We have entered a new year 2022 just four days ago leaving behind an eventful 2021. Bangladesh completed its 50 years of independence and victory last year. Last year was very challenging due to the turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a mammoth task to keep the economy on track while the whole world was facing adversities. But our government has done a pretty good job in facing that challenge and kept the development ongoing. But 2022 might bring in new and harder challenges while also carrying in some great prospects.
COVID-19 challenges can further escalate in 2022. Global COVID-19 scenario is deterring everyday with the emergence of omicron variant and a combination of omicron with delta variant named as del-omicron. The US, Europe and many other countries including our neighboring India is reporting thousand of new cases everyday. Bangladesh has also seen some sharp rises in the last few days in number of new COVID-19 cases and the situation will worsen soon in Bangladesh.
Though Bangladesh government has initiated the COVID-19 vaccination drive fast enough and right now we have enough vaccines to continue with this vaccination drive, we are still far behind. Now, on the face of the threat of omicron and delta variant, we have started providing booster dose to the senior citizens and front-liners but many are yet to receive even a single dose.Our vaccine suppliers will face huge demand of their own in the upcoming months and our failure to produce own vaccine or receiving patents from some foreign producers by now may hamper our vaccination drive.
The education of the young generation has taken a great hit by this pandemic. Students have just returned to their educational institutions on a limited basis and are already in threats on returning to their homes. Distant leaning can come out as the solution for several more months. Improving the mental conditions of these students will remain a challenge, especially the teenagers. These students might be exposed to drugs, terrorism, vandalism and other unsocial or unhealthy practices if their mental state cannot be improved. Educational institutions were shut down again from Monday in our neighbouring Indian state in Calcutta and that is alarming for us too.
The health sector may face severe turbulence. With our limited capacity, not only the future COVID-19 patients but also the people suffering from other diseases are going to face critical challenges. We are not really aware how prepared we are to face the next wave of this pandemic as with the lowering number of COVID-19 cases, we should not have put our guards down.
Economically, Bangladesh has performed well despite the COVID-19 threats. But we are highly dependent on remittance and RMG export. Both the sectors can take a great hit due to current spread of the pandemic globally. The impacts of Omicron have slowed businesses in the European and US markets. A persistent higher rate of inflation, the upward trend of the foreign exchange rate and a deepening liquidity crunch in the banking sector can come out as grave concerns in 2022. According to experts, none of these challenges are beyond redress but it will require strategic policy adaptation.
We will have our next general election at the end of 2023. Hence, this year will be very critical politically. The opposition parties will try to strengthen their position or even destabilize the country. With an economic downfall induced by the next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic or global economic condition, it will be very easy to create domestic political turbulence. Terrorism and fundamentalism can also be on rise with so many dropped out students and financially constrained families. Moreover, international factors will also be in the play.
During the last part of 2021, it became clear that though we were celebrating the 50 years of our victory, the global forces are still conspiring against us. Our position in terms of geopolitics is very critical in the region and our relations with our global partners are of utmost importance. Democracy in Bangladesh has been often questioned throughout the last decade by those who remained silent against autocratic government induced genocides in Myanmar or the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Human rights issues were brought into the play by those whose law enforcers are often charged for racist acts. We cannot avoid those actions of global parties but we need to be on the right course while staying alert.
Already, the US sanctions linked to the country’s human rights situation have caused a lot of annoyances for the government on the external front amid no major breakthrough in repatriating over one million forcibly displaced Rohingyas to Rakhine state in Myanmar. While the sanctions can be multidimensional, the punitive measure was a signal for Bangladesh to be compliant in the areas of trade and commerce, labour laws, human rights, income discrepancy and environmental issues ahead of its journey as a developing nation from 2026. The country’s expanding ties with China and Russia have also gone against the interest of the US in the Bay of Bengal. The US sanctions might complicate the management of the external sector in the coming days.
All these happenings require us to stabilize our position domestically. As our democracy has been questioned repeatedly and Bangladesh was not invited in the first Summit of Democracy on December, 2021, we must ensure democratic practices in our country. From the current political situation, it is very hard for democracy to prevail as political trust was shattered by the county’s greatest opposition parties on several occasions. Hence, earning people’s trust by providing them some comfort and reducing their burden will remain important.
This can be achieved by simple measures as controlling the price of commodity products, reducing tax burdens on middle income people, transforming the law enforcing agencies into friends of people, ensuring rule of law, ensuring freedom of speech, ensuring law and order etc. Otherwise, we might face have the same fate as countries like; Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan or some other African countries.
With all those challenges, we have some bright prospects too. Bangladesh turned into the role model of development during the last decade. Few of our large infrastructural development projects along with some other projects will be launched this year, which will definitely boost our economy. As 2023 will be the election year, the government must finish these projects, even if forcibly, by 2022 irrespective of the COVID-19 pandemic. If not, the good works of the government will go in vein. Fortunately, we are on right course till now.
Moreover, we are strengthening our grip in the field of information technology. Bangladesh is becoming a large market for outsourcing. Now we need to focus on need-based human resource development. If we can take initiatives to turn our young generation into solid human resource, not only we will be able to sustain our progress but also will be able to maintain domestic stability. The government should really focus on that. Facing the hardest of adversities, we have not slipped. We can really hope to continue with that trend.
With timely and effective measures and policies, Bangladesh can really live up to everyone’s expectations. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been our beacon of hope for the last decade. Bangladesh have come far under her valiant leadership but both internal and external conspiracies remain against our progress. Hence, a solid strategy is required to face future hurdles. But we believe Bangladesh will prevail despite all challenges. We hope 2022 will be the year of a positive changes and fast progress.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela