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Development Miracle

Economic liberalization, farsighted public policies and democratic continuity contributed to developmental vibrancy in Bangladesh.

By Biru Paksha Paul | March 2021


Bangladesh’s achievements in development hav been coined as a ‘miracle,’ portray a myth that Bangladesh was able to discover a magical path of development. Nothing has happened as to term this progress as a miracle. But it’s a story of economic liberalization, farsighted public policies and democratic continuity of recent decades, which jointly contributed to developmental vibrancy in the country.

Bangladesh achieved more than 5 percent growth in the last twenty years along with a remarkable rise in per capita income, exceeding Pakistan’s and reaching closer to India. Its scores in social indicators, women empowerment, poverty reduction, population control, and the pace in literacy programs are the outcomes of provident public policies. The achievements – many of which are ahead of India’s – being summed up together – gave Bangladesh a ground of development in the world arena.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ruled the country for almost four years until he was assassinated in August 1975. It was a devastated country in its early years and Sheikh Mujib’s number one challenge was to feed the people of a densely populated country. Almost broken, the infrastructure required a quick fix to the minimum. The food crisis was rearing its ugly head in the midst of prices spiraling upwards since 1973 when the globe entered the Great Inflation.

Unlucky was the first regime, a famine surfaced in 1974, and convinced the government to seriously continue with three vital policies at a time: population control through a full-scale campaign and social awareness, food sufficiency through agricultural research and development, and finally free-of-cost universal primary education by devoting public resources in every corner of the country. These fundamentally powerful policies made today’s development story possible.

Despite political intolerance between different regimes since 1975, all the rulers in the post-Mujib era didn’t deviate from these policies. However, the transition into a capitalist model from a pro-socialist theme was evident since 1975. The global political reality and Bangladesh’s dependence on the capitalist world expedited this move to an economy of private enterprises. The policies of denationalization, privatization, and economic openness – which followed later in the post-Mujib regimes contributed to a rising influence of the market economy, raising budgetary capacity in the public sector and employment generation in private sector businesses.

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The writer is Professor of Economics at the State University of New York in Cortland. He also served as chief economist of Bangladesh’s central bank. His recent book is ‘Empowering Economic Growth for Bangladesh.’ He can be reached at

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