Monday, January 03, 2011

People and the future

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH HAS achieved broad-based poverty reduction through empowerment of millions of rural women, which has created massive economic activity in the villages benefiting the nation. It has also made extensive progress in economy and the social and children education program.

Last month Bangladesh Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina received the coveted United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) award for significant achievements towards attaining the goal. Immediately the government portrayed the achievement of the new leadership.

Well the credit does not go to the government’s human development initiatives or its donor-driven development policies, said a development economist and social scientist Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman.
The credit should be given exclusively to peoples initiatives. Like farmers, empowered women, migrant workers and small traders, the awarding-winning economist explained. Holistically speaking the non-descriptive drivers have painted globally a positive image of young nation.

Hidden and seasonal famine among the hard-core poor, especially landless peasants has taken a back seat. The poverty has been halved and hunger among the rural and urban poor is gradually becoming faint.

Malnutrition among children remains omnipresent, but silent, contributing to increment of child mortality. In fact host of reasons are responsible for malnutrition. The parents who cannot afford their children diary products, like poor milk consumption causes malnutrition. And children continue to remain vulnerable to poor nutrition consumption.

Primary education had a rosy picture for couple of decades. The enrolment of thousands of primary education in rural areas is of course satisfactory. Notwithstanding the encouraging girl-child education is in the green category. The gray area is that the primary school completion rate is in the red category. Despite strategic efforts the retention of children in school is far from reality.

Bangladesh made significant progress in reducing population growth until recently, but have remerged as an undaunted issue with a reasoning of premature policy shifts. The shrinking budget has been attributed to downplay of once vibrant social campaign and door-to-door delivery services which helped in stabilizing population growth. For three decades the two-child policy was a model in population control for South Asian neighbors. Now it is struggling to keep itself floating.

The country independent for nearly 40 years has a GDP growth at 24 percent. It needs to increase to 30-40 percent, if the nation wishes to break away from the cycle of poverty and economic growth.

Another foreseeable challenge which has been over looked, Dr Rahman said was the 1.8 million youths who are joining the labor force every year. The limitation explained by Dr. Rahman was that the quality of education the youths have acquired is far from satisfactory and fails to attract the employers.

If in the coming decade the nation of 156 million does not take breakthrough initiatives to improve the desired statistics at the earliest, the qualitative education needs to be imparted to the youths.

The peculiar political culture which dominates the negative growth of human development has been described by Dr. Rahman as “zero-some” political competition in the snake and ladder game.

The elite in the political enclaves hand in hand with the politicians in the corridors of political power are milking the nation dry of its resources meant for the development of the poor to achieve social as well as economic development.

When the people are able to engage the government to shun criminalization of politics the image earned during the democratization progress since 1990 would be retained.

First published in Southasia magazine, Pakistan, December 2010

Saleem Samad is a journalist based in Bangladesh, elected Ashoka Fellow for Journalism and recipient of Hellman-Hammet Award