Amidst the relentless barrage of criticism, humiliation and disgrace hurled at the nation and its people by various quarters at home and abroad, any positive remark or appreciation of the country causes comfort to the harassed soul. The recent remarks made by the visiting World Bank (WB) executive director Dhanendra Kumar that "Bangladesh is a success story despite poverty and various problems the country faces" provides one with such occasion for delight. But what has Bangladesh done to deserve such an approval from a highly placed functionary of the WB?
The words of appreciation expressed by the WB executive to describe Bangladesh's achievements were certainly not just pleasantries and sweet nothings as are often used by many visiting dignitaries. So, there is enough reason for one to take heart at the encouraging comments made by the WB's executive director about the state of the macroceconomic stability, human development indices especially in terms of increased longevity, reduced rate of maternal and child mortality, success in promoting girls' education, increasing rural people's access to safe drinking water and enrolment in the primary schools.
How should the politicians and the government bureaucracy receive this good news? As is the practice, they will try to take all the credit for the success, if any, made by the country in spite of the allegations of limitless corruption and mismanagement against them. But at the same time, it is also true that the functionaries of this same donor agency have also placed the performance of the government under serious scrutiny from time to time. One cannot also deny that the allegations of corruption and irregularities as brought against the different organs of the government by the selfsame donor agencies and other watchdog bodies are not without substance. In fact, corruption and mismanagement in the administration have held back the country from achieving expected results in its development efforts. So, if anyone is to take the credit for any success in the nation's development efforts, it is the people who can claim it.
Whatever that may be, the bottom line of the WB official's assertion is that all is not lost in this land of thousand and one problems. Bangladesh has after all been able to make some progress in spite of its other failures. While lapping up the appreciative remarks of the WB executive, one also needs to take up the indicators basing on which such positive opinions are made with a grain of salt. That is because, the real achievement of an economy has to be judged from the performance of its business, industry and agriculture. Growth in the industry and business can create employment opportunities and absorb the millions of unemployed in the cities and the countryside. It is also the only way to alleviate poverty and bring prosperity in the life of the common man. Once the economy begins to show the signs of real progress in these sectors, it is only then the country will be able to claim any success for its development endeavours.
The good indicators of human development are only a passing phenomenon and to keep those on a sustainable level, one would need to make real progress in the fields of business and industry. The existence of a thriving NGO sector and the rural women's access to microcredit have undoubtedly helped to keep abject poverty in the countryside at a tolerable level. Ironically, the strength of the NGOs does not really speak well of the performance of the overall economy for the simple reason that they are basically providing the poverty-stricken rural masses with some succour as a stop-gap measure until these people can stand on their own feet economically. That is why the prime minister has requested the World Bank to assist Bangladesh to develop its physical infrastructures like power, gas, roads, etc., so that the economy can grow on a sound footing.