Bangladesh: Accomplishment Beyond Expectation – The Times Supplementary Online

Bangladesh: Accomplishment Beyond Expectation

Bangladesh - Accomplishment Beyond Expectation

Bangladesh - Accomplishment Beyond Expectation

In forty years since independence this undersized country has achieved oversized feats, but how?

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has affirmed before parliament that her government is “for the people, by the people and of the people.” She further echoed this sentiment when she visited David Cameron at Number 10 on January 27, 2011, saying: “My agenda is very clear, I want to build up my country as a poverty-free, illiteracy-free country, and I want to make sure that our people get healthcare, health service and education.”In the past, Bangladesh has been unfairly satirised as “Bang-the-dish” and it has come a long way since Henry Kissinger dubbed it an international “basket case” 40 years ago. In fact, last year the Wall Street Journal suggested that Pakistan could learn about economic growth and confronting terrorism from its former eastern province in an article headed “Bangladesh, ‘Basket Case’ No More”.The UN has also lauded Bangladesh in its progress toward achieving its Millennium Development Goals, Bangladesh was one of six countries in Asia and Africa feted for its progress toward achieving those goals. It has a rapidly expanding economy and is one of the world’s major exporters of ready-made garments.

The world’s third most populous Muslim-majority country has also taken a strong stance against global terrorism and confronts any radical ideology that may fan its flames. During a recent three-day visit, German President Christian Wulff called Bangladesh a “stabilising force” in South Asia and commented: “Bangladesh is a key partner for Germany when it comes to tackling global challenges, including the question of how we can together contribute to improved understanding across cultural and religious boundaries.”

Bangladesh was previously the breadbasket of the region, earning it the name “Golden Bengal” in pre-industrial days. Its infrastructure was destroyed during the war of independence of 1971. In addition, natural disasters hit developing countries hardest and Bangladesh was recently identified by the Global Climate Risk Index as the country most affected by extreme weather events between 1991 and 2010. Unsurprisingly, the government is tackling global climate change, food security and poverty confidently.

In 2005, the poverty rate in Bangladesh was around 40 per cent; by the end of last year it had fallen to 31.5 per cent, putting the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy on a good footing to hit its goal of lifting 12 million people out of poverty by 2015.

So what is behind the poverty rate falling by almost a quarter in just five years? In a recent interview with The Washington Post, the Prime Minister attributed it to a combination of factors, saying: “We have been trying to find the root causes of poverty and how we could reduce it. We wanted to ensure food security so we put all our force into producing more food and also the distribution system so that food should first reach the poorest of the poor. Then we tried to create job opportunities for them in the rural areas. Now our farmers can open bank accounts with 10 taka [8 pence], a very small amount, and the subsidy we give goes directly to the farmer. So they use this money for cultivation and also it creates job opportunity.

“We also established one bank to create job opportunities for the younger generation. Without any collateral, they can take out a loan from the bank to start a business. I believe that educating our people will also help to reduce the poverty level. So our education is free up to primary level for everyone, and for girls it is free up to high school level.”

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Bangladesh-Accomplishment Beyond Expectation – The Times Supplementary-19 Dec 2011

Andrew Machaj, Sophia ShepoDd, Max Gajdel

Vincent Rifici

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