Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's 'Bangladesh Model' can be saviour for the South Asian island nation Sri Lanka, which is currently going through an extreme economic crisis, to overcome the hard time.
Bangladesh is currently a wonder of development and it is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's contribution that turned least developed Bangladesh into a developing nation. She changed Bangladesh from a basket case to a middle-income country.
"Strong leadership is one of the main features behind 'Bangladesh Model'. . .Sri Lanka can follow this model to overcome its crisis," reads an article, written by John Rozario from Kolkata, published today in Cambodian newspaper Khmer Times.
According to the article, foreign exchange reserves in Sri Lanka have fallen so low that some school examinations have been closed indefinitely due to a lack of imported paper. In addition to cooking gas, there has been a shortage of kerosene and petrol.
In his first TV address after assuming office, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe listed the grave challenges ahead of him, but assured the people of his determination to meet them successfully.
"There may be an example for him. He can overcome the crisis by following Bangladesh's PM Sheikh Hasina Model," the article reads.
The situation is so dire that due to inflation, high unemployment, and shortages of almost all necessities, many Sri Lankans are fleeing their country in the hope of a better life abroad.
To cope with the situation, the Sri Lankan government has asked for a new loan of US$ 1.5 billion from neighbouring India. When Sri Lanka faced problems, Bangladesh provided US$ 250 million for the first time. This was the first loan from Bangladesh for any country. They have again sought for a loan from Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka was quite capable of human resources and internal prosperity.
Then why their situation?
Sri Lanka has undertaken several mega projects in their country for more than a century. These include seaports, airports, roads, and other projects that are currently considered unnecessary and redundant.
Different governments of Sri Lanka have taken loans from different sources at home and abroad. As a result, their foreign exchange reserves gradually ran out. Instead of foreign investment, various governments have focused on borrowing.
The country's government has issued sovereign bonds since 2007 to raise money. This type of sovereign bond is sold when the expenditure is more than the income of a country. Such bonds are sold in the international capital market to raise money. That is what Sri Lanka has done.
The once-self-sufficient country is also in dire straits due to tax cuts, reduced income from tourism remittances, and unplanned decisions in agriculture. The world economic situation has begun to change rapidly since the Russia-Ukraine war, at which time any country could fall into a new crisis.
"On the other hand, Bangladesh is currently a wonder of development. It is Sheikh Hasina's contribution that has made a least developed country such as Bangladesh a developing country now, going by economic indicators."
She changed Bangladesh from a basket case to a middle-income country. Strong leadership is one of the main reasons behind 'Bangladesh model.
The implementation of big projects is now just a matter of time. City facilities have also been ensured in the villages. A Metrorail will be launched in a few days. The long-awaited Padma Bridge is not a dream now, it is real. The implementation of such a project with the government's own funding was at one time unimaginable.
On various indicators of human development, Bangladesh had shown significant improvement. Life expectancy in 2019 was 72.6 years, a gain of over 7 years since 2000, years of schooling were up from 4.1 to 6.2, and the country's human development index value climbed from 0.478 in 2000 to 0.632 in 2019. As a result, Bangladesh's index ranking is now 133rd out of a total of 189 countries.
Nobody disputes the economic credentials of Sheikh Hasina's government - the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the latest member of a growing list of international institutions attesting to Bangladesh's economic success.
The ADB ranked Bangladesh as the fastest-growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region, eclipsing China, Vietnam and India.
When she returned to power in 2009, Sheikh Hasina knew that the energy shortage first needed to be mitigated to a tolerable extent, before embarking on long-term plans. As a temporary measure, she decided to allow private companies to build small-range power plants, known as quick-rental power plants.
The decision received a barrage of criticism from many quarters - from opposition parties and economists to the press and think tanks - intimidating many in the bureaucracy.
But Sheikh Hasina refused to back down from what she thought was the right step forward. She defended her decision forcefully, making necessary amendments to clear any legal ambiguity, and focused on its implementation. Nearly 10 years on, no one doubts that the decision was instrumental in solving the persistent energy crisis.
While in power, Sheikh Hasina has opened up many sectors traditionally reserved for the public sector to the private sector, including health, banking, higher education, TV and even export-processing and economic zones.
At the same time, her government has substantially widened and expanded welfare programmes to lift the poorest and most neglected section of the population and increased subsidies for other crucial elements of the economy such as agriculture. Her development philosophy is a blend of capitalistic and socialistic virtues.
Propelled by a robust manufacturing sector and an enormous boom in infrastructure, Bangladesh has set a target of becoming a developed nation by 2041 to coincide with the platinum jubilee of its independence.
Many commentators have called the goal ambitious, but even the government's staunchest critics would think twice before questioning its plausibility.
Bangladesh's foreign exchange reserves now stand at more than $45 billion, despite rising import costs. Bangladesh's growth rate was way above Pakistan, even before the pandemic; in 2018-19 it was 7.8% compared to Pakistan's 5.8%.
Various international organisations, including the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and the Economic Intelligence Unit, have identified Bangladesh's economic development as a "wonderful puzzle". While the current economy of Bangladesh is $410 billion, the size of Pakistan's economy is about $260 billion.
Sheikh Hasina has achieved full potential to move from a least developed country to a developing country. It has been possible because of people's hard-working, strong leadership, political stability, the flow of FDI, empowerment of women, unique poverty alleviation model and inclusivity of economy. That is the story of a South Asian country: 'Bangladesh' is a 'miracle story'.
In an identical op-ed published in Pakistani newspaper Daily Times with headline "Bangladesh-From Seeking to Donating Aid", John Rozario wrote Bangladesh's medical and financial aid to Sri Lanka improves the country's image and standing.
Bangladesh was once regarded as a "bottomless pit" and a recipient of international aid. It is now a lending and donor country.
It demonstrates how all of South Asia's countries can rise from the ashes. Bangladesh sets an example for South Asia on how to achieve economic growth while balancing diverse socio-political factors. Debt-ridden Bangladesh has achieved extraordinary debt alleviation success in recent years.
Bangladesh had demonstrated its worth as a donor country by assisting Sri Lanka with medical needs. It has the honour of standing by Sri Lanka during times of crisis as a friend and close neighbour. It has provided emergency medicines worth 2.32 million USD.
Bangladesh also donated debt-ridden Sudan, a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The help to Sri Lanka and Sudan from foreign exchange reserves has improved Bangladesh's image.
What occurred, though, that Bangladesh has been surprising everyone? Economists think there are some causes behind this: exports, societal progress and economic foresight.
Aside from economic skill, there are three more factors to consider: sympathy, economic diplomacy, and political will.
As part of the IMF effort, Bangladesh also gave Tk 80 million to help Somalia tackle poverty last year. The progress of Bangladesh fascinates everyone.
Bangladesh's image and respect for its people have improved as a result of its financial support to Sri Lanka and Sudan from its foreign exchange reserves.
Bangladesh has also agreed to help Afghanistan with medical assistance. Bangladesh promised humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people in December 2021, while also expressing profound concern about the approaching economic and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan. Bangladesh has now also offered medical assistance.
Greatest humanitarian example?
When Bangladesh joyfully accepted 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, it solidified its image as a humanitarian nation.
There are thousands of more cases where Bangladesh was one of the first countries to join the international community.
Medical aid supplied by Bangladesh to Sri Lanka may be tiny in comparison to the required funds, but its timely response is certainly commendable.
The question is now valid. Bangladesh has become a lending and donating country! Why can't other countries in South Asia be self-sufficient, donors, lenders, and economic miracles? Bangladesh can teach South Asia a lot.