From ‘bottomless basket’ to development miracle

Published : 18 Apr 2023 07:24 PM | Updated : 10 May 2023 05:38 PM

Sikder Md. Zinnurain

Bangladesh secured independence by shedding the blood of several million people in the Liberation War in 1971. The heroic sons of this soil made the supreme sacrifice to protect the rights of the people. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was at the forefront of the struggle for liberation from the Pakistani regime; he led the Bengali nation to the right path to snatch freedom through the Liberation War against the notorious Pakistani force.

Bangladesh was a prospective and prosperous county from the very beginning of its birth. But those who stood against the country and its people during the war could not accept Bangladesh’s independence and progress. They tried to discredit the country every chance they got. The then secretary of state of the United States, Mr Henry Kissinger, topped the list of those people. When he visited war-torn Bangladesh in 1974, he called the country a ‘bottomless basket’, the worst term Bangladesh has ever been tagged with.

Standing on a war-ravaged economy, the Bangabandhu devised a five-year economic development plan. And before the introduction of the five-year economic plan, he orchestrated the formulation of a constitution for guiding Bangladesh in the right path. But the brutal murder of the Bangabandhu along with most of his family in the fateful night of August 15, 1975, under a blueprint of international and local conspirators, halted the development journey. Those who grabbed and clung to state power in the subsequent two decades after the August carnage, did everything possible for them to malign and discredit the Bangabandhu and protect his killers.

Fortunately, Bangabandhu’s two daughters – incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana – survived the massacre as they were in Germany at the time with Hasina’s husband. However, she faced immense barriers put by the military regimes to her return home but finally got to the country on May 17, 1981.

In 1996, Sheikh Hasina, the chief of Bangladesh Awami League, came to power for a five-year term with the people's mandate to rule the country. She was then voted to power for three consecutive terms – from 2009 to 2023. While in power, she employed her knowledge and wisdom and resources to fulfil her father’s long-cherished dream of turning the country into a Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal). Her government has been implementing numerous development projects. Bangladesh is not very far from being a developed economy.

The country is doing well in many development indicators. The foreign exchange reserves with the central bank swelled to a colossal figure of 48 billion US dollars while per capita income has increased to 2,814 US dollars, literacy rate to 74 percent, and average life expectancy to 73 years, higher than that in India and Pakistan. Bangladesh ranks second in apparel exports, and 3rd in both food production and fish production while its pharmaceutical industry has found a good place in the global market with its pharmacos exporting medicines even to highly-regulated markets like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Electricity is another success story of once power-starved Bangladesh with cent percent of its population being connected to the grid. The country is now generating 15,000-16,000 kilowatts of power a day and the production is increasing with every passing day. Such a growth in electricity generation has given rise to the establishment of industries even in remote villages. The whole country has been brought under a strong road communication network. Around a hundred economic zones are being established all over the country. And Bangladesh has dared to undertake and implement mega projects like the Padma Bridge, Metro rail, Karnaphuli tunnel, 25,500MW Rooppur nuclear power plant, Payra seaport, Metarbari deep seaport under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership.

The Padma Bridge, built at cost of Tk 30,000 crore with Bangladesh’s own financing that manifests the country’s financial strength, is benefiting the most the people of 21 districts in the southern part, where small and medium industrial units have started to be established. The bridge will add 1 percent to the national GDP. Our development partners like China, Japan, the USA, the UK, Russia, India and other countries are extending their hands of cooperation in a bigger way while institutional development partners such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and IMF are offering loans with easy terms and conditions. Foreign entrepreneurs are coming to Bangladesh with huge investment.

Thriving Bangladesh attained MDG goals well ahead of the schedule and are marching towards the attainment of SDG goals. The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) of the UN has proposed recognition of Bangladesh as a developing country and it will take place in 2026.

Under the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has already been recognised as a world leader, Bangladesh has secured a bigger piece of pie in international politics with global powers like China, Russia, the USA, the UK, Japan and India giving it greater priority. The country is performing better than India and Pakistan in several indicators, including health, sanitation, women empowerment, industrialisation, and reduction in neonatal and maternal mortality deaths. Bangladesh could successfully tackle the Covid-19 pandemic due to its strong health management and proper strategy.

Bangladesh’s national budget keeps growing since the first one, which was Tk 5,000 crore only. The amount was 523,190 crore in 2018-2019 financial year and rose to 568,000 crore in 2019-2020, 636,810 crore in 2020-2021, and 678,064 crore in 2021-2022.

Bangladesh is moving forward with an indomitable spirit. Our prime minister has envisioned turning Bangladesh into a developed country by 2041. And the development march has wowed even Pakistani rulers, who have started praising Bangladesh and its leader. They now realise what blunders their predecessors made by imposing a war on Bengalis and resorting to genocide in 1971.

Pakistanis have realised their mistakes by observing the development magic of Bangladesh under the daughter of Bangabandhu, have Mr Kissinger? He owes Bangladesh a sincere apology for his notorious ‘bottomless basket’ comment.

- The writer is a college principal, poet and columnist