Economic and human development of Bangladesh has advanced significantly, and by 2026, it is expected to reach middle-income status. However, every success tale has its share of obstacles. Bangladesh’s development path is about to shift into a new phase. In the face of previous shocks like COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine War, the economy has demonstrated resilience. However, in order to prosper as a middle-income nation facing the challenges of macroeconomics, climate change and an increasingly uncertain geopolitical environment, the nation must make the most of its rapidly diminishing demographic dividend by making investments in human capital and guaranteeing sound governance. Most importantly, under the context of current and future economic challenges, Bangladesh needs right leadership as a paramount requirement.
The past decade have seen a significant number of megaprojects carried out in the nation, such as the Payra deep sea port, the Bangabandhu Satellite-1, the Rooppur nuclear power plant, the Dhaka Elevated Expressway, the third terminal of Dhaka Airport, the Bangabandhu Tunnel under the Karnaphuli River in Chattogram, the Padma bridge and its rail link, Dhaka mass rapid transit line-6 (Metro Rail) and many more. Additionally, a great deal of other massive development projects were started, finished, or is still underway.
Eyeing on the upcoming 12th National Parliamentary Election, the current government of Bangladesh AwamiLague has inaugurated many of these mega development projects. But the reality is many of these projects are not fully completed and is not running in full-phase. It will take around three more years to complete the works in full of these already inaugurated projects. Nevertheless, some of these mega projects have already started contributing to the Bangladeshi economy like the Padma Bridge. Moreover, the government has additionally laid foundations as well as got approved of several other mid and large level projects during the last few months. Once all these projects are fully completed, we can expect a different progressive landscape of the country.
The significant progress Bangladesh has experienced in the past decade came with severe challenges. Bangladesh will have to return enormous loans with capital and interest over the course of the next ten to fifteen years. As the grace periods for the majority of the megaprojects expiring in the next one to two 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.
Bangladeshi economy is under pressure of heavy inflation, 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.Not only Bangladesh but also all its development partners are going to face economic challenges and we will feel that pressure. Additionally, the requirement of investment in SDG’s in the upcoming years to become a middle-income country by 2026 will come as a great pressure. Nevertheless, Bangladesh is on the right track till now. But, we strictly need right leadership to continue with this progress.
Throughout the last 15 years, Bangladesh is being led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the eldest daughter of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman. Bangabandhu built his political career fighting for the rights of people and he had to face imprisonment for the major part of his political career. He brought the mandate of the whole Pakistan through the 1970 election but was denied power. He directly led Bangladesh towards independence through the 1971 liberation war, which took away 3 million lives. Bangabandhu dreamt of turning Bangladesh into ‘Golden Bangla’. Sheikh Hasina was throughout part of this struggle of her father and grew political vision and inspiration in inheritance. After the brutal killing of Bangabandhu and most of his family members, Sheikh Hasina could not see her dead family members and remained in exile for 6 years but never forgot her father’s dream.
Sheikh Hasina returned to the country in 1981 when the country was tangled with the hard rule of autocratic leaders and fought for democracy. Upholding her nationalistic inspiration, she continued her endeavors and finally came in power for the first time in 1996. She took many commendable steps to change the future of this country in her first term as Prime Minister but her mission was not complete. When she regained power in 2008, she expressed her commitment to realize her father’s dream. Her vigor and commitment made all the mega projects possible in Bangladesh. She turned Bangladesh into ‘Digital Bangladesh’ and now we are moving towards ‘Smart Bangladesh’. The Padma Bridge, which drastically changed the landscape of the country, was the result of her courageous decision.
Along with building huge infrastructures, enabling communication throughout the country and ensuring utility like electricity at every household, Sheikh Hasina’s government created several EPZs and IT Parks. These IT Parks and EPZs will drastically alter the RMG-oriented export scenario of Bangladesh. The vision of ShiekhHasina not only changed the landscape at the metro areas but also at long-ignored backward districts. The whole country is now connected as we do not need to move to large metro cities to earn foreign currency today. But many of these projects are still not fully in operation and we need few more years to claim full benefits throughout the nation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken Bangladesh to such a height that it has been termed as the ‘miracle economy’. Her dedication and commitment towards the national progress has founded the base of our strong relationship with all development partners even when the world is moving towards bi-polarity again and compelled our development partners to invest heavily in many mega projects.Overcoming several national, regional and global challenges, Sheikh Hasina actually brought out investments for all the mega projects successfully. Moreover, she is a visionary planner as was depicted in her government’s 100 year Delta plan and such vision is required today to take Bangladesh forward.
There have been 20 attempts on the life of Sheikh Hasina but her strong political aspiration, courageous leadership and immense focus on realizing her father’s dream kept her going throughout the years. She has started many serious tasks and if these are not completed, her dreams will not be fulfilled and the nation will lose. If the mega projects of Bangladesh do not fully complete, we will be in complete disaster. Moreover, we might have to give in to the demands of our development partners even risking our sovereignty. Our huge population and their needs will create strong challenges. Sheikh Hasina has come out on top overcoming the challenges of economic depression, regional conflicts, global politics and especially war economy and our citizens need to rationally consider who can lead us in this challenging time.
Sheikh Hasina is also ageing as all human beings. But considering all aspects and the future challenges, we need her leadership for few more years. Her vision, wisdom and dedication towards national progress can keep us on the track of development. Moreover, our opposition parties, who cannot raise voice against the Israeli genocide in Gaza to please their foreign lords, will never be able to lead this country towards development without being influenced to compromise national interest.
We will have to face the obstacles of global war economy in the upcoming years also and without proper leadership, we cannot overcome the adversities as well as cannot sustain our development. In the face of strong global and regional challenges, we are certain that our opposition parties like; BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami or Islamic Andolan Bangladesh cannot progressively lead the country. Moreover, the country will fall into the risk of increased extremism. Hence, the vivid experience of Sheikh Hasina can help us overcome these future challenges. Moreover, we can only expect from her to take strong actions against corruption as well as market syndicates to bring in some peace for the people by controlling the increasing expenditure. Without Sheikh Hasina neither the ruling party Awami League nor the opposition parties can lead our nation successfully in the face of so many existing and future challenges.
Historically, our people are very emotional. But as we are developing, we need to think rationally putting aside our emotions. We are only two months away from the next general elections. We hope, our citizens cast their ballots for the welfare of the whole country once again and elects right leadership to ensure our national progress in the upcoming years.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla