BANGLADESH DEVELOPMENT FORUM 2018 HELD

BANGLADESH DEVELOPMENT FORUM 2018 HELD

BANGLADESH DEVELOPMENT FORUM 2018 HELD

February 1, 2018

BY TAHMINA ISLAM

After a gap of more than two years, Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) was held for two days in January in the capital. The BDF consisting of Bangladesh and its development partners, is a platform to discuss the country’s development process. The third event of its kind, BDF 2018, evaluated the progress of the country’s 7th Five Year Plan 2016-2020, aiming to set a trajectory of inclusive and sustainable growth.

BDF 2018 provided an excellent platform for the government and its development partners and other stakeholders. The forum was hosted by the Ministry of Finance and inaugurated by the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The keynote session chaired by the Honorable Finance Minister A M Abdul Muhith, focused on the Implementation of the 7th Five Year Plan (FYP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The keynote session was followed by eight sessions which discussed the different goals and priorities of the 7th FYP and the SDGs.

BDF 2018 IN SUMMARY

In the discussions spanning over two days, a number of issues has come forward as relevant for the inclusive and comprehensive growth for the country. Chief among them is Bangladesh’s strategy in garnering support as it graduates from Least Developed Country (LDC) status to achieve the SDGs and the goals it has set up in the 7th FYP.

Bangladesh is set to achieve the qualifications of moving out of the Least Development Countries (LDC) category at UNSCAP’s 3 year review meeting scheduled to be held in March 2018. Though a reason for celebration, the transition will also bring about challenges as preferential market access will be revoked and Official Development Assistance will be shifted to more needy countries.

The meeting concluded that it is important to plan in advance how development partners will evolve to support Bangladesh as it graduates from LDC status. It is also important to ensure that the country can bear the costs of continued development.

In the statement issued jointly by the Government and the development partners, Bangladesh has been identified as a leader in achieving the SDGs by assigning goals to government ministries who incorporated them into their respective operational plan.

However, unlike Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were mostly funded by the government, the SDGs need to be largely funded by the private sector of which FDI is a major source. Thus, more effort needs to be put in making the environment friendly and attractive, for the growth of private sector.

CHALLENGES

The Forum identified that resource mobilization, improving governance, and forging relationship between relevant parties are three factors that are highly important to implement the 7th FYP and the SDGs. On top of mobilizing resources, it is also vital to ensure that said resources are being utilized with meticulous planning. Importance of the rule of law and creation of an accountable and transparent system was also emphasized by the Forum.

Other key challenges include overcoming the gap that exists in the development of infrastructure, transport and communication, adoption of innovation and digitalization, and diversification of export.

The Forum has also stressed the importance of eradicating inequality, lowering poverty rates and reducing regional disparity as crucial for the development of Bangladesh. The government has to continue its effort in human resource development particularly in providing basic health services, ensuring quality education; training and skill development to achieve the goal of creating a knowledge based society.

The Forum also regarded enhancing women’s empowerment as a critical factor to ensure economic growth of the country. Implementing the existing laws and policies, increasing their participation in the labor force, and improving their access to productive resources are some ways to ensure women empowerment.

WAY FORWARD
To keep continuing the pace of development, investment outlook for the private sector needs to be improved significantly. Government has to provide sufficient infrastructures including power. The flow of FDI needs to increase and diversify. If a one-stop service for business investments is introduced by Bangladesh, it can be a breakthrough in the area of competitiveness

Activities related to social developments, including health and education, should remain the core area of the development policy along with increased coverage of the social safety net programs to address extreme poverty.

A major limitation to expanding industrial development in Bangladesh is limited access to capital market by the enterprises. Local capital market has shallow access to international capital market due to poor sovereign credit ratings and currency risks. It should be under consideration for raising capital for enterprises for building productive capacity.

Bangladesh should also explore the possibilities of taking advantage of non LDC specific trading arrangements such as the various GSP schemes for the developing countries or seek to negotiate trade agreements in order to avoid MFN tariff rates.

The forum also highlighted the importance of strategic alliances to facilitate the development of country as it graduates out of LDC status.

There can be no development without any challenges to overcome. If challenges are critically analyzed and strategically planned for, they can be turned into valuable opportunities for development of progress. Despite the challenges that Bangladesh is to face in the way of attaining the SDGs and the goals set in the 7th FYP, with proper policy development, planning and appropriate financing these goals are attainable.

The two-day event ended on a positive note as the government and its development partners pledged to strengthen relationships for further growth and development of the country.

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