Almost all, especially those who determine policy matters of the country tend to stress more about physical infrastructures for higher growth, but no less important is human development. Bangladesh needs to focus both on physical and social infrastructures; sustainable growth can’t be achieved by neglecting one.
Rather, it will remain elusive. Bangladesh is now bent upon to become a middle income nation by 2021. But this goal will remain unfulfilled if we fail to develop the skill of our manpower at global rate.
Buildings, highways, bridges, ports and power plants etc. can be defined as physical infrastructure while education and healthcare are some examples of social infrastructure. A country may have all kinds of good roads, railways, waterways, air links and beautiful production line but if it does not have skilled workers or social infrastructures these will remain just buildings – static and unworkable. If we do not develop human resources, increase their efficiency, effectiveness and skill what are we to do with physical infrastructure? Similarly, if we have all kinds of social infrastructure but no way of marketing our goods and services no way of mobility from one place to another and no way of connectivity then it will not work. So investment should be made both in physical and social infrastructures in a balanced way so as to achieve sustainable development and graduate from lower middle income country to middle income country by scheduled period.
According to UN Human Development office Bangladesh ranked 142 in 2016 out of 188 countries. Rather than focusing on ranking, we should look at the value of Human Development Index (HDI). In 1990, the value of HDI in Bangladesh was 0.386 which reached o.612 in 2016 registering a rise of around 50 per cent. No wonder it is a big jump. But it is not all about the sign of human development. The rank may change or not, depending on how others are doing.
It is worth mentioning that life expectancy and female literacy rates in Bangladesh are better than those of India and Pakistan, while the under-five child mortality and school dropout rates are lower than those countries. If we take all these factors into consideration we can say that we have done a bit better in translating our income and economic growth into human lives and human welfare compared to India and Pakistan. But does it mean that we have attained the cherished goal? No, because it is a relative term.
Development, given the idea of UN Human Development Office and internationally renowned analysts, should be of the people, for the people and by the people. Development of the people means enhancing the capabilities of the people, development for the people suggests fruit of prosperity should be equitably distributed among different groups of people and development by the people attributes to people’s active participation in decision making process which transforms the development matrix. Elaborating or broadening human development can be defined as the enlargement of choices of the individuals concerned.
Everyday people make choices in different fields, for example, political choices, social choices and cultural choices. Besides, we make different choices at individual level, at the community level and at national level. So, we perceive development as a process of enlarging these choices. But to enlarge choices or options one needs to have proper capabilities. We have to have competencies of picking up these choices. We have to have better health, better education, political space and inclusive culture as well. On the other hand of the equation is opportunity. Say, we have attained our capabilities but there are very limited opportunities, whether it is in terms of participation in job markets or participation in the social and political arenas. So, we don’t have opportunities in real sense.
Although Bangladesh is now envisioning of emerging as a major economic power by attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within 2030, three aspects can make a real difference, and here women empowerment comes first. Whether it is in social life or human life, women have a very important role to play. It is true that there exist glaring discrimination, cultural and social norms that go against women empowerment but we must put our utmost efforts to overcome these impediments. Women are prudent investors than their male peers – a fact proven in many parts of the world. For example if we give a certain amount of money to a needy man, the first thing he is likely to do is either buy a motorbike or buy a cell-phone or to do something else. If we give the same amount of money to a woman, she will first buy food that is more nutritious for her children and secondly, she will send them to school.
The second thing that will make difference in Bangladesh in terms of progress is the vibrant existence of civil society and non- governmental organisations. It is not the NGOs in traditional sense. The media, the academics and the research institutions are a part of civil society. Finally, creativity and innovation would be a driving force for the economic growth and human development of ours. The youth must equip themselves with right type of skill. In a globalised world there has been a lot of opportunities open for younger generation if they equip themselves with quality education and right skill. The right skill is not only a good education from a renowned institution. It is something more. Nowadays, if we want to work at a globalised workplace, we have to have appropriate knowledge and a grasp of global things – what is happening in the different parts of the world – that is also a part of our knowledge base.
Accelerated GDP growth and high per capita income are not all about human development nor do they reveal the real economic condition of the masses in general. They are one of the yardsticks used in measuring the economic scenario of a country. It is human development or HDI that determines the real economic condition of the people. So, we must invest in people. Nobody can empower anybody. It is we empower ourselves and disqualify ourselves.
The writer is a retired Deputy General Manager (BSCIC), Khulna. Email: email@example.com