Transformations in Bangladesh in The Last Decade

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Introduction

From 2009 to 2023, Bangladesh has undergone a dramatic transformation. The country has experienced improvement and growth in its economy, healthcare, communication and infrastructure. The level of improvement and the rate of growth in every economic sector is remarkable. The last decade of Bangladesh is the decade of development and fulfilment of the long-standing dreams of millions of people and the rise of Bangladesh as a model in the world. The following are glimpses of Bangladesh’s improvement.

Economy

The economy of Bangladesh has transformed significantly and has seen sharp upward growth since the Shiekh Hasina government took power in 2009. In 2023, Bangladesh observed improvement in almost every economic indicator, ranging from overall economic growth to minimum wages for workers as compared to 2006.

In 2006, the economic growth rate was 5.4%, whereas in 2023, it stands at 7.25%, and the growth continued even in the drastic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both nominal and PPP per capita income increased five times since 2006. The nominal per capita income increased from 543 USD to 2793 USD, and the PPP increased from 1724 USD to 8779 USD.

In terms of GDP, Bangladesh was the 64th largest economy in the world. Bangladesh has improved 29 steps to become the 35th largest economy in the world in 2023. In 2006, the GDP size was 47.7 billion USD. In 2023, Bangladesh saw a dramatic 12 times increase in its GDP size, which is 578 billion USD. Similarly, the budget size also increased by 12 times compared to 2006, when it was only 7.01 billion USD, whereas it was 87.56 billion USD in 2023. Remarkably, the inflation rate decreased in the same period from 10% to 8.89%. From 2019 to 2021, the inflation rate was below 6%. Due to the Russia-Ukraine war and global recession, the inflation rate has recently increased.

Before the tenure of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves were below one billion USD. However, the amount increased 36 times to reach 30.83 billion USD in 2023. The growth follows in annual remittance income, which increased six times in 2023 (4.8 to 24.03 billion USD). Export earnings also improved during the same period (10.05 billion USD to 52.97 billion USD). Similarly, the import costs also increased from 14.7 to 82 billion USD.

In 2006, the government of Bangladesh could allocate only 2.47 billion USD for the annual development programme. This sector experienced a staggering 13 times larger allocation in 2023, which is 31.57 billion USD. Government investment (at the rate of GDP) also increased from 22.78% to 32.05%. Foreign direct investment also increased from below one billion USD to 3.48 billion USD during the same period.

A remarkable improvement is observed in the purchasing power of an agricultural labourer. An agricultural labourer could buy only 3.5-4.5 Kg of rice with their daily income, whereas the amount increased to 10.5-11.5 Kg in 2023. The increase is almost three times compared to the year 2006. Minimum wages for workers also rose by seven times. In 2006, the minimum wage was only 16.80 USD per month. But in 2023, a person can earn a minimum of 115 USD per month.

Health

The current government, under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has taken some great initiatives to develop Bangladesh’s healthcare system and improve the overall health of the people.

The current government has increased the number of government hospitals in Bangladesh. In 2006, the total number of government hospitals was 33579, and now the number is 71000. Additionally, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established 14984 community clinics all over Bangladesh. This initiative is widely recognized. The United Nations recognized the initiative of Sheikh Hasina and declared it as ‘The Sheikh Hasina Initiative’. The government also established more Upazlila-level hospitals so that health care can be brought to the rural people of Bangladesh. The number of Upazila-level hospitals increased from 208 to 431. Additionally, the government established seven more specialized hospitals within the same time frame. Due to the establishment of more government hospitals, people now have greater access to healthcare with low expenditure.

With the aim of providing more doctors, nurses, and medical technologists, the government established more government and private medical colleges and nursing colleges and institutes. The number of government medical colleges increased from 12 to 37, and private medical colleges increased from 24 to 72. The number of nursing colleges and institutes increased from 31 to 99 during the tenure of Sheikh Hasina. As a result, the number of doctors, nurses and medical technologists increased threefold. For instance, the number of doctors in government services increased from 9338 in 2006 to 30137 by 2023. Similarly, nurses in government services increased from 1362 to 44357, and the number of medical technologists increased from 1988 to 6264. As the number of doctors, nurses, and medical technologists increased, the quality of healthcare service also increased, and now, more people are getting services from the healthcare system.

The impact of such development on the healthcare system is evident in Bangladesh. The human life expectancy rate has increased substantially from 59 years to 72.8 years. On the other hand, the infant mortality rate decreased from 84 persons per thousand to 21 persons per thousand. Similarly, the number of maternal mortality cases decreased from 370 persons per thousand to 156 persons per thousand.

The development in the health sector was truly reflected during the years of COVID-19. The government of Bangladesh utilized its vaccine diplomacy to import vaccines from many countries. Bangladesh has vaccinated more than 70% of its population. Remarkably, the country surpassed many developed countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, the US, the UK, Sweden, and Switzerland in terms of fully vaccinated percentage of population. The death per million due to COVID-19 was only 172, which is less than many developed countries that have advanced technologies, adequate resources and workforce to address COVID-19. The success of combatting the pandemic lies in the decade-long development process in the health sector under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina and her proactive approach to vaccine diplomacy.

Infrastructure

Bangladesh has come a long way in terms of infrastructural development. The development is evident in the education sector, health sector, defence sector and communication sector.

The overall length of highways increased three times compared to 2006. The length increased from 12018 km to 32678 km by 2023. Similarly, the length of rural roads increased from 3133 km to 237446 km, which is a staggering 76 times more compared to that of 2006. The length of total railways also increased from 2356 km to 3486 km. The capacity of Biman Bangladesh has also increased. In 2006, there were only 11 aircraft in the fleet, whereas the number was 21 in 2023. It should be noted that previously, aircraft were old and dilapidated. However, the current government brought some new state-of-the-art aircraft, such as the Boeing 747-8.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken an infrastructure initiative named “Ashrayan” in order to rehabilitate landless and homeless families. The total number of families brought under this project is 8 lac 41 thousand 623. However, the actual number of beneficiaries is about 42 lac 80 thousand 115 people.

The current government has established 92 high-tech and software technology parks. Ninety-seven economic zones were established, and a total of 100 are in progress. Additionally, the number of garment factories increased from 4600 to 7176.

The government also accomplished some notable mega-projects for the overall betterment of the mass people. One such project is the Pdma-Mulitpurpose Bridge. This 6.15 km long bridge was a long-standing dream for the people from the southwestern region of Bangladesh as it connects the region with the capital of Dhaka and the port of Chattagram. The bridge brings improvement for the 60 million people of the southwestern region.

In order to meet the electricity and power demands and increase the use of renewable energy, the government of Bangladesh established the 2400 MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Rooppur, Pabna. The power plant will achieve the government’s goal of zero carbon emissions in the power sector.

Another notable mega project is the Matarbari Deep Seaport. It is the first-ever deep seaport in Bangladesh, situated in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar. The aim of establishing this port was to increase port capacity and international trade. When fully operational, the port is expected to hold 8200 container ships. It is going to add 1.14% to the GDP annually.

To increase connectivity in the port city of Chattagram, the government established the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the Karnaphuli River. The aim was to build the concept of “One city, two towns” by providing increased road connectivity between the two banks of Karnaphuli river. This underwater tunnel is the first in South Asia and the first-ever tunnel route in Bangladesh.

To improve commuters’ experience and reduce traffic congestion in the capital city of Dhaka, the government established the first-ever metro in Dhaka city and Dhaka Elevated Expressway projects. The metro accommodates 60000 passengers per hour and 677000 passengers daily. The government wants to add five more metros by 2030. On the other hand, the Dhaka Elevated Expressway will connect Dhaka with Chattagram and North Bengal. It will accommodate 320000 passengers daily.

The government has taken the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Third Terminal project to increase the capacity and the standard of the current airport. It will handle 12 million passengers annually. After coming to full-fledged operating capacity, the airport will handle twice as many freight and passengers annually.

Conclusion

Compared to the data of 2006, Bangladesh managed to improve in almost every indicator. The overall economy flourished, the healthcare system improved, and the infrastructures developed. Under the current government, life expectancy and the overall quality of life also improved. People are now dreaming even bigger. The government is working tirelessly to bring new dimensions and improvements for the people of Bangladesh.

The most impressive thing about this decade-long transformation is that the beneficiaries are the mass people of Bangladesh. The development spread to almost every corner of the country. For instance, the poverty rate decreased from 41.51% to 18.7% as well as the extreme poverty rate decreased from 25.1% to 5.6%. Currently, there are no landless and homeless people in the 21 districts out of 64 districts in the country. It is the result of the revolutionary “Ashrayan” project of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

During the trying times of COVID-19, the world saw the well-managed health care system of Bangladesh. The world also recognized the efforts and successes of the Bangladesh government and how it helped to minimize the destructive impact of COVID-19. The government brought vaccines door to door. Overall, the death rate and damages were far less than in many developed countries.

The revolution in the communication infrastructure is evident in the accomplishment of projects like the Padma Multipurpose Bridge and Dhaka Metro. These were once dreams for millions of Bangladeshi, but now these are real, and people are enjoying the fruits of these projects. The Padma Bridge brings hope and opportunities for millions of people from the southwestern region of Bangladesh. Dhaka Metro enable people to buy time literally as they can now commute from one end of the city to another within less than one hour.

Other projects such as paving highways, Rooppur Nuclear power plant, Matarbari Deep Seaport, Economic zones, and Karnaphuli tunnel have direct and indirect impacts on the economy and betterment of the people of Bangladesh. It is clearly evident that the transformation brings strong and positive changes to the lives of Bangladeshi people.

– Dr. Md. Shariful Islam is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA), Dhaka, and an Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Rajshahi.

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