BANGLADESH’S graduation from being a least developed country to the status of a developing country, now scheduled to happen in 2026 as the United Nations Committee for Development Policy has recommended on Bangladesh’s appeal, will bring about challenges in areas of market access, dealing with trade partners, policy freedom and compliance enforcement. Bangladesh will no longer remain eligible for preferential access under the generalised system of preferences scheme and is said to be losing a significant share of its global export that is now covered by preferential access. But some economists, taking part in a webinar on Bangladesh’s graduation to a developing country and its development journey in the capital city on Saturday, seek to say that the growing inequality and the sluggish poverty reduction could be more pressing than the loss of preferential access of Bangladesh’s main export product, apparels, to the European Union market. A former adviser on the finance and planning ministry to the 2007–2008 caretaker government also appears less optimistic about the idea that the current finance minister talked about a week ago that Bangladesh’s promotion, which would entail an improved credit rating, would increase the inflow of foreign direct investment.
The former adviser to the caretaker government seeks to say that foreign direct investment is unlikely to increase unless there is an improvement in doing business. The Doing Business report, which the World Bank has prepared since 2002 highlighting reforms that countries carry out, in 2020 ranked Bangladesh in the 168th position among 190 countries. Good governance is central to improvement in doing business. Steps to stop corruption and the furtherance to the rule of law are all associated with good governance, which appears not to have got off on a strong footing. Reports on corruption or an inadequate handling of corruption and affronts to the rule of law keep making the headlines. There is no scope for the government to take the issue of good governance lightly as it is linked with internal resource mobilisation that includes the collection of taxes. There is hardly any significant hope unless the government attends to issues of inequality, which appears to be growing with a widening gap between the rich and the poor, poverty reduction, which is reported to have slowed down and failed to leave an overall equal mark across the regions in the country, and good governance, which appears to be worsening with financial scams, bribery and corruption taking place unabated.
There are issues such as enhancement in negotiation skills, an increase in production efficiency, the development of skills and a proper review of bilateral and multilateral agreements that the government would need to address to grab the benefits of the graduation from being a least developed country to being a developing country. But the government must first ensure equality, which also constitutes a basic tenet of the liberation war principles, reduce poverty by reaching economic benefits to all by a proper measure across the regions and across the sections, ensure good governance by stopping corruption and, thereby, improve doing business to cash in on the status of Bangladesh as a developing country.
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