Economists on Sunday said that economic development of a country was meaningless without good governance which was the basic human rights of the citizens.
Bangladesh’s economic growth may continue for some years more with the current level of governance, but good governance is must to accelerate economic growth, they said at a discussion session on ‘Can Bangladesh continue to grow without good governance’ on the first day of a two-day BIDS conference.
Lack of good governance will become a constraint to development when the country will reach a middle-income stage, they said.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies organised the conference styled ‘BIDS Critical Conversations-2017’ at Lakeshore Hotel in Dhaka.
As panel discussant, former adviser to the caretaker government Akbar Ali Khan said that good governance was a basic human rights and economic development was meaningless without good governance.
Citing Nobel laureate Amartya Sen who termed development as freedom, he said that whatever economic growth rate, even it may be 10 per cent, the country achieves, it will be meaningless if there is no good governance in the country.
‘It is not a matter of choice. Governance is a must as without governance it is not possible to ensure human rights of people,’ he said.
He said, ‘We will have to ensure economic development as well as good governance.’
Akbar, also an economist and former cabinet secretary, said that Bangladesh’s economic growth was continuing while situation of governance was sliding down.
Explaining the reason of the trend, he said that Bangladesh’s economic development was at so lower stage that there were many sectors to develop and governance did not hold back the development.
The growth may continue for a few years more without good governance but not till the end, he said, adding that the country will face problem after five years to 10 years.
He suggested for taking immediate steps to ensure good governance and said that such steps would bring results after 10 to 15 years.
Power and Participation Research Centre executive chairman Hossain Zillur Rahman said that economic growth will continue at the current level of governance but in case of growth acceleration it seems unlikely in line with experiences of the last one decade.
He said that the GDP growth and private sector investment did not experience acceleration in last one decade despite consistent and less volatile higher growth on an average 6 per cent.
Zillur, a former adviser to the caretaker government, also emphasised on discussion on the outcomes of economic growth whether the current growth is providing productive employment and farm income, and ensuring sustainable cities.
He said that credible election was important for accountability of political leaders though many doubted about the impact of credible election terming it ‘democracy of a day’.
He also stressed on linking political process with governance as he saw some worrying signs including absence of systematic grooming for creating new political leadership, weakening voices of local bodies and holding compromising elections everywhere including trade and professional bodies including the FBCCI, Press Club and teachers associations.
Competitive space is shrinking not only in politics but also in social field, he said.
Dhaka University Economics Department professor Selim Raihan identified four drivers—readymade garment, remittance, agriculture and microfinance—of growth of Bangladesh economy.
Political elites should find out new economic drivers for continuation of economic growth, otherwise the economy would face challenges in growing after 10 years, he said.
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development adjunct fellow Mirza Hassan said that Bangladesh’s growth became possible as political elites had been following pro-market ideology.
They engaged in political rivalry with opponents but shared privileges or rent seeking activities like development work, lease, tender and licences across political parties and maintained order in deals which help consistency in economy, he observed.
The ruling party may distribute small rent seeking activities on political basis but large economic deals like power plants are awarded to right persons on the basis of economic merit, he said.
BIDS research director Kazi Ali Towfique presented a keynote paper on the topic.
Earlier at the inauguration ceremony, former governor of Bangladesh Bank Mohammad Farashuddin urged the government for moving forward with the plan of introducing crop insurance.
He also urged the government to address the issue of terrorism in the name of religion properly for ensuring sustainability of development.
BIDS director general KAS Murshid, among others, participated in the discussion.
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