Vision 2041 Bangladesh

Vision-2041: Bangladesh turns a developed country

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The present government has been putting its efforts for last several years to build Bangladesh as a developed and resourceful country and has been trying to go forward with this mission with various plans in hand. The government has taken up the year 2041 in special consideration with the resolution to build Bangladesh as Sonar Bangla (Bengal of gold) as was dreamt during the war of liberation. Already Governments’ long-term development plan called Vision- 2041 has been approved by the National Economic Council (NEC). The Planning Commission of Bangladesh has approved it at a meeting of the Commission entitled: Translating the ‘Vision-2041’ into reality held on 25 February, 2020.

We have already stepped into the year 2021, but so far no significant discussion was held on this gigantic plan during the last one year. This important issue remained unobserved to all mainly due to Covid-19 pandemic situation in 2020. Ample discussions, seminar, symposium, workshop and so on will certainly follow on the issue in future through which this gigantic plan will go through thorough changes and revisions. Its strengths, weaknesses and potentials will be highlighted through presentation of new information and insights. We, too, however, make attempts to understand the trends of Bangladesh economy and we can also through discussion try to realize the 198 page planning document and its contents: what is there in it and how have those have been presented in it.

Two main themes have been laid at the foundation of the Vision- 2041 as its corner stones: first, Bangladesh will be a developed country with more than $12,500 per capita income and second, Bangladesh will become the Bengal of Gold where poverty will be a forgotten history, a long past memory. On the way to translating these dreams into reality, there will be a lot of changes during the forthcoming two decades in the style and working pattern in agriculture, industry, trade and commerce, education, health, transportation and communication and so on. Emphasis has been given on this matter that benefits of these changes taking place serially shall be distributed among all strata of the society. The Vision-2021 Context Document has been detailed in 12 chapters. The first chapter of this Vision- 2041 contains a title: “Towards a high income economy. In Chapter I under title: Beginning with Enthusiasm, to build a poverty and hunger free, corruption and exploitation free rich country Bangladesh which was the dream of the Father of the Nation throughout his life as the target to begin with. In order to translate this dream into reality, the target to be achieved for average growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country has been fixed at the rate of 9.02% per annum over the coming two decades. As a result of growth at this rate, Bangladesh will become an upper middle income country by 2031 with national per capita income of $3,271. The population of Bangladesh in 2041 will be 210.3 million (21 crore 3 lakh) with an annual per capita income of $12,500. Population under extreme poverty with $ 2.16 daily income will be reduced to only 0.68%. On the other hand, poor population with $3.20 income per day will be only 2.59%. This may be described as an incident which is like making impossible possible. In order to achieve this target, commitment has been expressed to work on strategic activities including developing export oriented industrialisation, increasing agricultural productivity, expansion of urbanisation, skilled petroleum and infrastructure management and skilled manpower development and so on.

Chapter II of the Vision-2041 includes commitment for ensuring institutional foundation and good governance. This plan is dependent upon four fundamental pillars including: good governance, democratisation, decentralisation and capacity building. Improving the qualitative standard of the political institutions is being looked after with care. In the Vision-2041, firm resolution has been expressed to develop financial institutions just as in the much talked of book entitled: Why Nations Fail the need for inclusive financial institutions has been mentioned repeatedly. In regard to judicial system, it has been said that one has to carry out one’s duties independently with honesty and competence adding that only then it will be possible to establish good governance and bring about development without discrimination in the country.

Chapter III has been entitled: Structure of collective economy for accelerating inclusive growth towards a high income economy. In this chapter, specific year-wise targets have been fixed for achieving over the coming two decades for collective economy related issues and factors including real sectors (such as financial sectors like GDP, inflation, investment, population); financial sectors (revenue collection, development expenditure); debt related (internal and foreign debt flow); external economy (remittance flow, import-export, exchange rate, current account balance); currency related (broad money, neat asset). For instance, it can be said that at present contribution of direct tax in revenue income is 30% only which will hit 50% by 2041. It has been mentioned that digital technology based revenue administration will be developed. Investment profile will be 46.88% which is currently 32.76% only. By the year 2041, export income will increase to as high as $300 b from present $50 b per annum. In an interview Dr. Akbar Ali khan said, over the last 49 years, ‘Many an indicators of poverty have been missing from Bangladesh’.
In continuity of this trend, firm resolution has been expressed towards building a poverty free Bangladesh by the year 2041 in Chapter IV of Vision-2041. The SDG principles have been taken as source of inspiration, not as a means to overtake others. We have to understand that tomorrow’s labor market will be skill based. That’s why to ensure access of the poor community in the future changing labor market, they will be developed as skilled manpower. With a view to reducing income discrimination/gap in the society, one of the future state machinery’s important jobs will be to improve debt market, ensure equitable distribution of wealth/ resource, and expansion of social security belt for the poor community.

According to UNDP’s Report 2019, with a human development indicator score at 0.614, Bangladesh’s position is 135th in the world. Needless to say, it’s an urgent and important task to bring about improvement on this indicator.

In Chapter V entitled: ‘Earning human development and geometric dividend through quality education’ the work plan for establishment of knowledge based economic structure has been discussed. Decisions have been taken to increase expenditure in health and education sectors for expansion of universal healthcare services, technical and vocational education etc. In education and health sectors, the amount of expenditure in public sector had been 2.0% and 0.75% of GDP only in 2019 respectively which will be increased to 4.0% and 2.o% respectively.
In the developed countries of the world, contribution of service sector does comprise usually 70-80% in GDP, but in our country contribution of service sector was 51.82% only in 2019. On the way to development, the transformation of our economy will take place from agriculture to industry sector. This will necessitate, among others, coordinated application of interrelated trade and industrial policies.

To this end, in Chapter VII entitled: ‘Industrialization, export diversification and employment generation in the world order’ commitment has been made toward elimination of infrastructural barriers, improvement of skill standard of the labor force, conducting innovative research at every stage of production, improving trade environment, financing through public-private-partnership (PPP), and ensuring climate resilience. At present, power and petroleum sectors have marked considerable improvement. 5,823 megawatt power generation in 2010 has reached to 18,961 megawatt in 2019. In the coming years demand for power and petroleum will no doubt increase considerably. By the year 2041, demand for power in Bangladesh is likely to increase to 51,000 megawatt.

Chapter VIII entitled: ‘Sustainable Power and petroleum for a high income country’ explains how Bangladesh will gain the capacity to produce 56,734 megawatt power by 2041, according to strategies detailed in this chapter. During this period, nuclear technology will add to the power sector. In 2041, arrangement for fuel will be like: gas-35%, coal-35%, nuclear-12%, liquid oil-1%, vapour-1% while the rest 16% shall have to be imported. In this chapter, plan has been drawn to create an innovative economy for Bangladesh through nourishing an ICT and scientific research by 2041. It has been committed in this chapter that existing 35.7% ICT accessibility of the people will be increased to 85% in 2041, thus enabling Bangladesh to acquire 20th position in the world.
Chapter X has been entitled: ‘Construction of transport and communication infrastructure for continued speedy growth’. In this chapter, slow pace of project implementation has been identified as the biggest challenge. In the coming days, to enrich export storehouse, import of heavy machinery and required raw materials will be needed. Speedy and timely inflow of products as well as external communication will also be necessary for Bangladesh. Other needed actions will include: MRT and metro rail connection, inter-city communication, increasing existing 25-30 km/h speed at highway corridor to 80-100 km/h, upgrading all rail lines to broad gauze system and setting up modern traffic signal system, upgrading shipping anchor day and gang shift, upgrading navigability by improving through dredging, river training and construction of embankment; setting up additional run way and taxi way at the airports, gradually realizing levies/service charge etc from the users of the highways in coming two decades.

Urbanization and development are very deeply and positively related to each other. Due to high density economy the urban areas will function as the main driving force of growth. Like the developed countries, 80% of Bangladesh’s total population will live in urban areas by the year 2041. That’s why chapter XI contains this matter under title: ‘System of urban changeability in a high income economy’. Already government is advancing with “My village my Town” policy under which work is going on to expand all urban facilities to the village. Commitment has been expressed to carry on with urban development plans centering round each district in place of Dhaka centric development. Large-scale public and private investment will be increased to improve urban air quality, public transport, and sewer and drainage systems.

In chapter XII, efforts for climate resilience issue has been detailed under the title: ‘Uncovering a dynamic lively deltaic land, ensuring sustainable environment development and development of a climate resilient nation and the potentials of a Suneelorthoneeti (Blue/Ocean economy)’. It has been mentioned that swelling of tidal surge, salinity, flooding, river erosion, and sea tidal surges have been the order of the day in Bangladesh since long which are a barrier to our development. Under the formulated delta plan-2100, priority has been given on accumulation of blue ocean economic resources (fish, sea-weed, mineral resources etc) in this Vision-2041.

Context Planning is undoubtedly a well written ambitious development document. Maybe, to the conscious mind, some incompatibilities might be found as well. Twenty years from today, some hopes and aspirations might remain unachieved. Honorable economists will, probably, come forward with some criticisms, questions and even self-criticisms in various ways. In the limited scope of this article I don’t want to deal with such issues. On the contrary, let us be self-confident, especially by viewing the past success stories, especially, the Padma Bridge, Metro rail, Karnaphuli tunnel, and nuclear reactor/power station that highly strengthens our self-confidence.

The Context Planning 2021-2041 is basically a strategic statement of development vision, objectives and goals of the government toward achieving an enriched and prosperous Bangladesh within a period of two decades only and these will serve as guide/pathway blueprint to implementing the same. And following this guideline, we will gain a developed, enriched and prosperous country Bangladesh by the year 2041.

Abul Quasem Haider
আবুল কাসেম হায়দার

সাবেক সহ সভাপতি এফবিসিসিআই, বিটিএমইএ, বিজিএমইএ , বেসরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় সমিতি, প্রতিষ্ঠতা চেয়ারম্যান ইস্টার্ন ইউনির্ভাসিটি ও ইসলামিক ফাইন্যান্স এন্ড ইনভেস্টমেন্ট লি:, অষ্ট্রেলিয়ান ইন্টারন্যাশনাল স্কুল, আবুল কাসেম হায়দার মহিলা কলেজ সন্দ্বীপ, চট্টগ্রাম, সাবেক সিনেট সদস্য ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়।

তিনি আজীবন সদস্য : এশিয়াটিক সোসাইটী বাংলাদেশ, বাংলা একাডেমী, চট্টগ্রাম সমিতি, সন্দ্বীপ সমিতি ঢাকা ।

লেখক দৈনিক আজকের আওয়াজ ও সাপ্তাহিক প্যানোরামা সম্পাদকের দায়িত্ব পালন করছেন।

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