Although economic development in Bangladesh has been miraculous, it will be challenging for the country to step into the next stage without reviving ethical values, said eminent economist Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud.
He expressed his concerns about the ethical standards of the society during the two-day Annual Economists' Conference of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) on Sunday at the Brac Centre, Dhaka.
"Bangladesh has achieved remarkable development in the GDP growth rate and various social indicators and progressed more than other developing countries," he said.
But Bangladesh has to face different challenges to move to the next stage of development, Wahiduddin added.
"We have achieved development despite going down on different international indices of good governance. There is a relation between GDP growth and good governance. How Bangladesh can be taken forward in coordination with these two indicators is the big question."
Professor Wahiduddin suggested administrative reformation to decrease bureaucratic complexity and corruption for performing better on international indices.
He said the low ethical standard of our society has resulted in a lack of good governance.
"The issue is not only about administrative ethics."
Professor Wahiduddin said large-scale misconduct such as the share market scams or wilful default of bank loans are perpetrated by a certain influential group of elites who are usually the beneficiaries of patronage politics.
"In a fast-growing economy like Bangladesh, with rapid urbanisation and social transformation, societal values are bound to change for good or for worse. No doubt, our impressive economic progress needs to be recognised and appreciated; but if such progress starts diminishing our moral standards, we need to revisit our values and reclaim a moral economy," he said.
To graduate to the next stage of economic growth, there will be a need to move from "replication" to "innovative ways of improving technology, skills and productivity", he added.
To do this, and also to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend, the education system will need to be overhauled to match skills with employment opportunities and to move to a more knowledge-based economy.
Professor Wahiduddin began his speech with a short remark on the strike called by the BNP in rejection of the Dhaka city corporation elections.
"Bangladesh has achieved economic development despite political turmoil. But in the last few years, we experienced a diminishing trend in the hartal [strike] culture. But today's hartal proves that the culture is not entirely dead," he said.
Among others, Brac Chairman and former adviser to the caretaker government Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, Sanem Chairman Dr Bazlul Haque Khondoker and Sanem Executive Director Dr Selim Raihan, also spoke at the inaugural session of the conference.