50 years after independence, Bangladesh emerges as development role model

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka, Mar 26 (efe-epa).– Bangladesh celebrated its 50 years of independence from Pakistan Friday as a development role model with a remarkable economic and social transformation that helped it to move from where it began as a war-ravaged nation in 1971.

Once dismissed as a “Basket Case” by the then United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the South Asian country rose from the rubble to show progress in all key economic areas, especially in improving the quality of life of over 160 million population.

Zaheda Begum, 70, of Chauddagram in the eastern Comilla district, lost her husband in the early 1980s, with nothing left to feed her four children.

“We spent many days half-fed after my husband died. We did not have any land or savings. My elder son was just seven. My brother took him to live with him. The rest of us survived on alms,” Zaheda said.

Her life changed after she sent her youngest son Abu Rashid to Saudi Arabia in 2001.

She said she spent taka 100,000 ($1200) to fund his travel, all as a loan from relatives.

Rashid soon repaid the loan and started sending money to his mother for their living.

He returned home in 2008 with enough to build a house, launch a furniture business and start his own family.

Her other son Abul Hashem now works in a shop in a Dhaka supermarket and earns enough to feed his family and support his mother.

“I married my daughters off. We don’t have too many things still. But we are happy,” she said.

Zaheda is just one of the millions who moved out of extreme poverty to build a decent life in independent Bangladesh over the past five decades.

“Many factors have contributed to our poverty reduction,” said economist Hossain Zillur Rahman, the chairperson of BRAC, a nonprofit in Bangladesh.

“Our production in agriculture increased. The poor got the chance to get involved in economic activities through microcredit,” he said.

More than 80 percent of the population was below the poverty line in the 1970s.

But a World Bank study showed poverty came down from 48.9 percent in 2000 to 24.3 percent in 2016.

The massive economic activities that took Bangladeshis out of poverty got reflected in other human development data.

Life expectancy rose to 72.32 years in 2018 from 46.507 years in 1972, according to World Bank.

“Our achievement in five decades post-independence is a matter of pride for us,” said Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of independent think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue.

“Once Bangladesh was a test case for development,” he said, explaining that development was possible everywhere in the world if it happened in Bangladesh.

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