When we pick up a stylish shirt from a smart shopping centre in a foreign country, and the label states ‘Made in Bangladesh’, we feel proud. When our farmers ensure our food security, we feel grateful to them. When school enrollment of both boys and girls around the entire country is on a steady upward curve, hope springs up in our hearts. When remittances from our migrant workers boost our foreign exchange reserve, we raise our hands to salute them. There are innumerable reasons why we Bangladeshis can be proud of ourselves as a nation and why we can foster a dream for a bright future.
First of all, we know that our land is so fertile. Even in our dusty concrete cities, plants grow out of old walls, weeds sprout up between the pavement slabs and no matter how cruelly we chop down the trees, they just spring up again. So it is no surprise that our farmers can produce such golden grain in abundance to feed all of us. It is not an easy task to achieve food autarky, but we’ve achieved it. Is that enough? Shouldn’t we push further to go beyond this limit?
As various incentives, in the form of cash, training, equipments and advanced farming technology, are now provided to our farmers, they can take their production one step ahead, both in quality and quantity. We can be self-sufficient in food production, have a surplus stock and export as well. It’s not a pipe-dream, it’s possible. With government’s support and private sectors’ initiatives, our agriculture alone can take Bangladesh to new heights.
Secondly, our readymade garment industry has introduced us to the developed countries in a new way. We are the second highest readymade garment exporter, coming after China. The industry provides employment to nearly five million workers, and has spurred on several small businesses in the sidelines. The readymade garment sector contributes to almost 80% of the country’s total export earnings. It has created a revolution in women’s employment, and empowerment, with more than 80% of its workers being women. That is no small achievement. Yet we can do so much in this sector as well.
So far the readymade garment industry has limited itself to lower and mid-level outlets, failing to catch the lucrative high-end market. But that market is there, waiting to be captured. With a little initiative, marketing, training and fine-tuning of the production line, the high-end market can be ours. Already our entrepreneurs have ventured into this realm and I think it is just a matter of time when ‘Made in Bangladesh’ label will upgrade itself from high-street fashion to haute couture.
Thirdly, we have already crossed the low-income threshold and entered into the mid-income bracket of nations. Can’t we do more? Are we being too ambitious? Surely not. We can feel inspired by the countries such as South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, even Vietnam and Cambodia. They have come so far and achieved many things. Can we? We can borrow the ‘Obama catchphrase’ and chant in unison, “Yes we can!”
Fourthly, our primary school enrollment numbers are impressive. What is of essence now is enhancing this quantity with quality. Schools must promote creativity and prepare the young minds for the world out there. Basic literacy and numeracy must be perfected. Liberal arts, sciences, business studies, vocational training and other branches of higher education must be par excellence. Only then our dreams can be transformed into reality.
Last but not least, innovation is another vital key that can open the door to development. Of course, perhaps the most vital key is good governance. Good governance, or lack of it, can make all the differences. With a dynamic, efficient and corruption-free government at the helm, we can make miracles.
(The writer is an under-graduate student of International Relations, University of Rajshahi.)