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Enterprising Bangladesh – Innovative and Industrious

29 April 2019

The industrious, enterprising people of Bangladesh can certainly take credit for lifting their country out of the Least Developed Country (LDC) category as defined by the Community for Policy Development (CDP). Economic growth has surged under the leadership of Sheik Hasina  who swept to power  when her party, the Bangladesh Awami League, won a landslide election victory in 2018 for a 4th term.

Photo: Participants of the Visit Bangladesh 2019 Programme

The indicators for health, education, women’s economic empowerment and gender mainstreaming equality and growth have shown positive, directly linked to the reduction in the poverty rate from 40% to 14%, lifting 40 million people out of poverty. There has been an exponential growth of media. 33 private broadcasters, 4 government, 21 radio stations, 17 community based, 1200 print titles and 30 000 online media platforms.

    

Photo (l) Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and (r) Minister of Information Dr Hassan Mahmud

It could be argued that water is Bangladesh’s most precious resource, innovative crop variation and flood resistance farming; rural development has allowed the country to mitigate climate change. Bangladesh is now a food exporter and the 2nd largest garment manufacturer in the world.

Dhaka, the capital with a population of 20million has become a construction site as the city is in dire need of infrastructure to maintain the levels of growth and cater for the burgeoning middle classes. Bangladesh has a population of 167 million people and is the most densely populated countries in the world. 1115 people live in a one square kilometre area.

                         

 

 

 

The country came into being under astounding circumstances brought about by the deadly colonialist policy of divide and rule. It began with the partition of the Indian sub-continent and the creation of a country for Muslims, Pakistan and East Pakistan (Bangladesh). It was Sheik Mujibur Rahman who began a resistance movement against Pakistani rule. It was Pakistan’s imposition of Urdu over the native Bengali that was the cause of the 1971 Indo- Pakistan war as Pakistan tried to supress the uprising resulting in a cruel war which Bangladesh terms a genocide against it people.

Photo: A wreath laid by Prime Minister of Bhutan

‘Was Bangladesh meant to be a country?’ remarked a member of the delegation participating in the Visit Bangladesh 2019 program. 47 academics, journalists, authors, and travel writers including a former ambassador were given an opportunity to witness a country in transition.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Shuvo Noboborsho’ greeted the delegates on the first day of the tour. It was Bengali New Year, a colourful celebration across the religions and a clear statement of Bangladesh as a secular, vibrant nation. The Bhutanese flags and pictures of Prime Minister Lotay Tshering who was on an official 4 day visit to Bangladesh were displayed on the streets en route to Suhrawardi Park, the main venue for the New Year celebrations.

The Bangabandhu Memorial Museum is the home of Sheik Mujibur Rahman, widely regarded as the founding father of Bangladesh. The home is well preserved, displaying the personal effects of Mujibur Rahmn and his family. It also demarcates the bullet holes and the precise spot where the assassination took place during a coup de tat.  The coup wiped out many members of Rahman’s family except for Sheik Hasina, the current Prime Minister and her sister Sheik Rehana who were in Germany at the time. Sheik Hasina returned to the country in 1981 after a self-imposed exile in India.

A meeting with journalists at the National Press Club, a tour of the East West Media Group and an interactive session with the Minister of Information Dr Hasan Mahmud left a clear indication of a free press in Bangladesh.

 

The Rohingya Refugee camp in Cox Bazar on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar is a serious concern for Bangladesh. The conditions in camp for people who are displaced seem reasonable as many aid agencies and international donors have made living conditions for the refugees bearable. According to the refugees representative committee they want to go back home to Myanmar and the Bangladesh authorities will be happy for them to return home.  Bangladeshi’s fear that the burgeoning camp of a million people poses a threat to the growth and development of their country.

Square Pharmaceuticals founded by Samson H Chowdhury and 4 friends in 1958 has grown into a diversified group of companies employing 28000 people and an annual turnover of U$D 600 million. The conglomerate has expanded into textiles and fashion and media and telecommunications among others. The Company has become exemplary of the economic success the country has achieved.

Shinepukur Ceremics in Sarabo, Gazipur is another sterling example of a Bangla company with a global reputation. The production of porcelain and bone china products for export has earned the company many accolades. It has also gained the company exclusive contracts for corporates, organizations and even royal households.

Meant to be or not, Bangladesh has certainly built a nation with a recent history and people with resolve and belief in their country. Its development indices have outperformed some of the countries in the region. It is well on the way to becoming a middle income country and beyond.

With thanks to the officials of the External Publicity Wing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh.

K Bhana

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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April/May 2019

 
 
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