With both great challenges and prospects, we entered into a new year, 2024. Bangladesh, which had rapid development during the past decade, is currently experiencing severe economic difficulties along with the rest of the world as a result of the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza, Russia-Ukraine conflict, the impact of post-COVID-19 pandemic, and both national and international political power struggles. Furthermore, the country will receive a new government after the 12th National Parliamentary Elections on January 7. But, despite several internal and external challenges,this New Year may bring forth a lot of opportunities as well if political stability and good governance prevails.
Considering the past national and local government elections, the 2024 elections have seen comparatively little pre-electoral violence this far. But there are still threats of post-electoral violence. Moreover, the anti-liberation forces are still active and they occasionally receive backing from other opposition parties, such as the BNP, in order to advance their political goals.This tendency may create new challenges given the desperation of the opposition parties.
Moreover, there are several foreign powers who were actively involved in effort to divert the course of the upcoming election. These foreign forces may also patronize instability to fulfill their own interests. Economic sanctions and other measures can also be taken against the country. Hence, the newly elected government will need to adopt strong diplomatic strategies to offset any such influence as well as to maintain stability in the country.
Furthermore, 2024 will be a year full of economic challenges. Bangladesh will have to return enormous loans with capital and interest over the course of the next ten to fifteen years. Several loan repayments have already started. Bangladesh has loans with China, Russia, India, Japan, World Bank, ADB, IMF and few others and their repayments start soon and the new government has to provide extra focus on that while trying to keep the nation on a progressive route.
Bangladeshi economy is under serious pressure right now due to heavy inflation, increasing commodity prices, depleting foreign currency reserve, heavy spending on the development works along with countrywide mammoth network of corruption. Moreover, the global economic depression due to COVID-19 pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war and now the Israeli genocide in Gaza is making the situation worse. Our development partners are also feeling the heat. Additionally, the requirement of investment in SDGs in the upcoming years to become a middle-income country by 2026 will create additional challenges. Nevertheless, Bangladesh is on the right track till now andwith good governance and political stability , we can continue with this progress.
Bangladesh has been able to show unimaginable success in achieving the SDGs. Bangladesh scores 65.9% on its current index. As per the Sustainable Development Report 2023, Bangladesh is in 101st position out of 166 countriesand ahead of India and Pakistan in South Asia. Bangladesh also ranked 46th on the Spillover Index with a score of 97.8, indicating positive accomplishments.But to continue with the progress requires heavy investments.
Bangladesh need to reach all the goals stated in SDG 17 irrespective of what is going on internally and externally. Hence, achieving SDGs will remain a task full of challenges not only in 2024 but also in 2025 and 2026. Along with full commitment of the government, everyone must perform their assigned role from their respective positionsand all producers, entrepreneurs, and the media, must collaborate on a single platform to achieve those goals successfully.
We will have to face the obstacles of global war economy in the upcoming years also. Currently there are 55 active armed conflicts in 38 countries and such armed conflicts may increase in 2024 as the patrons of war economy will keep reaping benefits from such conflicts. As we cannot control much of the external factors like; how the US will support Bangladesh in the upcoming years under the rule of the new government, we need to strongly control our internal loopholes like; taking strong actions against corruption as well as market syndicates to controlthe increasing expenditure immediately.
In addition, Bangladesh needs to maintain a balance in its connections with other foreign nations. Since we want reliable development partners, we cannot overlook outlining our position to the world in light of recent international developments. Regional politics will be very important. Strong ties with our largest neighbor India, however, may be beneficial, but doing so will require an unwavering commitment to sustain domestic stability. Moreover, the new government needs to put more emphasis on freedom of expression, secularism and human rights especially that of the workers in the RMG sector as per the recommendations of ILO and our development partners,as we often face foreign pressure to ensure workers rights. These will ensure the countrys progress while achieving the SDG 17.
The government in recent past had concentrated on preventative measures like expanding food production, encouraging investment and remittances, and cutting import in preparation for a crisis. But, prices of raw materials are rising across industries on the global market. According to many predictions, 2024 will be a perfect storm for businesses. But these difficult moments will always come and we need good governance to overcome those.
While we need to continue with measures to encourage foreign remittance, we also need to focus on keeping our money inside our boundary. We cannot deny the fact that, huge money,obtained by individuals through legal or illegal process inside the country,is being laundered abroad. If this money drains out of the country, our economy will keep suffering.
Notably, our taxation process is highly abusive to the citizens and the tax officials often create troubles for the taxpayers as a part of the corruption. Hence, people are keen to channelize money abroad. We need to create a provision through which if an individual invests in some particular sectors, the source of the fund will not be challenged. With such provision, we can create a hassle-free environment to boost investment, curtail money laundering and improve taxpayer-regulator relations. Moreover, we need to ensure transparency in our banking sector as the people are losing trust from our banking institutions with heavy corruptions reported often.
Not only in 2024, but also during the next few years, we need to focus on progressive economy. The new government,immediately after assuming office,needs to declare a 100 days plan, 1 year plan and 5 years plan upholding the economic priorities while ensuring maximum benefit for the people. The new government must act hard to eliminate corruption, control money laundering and establish transparency in the banking sector as we cannot imagine where we could have been without those menaces. Within the first 100 days of the government, they need to take some serious actions so that, the people are convinced about the governments good intention.
Additionally, we need to focus on promoting business diversification to cope with the global and regional challenges.We also need to focus on human factors. The government must control the market of commodity products. Moreover, we need to ensure a supportive administration at all endsto improve the human indices. More and more people must be brought under reliable and effective social security programs. The prosperity must come for all, not only for a selective group.
For the new government, the overall scenario will be very challenging as they cannot take a pause and need to continue with the works of the last government with a much faster pace. Even with all the challenges, our goals are still achievable if political stability and good governance persists in the country. Hence, we hope not only the government but also the citizens from their own positions will contribute strongly to ensure political stability as well as good governance throughout the country for the greater benefits of all.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla