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Bangladesh Marches Ahead

Bangladesh, which is known to create headlines mostly for the wrong reasons, has been an outstanding success story – a story that has not been told properly and completely to the global audience. The South Asian country has come a long way – silently but steadily – during the last 44 years of its existence, in fighting poverty, child mortality, illiteracy, malnutrition, gender parity and health. It is a country that has been battered by military rule, devastated by famine, challenged by natural disasters – cyclone, floods and draughts.

However, the country of 152 million people has now become self-sufficient in food-grain production – from being a country of acute food shortages in the 1970s – when its population was less than half, or 75 million.

Although the country’s vast population that are squeezed within a low-lying landmass of 144,000 square kilometres have their share of misfortunes – it nevertheless stands as a good example of progress and prosperity.

The country’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has already crossed $1,190 – jumping more than three times in two decades when it has reduced poverty and extreme poverty while increasing primary and secondary enrolment and reducing literacy – it is currently on its way to become a middle-income country by 2021 when it celebrates its Golden Jubilee.

Despite having its share of challenges and disasters – both natural and man-made ones – Bangladesh has succeeded in meeting most of the goals set by the United Nations under the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs). Moreover, the country is now shifting government services towards online platform under the Digital Bangladesh programme. It is also expanding physical and soft infrastructure to accelerate GDP growth to 8-10 per cent.

Bangladesh’s present government is working on to build new roads and highways, expand the existing ones, build metro railways as well as build new power plants to help facilitate growth and people’s movement.

The country is expected to generate 24,000 MW power by 2021 – to help manage the growing demand, when the Dhaka Metro project will become a reality. Nearly 10 million Bangladeshis live, work and do business in foreign countries and they collectively remit more than $14.75 billion to the country every year. More than 1 million Bangladeshis live in the UAE and they own more than 20,000 business entities, employing nearly 100,000 people

It is a country of moderate Muslims and today stands as a good example of a democratic nation with a pluralistic society. It is a rare Muslim country that has sustained parliamentary democracy amid mounting challenges.

However, despite these positive achievements, the country’s image continues to suffer. International and public perception about Bangladesh has not been very positive ­– except for Professor Muhammad Younus’ Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and a few occasions where Bangladeshi Tigers upset the leading cricketing countries.

The country’s people – starting from the average person to its top leadership – lack marketing and public relations skills. Branding is almost alien to a country that has done so well in socio-economic indicators. However, most Bangladeshi nationals themselves are not aware of these positive developments.

Bangladesh Special Report is an attempt to try and change the perception of a country on the move. In this issue, we have tried to rely on credible statistics and reports released by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations.

Some of the facts are mind-boggling and will surprise readers, including even Bangladeshis.