Bangladesh: The Democracy Dividend

Published : 01 Nov 2023 06:22 PM | Updated : 01 Nov 2023 06:22 PM

Stability, Progress, and Prosperity under the Awami League's Leadership

Bangladesh, a populous nation of 170 million people, has been making

remarkable strides in both its development and democratic principles in recent years.

Under the adept and visionary leadership of the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL), in power since 2009, Bangladesh has transformed itself into a stable, prosperous, and progressive nation, garnering immense praise and admiration from the international community.

The robust democratic fabric of Bangladesh stands as one of its greatest

assets and achievements. Unlike many of its neighbors, Bangladesh has maintained a stable and peaceful democracy since 2009, with the practice of regular elections and peaceful transfers of power being a cornerstone of its political landscape.

This thriving democracy has enabled Bangladesh to enhance its governance

structures and significantly improve its human rights situation, essential components for sustainable development. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh has notably elevated its ranking in the Worldwide Governance Indicators. These indicators encompass critical dimensions of governance, including voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption. Furthermore, Bangladesh has demonstrated substantial progress in reducing violence and repression, particularly against religious minorities, women, and journalists. The country has also diligently ratified most of the international human rights treaties and conventions, establishing various institutions and mechanisms to safeguard and promote human rights.

The impact of Bangladesh's democracy extends beyond its borders,

influencing a pragmatic and balanced foreign policy approach. This has bolstered the nation's regional and global standing, maintaining positive relations with key nations like India and China, its largest neighbors and significant trading partners. Bangladesh has also shown active engagement in various multilateral forums, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). Notably, Bangladesh has taken a leadership role in addressing global challenges, from climate change and terrorism to migration and humanitarian crises.

The democracy dividend has proven to be a catalyst for Bangladesh's

economic growth, propelling it to be one of the fastest-growing economies globally, averaging about 6% per year since 2010, as reported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Simultaneously, the country has achieved remarkable social development indicators, such as reducing poverty from 31.5% in 2010 to 20.5% in 2020, improving health and education outcomes like increasing life expectancy from 69.2 years in 2010 to 72.6 years in 2020, and narrowing the gender gap in primary education from 4.4% in

2010 to 0.2% in 2020. Bangladesh has also diversified its economy, moving beyond dependence on agriculture and garments, to developing new sectors such as pharmaceuticals, information technology, shipbuilding, and leather.

Investing in human capital is fundamental for long-term development and

productivity, and Bangladesh recognizes this. Human capital embodies the knowledge, skills, competencies, and attributes critical for personal, social, and economic well-being.

Bangladesh has been dedicating efforts and resources to invest in human capital, increasing public spending on education and health. World Bank data shows Bangladesh's public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP grew from 2.1% in 2010 to 2.6% in 2020. Similarly, public expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP increased from 0.9% in 2010 to 1.2% in 2020. These investments have translated into tangible improvements in literacy rates, school enrollment rates, life expectancy rates, infant mortality rates, maternal mortality rates, immunization rates, and nutrition status.

These commendable achievements underscore that Bangladesh's

democracy dividend is primarily a result of the BAL's leadership and vision, which have propelled Bangladesh into a model of development and democracy in South Asia. The BAL has delivered on its promises of good governance, human rights, a pragmatic foreign policy, economic growth, human capital investment, and social development. The BAL has encountered various challenges and limitations on its democratic journey, overcoming them through further reforms and improvements.

In stark contrast, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has emerged as a

negative force in Bangladesh's democracy and development, resorting to violence and sabotage to undermine the BAL's achievements. The BNP has consistently failed to offer any credible alternative or constructive opposition to the BAL's policies and programs.

The BNP, which held power in Bangladesh from 1991 to 1996 and from

2001 to 2006, carries a legacy marred by allegations of corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, and human rights violations. The party has also been associated with violent and extremist groups, such as Jamaat-e-Islami, which opposed Bangladesh's independence and committed atrocities during the Liberation War. The BP's involvement in several acts of violence and sabotage against the BAL government, including hartals (general strikes), arson attacks, bomb blasts, and assassinations, further tarnishes its image.

Recent incidents like the clash between BP supporters and police in

Dhaka on December 8, 2022, resulting in casualties, or the protests in August 2023, are testimony to the BP's propensity for violence and disruption. Such actions indicate the BP's lack of commitment to democracy and development, aiming instead to create Chaos and instability in Bangladesh, potentially impeding its progress and prosperity. This approach also threatens to tarnish Bangladesh's international reputation and cooperation with other countries.

In summary, Bangladesh's democracy has emerged as a significant asset,

playing a pivotal role in its progress and prosperity. The diligent and visionary leadership of the BAL, combined with active citizen participation, has propelled the nation's trajectory forward. To sustain this democracy dividend and secure a prosperous future,continued support for the BAL and the rejection of disruptive elements like the BNP are imperative. Bangladesh's steadfast commitment to democracy will be pivotal in maintaining its trajectory of growth and development, ensuring it remains a shining example in South Asia and beyond.

Yakub Ali, Entrepreneur and Columnist.