will not only be difficult to sustain growth
The mere figure of GDP growth rate does not tell the entire story of Bangladesh's economic growth. The quality of growth also matters.
In the Bangladeshi context, there are two important aspects related to growth.
The first one is whether the benefit of growth reaches all classes of the population. Although per capita income in the last decade or so accelerated, the real wage growth has remained behind.
If we want to achieve the desirable level of higher living standard for all, the earning level in the future will also have to match growth in per capita income.
Secondly, Bangladesh has been facing problems in attaining sustainable development because of extremely high density of population and very low level of environmental resources. At the same time, the economic growth will have to be accompanied by urbanisation and industrialisation which will increasingly put pressure on environmental resources.
If economic growth is achieved at the cost of unduly depleting environmental resources, air, food and water pollution, it will not only be difficult to sustain growth, the health and wellbeing of the people will also be at great risk.
Actually, we need to assess the economic performance not merely by the current growth estimate but also by its quality in terms of income equality and environment sustainability.
We are aspiring to become a middle-income country from the current low middle-income status, and ultimately an industrially developed country. In order to do that, we need a transformation in the structure of the economy in terms of the production technology and labour skills.
So far, we have achieved the economic growth beyond agriculture through export of low-skilled and unskilled labourers abroad, expansion of low-technology small enterprises, and the readymade garment industry that depends on lowly paid female labour force.
For the transition to the next level of growth, we should shift from this replication to a deepening of technology and productivity.
If our competitiveness in export industry has to be based on low-wage labour, no matter how much growth we achieve, it will not be beneficial.
Wahiduddin Mahmud is an economist and former advisor to the caretaker govt