2023-09-16 17:36:08 BdST
Bangladesh with 'miraculous' growth is an 'unsung' dev success story: British chief economist
Chief Economist and Director for Economics and Evaluation Directorate in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Professor Adnan Khan has said they consider Bangladesh as a major "unsung" development success story with "miraculous" growth that is often not told around the world.
"It's a major unsung development success story. It's a miracle story. But it's also a story that is often not told around the world. I've also been telling the story of the miraculous growth wherever I have been in my career," he told UNB in an interview at the residence of the British High Commissioner on Wednesday.
Prof Adnan, who has focused his career on advancing the understanding of development economics, political economy, entrepreneurship, and public sector reform, said they hold Bangladesh’s accomplishments as a great example for other developing countries.
"From extremely challenging circumstances, Bangladesh has grown to be a miracle story. And the miracle is not just in terms of economic growth, we all know the story, but also reflected in other dimensions - human development and access to education help other dimensions," he said.
The chief economist said in some areas Bangladesh has done extremely well compared to all of South Asia and most developing countries like access to education and female labor force participation and marginalised sections.
Prof Adnan who has taught at Harvard Kennedy School and has also been an Academic Director at the School of Public Policy, said big success brings its own challenges to future success.
"It brings huge opportunities, not just challenges. So, to make further prprogress, it requires meeting new development challenges," he mentioned.
To make further progress, Prof Adnan laid emphasis on having quality education and quality healthcare services.
He said future growth will require highly skilled population, not just educated population, future progress requires identifying a targeted social protection programme that efficiently identifies who is in poverty and who needs what kind of support.
"To efficiently deliver this is the next stage of challenge. Similarly, readymade garments, we all know the story. There are still potential to make further progress with scaling up value chain," said the economist.
"So, if Bangladesh has the potential to become either a Malaysia or a Vietnam, it needs to do a little more to meet these challenges," he added.
Prof Adnan said domestic revenue mobilisation is one of the major challenges that needs to be addressed.
"It is also about spending that money on the right type of public projects, what we call public investment," he said.
Prof Adnan said the average tax to GDP ratio of developing countries around the world is 10 to 15% of GDP.
The average tax to GDP ratio of developed countries is 30 to 35% of GDP.
The tax to GDP ratio in Bangladesh is around 7.6% which is below the average of 10.7% for middle-income countries.
As Bangladesh is going to be an upper-middle income country, it will need high levels of revenues to deliver high-quality public services, he said.
The British economist said the key to improving taxation lies in the effectiveness of the state in providing public services.
He said countries that do well on domestic revenue mobilisation, do not face fiscal deficit, or budgetary deficits and do not then have to go to for external support
"So it's good for fiscal macro balance. It is also important for making high quality public investments, roads, bridges, infrastructure, health, education," said the economist.
Prof Adnan believes that Bangladesh has huge potential rght now though it is also hit by global shocks.
"So the circumstances are also tougher outside. However, in my opinion, the opportunities far outweigh the risks," he added.
The economist said the government realizes the nature of the challenges and it remains very open. "They're also keen to also learn from other countries through knowledge sharing."
Responding to a question on development partners' role, he said the emphasis is shifting because the needs of Bangladesh growth are also changing.
"For a country that is graduating has done so well. What it needs is less direct financial support, the more in terms of policy and technical support, because with the right policies, right institutions, Bangladesh is one of those countries, one of the few countries in the developing world that can attract a lot of international investment," Prof Adnan said.
He was also part of the UK delegation that held 5th Strategic Dialogue with Bangladesh in Dhaka this week.
Bangladesh and the United Kingdom are considering signing a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) on economic cooperation.
He, however, did not elaborate on it.
Expressing satisfaction at the record-breaking bilateral trade of $6.4 billion in 2022-23 and $561 million FDI from the UK, the highest from any country in 2022, Bangladesh and the UK agreed to create new institutional cooperation to promote business, trade and investments.
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