2023: Challenges & prospects for a developing Bangladesh

Published : Tuesday, 3 January, 2023 at 12:00 AM

We entered into a new year 2023, a year with possibly both great challenges and prospects. 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 Russia-Ukraine conflict, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and international political power struggles. Furthermore, with only a year until the approaching 12th national parliamentary election, political groups may even commit atrocities, increasing the nation’s vulnerability. In addition to all of that, this year might bring forth a lot of optimism for the country. Thus, 2023 may triumph over all challenges to improve the wellbeing of the populace.

The forthcoming general election will cause political tensions that will be felt by citizens in 2023. Political parties started stepping up their efforts to engage with the public in the latter half of 2022, and we may expect a rise in political activity in the coming year. As the current ruling party, the Awami League, has been in power for 14 years running, the opposition party will attempt to amplify instability in the name of restoring democracy. Furthermore, pressure from foreign governments�which are more interested in Bangladesh as a result of its development and geographic location in the region�could worsen political instability. The Bangladeshi government may find it harder to maintain equilibrium as the world shifts to a bipolar power balance.

In Bangladesh, the anti-liberation forces are still active and searching for new strategies. They occasionally receive backing from other opposition groups, such as the BNP, in order to advance their political goals, and this tendency may continue given how desperate the opposition parties are right now. However, the risks of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority nation will increase if the anti-liberation forces win political power. These forces will attempt to intensify their operations and wreak havoc in the nation during this period of political vulnerability. If that occurs, not only will our reputation be ruined in the eyes of the world, but several foreign nations will be able to intervene, which would be disastrous for the nation.Bangladesh has room to advance despite all the gloomy political clouds over the nation. Economic development will follow if the administration is able to handle the political weaknesses and, more specifically, if they can halt the rise of anti-liberation forces. One tragic fact is that people are in a terrible situation and unhappiness is pervasive all over the nation as a result of inflation and price increases on commodity products and utility services. The opposition and the anti-liberation forces have a chance to capitalize on this unhappiness, especially if they can convince the youth to side with them.

In addition, Bangladesh needs to maintain a balance in its connections with other foreign nations, including superpowers in 2023. Since we want reliable development partners to realize our full potential, 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 for gaining an edge worldwide, but doing so will require a genuine and unwavering commitment to sustaining domestic stability. Hopefully, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s strategic vision would aid in overcoming those obstacles in 2023.

The government is currently concentrating on preventative measures like expanding food production, encouraging investment and remittances, and cutting import prices in preparation for a crisis in 2023. Bangladesh may experience difficulties in the coming year as a result of the US Federal Reserve’s high interest rate, the war in Russia and Ukraine, and a large decline in Chinese manufacturing. The worst affected nations in such a scenario may be those that rely heavily on loans or imports and have small foreign exchange reserves.

Prices of raw materials are rising across industries on the global market. The world’s supply system continues to be shocked by a protracted battle. The demand is declining. According to many predictions, 2023 will be a perfect storm for businesses; it appears that we will be entering economic turmoil next year. Businesses will have a difficult year. But these difficult moments will always come, and we will have to endure them. We need to maintain basic spending and trim other expenditures.

Bangladesh RMG export to non-traditional markets increased by 24.17% during July and October of FY 2022-23. According to data, all of the major garment export destinations have seen significant growth. The Middle Eastern market is an exception. Bangladeshi garment exports to the UAE and Saudi Arabia are currently valued at $228 million and $128 million, respectively. That is, the country may dramatically increase exports while simultaneously growing into neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council members.At the moment, practically the whole Middle Eastern region is dominated by Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani garment products, with little presence of Bangladeshi-made garment items despite our having good prospects there.

In this time of a global economic crisis, not all news is good for the RMG sector of the country. As a result, Bangladesh may lose its market in Europe and the United States in 2023 as different European countries and the USA try to introduce technology in the RMG sector to take the business back to their own countries. This year, we must change our market focus and perhaps give the pocket markets more attention in order to address this issue.

RMG is currently Bangladesh’s sole major sector for earning foreign currency, and we have relied on it heavily for a very long time. If our portfolio lacks diversity, we run a higher chance of losing money. As a result, we need to consider diversifying our main companies. We must resurrect the traditional tea or leather industries, and this will require sound government policies. The growth of the information technology and tourism sectors must also be a priority. We should concentrate on developing AI in our nation right now, and we can enlist the aid of our development allies. We must build some major foreign currency earning businesses other than RMG to sustain our development and 2023 must have the initial footsteps of that effort.

Higher education in Bangladesh is now only available in a few fields due to the popularity of engineering, medicine, and business among talented students. The majority of them leaves their native nation and takes a large sum of money with them. Our economy and future are suffering significantly as a result. We should encourage students to pursue studies in the fields that require human resources over a ten-year planning horizon. In addition to ensuring our economic progress, it will guarantee work right after graduation.

For our foreign reserves, remittances are a major source of dependence. But regrettably, in order to send money to Bangladesh, workers frequently have to select illicit methods. The government ought to give migrant workers various incentives so they can use legal services and boost the economy more. Furthermore, 2023’s foreign reserve spending needs to be highly strategic. Surely, the shortage of essential goods that we import should not cause the people to suffer. However, no luxury imports should be made in 2023. Additionally, for the future of the nation, the government must concentrate on meeting the productive demand for utilities rather than providing full-time electricity to isolated, unproductive places.

2023 might be a profitable year for Bangladesh with careful planning. But since corruption is the biggest system loss, it must first be handled everywhere. If there had been less corruption in Bangladesh, we cannot imagine where we could have been. Building 10 to 20 Padma Bridge, for instance, would have been child’s play if we had the ability to reclaim all of the money that had been laundered from our nation. The government must be strict in this area if we are to stem this loss.

2023 has the potential to be a pivotal year for Bangladesh despite numerous obstacles. As they say, there is always a silver lining behind the dark cloud, and this year can provide new opportunities. We hope, under the visionary leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh will hail against all odds in this New Year and people will win eventually.

–    The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, BangabandhuShishu Kishore Mela

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