Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has displayed a strong record of growth and development, even in times of elevated global uncertainty. A robust demographic dividend, strong ready-made garment (RMG) exports, resilient remittance inflows, and stable macro-economic conditions have supported rapid economic growth over the past two decades … writes Kaliph Anaz
Humming with activity, with extensive construction in all directions and new flyovers, bridges and commercial sites, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, has undergone a remarkable transformation. Bangladesh may have even overtaken India in terms of per capita income. Bangladesh has come of age as a huge turnaround story.
Earlier this year on June 25, the 6.15-km rail-road bridge on the Padma River was formally inaugurated. It is the country’s biggest infrastructure project since independence from Pakistan, which left Bangladesh bloodied and battered. But 50 years down the line and with Sheikh Hasina at the helm, this youngest nation in South Asia has excelled to become the bull case for the region.
This week capital city Dhaka, also got its first-ever metro rail. A section of the urban rail project, known as Line 6, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Dec 28. The line connects the northern zone of Dhaka to a hub of government offices and hospitals in the middle for now. On the occasion, PM Hasina hailed the opening of the metro rail as a crowning achievement. The metro rail “added another feather” to Bangladesh’s cap and is “another milestone in development”, she said. According to media reports, PM Hasina further said that the metro rail heralds the beginning of a new age in Bangladesh with high-speed trains running on electricity which is environmentally safe.
In 2012, BNP leaning United States reportedly persuaded the World Bank to stall the proposed funding, citing ‘credible evidence of corruption.’ This seriously impacted the image of the country and of the ruling party, the Awami League. This prompted Hasina to opt for self-funding the project despite economists and opposition politicians warning against it. Hence, the completion of the Padma Bridge has become a symbol of national pride and dignity as under American instructions, the WB had pulled out of the project, Hasina declared that Bangladesh could finish the $3.9 billion Padma Bridge project (original estimate) with its own funds.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, Hasina said: “This bridge is not just bricks, cement, iron, and concrete. This bridge is our pride, a symbol of our capacity, our strength and our dignity. This bridge belongs to the people of Bangladesh.”
According to Zahid Hossain, a lead economist of the World Bank, the Padma Bridge will cut travel distance by 100 km for around 27 percent of Bangladesh’s population to boost business and agriculture, thereby impacting the country’s GDP.
Under the Awami League, Bangladesh has displayed a strong record of growth and development, even in times of elevated global uncertainty. A robust demographic dividend, strong ready-made garment (RMG) exports, resilient remittance inflows, and stable macroeconomic conditions have supported rapid economic growth over the past two decades. A strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continued in FY22, although a recent surge in commodity prices has presented new headwinds.
From being one of the poorest nations at birth in 1971, Bangladesh reached lower-middle income status in 2015. It is on track to graduate from the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) list in 2026.
For Hasina, the rosy economic picture emanating from the Padma Bridge and the Dhaka metro will come as a shot in the arm in the rundown to the parliamentary elections due in December 2023/January 2024. Despite opposition protests over enforced disappearances and rigged elections, even her critics have admitted that Hasina has a brilliant record of economic growth and human development during her thirteen years in power.
Recent mega projects show how Bangladeshi citizens are keeping up with the country’s rapid growth. Whereas the Padma Multi-purpose Bridge linked the country’s south to the capital, the Metro Rail project will bridge the gap between time loss and economic development on the other side. Together, these projects under the Premiership of Hasina will serve the nation and usher in a new era of development.
Awami League leaders credit Hasina’s strong leadership over the past 13 years for Bangladesh’s emergence as a middle income country and its other economic successes. Recalling how detractors including her bete noire, Khaleda Zia (opposition BNP chairperson) had ruled out completion of the Padma Bridge, Hasina declared “I am the daughter of the great Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman). I do what I promise.”
But for Sheikh Hasina, this is a moment of great pride and justification of her decisive leadership that has given Bangladesh its ‘Golden Decade of Development’.