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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Setting growth on higher trajectory

Shahiduzzaman Khan

The development partners have expressed their willingness to support the government in its efforts to work on the sustainable development goals (SDGs), implement the Seventh Five-Year Plan and help achieve its Vision 2021. They have suggested for improving governance, ensuring quality infrastructure development and upgrading regional connectivity for putting the country's economy on a higher growth trajectory.

At the end of the two-day meeting of the Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) in the city this week, the donors have, as the reports said, endorsed in principle, the goals and objectives of Seventh Five-Year Plan even though it has been termed ambitious on a number of counts. They have furthermore made assurances about providing support for infrastructure development as the country is facing a major deficit in this one key area.

Meeting after a lapse of five years, the donors whose representatives are included in the BDF -- previously known as Paris Consortium -- have in their recently-held meet have identified the areas of cooperation afresh to strengthen partnership for the country's development, in line with its national


Furthermore, the development partners have shown their interest in the government's plan of action for expanding the social safety nets. They have emphasised the need for enlarged and effective participation of the private sector, particularly through its active involvement in public-sector investment, for accelerating the pace of country's development.

The government, as the participants representing the development partners have noted, needs to be more pro-active about involving private sector on a large scale in various sectors for an increased level of investment and building its infrastructure for regional connectivity and cooperation for the desired economic uplift.    

The government, to mention, has set a target to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income nation by 2021. In order to achieve this goal, the development partners have emphasised the need for making sustained improvements in four areas. These include, skills development and education, climate change, malnutrition and stunting and active participation of women and girls in society.

It has rightly been noted that investing in the youth in order to enable them to receive quality education would meet not only the needs of the private sector but also those of the world economy that is moving forward. Eliminating malnutrition and stunting in children is vital as they cost Bangladesh $1.0 billion a year in lost productivity.

A broad agreement has been reached in this week's BDF meetings for the development partners to work, in concert with the government in the days ahead, to finalise a Joint Cooperation Strategy. Such a strategy will lay out in more details how the government of Bangladesh and the development partners can work together in pursuit of common goals, along with other partners such as the civil society and the private sector. All these, as the reports said, will be purported to supporting stepped-up poverty reduction efforts in Bangladesh and mainstreaming all segments of its population -- both women and men -- in the development process in order to facilitate them in realising their full potential.

In order to graduate itself from the status of a least developed country (LDC), Bangladesh has still to work in a number of areas. For this, more investments in energy and infrastructure development will be needed.

The donors have laid thrust particularly on making efforts to help build human capital. This is critically important for accelerating the pace of economic growth and reducing poverty to a substantial extent. For this matter, unrelenting endeavours will be required in health and education services' sectors that will also promote equitable development.

Strengthening governance, the rule of law, accountability and transparency; bringing reforms to the justice sector, building public sector capacity in terms of administration and financial management etc., are some other areas that have drawn the pivotal attention of all concerned in the BDF. These constitute the moot areas for deep-seated institutional reforms.

On this issue, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has suggested that Bangladesh should avoid regulatory forbearance, strictly enforce existing rules and strengthen governance and oversight of the state-owned banks. These measures are certainly expected to help strengthen the country's financial sector and stimulate credit, investment and growth.

Now that the agenda has been broadly agreed upon at the BDF, it is time for actions by the government. All concerned will look forward to such actions coming in a consistent way within a time-bound framework.

Source: The Financial Express, 19 November 2015

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