They say a steady job growth through increased private investment is crucial to sustain this progress.
Saturday was the first day of a two-day conference organised by Bangladesh Economists Forum (BEF) in the capital’s Radisson Blu Hotel.
Organisers say the forum hopes to always actively participate in the country’s policymaking.
Sussex University Professor Michael Lipton, who presented the keynote paper in the opening ceremony, said Bangladesh had made astonishing achievements in economic and social development indicators.
The country has an enviable success in food production, he said.
In his paper, ‘Farming, food and fertility: Why has Bangladesh done better than expected? Can it continue to do so?’, the economist said since 1990, the country had achieved not only growth but also a reduced gender and income gap, improvements in health, nutrition and education.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith in his chief guest’s address echoed Lipton, saying Bangladesh was a “land of impossible attainment”.
“When Bangladesh was born, people said a lot of things. Some called us a bottomless basket. But we were ready. We have shown them how to overcome a lot of hurdles and barriers,” he said.
“But it’s true that where we are right now, there is no alternative to raising private investment to create employment,” the minister said.
“We’ve tried in the last five years, but private investment is stuck right where it was. I’ll call this a failure,” Muhith conceded.
Centre for Policy Dialogue Chairman Rehman Sobhan said the economy had made significant progress in the last quarter of a century and now policymakers must find out how to make this sustainable.
“We have to optimise what capital we have through intelligent planning,” he said.
He reminded fellow economists of the sustainability risks of economic achievements in the long term.
The finance minister said sustainable development was not possible by the central government.
“For sustainable development we need to strengthen the local government. The population has to be turned into a skilled workforce,” he said.
Muhith said the economy recently faced some new challenges like infrastructural underdevelopment and political unrest.
“These have had a terrible effect on production,” he said.
The conference, BEF’s first, has the title ‘Vision 2030: A Framework for Economic Policy Making and Strategy Formulation in a Pluralistic Democracy’.