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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Open Sky: Message of Kaushik Basu for Bangladesh

Biru Paksha Paul

Economics can turn into an inspirational story if the economist deals the subject with passion and insight.  That is what Professor Kaushik Basu did while examining the strengths and weaknesses of the Bangladesh economy. His strong assertion for globalisation could create both debate and determination toward the gradual acceptance of the market economy.  He compares globalisation to gravity, stating that it is there and it will be there whether you like it or not. The wise way would be to invent a way to turn gravity to our favour. Water flows downward by its intrinsic property, he further states. Smart people will convert that property into hydroelectric power. In the same vein, Dr. Basu sees the sources of strength for Bangladesh, such as the demographic blessing and geographic location, that could take advantage of the benefits of high, effective demand and connectivity. 
The Chief Economist of World Bank, Professor Basu, delivered a public lecture on December 13 in Dhaka. He asserted that what Bangladesh has achieved over the last four decades is nothing less than a fascinating development story. The country was once doomed to fail but it has emerged from  ashes with steadily rising growth. Social indicators are not perfect, but the major numbers exceed those of many other developing nations including India - an emerging giant whose per capita income is almost 1.5 times higher than Bangladesh's.
This implies that if Bangladesh's per capita income catches up with India's per capita, Bangladesh will be placed in a more advanced position than the latter in almost all social indicators, indicating the country's leading role in protecting the poor. Professor Basu's visit has been instrumental in changing the relationship between the current regime and World Bank. 
When journalists catapulted arrows of criticism on how the World Bank handled the case of the Padma Bridge, Dr. Basu instantly congratulated the Government of Bangladesh on undertaking the mega project with self-financing capacity.  Kaushik applauded Bangladesh for moving ahead with its dream project without fear, almost echoing Rabindranath's verses, "Where the mind is without fear, where the head is held high ..."
Although the acrimony between the two parties had taken place before Dr. Basu joined the World Bank, he did not disown any incidents of the past.  Rather, he viewed the matter from a positive angle by asserting that a good outcome may often show up after bad history. Professor Basu ascertains that the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and the World Bank has now reached a new height of mutual respect. And Bangladesh has earned that status by spearheading the titanic project with unflinching determination. No one ever thought that the Senior Vice President of World Bank would be so effusive in brightly painting a developing nation like Bangladesh. Our country gained both morally and psychologically from Dr. Basu's visit to Dhaka.
The day the Prime Minister inaugurated the construction of the Padma Bridge also marks the day the Chief Economist of World Bank landed in Dhaka.  The confluence of the two circumstances may appear intriguing.  Some were curious as to why the two events occurred simultaneously. But there is no connection between them. Primarily, Kaushik Basu is the guest of Bangladesh Bank.  The central bank invited Dr. Basu much in advance as the chief guest of an international workshop held in mid-December, and Dr. Basu honoured the call from Governor Atiur Rahman. 
 Gradually, Dr. Basu's programme began to unfold, comprising various high profile meetings including ones with the PM, Finance Minister, and Planning Minister.  They were all impressed by Dr. Basu's wisdom to read the inner strength of the Bangladesh economy. Professor Basu places enormous importance on patriotism and the country's united spirit and thus, paid homage to Bangabandhu, who he considers to be a visionary and a great leader.  While meeting the Prime Minister, Kaushik did not forget to mention his mother, who was originally from Jessore.  And thus he could convince our leader about his candid feelings for Bangladesh. 
Dr. Basu was very enthusiastic about the rural economy and to learn about financial inclusion, an essential strategy Bangladesh Bank has been campaigning for to promote inclusive growth and consequently, sustainable development.
Kaushik Basu sees Bangladesh as being on the cusp; lying between moderately high growth and the actual takeoff. Seldom have we seen such optimism and econometric rigour in the analyses of even local critics. Basu claims that few countries of the world were fortunate enough to maintain an average growth of 6-plus percent for 12 years, as maintained by Bangladesh. 
When Basu speaks, economists listen to both his diction and predictions. Basu's economics is both statistical and inspirational since this game theorist sheds light on moral qualities. Basu's main message for Bangladesh is to ensure that this takeoff happens by investing in infrastructure and accelerating growth in a balanced, inclusive fashion. Kaushik Basu believes that a vibrant Bangladesh will soon turn into a marvelous development model – a story that will radiate awe and inspiration on the globe.

The writer is chief economist of Bangladesh Bank.  

Source: The Daily Star, 22 December 2015

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