The last 14 years of the Awami League Government have been transformative for Bangladesh to say the least. Within this relatively short period of time, Bangladesh has gone from being a low-income and least developed country to a lower-middle-income-developing country. From pulling millions of people out of the clutches of poverty and exhibiting over 6.6% average economic growth to sheltering over a million displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar, the days of Bangladesh being in the headlines only for natural disasters are long gone … writes Kaliph Anaz
According to the IMF, Bangladesh is now the 43rd largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP while its position is 32nd in terms of PPP. It is also included in the list of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world. A projection by PriceWaterHouseCoopers foretells that Bangladesh will be the 28th largest economy by 2030. From ensuring sanitation facilities for all, to drastically reducing maternal child and infant mortality rates, the development success stories of Bangladesh are endless as is often touted in the WHO case studies.
To take Bangladesh’s growth and development to the next level, the Awami League government enacted the Bangladesh Economic Zones Act in 2010 establishing economic zones in potential areas to expand export-oriented industries and attract foreign investment.
Whereas previously the conversation surrounding Bangladesh was dominated by aid and donations, now it is more about the country’s remarkable transformation and the tale of empowering women, bringing hope to developing countries on poverty and extreme poverty reduction.
With the agenda for the promotion of universal and quality education, the Awami League government formulated the national education policy in 2010. To improve the quality of education, the total allocation for education was increased from $1460 million to over $6500 million. The country has been making progress on technical and vocational education training reform and access to higher education has been rapidly expanding.
The Awami League government has played a key role in policy and strategy development and implementation of health and nutrition interventions. Today, Bangladesh’s life expectancy is higher than other countries in the region. A number of new hospitals have been constructed together with the increase in beds and massive expansion of health care infrastructure. Bangladesh has made a stupendous success in pharmaceutical production. Drugs manufactured in Bangladesh are being exported to different countries after meeting 98% of the domestic demand
Since 2009, the Awami League government in the domestic market has created 6.3 million new jobs and the number of working women has increased to nearly 20 million. In 2011, the government formulated the national skill development policy for coordinating the activities related to skill development training and employment.
Power and energy are the main priority sectors of the current Awami League government. Back in January 2009 when they took office, the power generation capacity of the country was 4942 MW. Against this backdrop, the government prepared the power sector master plan with a coordinated development strategy for power generation, transmission and distribution and implemented various activities following this plan. The targets were to scale up power generation to 24000 MW by 2021 and ensure electric supply to all at an affordable price. Within 10 years, the number of power plants has increased to 180 from 27 and power generation capacity has now increased three times. Oil and gas exploration activities have been given a boost by the setting up of a gas development fund which has assisted Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited (BAPEX) in exploring oil and gas. The total number of natural gas fields is now 27 including the newly discovered gas field in Bhola. Natural gas is currently being extracted from 20 fields. The energy security fund has been established for ensuring energy security. The storage capacity of oil has been enhanced to 1.2 million metric tons from 0.8 million.
In the Communication sector, the emphasis of the Awami League government has been on laying out integrated modes of transport combining road, rail and waterways easing transport congestion. Safe mode of transportation is another area of focus. Dhaka-Chattagram National Highway, the Dhaka Mymensingh National Highway, the Nabinagar DEPZ Chandra highway, the Jatrabari-Kanchpur highway and many others have been converted into four-lane highways. The inauguration of Padma Bridge has made life easier for people of Southern areas of Bangladesh.
The government has developed sea, river and land ports for facilitating export and internal trade. The country’s 3rd sea port at Payra was developed and opened in August 2016 by prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Currently, a master plan is on the cards for developing a deep seaport there as well. Modernisation of the Mangla seaport, Benapole, Vomra and Nakgaon land ports have been completed. An inland container depot has been constructed in Pangaon near Dhaka.
10 growth-generating projects identified as “mega projects” have been brought under the special supervision of Prime Minister Hasina for rapid implementation. These are- the Padma multipurpose bridge project, Padma rail bridge project, Rooppur nuclear power project, Rampal coal-based project gram, Chattogram Dohajari to Ramu Cox’s Bazaar and Ramu-Gundum railway construction project, Dhaka mass rapid transit development project, construction of Payra Port, Matarbari ultra-supercritical coal-fired power project and construction of Maheshkhali floating LNG terminal project.
As a result of her initiative in climate and environment, prime minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade in 2015, “The champion of the Earth” and under her leadership, the Bangladesh constitution was amended in 2011 to include a constitutional directive to the states to protect the environment and natural resources for current and future generations
The Government of Sheikh Hasina has embarked on the mission to build a digital Bangladesh to transform Bangladesh into a technologically advanced nation and utilise the usage of information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool for development and sustainability. The country has come a long way today with more than 50 million people having access to mobile phones.
The current Awami League government’s goal is to ensure an adequate supply of safe and nutritious food and maintain adequate stock of food grain for emergencies.
Transformation of Chottogram:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently addressed a huge crowd at a rally in Chattogram’s Polo Ground on December 4. The port city has been transformed by the implementation of nearly all the major projects undertaken by the Awami League-led government during its three consecutive terms.
The city now harbours several flyovers, an elevated expressway, a ring road, a link road, and the Bangabandhu Tunnel beneath the Karnaphuli River. PM Hasina outlined the Awami League government’s ‘Smart Bangladesh’ plan as part of the party’s new election promise in the ‘ever-changing’ city. The projects undertaken by the government include the Bahaddarhat Flyover connecting various Upazilas (Sub divisions) of South Chattogram and Cox’s Bazaar with Chattogram city, the flyover from Battali station to Dhanialapara DT Road, the four-lane Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu flyover from Muradpur to Lalkhanbazar, the elevated expressway from Lalkhan Bazar to the airport, the four-lane outer ring road from Patenga to Sagarika which is connected to the Bangabandhu Tunnel, Bangabandhu Tunnel Project across the two banks of Karnaphuli, and the six-lane Bayezid Link Road leading to the Dhaka-Chattogram highway from the city centre, a mega project aimed at solving the problem of waterlogging in the port city. A feasibility study for setting up a metro rail network in Chattogram has also been approved. Chattogram city’s communication infrastructure has undergone major changes over the last decade. The construction of several roads has facilitated communication across the city.
BNP’s stand on development
As Bangladesh readies itself for its 12th national elections in the coming year, it is important to understand the state that the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is in. In the last general elections, the BNP failed to regain popular support. With most of its leaders and activists either in hiding or in jail, the party was almost invisible during the campaign and on the day of the vote. And most importantly, there was no outpouring of public sympathy for the BNP, because of its record of destructive politics.
While it is healthy for a country to have the ruling elite change regularly, change for the sake of change becomes a less attractive option for the people. The BNP wants to be in power but offers no explanation as to what exactly it would do – or change – once it forms a government. It failed because of its old and unimaginative leadership, its inability to present an inspiring agenda and carve out a new path for the country. The BNP does not appear to follow a particular ideology, and this makes it an even less attractive opposition force. From the outset, it was a hotchpotch of elements – leftists dissatisfied with the AL’s nationalism, rightists hankering for an Islamist revival, opportunists, and Pakistan-era establishment figures sidelined by the new rulers after Bangladesh’s independence. The main two campaign pledges of the BNP in the run-up to the 2018 election were to free its jailed leader Khaleda Zia from prison and to reform the election system. Apparently, very few people in Bangladesh care much about Khaleda Zia’s imprisonment. The general sentiment is that she and her family are corrupt.
In fact, recently while virtually addressing the celebration ceremony of the civil works completion of the south tube of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under Karnaphuli river in Chattogram, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina without mentioning the BNP said that there are some people in the opposition who are blind despite having eyes, she said, “They pretend not to see. They can’t do anything themselves. They can’t do anything in the future, even can’t give anything to the country.” “Yes, sitting in power, they can devour, smuggle money, smuggle 10 trucks of arms and syphon off money. They didn’t work for the people’s welfare, and even can’t do it in the future, this is the reality.”