The steady growth of Bangladesh has been possible because of deals struck among elites across political divides over shared economic interests, speakers said at a workshop on Thursday.
The observation came as speakers discussed how the country maintained a ‘steady and reasonably high’ growth despite shifts in political regimes and economic policies over decades since its independence in 1971.
Representatives of administration, bureaucrats and politicians joined these elites in expanding their sources to earn more money from and the syndicate continued to grow through discoveries of new resources like new maritime boundary, they said.
‘The existence of this equilibrium is related to the expansion of sources from where rents are collected,’ said Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya.
‘The question is how long will this equilibrium hold?’ asked Debapriya.
He raised the question while concluding the first session of the daylong workshop on politics and development, democracy and growth. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, BRAC University and the Effective State and Inclusive Development Research Centre of the Manchester University jointly organised the workshop.
Mirza Hasan, an adjunct fellow at the BIGD, presented the first session’s keynote paper on navigating the labyrinth of the deals world and politics of economic growth in Bangladesh. He authored the paper along with Dhaka University teacher Selim Raihan.
‘Ordered deal was maintained under military dictatorships, dominant party settlements exhibiting mostly centralised rent management, as well as under competitive party settlement in Bangladesh,’ reads one of the points mentioned in the keynote paper referring Bangladesh as a unique case.
‘In economic domain, the elites don’t fight. They come together at the end of the day,’ said Mirza.
As a result, business community has become politically stronger, said the paper.
It also mentioned that the country’s growth has been a topic of surprise for many given the facts that it has a bad reputation for governance and it is not the source of any extraordinary products that cannot be produced by many countries.
Dhaka University teacher Wahiduddin Mahmud, ESID CEO David Hulme, and Gemcon group director Kazi Anis Ahmed also spoke at the workshop. Sujan secretary Badiul Alam Majumder, The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam, Dhaka University teacher Asif Nazrul, and former caretaker government adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman attended the workshop among others.
The country’s non-elites do not have much to take from the workshop as its studies shed light on growth in relation to the role of elites, the discussants clarified at the event.
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