Bangladesh has experienced a steady economic growth and made substantial strides in meeting the millennium development goals (MDGs)) over the last two decades, but much more needs to be done to ensure inclusive growth if the country is to gain a middle-income status, experts said here.
They were addressing the opening day session of a conference on Bangladesh’s development challenges that kicked off in California, USA, on Friday.
The three-day conference, titled ‘Bridging the policy action divide: challenges and prospects for Bangladesh’ is being held at the University of California Berkeley by Bangladesh Development Initiative and the Centre for South Asia Studies of UCBerkeley.
Keynote speakers on the opening day included Prof Rehman Sobhan, Economist and Chair of the Center for Policy Dialog, (CPD), Dr Zaidi Sattar, Chair of the Policy Research Institute (PRI), Dan Mozena, American Ambassador to Bangladesh and Dr. Saad Andaleeb, former president of BDI and professor at Pennsylvania State University, USA.
The conference is being supported by MGH Group, a leading Bangladeshi business conglomerate, alongside USAID, the Asia Foundation and Southeast Bank.
Laying out the development challenges facing the country, the experts said improvements in education, infrastructure and communication, financial markets, and legal systems are needed to attract more foreign investment and encourage the emergence of domestic enterprises.
Besides, the problems of unplanned urbanisation and the need for environmental management must go hand in hand with growth and employment creation in a country that is one of the most densely populated in the world.
In the remaining two days of the conference, a number of scholarly papers will be presented by experts from top institutions, including Harvard and the London School of Economics with particular focus on the implementation of policy.
Dr Munir Quddus, President of BDI and a professor at Prairie View University in the US, said panel discussions are also being organised to address diverse topics of current policy interest, including mitigating corruption in Bangladesh; achieving high growth through inclusive development; gender issues; capital goods industry; regional cooperation; education reform; and environmental and urban challenges among others.
“The diaspora has a vital role to play, although many Bangladeshis living abroad are not as well known for their entrepreneurial efforts to serve Bangladesh: this conference will attempt to highlight the role of the Bangladesh diaspora as well,” said Prof Quddus.
Bangladesh Development Initiative (BDI) is a USA-based non-profit organisation comprised of independent scholars associated with institutions of higher education in the United States and involved in scholarly exchanges between the United States and Bangladesh through establishing educational programs, and organising conferences that debate policy prerogatives for Bangladesh and its various sectors.