Local level realities do not reflect Bangladesh's growth and development narratives owing to the deepening inequality, perpetuating marginalisation, weakening public institutions and civic voice, said Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh on Thursday.
"The quality of public services does not match the amount of public expenditure," said convenor of the platform economist Debapriya Bhattacharya while briefing the media on the findings of their months-long reality check programme at a granular level.
Having intense sub-regional dialogues with over 500 citizens in 25 districts over the June-October period, the development experts' platform concluded, "Access to public service is more constrained for the disadvantaged people," which hinders the distribution of development benefits.
The platform experts separately heard from local-level journalists and members of the left-behind groups.
"In the last ten years, our income increased, and the standard of living has had a visible improvement, just like the emergence of school, hospital and road infrastructures. But, there remains a quicksand underneath the development – the deepening inequality," said Debapriya, also a distinguished fellow of the think tank Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
The narrative of higher income and improved well-being have been shadowed by the deepening inequality and perpetuating marginalisation, he said in a keynote.
Despite high GDP growth over the years, the dearth of decent employment opportunities for the educated youth has intensified and the left-behind people see inadequate economic opportunities amid a continuation of corruption, bribery and nepotism.
Also, the development narrative of discernible progress in terms of building schools, hospitals and road infrastructure development is challenged by the quality of the services people are getting, said the expert.
Service quality of the government institutions related to basic services, utilities and social welfare are not satisfactory to the people because of the inefficiency and corruption, he added.
"Left-behind people are the biggest victims of the problems and they are the most deprived ones to enjoy the benefits of the state spending," he added.
CPD Distinguished Fellow Mustafizur Rahman, a core group member of the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, emphasised strengthening an effective local government system where the local leaders serve the public interest best.
"People want quality education, healthcare and government services now," he added.
Debapriya Bhattacharya in his keynote highlighted the issues asserted in the local level meetings – a lack of quality jobs for the youth, the impact of inflation, adverse behaviour with women, environmental issues and very importantly, a culture of fear that force people to refrain from being vocal for their rights of essential services and opportunities.